The Anatomy of the Stratocaster 5-way Switch
Part II: Standard Installation
After the basics from last month, we’ll continue
with some more details about the Stratocaster
5-way pickup selector switch. From countless
emails I know one of the main problems when
using a new switch is how to install it on the
pickguard! This may sound funny, but it’s true.
Standard open CRL switch schematic
You can rotate the switch 180 degrees and it wire that goes out of the switch at stage 2 (lug
will still fit the pickguard—so which is the cor- A) to the volume pot. From there, the signal
rect orientation of the switch? goes to the tone pots and the output jack.
As I said, it’s not as hard as you might have
expected, and I’m sure you’ve got the basics
now. If you want to go deeper, I highly
switch and a DMM with an audible continuity
testing function. You can connect one testing
wire from the DMM to any lug of stage 1, flip
the switch and see on stage 2 what happens
there. This is a very fascinating procedure,
and you can learn a lot from it.
From an electrical point of view, it doesn’t make
any difference, because the switches are mirrored and will work in both configurations. All
you have to do is to take care of how you wire
it up, and that’s it. In real life, the standard is to
mount the open switches with the switch spring
facing the edge of the pickguard, as shown in
the pic below. There are also open switches
without this spring, in which case the metal-framed side of the switch (showing the screws)
is the one that should face the edge of the pickguard. Closed switches should be mounted with
the soldering lugs facing the pots, so all connections are coming from this direction.
Please have a look at the diagram below, showing you the standard Stratocaster wiring.
Next month we’ll talk about how to transfer
this knowledge to any other 5-way switch
Standard open switch mounting
Now it’s time to talk about the terminology,
so we’re all on the same page when talking
about the individual lugs of the switch. In
general, our switch has two rows, or “stages,”
with four soldering lugs each. Below, you can
switch with added terminology.
Stage 1 is also called the “input stage,” while
stage 2 is the “output stage.” Each stage of
the switch has three inputs (lugs 1, 2 and 3) and
one output (lug A). In a nutshell, you should
have hot wires from the pickups going into the
switch at stage 1 (lugs 1, 2 and 3) and a hot
Notice the green connection (jumper wire) that
connects both stages. This allows each pickup
signal to exit out of the same lug, and connect
to the volume pot. In theory, lug 1 of stage 2
would connect to the tone pot of the bridge
pickup, but as you know, a standard Stratocaster
offers no tone control for the bridge pickup.
As you have seen, though, in one of our previous mods, you can connect this lug to lug 2 of
stage 2, to route the tone control for the bridge
pickup to the tone pot for the middle pickup, so
you can control both pickups with one tone pot.
I think you’ve got the idea, right?
before we start to do more mods. So stay
tuned and keep on modding!
Dirk Wacker lives in Germany and has been addicted to
all kinds of guitars since the age of five. He is fascinated
by anything that has something to do with old Fender
guitars and amps. He hates short scales and Telecaster
neck pickups, but loves twang. In his spare time he plays
country, rockabilly, surf and Nashville styles in two bands,
works as a studio musician for a local studio and writes
for several guitar mags. He is also a confessed hardcore
DIY guy for guitars, amps and stompboxes and runs an
extensive webpage about these things. singlecoil.com