aCMe GuITaR WORKs
By KEnny RARDIn
When I received a black Stratocaster with a
maple neck for review, I wondered at first why
it had come to me. Then I turned it over to the
back of the guitar. It looked like a miniature
alien colony had moved into the rear-routed
cavity of this Strat. A red plate inside boasted
numerous DIP switches and connection blocks.
It was fastened to the guitar by the usual pots
in the pickguard, as well as the five-position
switch. Also included was an eight-page manual. It looked like I was going to be in for some
work this time.
discover that the way it had formerly been
wired was the one they really liked best.
What Is It?
Perusing the manual, I discovered that this
was a revolutionary new type of switching
system for the Stratocaster. Its design and
purpose was to allow every possible switching scenario to be accomplished merely by
switching the various DIP switches to their
proper positions. I have been modifying Strat-type guitars for many years and have done
all of the wiring schematics covered by this
unit. How many times, though, did a client
and I wonder whether we’d really chosen the
right one for their needs? Often I re-opened
their guitars and changed the circuit only to
Then there’s the subject of the tone capacitors. This also has been of great interest to me
through the years. I noticed that certain caps in
some older guitars had drifted from their original specs. Maybe they hadn’t been at original
specs when they were installed. I charted the
new changed values and over the years came
up with some capacitor values that my clients
and I found pleasing. I even created a box with
all of these values and made them selectable.
In this box I had switches for the capacitor and
resistor networks that solved the problem of
treble loss when turning down. Finally, in my
box I had selectable pot values. I could fully
design the electronics package for any guitar
with this little box. Unfortunately there was a
downside to my box: I had wires hanging out
of it and it was a hassle to use it. My cap values
were somewhat limited as well. Now we have
the Acme Guitar Works ToneShaper.
pickups. Using one Volume and two Tone controls, they are as follows: Volume, Neck Tone,
Middle Tone (stock); Volume, Neck tone Middle
+ Bridge Tone; Volume, Neck Tone, Bridge
Tone; Volume, Neck + Middle tone, Bridge
Tone; and Volume, Middle Tone, Bridge Tone.
Blender wiring (Volume, Master Tone, Blender
knob) allows the extra combinations of the
neck and bridge pickup together (great middle
position Tele tone) and all three pickups on. In
the past, I have used both a knob to blend the
pickups and push/pull switch.
How Does It Work?
The unit contains DIP switches that allow for
various ways of assigning tone controls to the
PREMIER GUITAR DECEMBER 2009 167
There’s also series/parallel and SSH wiring.
Strat and Telecaster pickups are normally
wired in parallel when both on. This yields
the clear and beautiful but spanky tones
we’re familiar with. Humbucker pickups are
wired in series, adding the output of the two
coils together for more power and output.
This increases the punch and midrange for
more rock and power blues tones. Now, with
the ToneShaper’s series/parallel wiring, both
sounds are available with the turn of a knob. If
you have an actual humbucker pickup in your
bridge position, the SSH wiring provides three