Guitar Pickups Tester (part 2):
Part 1 of this Blog mini series explored a dedicated guitar pickup tester solution to allow individual or sets of pickups for a Strat to be quickly and easily inserted, played and thus evaluated. But what if you want to test a complete Stratocaster scratchplate / pickguard assembly? The same initial problems apply, i.e. the need to completely de-string to even get the plate off. So at Ironstone we came up with our own 'Skeleton Strat' guitar pickups tester solution. The criteria for this design was (similar to the guitar featured in part 1) a very quick way to mount and connect a Strat scratchplate in a 'playable' (we come back to that later) guitar mount. It was always anticipated that the basic Strat scratchplate could also be used to house other guitar pickup types or even configurations like a Telecaster too. After some tinkering, the Skeleton Strat was born.
Cosmetics aside, its obvious all of the main bits of a guitar are present. It has a body (sort of!) and normal neck, a (fixed) bridge, strings and tuners. Its not a solid body of course, consisting of a back plate and a series of wooden support blocks onto which the scratchplate will be mounted.
The tricky bit is how to get the scratchplate under the strings without needing to remove them first. There were some trails with a mechanism to hinge the bridge up out of the way, but it was all getting quite complex. So a far simpler approach was finally chosen. Not only are the wooden support pieces set low enough that a plate complete with pickups can go under the strings, but the small (natural wood finish) arm on the lower left of the photo also swings out of the way to allow the potentiometers etc to pass by. Its then simply swung back into place to support the end of the scratchplate. Four screws hold the plate firmly in place, and a pair of croc clips allow connection from the plate to the amplifier via a jack socket on the same arm. That's the Skeleton Strat guitar pickups tester.
Coming back to that 'playable' comment there are 2 limitations / features of the design that are worth noting. Firstly, the string to pickup gap is considerably larger than on a conventional guitar with a proper height set up. That means the pickups are less sensitive to the string vibrations, but perfectly adequate to test a completed scratchplate assembly using 'known' performance pickups. Secondly (and more annoyingly), the bridge to nut length has had to be extended somewhat to allow for the plate to slide in. Consequently, intonation is not perfect, and playing higher up the fretboard gives some interesting results!
But even so, this allows a full check of not only the pickups, but all of the scratchplate controls, from basic switching to ensuring that pots are fully working and free from noise.
The original design as mentioned was very much aimed at the issues of testing Strat scratchplate / pickguard assemblies. But since the original design was done, scratchplate assemblies have been put together to allow testing of;
Telecaster control plate assemblies,
Jazz bass pickup switching prototypes
Dummy coil test rigs
Guitar pickup sustainers and many, many more.
The Skeleton Strat truly has a life of its own when it comes to guitar pickup testing!
For a few more ideas, check these out from the internet!