The DIY iOS Musician: Making a 6 String Beast

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My love of the Fernandes Vertigo started with giving my brother-in-law guitar lessons for a short period of time.  We picked up a cheap Vertigo X at Music-Go-Round and the lessons started.  Shortly there after the lessons stopped.  Out of the blue I asked him if I could borrow his guitar because I was bored with mine…  Long story short, I loved the guitar more than my semi expensive Ibanez SA150 and decided to upgrade all of the electronics to make it my main guitar.  Years later I found myself in a band, Magadore, where I would need 2 guitars to play out.  I decided to hunt down and build a 2nd Vertigo like the first.  Only this time I actually took pictures of my mods 🙂

The Vertigo X is an entry level guitar, but the neck and body feel really comfortable playing on.  As far as I know, I bought the last single pick-up model around from a Music-Go-Round in Pennsylvania and had it shipped here.  In doing searches, I have yet to find another…  If I had the money, I would have a few custom ones make up for me by Fernandes, but that ship has not come it yet…

To make it match my other Vertigo, I needed to replace the pick-up, pots, capacitor, jack, knobs, tuning keys and add a kill switch.  Here they are laid out…

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So, here is the base Fernandes Vertigo in all of its glory.  Everything is so-so on it except the body…  the stock pick-up really lacks any bite or tone and the only control is a single volume knob.

here it is opened up… love the shielding and simple wiring…

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The first thing I needed to do was to open up the cavity and see if everything would fit.  As luck would have it yes, but when guitar was made the factory decided not to route out the cavity to the same level as my other guitar but to only make a recess for one pot…  I would have to remove wood to allow the switches and pots to stick out the other side to be securely fastened.  I laid out where I wanted my controls and I had my first drink and proceeded to grab my drill and wood chisels.  I don’t own a router so I had to do it the old fashion way…

 

So I grabbed my tools and proceed to open up the cavity and drill holes for the new pots.  I have found that I like to use masking tape when drilling into new surfaces to reduce chipping the finish.  It also makes it easier to mark glossy surfaces.  After that I took a spade bit marked with a depth level (more tape) and opened up where the new pots would go.  From there I chiseled out the cavity and sanded it smooth so it looked nice.

 

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So now it was time for the wiring and soldering.  I like to buy my parts from Stewart MacDonald because they have good prices and the quality has been great.  (not getting paid for the plug)  So I picked up a Seymour Duncan Invader Bridge Pick up, a 500k Alpha Pot (volume), a 250k Alpha Pot (tone), a .47 capacitor, jack, wiring and an on-on kill switch.

Here are the wiring diagrams I followed on this and my previous guitar.  There might have been a few modifications, but for the most part this is how I wired everything.  (funny story, I initially forgot to connect the 2 lower ground terminals on the kill switch and it took me about 2 hours to figure out what I had done wrong and why things were not playing right (I had a another drink or two at that point))

So when soldering, I like to flux the surfaces and wire to ensure a nice connection.  One thing I also do is tinning the wire where you cover the end to be attached with solder prior to making the connection.  Here are some photos of the work in progress.  (if you look carefully at the photo on the left, you can see on the red rectangle where the 2 white wires are not connected.  That is where I forgot to connect my grounds.  OOPS!)

Once everything was soldered, the easy parts were left, screw the plates back on, re-string the guitar (I personally love using Ernie Ball Slinky Top and Heavy Bottoms), pop on the knobs and set up the guitar to be played (intonation, action, pick up height and kill switch positioning).  At that point, I had 2 guitars that were nearly identical twins and if blindfolded playing them, I probably could not tell them apart…

So a few finishing thoughts, sometimes the only way to learn how to do something is to stumble through it and not give up until it works or you ask for help and have someone bail you out.  The biggest thing is to take that chance…

2016-08-07 16.12.40Why a Seymour Duncan Invader pick-up?  Well, they are one of the highest output passive pick-ups on the market and have really great tone characteristics when playing.  I normally have the volume and tone all the way up on my guitar.  My distortions are full and meaty.  Palm mutes have a lot of hard crunch and can really give a lot of depth.  Cleans are a little warmer and the tone is very full.  Lastly they have really big screws which looks pretty cool.  Not that looks have anything to do with the selection of an instrument…

So that is how I modified my guitar to make it play and sound the way I liked.  I am planing  phase 2 which is redoing the finish and potentially turning one into a steampunk aesthetic and the other into a futuristic guitar that looks as if it was part of a space station…  I will blog about that when I get to that point.

If you have questions or feedback on anything here I would love to hear it.

Thanks for reading my blog!

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