Fig. 1 The reversed control plate with the 3-way switch at the rear. Fig. 2. Wiring for the reversed
control plate with the volume pot in the front position, tone in the middle, and a standard configuration
(neck/dual/bridge) for the 3-way pickup switch. Diagram courtesy of Seymour Duncan Pickups
Fig. 3. A replacement control plate with angled switch slot. Fig. 4. A Gibson-style 3-way toggle
switch replaces the stock Fender lever switch. Photo courtesy of Florian Lüttke and UniCut Guitars
(unicutguitars.com) Fig. 5. The wiring diagram for a 3-way toggle switch that replaces the stock
Tele 3-way lever switch. Wire A is the neck pickup hot, wire B is the bridge hot, and wire C runs
from the toggle’s output to the volume pot input. Diagram courtesy of Seymour Duncan Pickups
Now that we’ve completed our discussion
of ways to shape the Tele’s fundamental
sound [“More Primary Tele Tone
Mods,” March 2012], it’s time to dive into
some easy wiring modifications.
As we know, the standard configuration
of a Telecaster’s control plate is a 3-way
switch, volume pot, and tone pot. Some
guitarists don’t like this design because it
interferes with their technique, perhaps causing
them to hit the switch during a solo or
interfering with volume knob swells. Others
want the tone pot in the first position for
manual wah effects. These tweaks are easy to
execute with a “Tele reversed control plate”
mod. Let’s look at three options.
The quick-and-dirty method. Remove
the two screws holding the control plate,
turn the plate 180 degrees, slide it back into
position, and put the two screws back in—
finished! With a little luck, all the wires will
be long enough to accommodate the reversal.
(If you discover that any of the wires
aren’t long enough for this reversal, you’ll
have to do a little soldering and replace
them.) Looking from neck to endpin, the
configuration now is tone pot, volume pot,
and 3-way switch.
There’s a downside to this: Now the front
knob is the tone control and the 3-way
switch is reversed, thus engaging the bridge
pickup when the 3-way switch is pointing
to “neck pickup only” and vice versa. If you
don’t like that, try the next alternative.
The MacGyver method. Remove the
knobs and switch tip, loosen the two nuts
securing the pots, remove the two plate
screws, and gently lift the plate off the cavity.
Again turn the plate 180 degrees to place
the switch at the rear. Remove the switch
and reverse it—now it will select the pickups
in the traditional way. At this point,
you have the option of removing the pots
from the plate and reversing their order,
too. It’s your call whether you want the
volume or tone knob closest to your hand.
Either way, your plate will look like Fig. 1.
All your wires should be long enough for
this mod, except maybe the one that runs
from the volume pot to the switch. Replace
this one with a longer wire, reassemble, and
wail. Once the longer wire is in place, you
can reconfigure your guitar any way you
want in a few minutes without changing
any wires ever again, and all options are
available: You can decide if you want the
volume or tone pot closest to your picking
hand, and whether the 3-way switch is
reversed or in its normal orientation.
The all-new method. I usually unsolder
all the parts and re-install the pots and
switch on the control plate in the desired orientation,
and then rewire the complete circuit.
This is the most time-intensive method,
but it’s the approach that allows you to use
the neatest wiring. Fig. 2 shows my favorite
wiring diagram for the reversed control plate,
with the volume pot in the front position
and a standard 3-way switch setup.
Another common problem has to do with
the placement of the 3-way switch on the
Tele control plate. Some players don’t like
how the switch is aligned in a straight row
with the pots. I think Leo Fender’s idea was
brilliant: The switch tip points toward the
engaged pickup! But I also understand how
those used to other guitars—a Stratocaster,
Les Paul, SG, ES-335, or PRS, for example—
may find this awkward. If you’re in this
camp, let’s see what alternatives you have.
Strat Style. As you all know, the
Stratocaster’s 5-way switch is angled. If you
prefer this position, you can buy a control
plate with an angled slot for the Tele’s
3-way switch (Fig. 3). Simply replace the
stock control plate with one of these, and
you’re done. Keep in mind, however, that
on some Teles you’ll have to slightly enlarge
the electronics cavity to fit the new plate—
and this depends on the switch. Note: You
can’t use a 5-way super-switch with these
Gibson style. If you want to follow the
Gibson switching logic (switch up = neck
pickup, switch down = bridge pickup) or you
like the Gibson-style 3-way toggle switch
better than the Fender 3-way lever switch,
this mod is for you. You need a control plate
with a big hole for the toggle switch instead
of the slot for the lever switch (Fig. 4).
The wiring is basically the same as with
the lever plate, but you’ll have to substitute
the new toggle switch for the stock switch.
Unsolder the three external connections
from the Tele 3-way switch. Look for a hot
wire from the neck pickup (wire A), a hot
wire from the bridge pickup (wire B), and
the wire running from the 3-way switch’s
output to the volume pot’s input (wire C).
Follow Fig. 5 to re-connect these three
wires to the 3-way toggle switch. If you
want to reverse the neck and bridge pickup
positions, simply exchange wires A and B.
Connect the toggle switch’s ground lug to
the case of one of the Telecasters pots.
Next month, we’ll launch into mods for
the Esquire. Until then, keep on modding!