Reader Guitar of the Month: Jade

A PG fan designs a killer 5-way circuit for all his tonal needs.

Name: Travis Johnson

Hometown: Minneapolis, Minnesota
Guitar: Jade

I started making “guitars” at age 12, when I figured out I could glue headphones into wood and plug them into a mic input on a tape recorder that had its headphone jack plugged into the aux input on my old stereo. I still have the cassette recording of me playing to Led Zeppelin II on one nylon string and no frets.

This is my most recent, and satisfying, rebuild project. I found the original (Indy Customs, according to the headstock) at a local shop for $100, with a mix of quirks and minor issues. But the neck felt good with fresh frets and locking tuners, so I wanted to make something unique. The first step was to get through the standard thick red paint, and reshape the generic S-type body. I sanded through the veneer top to get to the multi-piece body grain, hoping for something interesting. I had a shade of green in mind, and let the wood do its thing.

The kicker is the circuit I designed for the Screamin’ Demon bridge humbucker and Golden Age neck humbucker. I used a 5-way Megaswitch and push-pull, so I have three output levels. Positions 1, 2, and 3 are the standard bridge, both parallel, neck; coil cut for singles. Position 4 is a series connection of neck humbucker into the bridge humbucker, with the pot acting as a blend mix. In a happy accident, there’s some phase cancellation that makes for a calming of the signal in the middle of the blend. Coil cut to bridge single-coil. Position 5 is an uninterrupted series connection of the bridge into neck; coil cut to neck single-coil. This pickup combo, with a treble bleed on the volume, is well balanced and with a dynamic moderate gain goes from Tele clean, to LP distortion, to sweet fuzz. I blocked the trem with a tailstop stud, so pointed contact lets full vibrations ring.

It’s my No. 1 guitar. I play soulful post-punk with my band Lottery Store and this guitar lets me get to any tone or noise without running to my pedalboard.

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