Soldering: Best Practices for Electric Guitar Repair | Basic Guitar Maintenance

THE GIST

Learning how to solder is one of the first steps of getting into guitar repair, enabling you to better maintain your guitar, to fix a lot of common issues you might run into, and to even upgrade your electronics.

Soldering doesn’t need to be a scary endeavor. In fact, it’s one of the greatest ways to get into guitar repair. All of the tools can be found at any hardware store worth its salt—and they probably won’t cost a ton. It’s also relatively straightforward and doesn’t require much to learn. And provided you don’t grab the wrong end of the soldering iron, there’s very little chance you’ll hurt yourself, or the guitar.

Connecting two wires is a good place to start, as it has a lot of uses. In this case, I’m extending the “hot” and “ground” wires of a Telecaster bridge pickup. It should be noted here that using the same color wire is 100% not necessary, but it does help prevent confusion when wiring up the circuit.

Measure about ¼-inch (or just over half of a centimeter) from the end of one wire, and strip the shielding away with a pair of wire strippers. Then, repeat the same process with the second wire. Alternatively, if you’re working with cloth-shielded wire, it’s also just as easy to push the shielding back.

Next, apply a small amount of solder to the stripped ends of the wires. This is called “tinning,” and it’s an often-overlooked step in the soldering process. Unlike wrapping two bare wires together and applying solder over the joint, two tinned ends will join together at the touch of a soldering iron like magic. Just add a little more solder over the two wires once the connection has been made.

Finally, after the two wires have been soldered together, the connection ought to be sealed up to prevent oxidation on the solder joint and to prevent the joint from touching another component in the circuit. Electrical tape is fine, but a segment of shrink-tubing over the connection is the ideal solution. A tape’s adhesive can give out over time, but shrink tubing is pretty impervious.

It takes a little practice to get all this right, but it’s an invaluable skill that will allow you to maintain, repair, or even upgrade the guitar’s electronics.

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