Sustain for Days

Often in my field of work I have clients who bring instruments for some major modification or improvement. Some of these jobs I justify and accept as a challenge, and some of these I turn down because they could potentially inhibit or harm the quality of the instrument.  In this case a client brought to me one of Jacksons new dinky series economy guitars. The guitar is a bargain at 200 dollars. It features a bass wood body, a maple and rose wood neck with a compound radius neck. The guitar plays very well out of the box and doesn’t sound half bad! However the owner of this instrument was looking for a little more.

He contacted me and asked me what I knew about the Fernandez Sustaniac pickup system. I explained that the system was patent by guitarist of Def leopard Phil Collin and came equipped in all his Jackson models. The sustainer kit essentially holds a note out through a series of electronic pulses till it is stopped by the player. It generates a magnetic field powered by a 9v battery which causes the strings on the guitar to vibrate even if not plucked, and creates some pretty cool sounds once you get the hang of it.

Once all the parts arrived we got right to work. First thing we did was find an appropriate location in the existing control cavity to be able to accommodate the sustainer green board. We had just enough space to accommodate everything and not have to route away a great deal of the guitar. In order to be accurate and not ruin the instrument we made a template out of 1/4” mdf to help guide our router bit. Once we had that taken care of we set out to disassemble the guitar. We removed all the electronic components and set them aside in case we needed some for later.

With all those parts safely stored we made our first rough pass using our router and our template. After a few shallow passes we drilled the holes for our mini switches and test fitted our green board. We continued to make shallow slow passes being very careful not to route through the top of the instrument. We made multiple passes before our green board finally fit exactly like we wanted it to. After confirming proper fitment we went ahead and re shielded the control cavity to minimize the potential for noise or 60 cycle hum.

We then installed the neck and the bridge pickups into their corresponding routes. With the shielding paint, and the pickups taken care of we dropped in our original electronics and went ahead and began integrating our sustaniac system into the original wiring harness using the included directions and diagrams. We made sure to heat shrink and run our wires carefully and neatly to avoid any sort of grounding issues or humming. Once everything was in place and carefully soldered and attended to we went ahead strung the instrument and set up our pickup height for optimal performance. We made adjustments on the potentiometers on our green board as well to make sure our pickups sounded full clear and balanced.

In the end of this modification we ended up with a guitar that could hold its own against a Phil Collin signature model for a fraction of the cost

The instrument sounded incredible and looked like it rolled out of the factory looking that way and the client was extremely pleased with the over result and modification of his budget build.