'LPB' Squier Cyclone

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solfege
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'LPB' Squier Cyclone

Post by solfege » Fri May 11, 2018 7:07 pm

So I got this guitar a couple months ago with the express intention of modding it. I had to do a bit of tweaking even to get a new trem block installed (recall) and also spent some time with fine sandpaper trying to get the nut to deal better with 10s (ongoing project -- a new nut is coming).

But the real goal here has been to use this thing as a platform for trying pickup combos besides those on my Jazzmaster -- and even to get to play around with humbuckers again (my first electric was an early 90s Les Paul Studio that I'm still mad at myself for selling). Also, I wanted to try my hand at doing some wiring and so on.

So I got a cheap tort pickguard to mess with, some CTS pots, Switchcraft bits, and a control plate that would accommodate them, along with the various bits of wire, capacitors and resistors needed to properly recreate the original Cyclone circuit, and I've been trolling Reverb for good deals on f-spaced humbuckers and things that will fit into the strat pickup hole.

Net result, I found a cheap Low Wind Lollar Imperial (in gold, but the finish is mostly gone) and a cheap Duncan SSL1, and since everything finally arrived today, I spent a bit of this afternoon and evening turning this:

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Into this:

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Overall I'm happy with it. Will be messing with getting the pickups just so for a couple days I'm sure.

I definitely ran into some pitfalls along the way.

I ended up with a covered humbucker (and didn't want to mess with the potting of the Lollar to take the cover off), so I had to open up the pickguard which was cut for an uncovered one.

Also, for anyone considering modding one of these, the Squier control routes are NOT the same as the Fender routes, so using the Fender wiring diagram led me a bit astray where the switch was concerned. It called for a right angle one, but that didn't fit into the circular route in the body, so I had to get a short frame straight one, and even then I had to tweak the output lugs (basically fold them over one another) to get them to fit. Also, the control route barely— and I mean barely—accommodates the full sized CTS pots. And while the pickguard seems properly sized (though, weirdly, it's missing one screw hole), the control plate I got doesn't quite match up with it perfectly. So my OCD will almost surely make me go ahead source a proper Squier one and enlarge the holes in it for the full sized pots (I'm not touching any of the original stuff in case I want to return the guitar to stock at some point).

All in all, though, it already sounds a million times better. Both pickups are a vast, vast improvement over the stock ones -- which were just plain trash. Also, the 500k pots seem to work a lot better than the 250ks that were in the stock guitar.

I put a 470k ohm resistor between the neck pickup and the switch ground. The Fender diagram calls for 270 (an odd value I couldn't source) but I did some reading and got the impression that the 470 would basically drop the pot value down to 250k for that pickup -- which seemed like it would work. It sounds good, but I'm considering getting a 270 to try, if only to brighten up the neck pickup a bit.

Also, I'm wondering about a different volume pot. I got an audio taper pot, but it's basically only useful for about 1/3 or travel. Do people think a linear taper would be more useful?

Finally, I'm going to have to decide whether that Duncan in the neck is a keeper or not. Other possibilities are a Mustang pickup with flat pole pieces, or maybe something entirely different like a goldfoil (which would match the Lollar's gold--ish cover) or a P90. I'm just not sure how I feel about Strat pickups -- but I'll live with it for a bit and see.
Last edited by solfege on Mon Jul 29, 2019 4:47 am, edited 3 times in total.

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PixMix
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Re: 'LPB' Squier Cyclone (Phase I of who knows how many)

Post by PixMix » Fri May 11, 2018 8:25 pm

Thank you for the tips regarding the routing and how it accommodates pots and other components. I have a Cyclone, and just like you, got it to mod and turn into something unique, but haven't done anything to it yet. Did you change the tuning machines, and if so, what did you end up getting?

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Re: 'LPB' Squier Cyclone (Phase I of who knows how many)

Post by solfege » Sat May 12, 2018 4:29 am

PixMix wrote:
Fri May 11, 2018 8:25 pm
Thank you for the tips regarding the routing and how it accommodates pots and other components. I have a Cyclone, and just like you, got it to mod and turn into something unique, but haven't done anything to it yet. Did you change the tuning machines, and if so, what did you end up getting?
You're welcome. I definitely wanted to add to the archive on these things. I haven't done anything about the tuning machines. I'm not sure whether I will. The stock ones seem ok -- if not fantastic. Tuning the guitar is definitely a bit of a pain, but i'm 99% sure that's the shitty nut, which I managed to improve considerably with some 1000 grit sandpaper, but will eventually definitely need to have replaced. That's not a job I think I can do myself (no idea which blank to order, not really interested in getting $100 worth of tools or more to do a job that I'm not anticipating doing more than once.

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Re: 'LPB' Squier Cyclone (Phase I of who knows how many)

Post by solfege » Sat May 12, 2018 9:01 am

Couple more pics and some further impressions playing it a bit more this morning.

First, here's the work I did awhile ago opening up the route to accommodate a full sized trem block.

Image

I did it by hand with a file and sandpaper. I found our Dremel later on, and might end up going back in there to clean up a few things with that the next time I have the strings off the guitar. For the moment, however, it's fine.

I didn't get a good picture of the routing (I took one, but my thumb was actually over the lens -- Oy), but this shows some of it.

Image

As you can see, it's all fairly narrow. The switch pocket is basically a circle with a narrow channel to the main swimming pool route, much like (but narrower and shallower than) the one you see from the control pocket to the swimming pool. There is absolutely no way to fit a right angle Switchcraft in there. Even the short framed straight one required some tweaking. Also, both your hot and ground wires from the switch to the pots will probably need to be longer than you might originally think. I used at least 10 and probably closer to 12," because originally I'd made the ground too short.

Also, it's worth noting that the shielding paint in the cavities got scratched up and came off in places just manipulating things. I'm not noticing any noise, but at some point I will probably try to touch that up (not sure there's really room to do a full tape or foil shielding job.

Also, I'll probably end up rewiring the controls and reverting to the original plate. I ordered some metric CTS pots (should have realized they existed) and when they come in I'll redo that part so it fits better. I definitely do not like the way the aftermarket plate is fitting with the pickguard.

Now, how's it play?

I was able to turn the volume up a bit this morning and mess with pickup placement and balance. Holy crap that Lollar is a beautiful thing. Super-super dynamic and very responsive to picking pressure, etc. I know the cover looks a bit odd with everything else silver, black, or white, but it's beautiful-sounding and cost about half what a new one would. I've got the Duncan balanced pretty well with it now -- middle position sounds good -- and the whole thing really sings at full volume with the tone rolled off about 1/3. Overall, the Duncan isn't as dynamic a pickup as the Lollar. I guess that's to be expected, but I also think I might keep looking for something that'll be similarly responsive to pick attack and such, just for the sake of the middle position. If anyone has thougths on that I'd love to hear them. Got to say, though, the difference this has made is really remarkable already.

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Re: 'LPB' Squier Cyclone (Phase I of who knows how many)

Post by solfege » Sat May 19, 2018 4:16 am

Did a bit more tweaking.

Redid the pots with CTS pots with 'import' sized shafts so I could use the original control plate, which fits better. Also replaced the 470k resistor on the neck pickup with a 270k, which is what the Fender Cyclone schematic specifies. This is better. The 470k darkened up the neck pickup too much. I'm liking the Duncan strat pickup much more all the sudden.

While I was in there, I made a point of taking better pictures of the routes (and the crappy shielding paint that is not surviving the modding process too well. At some point, this will need to be addressed.

Overhead shot:

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And a more detailed shot of the switch route:

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Hopefully this is helpful to others considering messing with these guys.

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Re: 'LPB' Squier Cyclone (Phase I of who knows how many)

Post by oid » Sat May 19, 2018 4:55 am

Aesthetically that is a big improvement, the stock look was rather bland, your wiring job looks nice and clean as well.

Switching to a linear pot will likely just move the useful third to a different part of the rotation, which maybe useful and you may like, if it moves it to the third you always use it will feel great. Pot taper and perception of taper can get surprisingly complex, I suspect your issue is more just a value issue, which third is the useful third? Does it act the same way for all three positions?

Well done, that is a nice looking guitar.
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Re: 'LPB' Squier Cyclone (Phase I of who knows how many)

Post by solfege » Sun May 20, 2018 5:38 am

Thanks so much. For a first try at most of the tasks involved, I'm pretty happy. I actually redid most of the wiring the other day to switch the pots and the resistor (I think there were two solder joints that I was able to leave alone). I'm glad I did because I figured out what I was doing about halfway in the first time.

(And just to be clear, the picture above with the whole harness zip tied together is the factory harness still. I left that attached as is to the original pickguard in case I ever decide to return the guitar to stock and sell it.)

The real bugaboo at this point is getting it to intone properly. I finally broke down and shimmed the neck a little yesterday as I simply could not get the low-E saddle far enough back not to go sharp when fretted. That helped, but in general the bridge on this thing is positioned in such a way that it'd work if the trem were locked down, but as soon as you allow it to float, it's too far forward. The shimming seems to have more or less done the trick. We'll see.

Another remark, I'm ok with 9.5" radius necks, and this one feels pretty comfortable to my hands that are used to my MIJ Jazzy neck, but man I hate, hate, hate these big honkin frets on this thing. Not enough to pay to have it refretted, but enough to discover that I have a definite preference for 'vintage style' frets.

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Re: 'LPB' Squier Cyclone (Phase I of who knows how many)

Post by vandahm » Tue May 22, 2018 8:33 am

Good work! The covered humbucker classes up the guitar and looks good with the tortoiseshell.

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Re: 'LPB' Squier Cyclone (Phase I of who knows how many)

Post by nickp585 » Tue May 22, 2018 6:59 pm

BEAUTIFUL GUITAR!!!! 8) 8) 8) 8) 8) 8) 8) 8) Wish I never sold mine :fp: :fp: :fp: :fp: :fp: :fp: :fp: :fp:

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Re: 'LPB' Squier Cyclone

Post by solfege » Mon Jul 29, 2019 12:41 pm

Quick update. Been playing it in the state seen above for *awhile,* but I've never quite been happy with the balance of the Duncan SSL1 and the Lollar -- mostly I think b/c of the staggered pole pieces on the Duncan. I managed to find a cheap Lollar blonde strat neck pickup, which is what they recommended to go with the low wind Imperial, and finally got it installed yesterday -- along with a proper Fender trem arm instead of the GFS thing that I got with the trem block, and which was both too long and angled too far up.

The new pickup, with flat poles, balances perfectly with the bridge.

And with that, I think we're calling this guitar done.

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Re: 'LPB' Squier Cyclone

Post by Steadyriot. » Mon Jul 29, 2019 1:00 pm

Ooh I remember this one! Looks rad!
Good to hear that you've found a good pickup match!
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Re: 'LPB' Squier Cyclone

Post by solfege » Mon Jul 29, 2019 6:22 pm

Thanks. It really makes all the difference. The guitar basically went from 'frustrating' to 'interesting' in one shot.

(Really not dissing the Duncan either. I get why people like them. It was just not *quite* what this needed).

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Re: 'LPB' Squier Cyclone

Post by Rgand » Tue Jul 30, 2019 7:01 am

It looks really great! Good job on the mods. I like the tort with the blue. You turned it into something to be quite proud of.

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