STōK Garage Electric Guitar DIY

Episode 9, Wire Pickups & Test

by Rodney Bowman


STōK is here for your next great idea, and we’re here to help you along the way. The Electric Guitar DIY series is designed to teach you the basics of building an electric guitar. Starting with body design, we will cover wood selection and body shape, moving on to pickups, neck shaping, fretting, wiring, finishing and finally, sound setup.

Electric DIY - Episode 9, Wire Pickups & Test

What you need to complete Episode 9

If you don’t have some of the items, feel free to get creative with what you do have or can easily obtain. Experiment and have fun. See complete Tool, Part and Material List

General Tools

– screwdriver
– tuner
– soldering iron
– solder
– wiring diagram
– amp
– allen wrench
– strings


Let’s Get Started

In the last episode we put some color on the body. In this episode we are going to wire the pickups, bolt on the neck, put some strings on, and test the initial sound.

Between last episode and this one, we put on the Stōk logo with an ink image transfer. I also put the bridge back on, installed the jack plate cover, and secured the tone and volume potentiometers in the control cavity as well as the pickup selector switch. Before I installed the components I painted the control cavity and pickup cavities with a conductive shielding paint. Some guitars have copper shielding in the cavities. The shielding helps to reduce any buzz or hum that might occur.

For our guitar we are using two double humbucker pickup, one tone, one volume, and a three way switch. This is what we decide to go with, but there are a ton of options. Not only with type of pickup, but the number of tone or volume pot, push/pull pots, types of switches, and a lot more. Wiring diagrams for any configuration can be found online.

To save a bit of time, so we ordered pre-wired electronics. This means we only had to wire the pickups. If this is your first guitar having pre-wired electronics can help while you learn a bit more about soldering. One tip I can give you is to pre-solder your wires and connection points before soldering them together. After the pickups are wired, tuck the wires neatly into the control cavity making sure that nothing is touching to cause a short.

With our electronics in place we can test to make sure everything is working. Plug your guitar into an amp and with a screwdriver tap the pickup poles. If the pickup is active, then you’ll be able to hear it through the amp. Also test the switch, tone, and volume. If everything is working, then you can reattach the neck and begin to string it up. If it isn’t working properly, go back to your wire diagram and double check. Also make sure the solder joints are solid and no wires are touching to cause a short.

Bolt on the neck, then install the tuning machines or tuners and put the nut in place. This is a top loading bridge so the strings go through the back of the bridge plate, over the bridge saddles, over the nut, and into the tuning poles. Once the strings are in place you can tune it up and give it a strum.

Time for the final setup… Before you do that, put your final finish on. At this point, you will have take of the neck, strings, etc. to avoid finish overspray.

Let’s move on to final setup. We are going to add string trees on the headstock. These fit between the 3rd and 4th strings and a second one between the 5th and 6th string. They help keep the strings at a lower angle. We also need to adjust the bridge saddles so they the have the same radius as the fretboard. This bridge usually comes with an Allen wrench used to adjust the saddles. By raising them up or down you can also adjust the action on the neck. Adjust the height until it’s comfortable and sounds good.

We also need to set the intonation. Intonation is the tone in and down the neck. To set this we need to tune the guitar and then check the tuning while playing the 12th fret. The open string and the 12th fret should be the same note. There is a screw on the back of the bridge that holds the saddle. To adjust this you can use a screwdriver and tightening or pulling in the saddle or loosening the saddle. Make sure to tune up the open string as you adjust. Keep checking until all the strings are tuned when open as well as at the 12th fret. Once it’s tuned up……..Rock On! Thank you so much for watching. Remember, when inspiration strikes…….Go Big!!!!!!!

What you need to complete the entire Electric DIY series

Don’t have some of the items on the list, experiment with alternatives and have fun.

General Tools

– clamps (lots o’ clamps)
– router and router table with appropriate bits
– drill press and/or electric drill with guide
– band saw or jigsaw
– hammer
– sandpaper, spindle sander or hand sander
– files and rasps
– tape measure
– soldering iron
– screwdrivers

Specialty Tools

– fretting tools (hammer, fret press, fret lever, fret files)
– radius cauls
– polishing wheel
– string gauge
– radius gauge
– fret rocker

Parts & Materials List

– wood for body (ash)
– wood for neck (walnut)
– pre-radius end fretboard (12-degree radius)
– truss rod
– double humbucker pickups
– volume and tone potentiometers
– 3-way switch
– input jack
– fret wire
– top-loading bridge
– TUSQ nut
– neck plate
– tuning machines (aka tuners)
– string trees
– control cavity cover
– strap buttons
– electronic wire
– guitar strings


About Rodney Bowman

Born south of Chicago, Rodney Bowman of Bowman Built Guitars was introduced to woodworking by his father straight out of the cradle. At his father’s side, he discovered his passion for wood — the grain, the smells, the colors and textures. Having a passionate desire to create, Rodney naturally decided to pair it with his love for guitars and music, where his creativity will sing long after he’s gone.