So I am currently in the middle of wrestling with the guitar finish, using a cocktail, of both a polishing compound and swirl remover, to get as much of the surface imperfections out of the lacquer finish as possible. I needed to get away from that for a bit, and refocus on something else, so I decided to have a go at modding the pickup selector switch plate.
As you may remember, I decided to go with a black sparkle finish, accented by a white pickguard and black chrome hardware. In the picture below, you can see the pickup selector assembly that I purchased off of eBay. The purpose of this mod is to install a push button that will control the backlight LED, that will illuminate the touchpad. I decided to power this by a 9 volt battery, so that the power draw to illuminate the touchpad will not lessen its sensitivity or responsiveness. Also, I wanted to be able to show off the color shifting backlight, without having to plug the guitar into the entire floor rig. I decided to place the pushbutton in the switchplate for three reasons – 1. So I don’t have to drill another hole into the surface of the guitar 2. Because switch plate cavity is already deep enough to accommodate the size of the battery and 3. To make changing the battery easier, due to the fact that this plate is easily removable by unfastening only two screws.
I was genuinely surprised by how nice the finish was on this unit, as it was purchased from a supplier in China (and didn’t cost much at all). This is a heavy, metal, unit that is powdercoated in black. Due to the fact that the unit is finished in a reflective, black, paint makes this difficult to photograph properly.
This is the original, unmodified unit. The button will be placed directly between the two adjusting knobs.
This is a side view to show you the depth of the unit.
This is the pushbutton assembly I purchased. Unfortunately, I couldn’t find a suitable button, finished in black chrome, so this will have to suffice. When powered, the red ring, around the center pushbutton, is illuminated by a red LED.
In order to begin, I had to first remove all control assemblies / electronics from the actual plate. I did this because I didn’t want to damage any electronics while drilling the hole for the new button.
Next, I taped both the front, and back, of the plate with masking tape. I’m not sure that this was necessary, but I thought it would lessen the chances of my scratching the surface of the plate while drilling.
To drill a hole of the desired size, I was told that I would need to use a stepped drill bit (more on that later). In order to use a stepped drill bit, you must first drill a pilot hole, to allow the stepped bit to cut in and work its magic. In the above picture, I picked a spot that was equidistant from both the sides, and the preexisting adjuster knob holes. Then, using a standard drill bit, I grabbed onto the plate and drilled away. This took a bit of time as the bit had to slowly work its way through the metal, but was much easier than I had anticipated. Note – Be sure to drill from the face of the plate, down. When you drill through metal, it will push scrap bits through to the back that would make fitting the button difficult if you did this in the wrong direction.
This is the stepped drill bit. To use this properly, you must drill a little at a time, and then test fit your parts. In this case, I would periodically try the pushbutton assembly, to see if it fit.
This is a picture of an intermediary step. The hole wasn’t quite large enough at this time, but was well on its way. Remember, you have to hold on to both the plate and the drill very tightly. You are generating a LOT of heat when drilling through metal, and the bit has a tendency to periodically seize and grab onto the place (twisting it around sharply). Wearing gloves, and eye protection, is highly recommended. If you notice the drill bit getting hot (aka. generating smoke), stop what you are doing, and run both the drill bit, and switchplate, under cold water to cool it.
The above picture shows the test fit of the button when the hole was finally large enough (note the water beads, from cooling the plate mentioned previously). Be careful not to make the hole too large, or the button will be loose and will look terrible.
This is a side view of the test fit.
This is the back of the switchplate. Note the shredded metal byproduct from the drilling. This is easily removable with pliers, but shows why it is important to drill from the face (of the plate) down.
This is the top of the plate. You can see that the masking tape worked, as there are no scratches in the surface of the plate. Note – Since I drilled this by hand, the hole wasn’t as centered as I had hoped. Overall this still works, but cosmetically is not as clean as I would have hoped.
The button is finally installed, and all of the electronics were reattached. Even though the button isn’t properly centered, it mounts completely flush with the surface and still looks pretty good!
This is a side view of the finished product. Overall, this only took about 30 minutes and wasn’t as difficult as I had first anticipated.