Career Axis v.2

My original version of this didn't really expand the wiring so much as I compensated functionally for screwing around with the aesthetics.  In other words, I put in a better-looking switch that acted only as a two-way, so I added a push-pull pot to add the second pickup back in.  But now it was time to actually upgrade and expand the function of this guitar overall.

I always liked the looks of this (a knock-off of EVH's then-signature EBMM guitar) and the feel (glossy neck), but I thought the stock pickups were bland and found the minimalist design of the guitar too limited in controls.  So I decided to dig in (literally, in fact) and wire in some additional options without adding additional controls, at least in appearance.

DiMarzio PAF Pro.  Both positions, neck and bridge models, respectively.  These are supposedly very similar to the classic early Les Pauls (humbucker era; '58 - '60).  I don't think they're mind-blowing, but they aren't too hot and they aren't too cold.  The wiring in this guitar is designed to be versatile, so these pickups are a good complement to the rest of the scheme.

Unmastered Tone switch
Control: Formerly the pickup selector switch.  However, that function was handled by a rotary in place of the vol pot (see below).

Function: I felt like this guitar needed something to cut the tone, and yet a tone control is the one thing that's absent the stock configuration.  If you're like me, you probably use the pickup selector switch more than the tone knob, and you use your tone knob more than your volume.  In other words, you could probably live without a volume pot in your guitar, assuming you can get to your amp or rack.  When I play live, I always have the effects unit within reach, so I can adjust it on the fly or cut it back when I'm through with a song.  But I need to cut the tone right then and there, so I want a tone control on my guitar.

By "unmastered" I mean that this switch only affects the neck pickup rather than acting as a master tone control the way most tone switches (and even many tone knobs) do.  As I mention on other pages, I don't like to adjust the tone on my bridge pickup, just the neck.  In fact, I usually like to switch between a crunchy bridge and a creamy neck pickup.  But I like the neck to be clean too sometimes, so I need to have control over it and not just hardwire a capacitor into the circuit.

The idea of a tone switch isn't new.  Gretsch guitars have had them for more than fifty years, and they are similarly confused by newbies for the pickup selector switch since both switches look identical, are side-by-side, and --where present-- are even reversed on Brian Setzer's signature model guitars.

5-position rotary switch
Control: This replaced the volume knob.

Function: The more important thing in this guitar is the rotary switch.  I wanted as many varied options out of it that I could get, so I came up with a schematic to give me humbucker sounds, parallel sounds (which are closer to single-coil sounds than coil taps are in most cases), and even an out-of-phase sound just to be weird.  What I ended up with:

1) N (series)
2) N (parallel)
3) N (tapped)
4) B (series, out-of-phase)
5) B (series)
It's intuitive to get to the default positions since the standard humbucking modes are at either end.

Revisions: In hindsight, there are two combinations here I would have changed:

Because of the above or perhaps just because of my innate preferences, I tend to mostly play the two humbucking modes (dirty, though occasionally for jazzy numbers) and the parallel combination (clean), so I can live with it like it is.  I haven't taken the time to revisit the wiring scheme and see if it's possible to change it to incorporate these options in place of the originals.  Remember, this is only a 4-pole switch, so it isn't possible to have every set of five combinations of the coils of two humbuckers.  Find me an 8-pole switch that fits in a guitar, and then we can talk!


It took one hell of a lot of routing to get this rotary switch into the tiny control cavity intended for only a single volume pot.  You can't tell in this pic with all the sawdust in the way, but the routing actually goes sideways beneath the wood where the screw holes were so that I could still attach the cavity cover.

I probably spent as much time working on expanding this holes as I did on the soldering, which is saying quite a lot.  I even ended up having to bend a few lugs to get the rotary to sit comfortably in its home.

Taking a shortcut

This is a first for me, but I thought the direct, most sensible route to the rotary's control cavity was to simply go through the bottom of the guitar and into the trem cavity.  This was also a good place to hide the slack in the leads from the pickups without trimming it all to a bare minimum.

Wire nut

This is something I've been doing a lot lately: Using a wire nut instead of wasting my time soldering things together.  In this case I tied something like a dozen wires together.  (Yes, really.  Think about it: string ground, tone switch, jack, two shield wires, grounds from pickups, grounds from rotary, etc.)  The space was so constrained that I actually had to cut the wire nut to make it short enough to fit into the control cavity.

Non-electronic modifications
Schaller locking tuners with pearloid keys.  These date from the v.1 modifications and are already covered on that page.

Yet another Floyd Rose.  I foster dogs for local rescues, and one of them wasn't house-trained yet, so my guitar got sprayed.  It happened that I didn't notice it until sometime after the fact, and by then the salty urine had done a little chemistry project on the trem.  The glossy finish protected the guitar from any other damage, but the trem had rust and salt crystals throughout.  It was scrap metal, and so I bought a replacement.

D-Tuna removed.  The D-Tuna was a collateral casualty of the aforementioned urination incident.  The chrome portion of the unit is fine, but the long screw was too rusted for the threads to connect properly.  I have another D-Tuna on the EBMM Axis, and I have the extra screws with that so I may eventually look into whether any of these work.

Un-screwed-up tremolo.  As I mentioned on the v.1 page for this guitar, I originally added a screw to force the Floyd to act like a flush-mounted trem, much like how the Axis it's based on does.  However, I've grown to prefer that the trem floats, so I removed it.

Copyright Alexplorer.