Volume# - 78 Installation of a Fernandez Sustainer System

Written by Patrick Podpadec on . Posted in Northcoast Voice

Stay in Tune vol#78

By Luthier Patrick Podpadec

I'm glad to be writing this article. It is long over do. I have mention this repair in the past but it is now finally coming to fruition. About a year ago my good friend and website designer, Mr Chad Ely (chadely.com) introduced a repair to me that he has been wanting to do to one of his guitars since the late 80's. There is a product out from Fernandes Guitars that revolutionizes the way guitar players can play their instruments. This product is known as the “Sustainer”. Powered by a 9-Volt battery, the interaction of the bridge humbucker pickup, the Sustainer Circuit Board, and the neck Sustainer Driver pickup, projects magnetic pulses that continuously vibrate the strings of the guitar, the same way an amplifier would at extreme volumes, yet totally controlled! The result is infinite sustain and/or feedback using sparkly clean or loud distorted settings without the need for excessive volume or extra outboard gear! It allows the player the ability to sustain a note forever. By hitting a switch on the FSK- 401 model, the pitch of the ringing note(s) will rise to the 5th natural harmonic within seconds. By hitting the switch again and putting it into the mix mode, it blends the Natural and Harmonic Mode to harmonize indefinitely every ringing note creating a harmonized feedback effect. To find out more details on how it exactly works it would be best to check out the sites web page at http://www.fernandesguitars.com/sustainer/sustainer.html .

Chad and his team of professionals have helped me numerous times with many of my media problems, so to have the opportunity to pay back my gratitude by installing this “Sustainer Kit” into one of his guitars his an honor. We have also decided that it would make a great video to share with all you music lover out there, Chad is also a wiz at most any and all video formats so his editing skills are gonna come in very handy with all of that. We were able to post 'The Sustainer Installation, Part 1” on my website www.liamguitars.com which we linked to my face book page . This is the first video in what is planned to be a ever expanding series of guitar repair videos. I have seen many repair videos myself on YouTube and I hope that I can bring a new and interesting take to those that have already been done and f course to the ones that haven't.

The guitar that was picked for this project is a late 70's Gibson Victory. This isn't one of Gibson Flagship models like the Les Paul or the “335”, but it is certainly not due to the construction. It has all of the right things going for it to be classified as a high end guitar. It has a solid neck thru body joint with a bound ebony fingerboard. It had a neck humbucker, a bridge humbucker with a single coil in the middle position. With a 5-way selector switch, a simple volume and tone control mounted on a pickguard similar to the way a Fender Strat is. I believe it was Gibson's answer to the Fender guitar market. Sometime in it's existence it was fitted with a “Kahler” tremolo bridge and a locking nut. The plan is to remove the locking nut unit and replace it by upgrading to a fine set of Sperzel locking tuners.

The new Sustainer system that will be installed requires a bit of modification to the guitar. It has a fairly large circuit board that requires a larger area of the body to be routed out in order to facilitate the extra switches involved. It also needed a battery box installed to power the magnetic pickup that is the heart of the sustainer system. As the video will show http://wood-n-strings.net/home/community/74-admin02/videos/video/16-patrick-podpadec-sustainer-installation-part-1.html .I have to enlarge the pickguard to cover the larger routed cavity and to have something for the switches to be mounted to. It involves me reproducing a replica( though a bit larger) of the original . It also will have a different pickup configuration so that is another reason for it's replacement. I was lucky to already have the pickguard material on hand from a project a few years ago. Making the new pickguard is a pretty straight forward procedure. All I had to do was double stick tape the original to the new blank and rout it out with a laminate bit. The same type you would use for making a counter top. It's just a straight bit with a guide bearing laid up flush to the cutting edge. I just drilled out all of the other smaller holes with the proper size drill bits and then turned it over and used a chamfer bit to put a nice bevel look to all of the edges to finish it off . The next step is to assemble all of the hardware ( switches, vol & tone pots, pickups, circuit board for sustainer, etc. ) to the pickguard and temporarily mount it to make sure that everything will fit properly and that the wiring will not be pinched up inside the newly routed cavity.

The nice thing about the Fernandes Sustainer system is that all of the hard wiring has already been done. It comes fully assembled and all there is to do is to ground the system to the instrument. Having said this there may be a few soldering joints that may need to be unsoldered and refitted and soldered up again. It will depend on how or what your going to install the system into. In this case I will need to add a little length to the pos & neg wire leading to the battery box. I will also have to remove the output jack so that I can bring it through the hole that is already drilled in the side of the guitar. Neither one of these tasks are complicated and will be a very easy modification. At this point I have not wired it up yet , but I don't foresee any problems occurring. I have been documenting the process through a video that I have posted on my website. Just go to liamguitars.com and click on the “community” page.

Again I would like to Thank Chad Ely for the opportunity do do this very interesting repair and guiding me through the video process. So please stay in tune for next weeks issue where I will show the finished project

Thanks Again !

Patrick from Liam Guitars/ Wood-n-Strings