The Chromacaster - the LONG STORY

I've always been a guitar tinker. Swapping pickups, adding coil-shunts and out of phase switches - these things were my bread and butter in the early seventies. During '74-'78, I was working at a store that had owned the VOX franchise exclusive for San Diego. Needless to say, there was a lot of VOX junk laying around in the shop! I'd had Strats before, but I think it was in '77 that I got my first brand-new Strat. Looked great - maple neck, natural ash body - but to me, it was just OK. It was one of the three-bolt models, and as I played it with much gusto and enthusiasm, I would tweak the neck sideways, putting it out of tune.... but that's another story. Anywhooo, I wanted to get a couple of more tones out of it, and the quickest way I could think of was to install an "ON" switch that would turn the neck pup on at will, regardless of what was selected on the 5-way. I could have used a toggle switch, but I wanted to use a rotary switch to "hide" it. I finally came up with an old VOX amp's "ON/OFF" power switch, because it was the only rotary "ON/OFF" switch I could find! I put it in the middle hole, replacing the neck's tone control, and wired the other tone as a master. I filed the shaft and jammed the old tone knob back on - viola!!! I could get all three pups, and the neck and bridge only! Boy, was I impressed with myself...

But within a year I had rewired a Les Paul Custom that I rewired with p/p pots for phase-reverse and coil-shunts, and even with my heavy-handed playing, the neck DIDN'T pull sideways and go out of tune! Once I had added the third pickup to this beast - again with coil-shunt and phase-reverse options - I never went back to the Strat. It became just another closet/case queen, and I eventually traded it for a T. Haruo 50-12 acoustic twelve string - a D-28-12 knockoff.

Tangentally, T. Haruo is seldom-seen brand that was only available for a few years (say, 1975 - 1982?). It's a very nice guitar: neat inlays, bound fingerboard, solid top - and I still have it. I understand that a lot of the T. Haruo guitars, some of which are great Martin copies, have become collector's pieces. For me, the 50-12 and the Les Paul Custom are the only guitars from the seventies that I still own - 'nuff said.

Fast forward to 1999... After two divorces and lost guitar collections, I'm back on my feet, got a good day-job and a great wife... and I'm building up a little collection of axes again. I picked up a nice MIM Strat - first Strat I've had in twenty years! I go looking for a rotary on/off switch to do my thing to this guy, but I can't find one anywhere. The closest I can come is at my local Radio Shack, where they have a two pole, 6-way rotary switch. Well, sez I, it'll have to do ... maybe I can think of something to do with the other four throws...

Yeah, Baby!

A couple of years later, after four or five revisions, and locating a parts supplier with a more appropriate line of rotary switches, I've developed this switch into the Chromacaster I build today. It gets all the colors!


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