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Cleaning electric guitar pots & switches

Discussion in 'music making & live music' started by eightball, Feb 17, 2011.

  1. eightball

    eightball Well-Known Member

    Tonight I dug out my electric guitar for the first time in a couple of years and the tone & volume controls and pickup switch are so dirty they keep cutting the signal out. Can anyone recommend a way to clean these up? (other than taking it to a repair shop) I've got a can of circuit board cleaner (ie an aerosol of CFCs from back in the day before they were banned) would this be any good or do more damage? The guitar in question is a Samick Les Paul copy.

    Any advice gratefully appreciated.
  2. tombowler

    tombowler still missing the point

    pick up switch may claen up but i would write the pots of and get new ones in there pretty cheap from maplin, rs, etc
  3. eightball

    eightball Well-Known Member

    Thanks for that - Maplin it is then :)
  4. southside

    southside Banned

    There are tracks inside pots that are greased and if not used the oily deposit find its way to the lowest point via gravity, what you can do is pan the pots back and forth for a while and you may find that the pots sort them selves out. I wouldn't trust cheap pots from maplin myself, I would recommend you buy some
    AF switch cleaner spray from them instead before replacing the pots and switch, after you pan the pots and jiggle the switch after cleaning. if its toggle it may be just a case of oxidisation.

    Worth a try and s easier than replacing.


    Samick had the gibson contract to produce epiphone guitars until gibson took the contract away and opened their own factory in china and some of them are pretty decent although the korean made ones are preffered for some reason.

    Just a lttle trivia for you.
  5. eightball

    eightball Well-Known Member

    Cheers, I've given the pots a good workout and they do seem to be improving slowly. If I get some of that switch cleaner can I use it on the pots too or just the switch?

    Thanks for the trivia too - I've just checked and mine is a Korean one :)
  6. Mrs Magpie

    Mrs Magpie On a bit of break...

    pot cleaner is what you need....
  7. southside

    southside Banned

    Maplins sell switch cleaner that will sort the pots out as well.
  8. rutabowa

    rutabowa YUPPIES OUT

    WD40 on everything.
  9. ViolentPanda

    ViolentPanda Untermensch, and proud!

    ...is a great way to crud up your switches and pots, because WD40 contains a silicone-based lubricant that'll leave a nice deposit that'll eventually harden off.

    Servisol, or a similar aerosol switch cleaner, or even 90% isopropyl alcohol (so, not the stuff sold as "surgical spirit", you cheapskates! :p) and cotton buds, are a much better proposition.
  10. Weller

    Weller So ermm ... You know ermm

    Always used WD40 myself for 30 years and never had a problem , Id usually take the pots out though and use sparingly on the tracks and pads.
    Usually theres 4 tabs that you can prise up and lift the pots track assembly out and if you are careful and have nimble fingers then you can use it sparingly to clean up the tracks and the contact pads reinsert and bend the tabs back into place its pretty quick fix once youve done a couple.
    Its not the easiest or quickest way but it lasts and saves on replacement and rewiring / soldering if they are good quality pots , Ive done many setups this way over the years and still do .
    I would as has already been said not trust the cheap Maplins pots they start crackling or getting scratchy very quickly.
    Samick usually used good quality components if its an older model , same production lines so Id strip and clean if it was myself but you do have to be careful and take your time but if you are thinking about changing them you have nothing to lose if you are not satisfied with easier cleaning methods first.

    But Im a bit of a skinflint and like preserving good original pots .

    I know the Samick brand quite well they did make some great fixed neck Les Paul copies many coming off the same production lines that they kept running once an order had been filled for the branded companies a bit naughty but it did happen , much more so before the lawsuit era rather than change the lines over on a shift , if another order didnt arrive shortly for the same model theres even some out there that have a thin headstock veener put over the Epiphone or other brand face with a new logo , some older Samick models the veeners used to peel off with a bit of hair direr heat :)
    They produced models for many companies including some models that Matsumoko also contracted there some Westbury , Aria , Antoria ,Westones ,Hohner etc Many Washburn models were made by Samick too a good manufacturer that dates back to the 50s and has made instruments for many other companies..

    The shop I worked at in the 80s in Birmingham used to ship in good quality Les Paul copies with blank headstocks from both Matsumoko and Samick and use several logo veneers depending on pick up upgrades etc .. Ive had a few good Samicks but collected Matsumoko mainly , theres some very underrated brands out there in my opinion. , love to see a pic in the guitar porn thread .
  11. pk

    pk RIP Sam

    Fuck RIGHT off with that!!!!
  12. pk

    pk RIP Sam

    YES! This!!

    Google "Isoclene".

    [​IMG]

    Buy some. Very cheap.

    Keep the spray away from woodwork/varnish and any stickers/decals on the guitar you want to keep.

    Spray the shit out of all the potentiometers - volume/tone controls - and rapidly turn them up/down/up/down/up/down/up/down/up/down/up very fast.

    You are cleaning rust off, microscopic rust, but still rust. WD40 will just protect the rust and you'll need brand new 'pots'.

    Don't listen to anyone here except me and Violent Panda. Sorry rutabowa, you hurt me with your evil guitar-killing ways.
  13. rutabowa

    rutabowa YUPPIES OUT

    you can just take the plastic nob off and carefully spray a bit down the shaft... always works fine.
  14. tendril

    tendril Corpsing inappropriately

    Do not use wd40! Use contact cleaner.
  15. pk

    pk RIP Sam

    Stop this please!!
  16. Weller

    Weller So ermm ... You know ermm

    Well you can but I like stripping as i get better results especially if the tabs have lifted off the carbon tracks but I have done that sometimes
    If Im doing a full setup setting action .fret dress and neck relief etc I just like making a meal of it all making sure that the tabs are making good contact with the carbon tracks in the pots which is a problem on Matsumokos , the guy assembling them probably wasnt very good :hmm: .

    On old Jap pots Ive seen many with the tabs holding the center not tight enough so the reason they are iffy not just scratchy no proper contact on the carbon track its not all about rust or dust grime on those and I have to strip or else replace anyway so I got used to it
    I guess Ive just always had the time to strip completely and I do remove EVERYTHING especially on my own new old babies
    Just spraying a little bit down the shaft does work on most admittedly each to their own but I enjoy stripping everything out and upgrading the shielding / grounding anyway which is always pretty poor on the guitars I have a habit of collecting.

    Lol youve got guitar techs all around the country been using wd40 for decades , stop the scare stories its the complete tool kit in a can , I do admit Ive also got an old can of plus gas too so old I have to use it to wipe the rust of the cans own outside with whats inside ;)

    Slim of the Hamsters from Canvey Island actually sprays wd40 on his guitar strings whist performing, not just down the pots , he stinks of the stuff afterwards :)

    http://www.thehamsters.co.uk/phpBB3/viewtopic.php?f=3&t=254

    He sprays it direct onto the fretboard and strings between songs you can sort of see it in this clip it gets all over his guitar , hands , face , stage :eek:

    In this video at 00.35 you can see his trusty can on the amp too , and it keeps his nails shiny lol

  17. rutabowa

    rutabowa YUPPIES OUT

    working guitarists and engineers use WD40. it does the job for a while, instantly... you are going to have to replace the pots at some point anyway.
  18. southside

    southside Banned

    I saw the hampsters at the Cartoon years ago and thought about the dermatitis problem he may have been inducing on himself. I use lemon oil on all of my guitars and oil the fretboard just before a gig. I can't stand WD40 cos its stinks but its good for cleaning metal but not good for electronics as it leaves an oily residue.

    Stinkin WD40, great for rust and squeaky pram wheels but shit for fuck all else unless you're the super wizard frontman of the hampsters of course.
  19. pk

    pk RIP Sam

    Fuck it, just use porridge. It's not my highly sensitive electronics...
  20. pk

    pk RIP Sam

    Working girls use K-Y Jelly, but I'm not about to shove that into a potentiometer...
  21. pk

    pk RIP Sam

    Anyway I'm morally offended by this thread. It is an affront to all that is good.
  22. rutabowa

    rutabowa YUPPIES OUT

    guitar electronics are hardly highly sensitive. i wouln't necessarily recommend squirting wd40 into a broken computer to fix it.
  23. pk

    pk RIP Sam

    Naa, everyone knows maple syrup is the best thing for a wonky computer. Unless it's a laptop, in which case peanut butter or one of those yoghurt drinks will sort it in no time.
  24. ATOMIC SUPLEX

    ATOMIC SUPLEX Member Since: 1985 Post Count: 3

    Does bicycle chain lubricant work? That's all I have.
  25. ViolentPanda

    ViolentPanda Untermensch, and proud!

    Is it wet or dry (the lube)?
  26. pk

    pk RIP Sam

    Nope. Best to use muddy puddle water. From outside and that. That's if you play the blues. It's how Muddy Waters got his name, that what he used to clean his electric guitars.
  27. ATOMIC SUPLEX

    ATOMIC SUPLEX Member Since: 1985 Post Count: 3

    I think I'll just spit on mine.
  28. Weller

    Weller So ermm ... You know ermm

    Its not a difficult job taking them apart to wipe off any crud and get it out of the pot you really dont have to go flooding stuff each to their own though and I usually check for dry solder joints , bad grounds etc at same time its not a massive job there's usually enough play in wiring in most cavity's to do it in situ without de-soldering :)

    Depends on time I suppose and how much you want to strip down worthwhile knowing how they come apart anyway if a simple spray with chosen cleaner :D doesn't work and you have no way of getting a replacement pot of same value fast , they are all pretty similar

    [​IMG]
  29. JE:5

    JE:5 Ten minutes from frozen

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