Let’s try something a little more difficult with the Strat style five-way switch: three pickups with five-way switch wiring, 1 Volume, and 2 Tone controls (SPOILER ALERT: It’s not difficult at all).
So, then let’s go ahead and talk about setting up that five-way switch wiring in your Stratocaster. We covered the Telecaster and its three-way switch and one Tone control; now we’ll look at the Stratocaster, its five-way switch wiring, and two Tone controls. Even though we’re talking about the Fender Strat and how it’s wired, the switch will work the same way in any guitar with one Volume and two Tone controls. If you are changing your switch it might also be a great time to check out the other components in your guitar to see if they are also due for an update. Be sure that you have high quality pots with the right values, and check the value of any capacitors as well. Check your Output Jack as well, as this is another very common part to wear out.
For solder work on a guitar, you want to use a Soldering Iron/Pen between 40 and 60 watts. Anything less than 40 watts will take too long to heat the parts enough for soldering. Anything more than 60 watts might burn up the components and ruin them. Never use a Soldering Gun when working on a guitar because it has a powerful transformer inside that can permanently damage your pickups. Never blow on melted solder because it can create a bad connection.
For your five-way switch wiring project, you want to get the best quality switch that you can. The switch is one of the first components to wear out and that leads to noise and failure. There are many kinds of switches, but this guide uses a two-stage, four-tab, five-way switch. It’s called a two-stage switch because on the bottom, where you solder your connections, there are two rows of four tabs. There is a common tab on opposite ends of each stage and then three stand-alone tabs that allow for numbering, to make it easier.
Stage-1: C 1 2 3
Stage-2: 1 2 3 C
Getting started with five-way switch wiring
The first thing we will need to do is solder the three pickups to the 5 Way Switch and the Volume control (Fig 1). Solder a wire from the C in Stage 1 of the 5 Way Switch to the C in Stage 2. Solder the Hot wire of the Bridge pickup to Stage 2, Tab 1 of the 5 Way Switch and solder the Ground wire to the back of the Volume control.
Solder the Hot wire of the Middle pickup to Stage 2, Tab 2 of the 5 Way Switch and solder the Ground wire to the back of the Volume control. Solder the Hot wire of the Neck pickup to Stage 2, Tab 3 of the 5 Way Switch and solder the Ground wire to the back of the Volume control.
Now we can wire the rest of the Volume circuit (Fig 2). If you hold the Potentiometer upside down with the three tabs pointing down you can number them 1, 2, and 3. Solder a wire from Stage 1 C of the 5 Way Switch to Tab 1 of the Volume pot. Solder a wire from Tab 2 of the Volume pot to the Tip Tab of the Output Jack and solder a wire from Tab 3 of the Volume pot to the back of the Volume pot. Solder a wire from the Sleeve of the Output Jack to the back of the Volume control. This completes the Volume part of the circuit.
Now we will add the Tone controls. To add Tone Control 1 (Fig 3), solder a wire from Stage 1, Tab 3 of the 5 Way Switch to Tab 3 of Tone Control 1. Solder the capacitor from Tab 2 of Tone Control 1 to the back of Tone Control 1. Solder a wire from the back of Tone Control 1 to the back of the Volume Control.
Fig 3 (I moved some things around in the diagram but did not change any wiring)
To add Tone Control 2 (Fig 4), solder a wire from Stage 1, Tab 2 of the 5 Way Switch to Tab 3 of Tone Control 2. Solder a wire from Tab 2 of Tone Control 2 to Tab 2 of Tone Control 1. Solder a wire from the back of Tone Control 2 to the back of Tone Control 1. Solder the large ground wire from the guitar’s spring claw to the back of the Volume control, and you are FINISHED!