Ground Beef

That solid wire wrapped around the braid is the ground. If you're going to start pulling the harness or messing with any of the wiring, disconnect the ground from the braid or be extremely careful that you don't break that wire. If you break it at the other end, you'll be bummed big time.


I’m not an electrical engineer. I can sort of read a schematic and can muddle my way through a wiring diagram. One thing that has always escaped me is the finer points of grounding. I get that electrical circuits need to be grounded but beyond that, it gets a little sketchy. Let’s take a look into the grounds on a 335. The stoptail 335 has a kind of rigid, uninsulated wire that goes from the ground (braided wire) of the bridge pickup to the stud bushing on the treble side of the stoptail. So, in theory, as long as you are touching something that is touching the stop (like the strings), you complete the ground. The braided wire of the harness is the ground and it makes a circuit from the pickup braid to the bridge volume pot to the bridge tone pot AND to the three way which in turn goes to the neck volume pot and the neck tone pot and then to the jack. If the guitar has a Bigsby or a trapeze, the ground wire goes all the way to a hole drilled near the strap button at the butt end of the guitar and is connected (by being butted up against) to the Bigsby or trapeze. Most factory guitars with both a Bigsby and stoptail studs have both ground wires. ┬áSimple, right? You would think. The problem is that there are 20 different ways to screw it up. The worst is if you break the very fragile ground wire that goes to the stud. There is no way to replace it without jumping through some serious hoops. Trust me, you do NOT want to do this, so be really careful with that wire. If you’re removing a pickup or the harness for any reason, unsolder the ground wire from the pickup braid first or be really careful to avoid any strain on it. If you break that wire and it will break a lot more easily than you think, take the guitar to someone with skill and experience with 335s. The likelihood is that a new hole will have to be drilled in the center block to rout the new ground wire. You can’t use the old hole because the old ground wire is broken off and is stuck in it. If the wire broke with some of the wire sticking out, then you have a shot a removing it or soldering an extension on to it. To do it right, you have to pull out the bushing (not an easy task either), stick the new wire through the new (or old) hole and reinstall the bushing so it contacts the end of the wire and holds it in place. Yikes. The good news is that if you have a trap tail or a Bigsby, you aren’t likely to break the wire, nor is it that big a deal to replace it. There is an alternative that worked for me. I had purchased a stoptail 345 and it had a terrible hum, so I naturally assumed the ground wire was off. Well, it wasn’t off, it was gone. I don’t have the skills (or the confidence) to start drilling holes in the centerblock with any hope of it actually coming out in the little hole that the stoptail stud goes into. So I ran a very thin wire from the bridge pickup braid out under the pickup ring and wrapped it around the treble side bridge post. Because it was a long guard 345, the wire was pretty well hidden. It worked fine. I had a 65 ES-335 that was originally a stoptail and then had a Bigsby added but someone neglected (or were too lazy) to install a ground wire in the stud hole. So they did almost the same thing I did but they put a small lug on the end and just threaded it to the bridge post. It worked fine but you could see it. Best solution? Don’t break it in the first place.

This is another, less elegant solution. Instead of going to the stud bushing, the ground goes to the bridge post. The trouble is that it's visible. It didn't bother me very much but it is somewhat out of the ordinary. This was a 65 with studs and a Bigsby. There was no ground wire to the Bigsby, so we can only assume that it was added and somebody broke the original ground wire.


6 Responses to “Ground Beef”

  1. Ollie says:

    What a coincidence! I’ve just had the harness out of my 355. this entry has brought back the shuddering nightmares that these things produce. Working out the earthing was the worst part! If only i’d left it a week. Still, I have a half decent system for replacing a harness now but i swear i’m never going to touch one again if i can help it.

  2. OK Guitars says:

    I’m with ya, man. If that was a stereo 355, you have my deepest sympathy.

  3. Chuso007 says:

    Thanks a lot for your post! I installed a B7 Bigsby on my 335, and all I thought of to ground it was to put a wire between the B7’s screw (near the spring) and the post, which is obviously still on it’s place, I never thought of drilling a hole to the strap button. Now I found the way of taking the posts off and sticking the “custom made” plate.

    Thanks again!

  4. RAB says:

    The quietest of my 3 guitars in terms of grounding is the 1962 Epi Riviera with the Tremotone vibrato tailpiece. It is dead quiet while the 1956 LP conversion and ’63 stop tail 355 both hum a little but not too badly…nowhere near as bad as single coils that’s for sure!

  5. Jonne says:

    Does grounding by bridge work if the saddles are nylon…?

  6. OK Guitars says:

    Good question. I’m not an expert in things electrical but I would say no. I believe the strings have to contact metal which contacts the ground.

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