Technical notes, thoughts and considerations on the Fernandes Sustainer 101 Sustainer kit – by Sebas Honing

Fernandes Sustainer 101 Sustainer kit
Fernandes Sustainer 101 Sustainer kit

Recently I installed the 101 sustainer kit by Fernandes in my self-build guitar made from an oak coffeetable. I’ve made another of these guitars and I wanted this one to be as close to the original only with an added sustainer pickup and circuit. However, I had to compromise on some things:

The original features Ibanez V7 and V8 pickups with their RG 5-way switching allowing the following pickup combinations:
1. Bridge humbucker
2. Bridge and neck pickup splitted
3. Bridge and neck humbuckers
4. Neck pickup wired with parallel coils
5. Neck humbucker

I Mostly use setting 1, 2 and 5. To get those 3 pickup configurations I need both pickups to be splittable. The biggest problem is that everything runs through the PCB circuit board which makes it nearly impossible to trace the signal path and therefor come up with alternative switching. The instructions only feature schematics for a Les Paul type guitar with 2 humbuckers (no coil split), a guitar with 2 humbuckers and a single coil and the same with active pickups.
I’ve searched days looking for wiring diagrams using the above mentioned 2-humbucker 5-way switching used on Ibanez RG‘s. None seem to exist.

I’ve contacted both Ibanez and Fernandes about this but both left my questions unanswered.

Therefor I decided to use the LP switching, give up splitting the neck pickup and try to use a Push/Pull pot to split the V8 pickup. This pickup features 3 conductors instead of the usual 4 or 5. I figured that the red was Hot, the bare Ground and the white would than be both coils attached to each other making it able to split the coils. However it doesn’t really sound that single coily to me (which is the pickups fault probably) so I left that white conductor unwired.

After I hooked up the pickup I noticed it was out of phase with the neck pickup. Not my favorite sound. Another thing I noticed was that the Sustainer’s Normal mode worked great but the Harmonic mode was weak. When I swapped the Ground and Hot wires of the bridge pickup both pickups were in phase with each other, but the sustainer worked in the opposite direction, having a powerful Harmonic mode but a weak Normal mode.

Here I decided to go with best of both worlds and convert the unused push/pull switch to a phase switch on the bridge pickup. This switch now also functions as the mode switch for the sustainer giving both options with strong results.

Here’s something important:
Everything is connected to the circuit board with wiring clips. Each wire is fitted with a tiny metal clip which is housed (sometimes together with a few other wires) in a white clip that’s clipped onto it’s counterpart on the board. Although every wire delivered comes with these clips the bridge pickup of course doesn’t feature these metal clips. Searching for them is highly annoying and I had the luck I had an old unused bass-preamp laying around which featured the same wiring clips, so I could use those wires to solder to the pickup conductors.

Things to consider when installing a Fernandes Sustainer kit:
-You will most likely need to route a large cavity in your guitar to make room for the circuit board.
-For ease of installation, stick to one of the 3 schematics provided with the instructions.
-For ease of installation, use a Fernandes, Dimarzio, Seymour Duncan or EMG bridge pickup for these feature clear instructions in the manual how to wire them.
-Make sure you get some spare metal wiring clips of the right size.
-When one of the modes remains weaker than the other, consider using a phase switch on the bridge pickup.

self-build guitar made from an oak coffeetable by Sebas Honing

written by Sebas Honing . check his videos here.