NUMBER 9

 

Stratocaster partscaster YJM body EJ neck 06/18/12- Strats are a tinkerer's dream. My recent introduction to the world of Rickenbackers reminded me of this since Rics are one of the most naturally "unmoddable" guitars I've ever encountered. Basically, there aren't very many part replacement options, and it seems that nobody but Rickenbacker makes those parts.

Stratocasters are a completely different story. With a bolt-on neck, easily-replaceable and overwhelmingly standardized parts, they seem to embody the design philosophy of the Industrial Age. I believe they're one of the most popular electric guitars ever made, and perhaps because of this, have spawned a number of imitators who make very close copies. Some copies are so close that their parts are drop-in replacements for Fender's. These companies also dream up replacement parts that are improvements or variations on the original design. For whatever reasons, a healthy industry has sprung up around providing aftermarket parts for Fender guitars (but not Rickenbacker guitars).

Why mod? I think you'd have to be a tinkerer to truly understand. In my opinion, one of the key qualities is that tinkerers generally don't place a great value on the collectibility or resale value of guitars; it's just a platform in which to invest one's time, money, and efforts, in order to fashion the stock guitar into one's personal vision of what it should be. In that respect, it's sort of narcissistic and perhaps arrogant. Viewed through another lens, it's a way of cementing a stronger personal bond with your guitar, knowing that you've invested in it and it's somewhat unique (even though there are probably plenty of others who have made the exact same mods, LOL!)

Well, enough of the psychobabble... I've been modifying Strats for a long time, so I've accumulated a healthy collection of spare parts. Usually the parts are spare because I replaced them with something else. That doesn't mean that they're inferior, broken, or unusable parts; it just means that I had other parts that I liked better for the modding project at hand.

The latest project, Strat 9, could be considered the mutant bastard child of Strat 7. That was originally an Yngwie Malmsteen Strat that I'd bought whole for its scalloped neck. I wasn't fond of the YJM's body's color which is supposed to be an aged white but which is actually yellow. My wife made a comment about the color, which made me realize that it was the color of an Easter decoration (though not as yucky as the other YJM color options)! I had cigarette stained stuff that looked a more manly shade of yellow! There were other fun mods planned for Strat 7 so Easter Eggsteen was sentenced to exile in the Forbidden Pastel Zone.

So it was forgotten for years, until I recently ran across it. Through my older and less-prejudiced eyes, it didn't look that bad --a tad metrosexual (not that there's anything wrong with that)-- but mainly since I'd been bitten by the urge to tinker, I decided to give it a reprieve and embark on another project (not that I needed another Strat or another guitar!)...

The Eric Johnson Neck A major impetus for this project was seeing an Eric Johnson Stratocaster maple neck on eBay. I'd heard many good things about the EJ Strat for many years but had resisted the temptation to buy one, despite having tried one out. I love the guy, his music, his playing style, and he's a wonderful human being, so by all rights I should be a rabid #1 fan. Heck, I saw him with the Electromagnets in my first year at college, and have recordings of him jamming during his teens, and even had him autograph a 9-volt battery. So you'd think I'd be salivating over the opportunity to buy his signature Strat. Well, I like Yngwie Malmsteen's stuff too, but that didn't stop me from desecrating his signature Strat! At least I can't be accused of desecrating a whole EJ signature Strat.

Generally, I'm interested in guitars and guitar parts for features, not as a fan or collector. The EJ neck has some features that I was interested in: Its quarter-sawn construction makes it more stable and stronger, has a 12" radius, medium jumbo frets, graduated height tuners, no string tree, and the one I was looking at had a maple fretboard (which I wanted for variety) and the cool EJ signature neckplate. The price of this 2005 neck was relatively low considering what some go for on eBay, and low enough for me not to consider spending the difference for the whole guitar. Besides, I didn't need another guitar case to store!

There were other reasons for going the partscaster route as well, besides saving some money. As much fun as I made about the color of the YJM body, it's a featherweight at 3.1 lbs on a postal scale: None of the EJ Strat bodies listed on eBay at the time weighed less, and I like light guitars. My spare parts boxes had all the other parts I needed: Highway 1 pickups, the YJM bridge, miscellaneous hardware, so it seemed like an efficient thing to do. I assembled as much as I could while waiting for the neck and then started browsing... which turned out to be more expensive than saving money!

Test Drive Comments (06/19/12): The neck was sort of a shock when it arrived. Sure, I'd seen and sampled EJ Strats before but I must have forgotten just how amber-- uh, make that orange --that sucker was. Especially compared to my other Strat with its '97 maple neck. I'd thought that my other Strats' headstocks looked pale and sickly and totally unlike the vintage amber tint that I vaguely recalled from my first Strat, but this seemed way over-the-top. It certainly wasn't evident from the eBay pics! I thought, "Dang, this is gonna be one fuuuugly guitar!" I wasn't sure I could get used to the neck and body colors, but I did-- it's funny how the brain works: Now I think it looks kinda cool.

The neck was a breeze to install. It mounted and set up perfectly with no need for a shim or truss rod adjustment (good thing too, since it's located at the heel). The placekeeper bridge only needed minor adjustments to tweak it for super low action. The chunky neck took some getting used to: It sort of reminds me of my Les Paul Personal (which I don't play very often because it's so damned heavy!).

 

I was skeptical of the staggered tuners eliminating the need for a string tree (It didn't work for my LSR nut-equipped guitar(s)), but in combination with the more recessed headstock (it's cut deeper than stock Strats), it actually works. I did have a problem with the high-E string pinging at the nut when bending though. I use a .009 E-string, which the nut probably wasn't cut for, so I had to modify the nut slightly. The old-school remedy for this is to put a small dab of superglue in the slot and fast cure it with baking soda. That eliminated the annoying pinging. I may eventually replace the nut, but for now, it really doesn't need it.

After playing it for a while, I started noticing some stickiness, and consulted Google, where I learned that this was a common complaint about the early EJ maple necks finished in nitro. It began to really irritate me. I'd clean off the accumulation of gunk, play it some more, and the gunk would come right back. Although some folks said it would go away with time, I had my doubts since it was already over 7 years old. Some folks recommended going over it with steel wool or 1500 grit sandpaper. I tried, and it worked for a while, but eventually the gunk came back. So I adopted a "whatever it takes" mentality and graduated to 600 and 400 grit sandpaper. My intention was to remove as much of the awful sticky finish as possible, even if it meant sanding down to bare wood. Fortunately, the 400-grit got me close enough without sanding through to the wood and I've played for quite a while without the grubby, gunky stuff returning. If it does, that story will continue. Whatever it takes. That's the great thing about Strats, with their modular, replaceable parts: You may get into some deep shit and waste some money, but you can always pull yourself out.

 

Callaham Narrow Bridge The reason I had a spare YJM bridge was because of the Strat 7 project; I'd replaced it with a hybrid Highway 1 bridge from eBay. The high E string kept falling off the fretboard and it was driving me nuts. I prefer the narrower string spacing and reasoned that if I'd replaced the vintage-sized bridge before, why shouldn't I for my latest project? So this project's philosophy of recycling parts and saving money hit its first exception.

Callaham's Strat bridges are highly regarded, and they do make variations that fit all the different Strat versions. After reading the sales propaganda at Callaham's website, I was convinced that their bridge was far superior to the Fender one. According to their explanations, the Callaham tremolo arm had less chatter, and their pivot plate was better designed to keep the guitar in tune. Better saddles, too. Jeez! Now I'm thinking that I'm really glad I didn't buy the whole EJ guitar, because then I would have felt compelled to upgrade its parts, turning it into a partscaster as well!

Test Drive Comments (06/21/12): In my opinion, the best thing about the Callaham bridge is the way the tremolo arm fits snugly into the block (thanks to the Delrin bushing), only needs a turn or two to secure, doesn't wobble and stays put, no matter where you nudge it.

I'm reluctant to gush over sustain, tone, and tuning improvements since I don't have any data or measurements to back it up, and I'd hate to have my perception and assessment be influenced by the bucks I spent (Yep, I wanna believe too!). Let me just say that I've been perfectly happy with the way my other Strats perform in those areas (even the one with the skinny Fernandes block). If there are improvements, they're subtle, too subtle for me. I should mention that a lot of people gush over the improvement from, and the obvious superiority of the massive steel block. Maybe it depends on the guitar you start with? Maybe they just have better ears? I dunno.

However, I thought it was odd was that I couldn't find any Google'd griping about the first thing I noticed when installing the full tremolo kit (block, top plate and saddles): There's a huge decrease in the whammy bar travel compared to a Fender Strat bridge that eny fool kin plainly see, fry mah hide! The Callaham stops pivoting (with a "thonk") before the block hits the rear of the tremolo cavity, whereas the Fender version pivots all the way back. If you set it up to maximize the dive bombing, there isn't much range at all for upwards pulls. This appears to be a philosophy thing for Callaham, since their setup advice discourages the upwards pulls, and recommends installing with the top plate flush with the body using 4 springs, for maximum tuning stability. Huh???

I set up mine for floating with 3 springs, wanting to believe that I could make it work, but after a few days bought a much cheaper Fender Highway 1 bridge (narrow string spacing, vintage screw mounting). Yeah, I finally admitted to myself that the Callaham's castrated range was unacceptable to me. With it adjusted for a mild upwards whammy, I could barely do some of Blackmore's more conservative but wide whammying, or even fake bottleneck stuff. However, I liked the fitting of the whammy bar in the Callaham. To see if I could salvage that, I posted in a forum to see if anyone knew whether it was the block or the top plate that limited the travel. Ultimately, I had to dissassemble everything so I could swap parts and figure it out for myself:

(Quoting myself) "For the benefit of those contemplating buying a Callaham bridge and who use their full floating tremolo for more than a mild shimmer effect, I'd recommend getting just the replacement block. That will give you their drop-in arm in a vintage style tremolo and whatever benefits there are to be gained from their dense steel block.

From my experience, it looks like the top plate restricts the tremolo's downward range significantly, kind of like a speed governor on a car: Yep, it probably is safer and helps tuning stability, but IMO misses the point-- I like channeling Jimi Hendrix. Once I put the Fender top plate on the Callaham block, the block pivoted far enough to hit the back of the routing. Although there may be some decrease in tuning stability, I haven't noticed it... but I did notice the increased range."

If there's a moral to all this: Don't believe everything you read, or trust what folks don't say... including what I've written here! (Except for that last sentence...) Huh?

(By the way, if you use your whammy to do flutters/gargles/whatever, don't get the short Gilmour arm. The longer arms have more mass to counterbalance against the vibrating springs to give a longer, more audible flutter.)

I'd installed a Hipshot Tremsetter in the YJM Strat, hence the two screw holes inside the cavity. The EJ body doesn't have a tremolo spring cover plate, so it doesn't have screw holes there. Sometimes I put the plate on, sometimes not. I don't think it makes much difference to the tone, but having it off makes string changes easier. However, if you play without a shirt, the springs may snag your belly hairs (ouch!). TMI?

 

D. Allen Pickups I also ignored my intended "recycling saves money" philosophy with the pickups. Assessment of pickups is a very subjective thing, and I think generally, people assume that cheap or "factory" pickups are bad sounding. I tend to think that way too, whether it's valid or not. Based on appearances alone, I wasn't enamored with the Highway 1 pickups, with their cheapass-looking plastic bottom plate and bobbins. It really had nothing to do with the way the they sounded or might have sounded (since the guitar didn't have a neck at the time, I couldn't make that judgement): I really didn't feel like doing the work to give them a 2nd chance.

Folks rave about D. Allen pickups, so they seemed like a natural step in the direction of creating a "top-shelf" partscaster, as I seemed to be doing. At the website, I read up on various models and listened to sound samples and videos. There's some great playing and sounds to be heard. To be honest, at the end of it all, I had no idea which ones I preferred, but chose the "Dovers" because in name, they had some connection to this project and its Eric Johnson Strat genes. (Of course, I knew that spending bucks on this stuff wouldn't make me sound anything like Eric Johnson!)

For me, this was a huge departure from my norm: They weren't noiseless pickups. I hate 60-cycle hum and noise, but was willing to give these a try since I've stopped running a nearby fan (I had to sacrifice comfort for the 12-string Rickenbacker). I have to admit that I was curious to see if the extra "mojo" of single coils that some people rave about was real, something that I could appreciate, and worth the noise/tone tradeoff.

Test Drive Comments (06/19/12): First off, D. Allen has stellar customer service. I ordered on early Saturday morning and received them on Monday! Wow. This agrees with everything I've read about his customer service, and apparently it extends far beyond just order processing and shipping. I asked if he would sell me a narrow parchment neck pickup cover (the cream I'd ordered didn't match and the neck pole spacing is narrower than the others) and he offered a generous array of free replacements! Wow...

As I mentioned, this was an exploration of the single coil mystique, to find out if they were right for me. At this time, I've got 6 Strats (including this one) and 5 have some form of noiseless pickups, including Kinmans, SCNs and Dimarzio/Seymour Duncan YJMs. Naturally, I picked those because I don't like electrical noise and humming coming from my amp. I'm familiar with traditional single coils because they were installed in my first '71 Strat, and have been stock in some Strats I've owned since then, before being replaced. (For what it's worth, I wasn't very fond of Lace Sensors either, not only because they looked weird, but also because they didn't do as good a job of being noiseless. Apparently, they're extremely well-shielded single coil pickps.) It's been a long time so I've forgotten the single coil experience; this was an opportunity to refresh my memory, as well as compare and contrast the differences between the two, using single coil pickups from a highly-regarded boutique pickup builder.

Opinions about pickups are sooooo subjective, and when folks use terms like "sterile" and "toneless", my BS filter goes up. I accept that folks have genuine likes and dislikes, but it's hard to know if the opinion is based on expertise, Internet parroting, brand loyalty, or some actual quality of the pickup that could be generally recognized as "bad" or "good". I also accept that there are perceptual differences between people, so there may be subtle tonal qualities of a pickup's sound that only some people can appreciate. High-frequency hearing degrades as you age, or if you abuse your hearing with loud sounds, so it's almost a certainty that those folks won't be hearing the high end stuff the same way as someone with virginal hearing.

Build quality is relatively easy to assess, and cheaply constructed pickups deserve demerits for that alone. Naturally, the D. Allens, are top notch with vintage style cloth wires... but I'm talking about sound. Some parameters like output level and frequency response spectrum can be objectively measured, but test data is rarely part of the discussion-- understandably, since most people (like me) don't have the proper scientific equipment. The manufacturer's published resistance and inductance are steps in that direction, but only describe the construction, not the result. There are reasons for preferring a particular pickup based on those parameters, but declaring a pickup "toneless" is kind of useless. Tone is a nebulous concept that may align with a preconceived preference, but it doesn't have an objective unit of measure (except for on a Strat's numbered Tone knob).

I'm blabbering about this because "Single Coil vs Noiseless" is such a hotbutton issue in discussion forums. Typically, proponents of single coil pickups loath noiseless pickups, and cite tonal deficiencies, like missing "sparkle", "quack", or "bell-like tone". Users of noiseless pickups aren't usually defensive (from what I've read), or don't aggressively assert the noiseless pickup's superiority. it's hard to argue about unquantifiable tonal issues, but it's easy to appreciate the practical benefits of noiselessness. So... are noiseless pickups hopelessly tonally inferior to single coils?

Here's my unscientific assessment, using the D. Allen Dover single coils: They're different and there are inherent compromises on both sides, so I've tried to give my D. Allens time so I can get over my expectations, my familiarity and comfort with the sound of my noiseless pickups. Initially, I was disappointed. Yep. Right off the bat, I noticed that the number 2 and 4 positions didn't have the same degree of "quack" as my noiseless Dimarzio and Kinman sets. By "quack", I mean a hollow sound similar to that heard on Dire Strait's "Sultans of Swing", that comes from the cancellation and reinforcement of certain frequences when two pickups, mounted at different positions and different heights along the length of the string, are connected in parallel (whew!). The D. Allen pickups do have some degree of "quack", but it just doesn't sound as pronounced as that of some of my noiseless pickups. I experimented with the relative heights, and my assessment remains unchanged. I don't think that's a quality of single coils, but probably due to how the pickups of this particular model (Dovers) are constructed and how they combine in parallel with each other. It would seem to indicate that "quack" isn't a quality exclusive to single coils, or that there are different kinds of "quack". Having given more time to get acclimated to and familiar with the D. Allen Dovers, I've come to like their "quack" just as much-- it's different and not as exaggerated, but does sound almost exactly like a pickup selection that I've heard on some EJ recordings.

The second bevy of buzzwords like "shimmer", "sparkle", and "bell-like tone" would probably fall under the umbrella covering the pickup's frequency response. With my crude A/B testing, I heard that the YJM noiseless pickups lacked some of the high frequency top end that was present in the single coil Dovers. I guess you could say that this made the Dovers sound "shimmery" or "hi-fi" in comparison to the YJM's "dull" and "lifeless" sound. Or, from the other perspective, the Dovers sounded "thin" and "trebley", while the YJMs sounded "full" and "dark". It depends on how you perceive the sound and want to spin it. Generally speaking, while frequency response is an objective measure, the perception and word choice used to characterize is somewhat more relative and loaded. If you're used to and like hearing whatever your pickups sound like, you're likely to characterize them using positive terms. It took me a while to get to the point where I was appreciating the extra high end of the D. Allens and began to understand why proponents use some of the buzzwords. It is sort of hard to describe.

I think the difference comes down to physics (as I understand it). Basically, noiseless pickups are like humbucker pickups, with two coils wound opposite to cancel noise. They have a lot more windings in the coils. Just as capacitors pass high frequencies to ground in a tone control (and block low frequencies from being grounded out), inductors pass low frequencies and block high frequencies. Therefore, more wire equals less treble. Hotter pickups have more wire and less top end. Low impedance pickups have fewer windings, lower output, but a wider, hi-fi frequency spectrum.

In practical terms, what does this mean? It's all still about preferences and usage. Simply put, single coils work well for clean and relatively low gain stuff, up to blues and somewhere beyond. For massively high gain stuff, you don't really need that sparkle and chime (detail) since it all gets kinda "smooshed" and EQ'd by electronics, where Strats become nearly indistinguishable from Les Pauls... but you do need pickups that don't pick up a lot of noise. The extended high end of single coils sounds great when playing clean or moderately distorted through an amp that can reproduce a relatively clean, hi-fi sound. At lower levels of distortion, it's more about detail, nuance, and fine texture.

High-gain is a different beast altogether. First off, if there's anything that will showcase the noise and hum level of a single coil pickup, it's high-gain. An imperceptible level of noise at a clean setting becomes an obnoxious constant background hum at high-gain. Although high-gain does have a lot of sonic variety (squeals, cocked wah, djent), it's not subtle or nuanced in the same way as a single coils playing clean or crunchy. At high-gain levels it can be difficult to distinguish between Strats and Les Pauls, humbuckers or single coils, neck or bridge pickup. A noiseless pickup should give you a decent high-gain sound without obnoxious background hum, and you probably won't miss the lack of single coil shimmer and sparkle.

Anyway, that's just my opinion. I like playing the whole gamut, from perfectly clean with a touch of reverb, to crunch to full-on fuzzy distortion. Either way it's a compromise, but from a practical perspective, I think it's easier to live with less hi-fi noiseless pickups because they can do an acceptable though inferior version of clean. Single coils have a lot harder time doing an acceptable version of high-gain: Even with great shielding and a relatively quiet environment, stop playing and you're greeted with a wall of noise that noise gates have difficulty dealing with. If you don't ever do high-gain, single coils are great-- the high end gives lots of distinctive character to each of the pickup positions. Like I said, it's about preferences and usage, and I should add that it's also about compromises. So there's really no "better" opinion or "correct" choice. I did like the extra treble of the D. Allen Dovers when playing clean chords or crunchy with reverb and delay, but I'm not planning to replace my noiseless pickups on my other Strats with single coils. By the same token, I wouldn't replace my Rickenbacker 12 string's single coil pickups with humbuckers since I feel that the extra shimmer and "jangle" is essential for its sound. For this Strat, the single coils are its unique feature, so they'll stay: I really don't need another high-gain Strat!

This seems like a closer approximation of the body's color as I see it in person; however, in person, the neck seems a bit brighter and more orange. I've left off most of the pickguard screws in anticipation of replacing the neck's 50mm pickup cover. Although it looks fine in the pic, it's actually a bit more flesh-colored and doesn't match the other two very well.

 

S-1 "Nashville" Switching Electronics and wiring are one of the more creative aspects of modding (more so than changing knobs), and when it works as planned, it's great fun and rewarding. When it doesn't and it's a complicated wiring job, it can be very time-consuming and frustrating to digest and trace through the wiring diagram to locate the source of the trouble. As I've gotten older, I find that I have less patience for troubleshooting (especially computers) and love it when stuff works like it should the first time.

S-1 switches used to be only available through eBay, usually in full wiring harnesses from parted-out guitars, and for big bucks. You had to really want one badly to pay those prices for a switch pot. Once Fender allowed the S-1 switches to be sold to us peons, I finally thought that they were a feasible option, so I bought some for that special someday project. They're a great idea-- putting a push/push switch in the center of a Strat (or Tele) volume knob so that it looks very much like a normal knob. It preserves the guitar's aesthetics (vs a toggle switch), and is much easier to use than a push-pull pot. Pushing the center of the knob toggles a 4-pole 2-throw switch. 4 poles: Double the number that push-pull and most mini toggle switches have! That's a lot of simultaneous switching possibilities, and when used in conjunction with the 4-pole 5-throw Pickup Selector Superswitch, you can do some awfully complicated switching. The main caveat I had about using them was that complicated switches have many more connections that can get wonky as they wear, and when they do, you'd better have replacements or alternatives. You can't keep a wonky switch on life support indefinitely with Caig DeOxit contact cleaner. Fortunately, S-1 switches are fairly reasonably priced now, so you can buy a lifetime's supply for when they're discontinued and become scarce (hey, I've seen it happen many, many times, so be prepared!).

Designing switching paths can be a genuinely mind-numbing mental exercise even with much simpler switches, so I was ecstatic to find what other smarter folks have already figured out. At Phostenix Wiring Diagrams, there are lots of clear, color-coded wiring diagrams for pickup selection variations using the S-1 switch in combination with other switches. You don't even need to know how the wiring works if you wire it correctly.

While waiting for other parts to arrive, I picked a wiring scheme and went to work with my soldering pencil.

Test Drive Comments (06/19/12): Once I had the neck, pickups, and strings installed, I was able to test the beast out. I was totally prepared for it to not work but was surprised and relieved when it did. (If it doesn't work, then you have to troubleshoot, which means actually trying to figure out how the circuit works!) I always test before restringing the guitar (for what should be an obvious reason), and that involves tapping the pickup poles to make sure that the right combinations are active for the selector positions. With the dual modes, it's hard to tell whether the series/parallel connections are working correctly since tapped poles don't sound like plucked strings.

The Nashville-X circuit interested me because when the S-1 switch isn't engaged, it switches like a standard Strat, except that the middle position doesn't select the middle pickup, it selects the bridge and neck pickup in parallel (like a Telecaster). I like that sound better than the standard middle pickup.

In mode 2, when the S-1 switch is pushed, the output level and bass noticibly increase, as the top-end frequencies decrease. With the bridge and neck positions (1 & 5), this connects the pickups in series with the middle pickup, effectively creating a humbucker; in fact, in this mode the 1 & 5 are the "noiseless" positions (versus 2 & 4 in the standard S-1 switch position). I think these are the most useful mode 2 positions anyway, since they're distinctive and good for a lead tone. The other 3 positions are somewhat homogenous and don't sound as distinctive as the corresponding mode 1 selector positions.

I'd have to say that the best reasons for wiring this (other than the challenge and fun) is for the mode 1 middle position (which sounds great), and for quickly going from the mode 1 bridge pickup to mode 2's fat, higher output sound by pressing the button. The differences between the other mode 2 positions are much more subtle, so IMO, not worth the trouble.

I couldn't see any significant downsides to installing this other than the higher cost of parts and additional complexity. As long as it works, it doesn't have much impact on the guitar's appearance and the guitar's original operation and functionality. The important part would be "as long as it works". As I've already mentioned, switches, being mechanical devices, do eventually fail after x-number of clicks. How long depends on the quality and usage of the switch. Unfortunately, 4 double throw switches in such a small package is awfully ambitious, and ambitious stuff like this leads to complexity, and complex things tend to break down more dramatically, leaving you high and dry, possibly at an inopportune time. I haven't traced the consequences of one of the 4 poles failing, so I can't say if it would kill your guitar completely (unlikely, IMO) or whether you'd be able to limp through by avoiding certain switch combinations. I'd recommend buying spares while the switch is being manufactured and available (you never know, since it is very specialized for Strat and Tele knobs). On the positive side, the switches don't require any disfiguring mods to the guitar, so they're easy to replace with the traditional simple wiring. Anyway, that's why I'm not going hog-wild with adding the S-1 switch to my other guitars-- the spares are intended to be replacement spares.

 

Last Words: Strats are God's gift to tinkerers, and it's a bittersweet thing to have reached the end of a partscaster project. Isn't there anything else to fix or upgrade? Darn. That's when you start thinking about the next one, with another set of unique features... and remind yourself that you don't need any more Strats! Fortunately, it's something you can revisit later as you dream up new ways to improve your "finished" projects.

 

More Last Words: 07/17/12- Like I said...

An astute observer might have noticed in the pics that the pickguard had a few missing screws, and that the neck pickup cover was a slightly different shade. (It doesn't look quite so noticeable in the pics because I desaturated them slightly.) Well, although David Allen was kind enough to offer to send me a new set of pickup covers, he never got around to it-- I heard that he's been pretty busy working on a new line of pickups, so I really didn't want to pester him about such a trivial cosmetic matter. (I think it's my Japanese genes.) Anyway, I found a single 50mm cream pickup cover on eBay (don't buy the 3-pack of white ones from China because you can't dye them), and it only took a very brief bath in coffee to bring Fender's aged covers to a near-perfect match.

Apparently, the modern idea of "cream-colored" is much more fleshy/reddish than I grew up believing. I've encountered this before with pickup covers ordered from StewMac, and with my '07 Les Pauls. Matching shades of white has always been a tricky business but it's usually been about the particular shade of light & darkness, or about the intensity of yellow tint-- rarely about the amount of red-- that's the recipe for flesh tint! I'm probably just more anal-retentive about this than most because I've spent years mixing acrylics to match as a hobbyist modeller/dollmaker.

 

 

 

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