Fender Stratocaster

This rather battered guitar is made from the neck of a Fender Japan ’93 Strat mated to a body from a Japanese SQ series Squier Strat from ’83 (a time when Fender had no US factory). However, the neck is a ’62 Reissue (quite a good one), while the body seems to be based on a seventies Strat (though with quite deep vintage style arm and tummy cuts). Problem: neck was original 4 screw mounting, body was 3 screw to suit the ‘Microtilt’ mechanism, neck screws roughly filled in (glue was not leveled flush), with alternative holes drilled to fit the Microtilt’s mounting and adjustment screws. Result: neck sloppy fit in the neck pocket, and the guitar didn’t stay in tune, and the tremolo was unusable.

These Microtilt systems can be made to work, often by using friction shims (ie sandpaper) in the pocket, but as the neck was the better quality part, it was decided to revert back to the traditional original four screw mounting (a strat-egy Mr Malmsteen has implemented for all his 70s Microtilt Strats). So I filled all the holes no longer needed with a composite of epoxy and correct wood type dust particles, in both body and neck, and repaired the original neck screw holes so they could be re-drilled. The pocket was dressed flat for the correct neck angle. The body holes for the four screws were carefully drilled using a jig I made, then the body itself was used as a jig to drill the holes in the neck heel to suit the screws once alignment was checked with both E strings installed at pitch and all clamped up.

New screws and plate were used and when it was together the neck-body interface was solid, with no play or movement, even when attempting to perform ‘the Microtilt crick’. As all the guitar’s hardware was good, it was re-used after cleaning (a bent high E tuner knob was straightened), except for the zinc metal trem block (aka inertia bar), which was replaced with an original spec rolled steel type one (the added mass reduces string warble arising from the trem pivot point). The trem arm was replaced with a stainless steel one for strength at its threaded portion transition (the thread cut acts as a stress raiser here).

The guitar’s electronics was the usual far eastern litany of failed jack, loose knobs on scratchy small pots, anonymous tone cap, seized selector switch, and weak-sounding ceramic pickups. So I made up a new wiring loom with original spec quality parts, including Orange Drop tone cap, and with upgraded pickups installed – Fender Custom Shop ’69s for neck and bridge, and a Seymour Duncan Antiquity in the middle position; the latter is reverse wound/reverse polarity so it hum cancels well when the switch is at positions 2 and 4.

I carved a new nut from bone to suit 10s and performed a full set up (with truss rod adjustment the neck didn’t need any shim), including for the pickups (Strats are fussy regarding pickup height), and the trem so it floats properly, and there you have a pretty nice Strat with most of the characteristics of an early ’60s guitar. The neck is correct one-piece maple with slab rosewood board, though I detected three pieces making up the body, which isn’t alder, but might be sen ash as it seems too grainy and on the heavy side (guitar is 7-1/4 lbs) for basswood. To me, the strong acoustic sound it achieved does show that it’s the screws’ integrity and flat mating surfaces that is important with these bolt on necks, rather than necessarily having a super tight fit in the neck pocket. Played electric, all the bell chime, quack and twang is there.

Matching pickguard and body colour is slightly unusual with strats; made me wonder if the Japanese were trying to recreate the look of Dave Gilmour’s strat from the ‘Wish You Were Here’ and ‘Animals’ Pink Floyd period. Well I can understand why: these guitars easily match Olivetti typewriters, E-Type Jags and Starck orange squeezers in the design classic stakes – form and function blended to be just ‘right’.