Stratocaster Rebuild, Part I

Back sometime around 1993, my dad bought me a really nice guitar– a Fender American Standard Stratocaster. It’s a beautiful American-made instrument in a color called “Caribbean Mist,” which is really a metallic teal. It’s got an alder body, maple neck, and rosewood fretboard. I still remember the price– $450.

Over the years I have played the heck out of it. One problem though– I haven’t played it for at least the past six years. At some point before we moved to Savannah in 2001, my bridge pickup broke. It’s amazing it lasted that long, really. This guitar has been put through enough torture to make the CIA jealous.

So before we moved, I disassembled the guitar, and when we arrived in Savannah I stuck it in the closet, where it has pretty much sat since. Well, I’m finally getting it back together, and boy is it a good feeling. While it seems simple enough to buy a set of pickups, stick them in the guitar, and get playing, in reality it is far from simple.

Shortly after we moved, I met a guy through a family member who is a master craftsman, and he has access to some beautiful exotic woods. I decided to strike a deal with him. I would provide a simple website for him, and he would provide a book-matched, flamed maple pickguard based precisely on the pickguard off my Strat. I gave him the pickguard about five years ago I’d say, and at this point I am really not expecting to get it back.

So, that puts me down one pickguard, and one pickup. Obviously those require replacement. I’m not just stopping at those two items and calling it a day.

My plan is to replace all of the plastic on the guitar– the pickguard, pickup cover, knobs (originals lost, current ones mismatched), switch knob, tremolo arm knob, and backplate (lost in the years). I’m also replacing every single electrical component on the guitar– the potentiometers, the 5-way switch, the input jack, the pickups of course, the actual wire inside the guitar, and the capacitors, since Fender included cheap capacitors, and since capacitors lose their effectiveness over time.

The first step is to order the parts. So far, I’ve ordered all of the plastic parts, including a white pearloid pickguard, and an aged white Fender Stratocaster accessory kit. I’ve also ordered all of the electronics but the pickups and the capacitors. I’ve ordered a new audio-taper CTS potentiometer for the volume control, two Fender No-Load potentiometers for the tone controls, and American-made 5-way switch, and some vintage-style cloth-covered wire. I’ll be ordering the pickups, capacitors, resistor, and a Switchcraft jack this week.

Before I can do any actual assembly, I will be shielding the cavity of the guitar. I’ll be using copper tape with conductive adhesive to shield the entire body cavity, whereas I used aluminum tape last time. The idea is to encase all of the electrical components in a grounded shield to aid in rejection of interference and noise. It’s a pain in the butt, but the results are amazing.

After that, I’ll be installing the tone and volume potentiometers, the switch, the output jack, and the pickups, and soldering it all together. I plan on using a “star ground,” which means that the typical ground loops that are present in most Stratocasters will be eliminated, and the guitar will have a lot less undesirable noise.

I’ll post my progress here as I go, and when all is said and done, I’ll post some audio clips.

Stay tuned…

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>