Stratocaster Rebuild, Part II

If you read my last post, Stratocaster Rebuild, Part I, you know that I’m’ rebuilding my 1993 American Standard Stratocaster that has been disassembled for at least 6 years. Here’s the latest update.

Today, most of the parts for the rebuild arrived. I’m only missing a couple of parts now, and only one is essential. For the electronics, I’m missing a few capacitors (I have some I can use, but they’re not the ones I want to use), a resistor (not essential), an input jack (also not essential, but I would prefer a new one). I’m also missing the pickups (more on those in a second).

Here is what I’m working with (click to enlarge):

Stratocaster Parts

So for the pickups. I was never really satisfied with the pickups that came with the guitar, even though a lot of people with the same pickups seem to enjoy them. I think a large part of my dislike of the original pickups is that I had only ever used this guitar with solid state amps. Solid state amps, while working well for certain specific situations, sound sterile and cold, and don’t have the same dynamics of a tube amplifier. Unfortunately, I got this guitar and the amp sometime around my freshman year in high school, and I bought into the “need more watts” philosophy instead of the “need better tone” philosophy. I wanted to play loud, so I got a loud amp.

Well now that I have a better sense for amplification technology, and am in general a much better player with much more selective tonal preferences, I use a tube amp. It’s not an all-tube amplifier (Peavey Delta Blues– solid state rectifier), but it sounds pretty good to my ear. It gets me much closer to the tone I seek, which is close to Buddy Guy’s strat tone (the one that SRV emulated as well).

Choosing pickups is a mind-numbing and excruciatingly boring task, considering they’re just some magnets and some wire. There are so many options available from so many manufacturers, and prices vary from $20 to $500 for a set. The decision process is even tougher here in Savannah since the guitar shops don’t have a large enough selection for you to try a wide range of pickups. Likewise, you can’t just order a set, test them, and send them back if you don’t like them. Pickups need to be soldered in, and are generally not returnable.

I went with a set from a company called GFS. They make their pickups in Korea (South, I assume) using the same materials as the big manufacturers and the boutique manufacturers. The main difference is that the pickups are wound by machine instead of being wound by hand, which believe it or not does make a tonal difference. But for the price, GFS was the way to go for me.

Here is the set I chose: ’64 Stagger Vintage Grey-Bottom boutique Strat Set.

They’re wound a bit hotter than standard vintage pickups, coming in at 6.5K for the bridge, 6.3K for the middle, and 5.8K for the neck. The neck pickup is, in fact, a bit colder than the pickups that originally came in my guitar, which all came in around 5.98K. I’m hoping these will provide a good amount of “quack” and some nice “bell” tones in the appropriate switch position, and I think they’ll work out just fine.

The pickups are set to arrive next week, so hopefully by next weekend I’ll be able to get the guitar assembled and setup. Audio files will follow shortly after that.

Stay tuned for more!

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