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Friday, February 7, 2014

Stratocaster Building (3) MIJ BLACKTOP

Well the last two posts on Stratocasters weren't too thrilling I must admit.

And those guitars got sold off to pay credit card interest.

But the next two builds are a bit more substantial and interesting:

First a little background:

There has always been a bit of controversy about what are the best stratocasters.   When Fender got sold off to CBS in the early 70s, things went downhill rapidly, and by 1981 they had to bring in people to re-organize and start rebuilding high quality guitars again.  At the same time, the Japanese started building strats for Fender in Japan (c. 1981-fwd).

As a result, some of the best strats ever made came out of Japan while Fender USA got themselves together to start making good instruments again.
Three series of Japanese strats (MIJ = Made In Japan) are of special interest, being the earliest and highest quality, due to diligent and careful manufacturing.

The JV series, the A-series, and the E-series.

By the late 80s, a Korean factory was also started up, which we think in the first year were making bodies but buying necks from Japan briefly (inspecting the Korean necks from this era show both good Japanese technique, and also cheaper Korean necks).

To make a long story short, MIJ Strats from the early/mid 80s are highly coveted as well-made and easily as good as Mexican and American strats, especially the necks. (later, Alder bodies were replaced with basswood bodies, with mixed results and opinions on that).

With that in mind, we secured two very high quality necks made in Japan, one from the A-series (so-called 'Blacktops' that often had Humbucking pickups instead of standard single coils), and one from the E-series, both in excellent or near-mint condition, and hardly played.

Next, we secured a complimentary MIJ body for the A-series, and installed a highly prized Seymour Duncan Invader pickup on it, and upgraded both the tremolo bridge and other hardware, to improve this 'partscaster' to a new level:

Strat 3:  MIJ BlackTop  'Piano Finish' Invader (A-Series)

A few notes are in order:  The early tremolo bridges turned out to be a disaster, and after several attempts were discontinued and replaced by Floyd-Rose bridges.  We chose the following superb Wilkinson bridge as a substitute for the original Fender, so as not to have to re-route the body and destroy the piano finish.  As a result of this choice, we removed the (no longer relevant) nut-lock, and replaced it with standard but improved roller-retainers.  This along with nut lubrication is actually better for tuning than the original design. 

New Bridge is Traditional Fender style but with Steel Block for great sustain.

Original Nut lock was removed

The very best Metal-Rock pickup for this application

One necessary body modification was to replace this end-plug (notoriously unreliable and failure-prone) with a standard Fender shoe-jack on body top.

These string retainers replace nut-lock for superior performance with standard tremolo.

Noiseless springs are also handy for whammybar enthusiasts

Gold Machine Heads (Genuine Fender) make a nice upgrade

Both Neck and body have Microtilt feature so a new backplate has to match.

Gold Metal Pickup Ring adds luster and beats plastic hands down.

finished restoration

Stratocaster Building (2)

First, its catch-up time:

I took my player strat, (which I had bought to replace my two old strats that got sold off to buy food because the government was bankrupting me), and had previously installed a Floyd Rose tremolo (after butchering the body a bit to fit the thing in).

I also added a pickguard to accomodate 2 Humbucking pickups and ended up with two Zebras and a Blue Lace Sensor for the middle.

I wasn't happy with either the sound, playability or bridge, and I felt like building something new, so I stripped it apart again.

I got another new body (without hacks) and reinstalled a set of Mexican pickups on that, and put the neck on.  Voila!  A great guitar, but nothing special, as there were no humbuckings and no Lace Sensor, and just the standard tremolo, pickguard, and a made in Indonesia (2004) neck.

Well, I watched someone else pick up a fantastic guitar (Bullseye Les Paul) and re-sell it for $1,500, (Can) and ding!  It hit me that there were far more people playing and buying guitars than buying hi-fi audio gear.  I should make some guitars and sell them.

Well, I assembled two guitars as an experiment, purchasing another body and Indonesian neck on Ebay (Tm), and I had some fun putting in pickups and etc., but unfortunately, strapped for cash, I had to let them go cheap to the local pawn shop for $100 each, and lost money, whilst paying off bills.

Here is some pics of the first adventure:

Guitar 1:  re-built from my old Indo-strat:

Guitar 2:  Quick Fun Build

Stratocaster Building (1)

Hi again.
Haven't posted on the blog for a while, due to many other matters, including the winter storms etc.

I'm on a stratocaster building cycle for some reason,
so I thought I would post some pics and talk a bit about how much fun it is to build musical instruments.

First of all, while we are talking about guitars, I really want to recommend a couple of youtube videos which I think are really awesome, one is on how to tune your guitar (not so simple as you think),
and the second is on how to setup a stratocaster for floating tremolo operation so that it stays in tune!

If you like strats watch these great videos:

And how to set up your strat tremolo bridge here;

After this,