Tag Archives: guitar modification

The Red Strat Specs

So, I have made up my mind, and here are the specs for the guitar

  • Seymour Duncan Antiquity Texas Hot Vintage Set
  • Fender Stratocaster White SSS pickguard and knobs
  • Fender 5 Way pickup selector
  • CTS 250K linear potentiometers
  • Sprague Orange Drop 0.022uf capacitor
  • 2 DPDT on-on mini-toggle
  • Fender Staggered Locking tuners
  • Graph Tech Black Tusq XL
  • Gotoh NS510TS Bridge

All components are already on the guitar or have been ordered.

Oh, I have also ordered a cheap chinese 1Ply pickguard. The idea is to use it as a testing for ageing. I’ll be using shoe shine to do this. if it works and looks good then I’ll apply the same method on the pickguard. It is funny though, I have a 30 year old guitar, and the pickguard still looks white…. has lots of scratches, but still white.


Here we go again…

Aside from the black partscaster, I also have another MIM blacktop stratocaster. This is a Candy apple red.

I’ve already did some work on it when I got it in March this year (2017). I replaced the  nut (Graph Tech Black Tusq XL), bridge saddles (Gotho Stainles Steel) and Fender Locking Tuners. So it Sounds good, and plays amazing. But pickups are too hot for my (current taste) and now I find them rather muddy.


I thougth on installing an EMG DG20 Loaded Pickguard, but although I love David Gilmour playing and sound, I don’t play like him, nor do want to sound like him, so I changed my mind about it. Besides, what’s the poing on buying the whole thing already made… where’s the fun in that?

So the plan now is to make it a killer “vintage” strat…. for a reasonable price. After doing some research I arrived to the Seymour Duncan Antiquity Texas Hot Strat set. I really like the sound of these. They are available as a set or a preloaded pickguard (but we have already established that there’s no fun in that), so the set it is. I have already ordered it and should be here within the next two weeks.

I already have a some of the required hardware (Fender SSS pickguard, actual vintage knobs)… and I’m yet to decide whether I’ll go for the classic strat setup, or go bit more custom and do away with the tone pots (either one or both), and (again) put a blower switch… as this really suits my playing. I will copper foil the guitar cavity and of course… quick disconnect features.

So I would still need the following hardware:

  • Potentiometers: Need to find out what would be ideal on a vintage strat, but more likely CTS 250K Linear will do the job for me
  • Cap: modern strats use .047pf, but apparently 0.022pf would suit this better. or I could do something like this and have the possiblity to have both.
  • Maybe another pickguard, but might need to go down the custom route as I can not fing a SSS, volume no tone pickguard

To be continued


An update on the Locking tuners

After being unable to receive any communications from the Seller, they have agreed to a refund, and according to reverb policies they should also cover return costs. As soon as I get my money back I will be ordering from my usual eBay sellers… never had any issues with them in more than 15 years.

Reverb support was most helpful and was a different experience to chat with an actual person 🙂

Mod #1 – Quick Electronics connect/disconnect

I got a couple of JST Male to Female connectors to replace the ground and hot connection between the electronics and the guitar output jack. The idea behind this is to have a quick connect/disconnect of the whole electronics. I will also do the same for all the ground connections to the guitar once all the hardware has been replaced.


Getting the JST through the jack routing hole. This is very small, and the connector would not go through it, hence why I had to do this before soldering the jack.


Here you can see the soldered jack. (red to tip, black to ring/ground). Note that for the new electronics I would require an additional connector for the hot signal coming from the blower switch.


Back on the pickguard and main electronics, connections are black to ground and red to volume potentiometer


And this is the complete job.


but wait!… we still need to do the same for the ground connections. For this I used some eye terminals and JST connectors


These will be the ground connections to the body and bridge


As you can see this is a more neat and clean arrangement fir the internals. This will help a lot when the new electronics are installed.





The pickups

As I wrote before, I love strats, they play just so nice. But I also like different guitars, and different sounds.

The firs time I heard of the Blacktop Stratocaster, I was really intrigued: A Stratocaster with dual humbuckers, and ‘vintage’ humbuckers while we are are. The demos available online sounded great, but as the guitar is no longer in production, I could not find one to test. So I bought one second hand.

I loved it. It was so familiar, yet so different. It played like a Strat, yet is sounded like no strat I’ve heard before. So it became one of my go to guitars.

But the AlNiCo V vintage pickups, while they sound really good, they are quite a high output, and as a result, they tend to mud things a little, specially when you are after the “Tube amp just breaking” tone… you know, that super clean yet crunchy sound. It just doesn’t happen. the pickups are simply too hot for that.

Enter the P.A.F. pickup. The 58-60 Gibson sound. that’s exactly the pickup for that job. While I love the Les Paul sound, I just can’t feel confortable playing it… maybe is a combination of the neck scale and the radius… and the weight… or who know… its just not right for me.

So I had narrowed down to a few PAF reissues, including Gibson and DiMarzio, and then I was lucky to try a Suhr Standard with a Thornbucker neck pickup… and that was it. exactly the tone I was after.

So more internet research and heaps of online demos and review later, I think the thornbuckers are the way to go. I believe they will provide that clean-dirty super clean and warm tone.

I’ve decided on the raw nickel covered ones, as there will ‘age’ its looks quicker (they will develop a patina), and I think they will look cool.

I have also decided on the 53mm for the neck.

thornbucker 2

lets just hope these fit on the HH pickguard…

The guitar – A bad DIY

I decided to go with a cheap strat rather than starting from scratch with something like Warmoth guitars (eventually I will), but I just wanted to start with a solid basis for my first customisation job.

So the next step was to find a cheap Stratocaster… either eBay or Reverb would provide. and Reverb did.

I found a  mexican Fender Blacktop Stratocaster with Gotoh parts, rather cheap, and clearly someone else’s customisation job gone wrong.


The guitar appeared to be in fair condition, and the listing did specify the changes made to the guitar, including removing the pickup covers (in my opinion, a crime).

On close inspection things were not so good. On the following pictures you can clearly see the bridge is too wide for the guitar. The string spacing (E to E) is 56mm, while the Blacktop Stratocaster has a vintage 51mm string spacing. This results in strings nearly outside of the fingerboard. and the strings sit outside of the humbucker poles, which according to DiMarzio and Seymour Duncan is a big no.

wrong bridge

Now the tuners. The guitar came with Gotoh SG381 Cosmo Black machine heads, which as you can see, the holes did not match the Fender two post alignment holes. The previous owner didn’t even bother to screw the tuners in, so the guitar would go immediately out of tune.

Machine Heads

The guitar did sound the same as my other blacktop stratocaster. although there was a short circut at the multipole superswitch which was quickly fixed. sound wise it was a blacktop stratocaster. The neck was all you can expect of a Fender neck, although it had some signs of neglect.

In summary, the guitar had good sound but was unplayable.

Just a bad DIY. Maybe not the intention of the previous owner, but certainly as a result of his actions.