guitarraraul

How to Build a Stratocaster Style Guitar

By John Fisher

http://behindthetone.com/johnfisher/

The day had come when I with a few words promised my 11 year old son that I would build him a guitar. I figured that I wanted to build him something that was ideal for him so he could learn more about playing guitar. I would custom design something that I thought would give him the best possible opportunity to learn and express himself on the guitar. I thought of the millions of guitars that have been bought by parents for their children in hopes for them to learn something constructive, but because of lack of knowledge of the choice of the instrument, and the very frequent bad set up of even some of the fairly good instruments out of a music store, the student becomes discouraged and the investment inevitably becomes stored in the closet and forgotten.

A Parent, Child Lesson

So “I” had it all figured out what guitar would be best for my son . ( Sort of an electric acoustic type thingy) That’s where I ran into a brick wall. We spent several evenings looking through guitar catalogues trying to decide what guitar “I” wanted him to have. The generation gap began to widen as I was set on what I thought he should have, and he was set on what he wanted to have. My “father to son communications” were failing fast. I was sure I knew what was best for him. Then the wise words of my wife rang out clearly in my ears: “Why not let him have what he wants if it won’t hurt him.” This might sound like a trivial affair but my technical intellect and pride was threatened. After coming to grips with this new concept I decided to swallow my pride and give it a shot. So I announced to my son (with a gulp) that I was sorry about the whole thing and I would build him whatever kind of guitar he wanted. You do not realize how nervous that declaration made me feel as I didn’t have any idea what I was in store for.

He instantly lit up and the generation gap began to grow narrower. After looking again through a few more catalogues he was bent on me building him a black Strat. This to me went a bit against my grain as I wanted to make something a little more original but I thought “What the heck” that should be an interesting challenge anyway. I’m glad it wasn’t a “Flying V” or a “Gretch Country Gentlemen”.

So the project of making a Black Strat was settled.

 

I started to realize that I even had a few Strat parts that I had in my junk box that were given to me a while back.

So here is goes!

As far as I know , most Strat bodies are made of : Ash, Alder and there are a few other woods that are used. The necks are usually made of Maple.

Unfortunately at the time that I started this project, I was living in Brazil where such woods are very scarce if not pretty much non existent because they are grown in the north. Brazil has very nice tropical woods for instruments like Brazilian Rose wood, Mahogany and other woods that are very exotic and beautiful. There are of coarse some woods that are native woods like “Brazilian Rose Wood” that is still almost impossible to get anywhere (even in Brazil) because they are considered “endangered species”.

So this was a dilemma that I had to somehow conquer. It is my philosophy not to let circumstances stand in the way of progress as where there is a will there is a way and this is just an obstacle that I had to somehow be overcome.

Thanks to “GRF” who I met on the internet over at “Ampage” , he (living in Brazil) supplied me with a lot of valuable information on alternative woods for guitars in Brazil. After investigating the availability of different alternative woods for guitars, I decided to use what they call in Brazil “Cherry wood” for the body which is very similar in looks to “Ash”. It is not only very beautiful but has a very pleasant cherry like smell.

For the neck I used “Ivory Wood” which is a very beautiful and very hard wood similar to Maple.

I must say that although I was very pleased how these woods worked out on the final product of the guitar, I would still use the more traditional woods used for a Strat if I had them available at the time. As of now, the guitar still came out beautiful and it plays and sounds great.

 

I want to thank Ben Shelton for giving me a lot of good info on this project. A detailed plan for a Stratocaster guitar can be ordered at http://www.mimf.com/ This is also one of the best links on the web for all kinds of instrument building info. I want to add that although detailed plans are a real help in building a guitar, I have made several guitars by just copying other guitars that I had available. This is not so hard. Ben also shared some very good ideas with me on how to accurately draw an object (such as a guitar) and make it into a CAD file on the computer.

Here are some simple steps:

 

  • Lay a real guitar that you want to draw on some large sized graph paper or glue several pieces of graph paper together to get a large size.
  • Trace the shape of the guitar on the graph paper.
  • You can then scan this to your computer.
  • Now that you have an image file (jpeg, gif, etc) of the guitar on your computer you can import the scans into a CAD program. I use “Turbo CAD” which by the way, you can download a free version from their web site. To me this program works very well.
  • Knowing what the scale of the squares on your graph paper are in real life you can make visible the grid on the options of your CAD program.
  • You then set the grid size the same as the original graph paper. Then line up your imported image of the guitar to the grid in the CAD program. If necessary you can expand or shrink your image to fit the CAD grid.
  • Once the grids are aligned you can simply trace over the image of your guitar with the pencil in the CAD program and “presto” you have an accurate drawing of your guitar in CAD that can be printed out to scale. Once you have it drawn, you can just erase the other imported image file.

 

I made more than one printout so that I could cut out different aspects of the template to be able to trace onto the wood.

 

 

 

 

 

As you can see, on one of the printouts I cut out the places that I will need to rout out for the pickups and the

controls.

 

 

 

I started off by gluing these 2 pieces of 2″ thick wood together to make the blank for the body. The only real hard part about this is getting the 2 edges nice and flat to make a good glue job. I started off by planing the edges as flat as possible. I then glued some sand paper to a flat surface then pushed the edge of the wood back and forth on the sandpaper to get a flat edge. When doing this it also helps to put the wood against a square block of wood while sanding it to make sure that the edge remains square. Periodically I would hold the 2 pieces together up to a light source to check the joint. When you can see no light peeping through the joint then you know that you have a good fit. When it is a good fit I then glued the 2 pieces together with wood glue. You can also glue it with epoxy glue which makes for a good strong joint that is even more forgiving for any gaps as epoxy glue is a real good gap filler. Of coarse if you are going to put on a clear finish this would be undesirable as you would be able to more likely see the joint in the finished product. For a more transparent joint, use white wood glue

 

 

Here is where I drew the lines for the pickups and control area. Although there are router templates to facilitate doing this job, I just used the router freehand which wasn’t so difficult.

 

Here is the basic outline of the body which is 1-3/4″ thick when finished

 

I don’t have a disk sander with a table so I got the idea to mount my belt sander with a clamp and some blocks of wood at right angle to the table to sand the edge of the body square.

 

After the shape of the body was cut out I rounded the edges of the guitar body with a router.

 

 

 

Here I am planing the bevel on the front of the body. I did all the routing free hand.

 

Building this guitar has been a real learning experience. I began to realizing that it is probably one of the most practical designs to build and market. Unlike other more elaborate guitars the Statocaster has no bindings to install, no inlays except just the black dots on the neck, a simple sticker on the head, a very simple bolt on neck which can easily be adjusted, The entire neck is made of simple slab cut 1″ maple stock, the whole guitar is made of fairly economical readily available materials but the thing works and sounds great and is probably the most popular guitar in the whole world which has stood the test of time.

 

 

Here is a line drawn on the back of the guitar body to mark where I will make the rounded contoured area. I shaped this using a hand belt sander, a rasp and then finished it with a sanding block.

After all the shaping was done it was just a matter of doing a lot of hand sanding to get it nice.

Here is a shot of the front of the guitar body almost final sanded.

At this point I rubbed some quick drying sanding sealer over the body with a soft cloth. I do this to help me see if there are any bad unfinished areas that I need to work on and do some more sanding.

At this point I went though a dilemma. My son wanted his guitar to be solid black. The natural wood looked so beautiful that I didn’t have the heart to paint it with black. It was like putting catsup on a nice steak. Yuk!! But even after I attempted to persuade him it was to no avail as he still insisted on it being black like “Eric Clapton’s” guitar. Oh well! There are worse things in life.

You can see where I routed out the back for the tremolo assembly.

OK! Take one more look at the back before I paint it black.

 

Please note that this wood has a very coarse open grain. Before painting it black I had to fill in the grain with grain filler. One nice think about painting it with a solid color is that any flaws could be filled in if necessary with wood putty or even auto body filler and sanded smooth before painting.

Here it is just painted black

I was able to use auto spay lacquer out of a spray can to do this. I do not normally recommend lacquer out of a spray can as I have generally had bad results. There might be some specialized brands that are good but the stuff that you get out of a common hardware store usually works terrible as it is gummy and never really gets good and hard. I did get good results using automotive spray lacquer for cars.

 

In reality, I could have just bought an already made neck from any one of a variety of sources. (Stewart Macdonald, Warmoth, All parts) Some of these necks are reasonably priced and the advantage of the bolt on neck is that it is very easy to install or switch necks. But I thought of giving it a go to make one and it would also save me some money although it takes a lot of work to make a good neck.

Again, I didn’t have the availability of maple when I was in Brazil so I used a suggested substitute for the neck wood. I used a wood called “Ivory Wood”. It is very hard and beautiful and it looks to me just like maple. My only concern is how stable it might be. As of this writing, I have had no problems of lack of stability.

In making the neck, I wanted to leave it basically square while cutting the groove for the truss rod and even gluing the fret board on and making the fret slots. This is because it is a lot easier to get things straight and accurate when you have the reference of a square block. In the case of the picture above, I had to glue some extra wood on the head stock for the shape of the head to fit. I wanted to later glue some birds eye maple veneer on the head stock to cover any witness lines of the glue job but later on I realized that you couldn’t see any glue lines so I just left the head plain.

Please note that most Strat necks are one solid piece of wood where the fret board is the same piece as the neck and they router out the back of the neck to put in the truss rod. I think there was a few models made in the 60′s that had a separate maple fret board glued on. Of coarse there are some Strats with glued on Rosewood fret boards.

At this point it is especially important that the top surface of this piece of wood is flat.

Here is my home made truss rod that is placed in the slot and ready for the fret board to be glued on. I will explain more about the truss rod on another page.

Here I am gluing a flat 1/4 inch piece of Ivory wood onto the neck. I have another thicker flat piece of wood above it in order to help it glue nice and flat. I have it clamped with several clamps and I try not to make any one clamp tighter then the others as to make it glue evenly. I prefer to shape the fret board after glueing it on as to ensure a straighter surface when the neck is finished.

Following is the measurements where the frets go on the fret board. The first chart is metric and the second is in inches. I got these details from the fret calculating program that you can download from the main page of my web site. I printed out a template as not to have to measure each fret and it worked beautifully.

Scale Length: 647.5 mm

Fret Number mm from Nut mm from Fret

=========== ============ =============

1 36.5 36.5

2 70.5 34.5

3 103.0 32.5

4 133.5 30.5

5 162.5 29.0

6 189.5 27.0

7 215.5 25.5

8 239.5 24.5

9 262.5 23.0

10 284.0 21.5

11 304.5 20.5

12 324.0 19.5

13 342.0 18.0

14 359.0 17.0

15 375.5 16.0

16 390.5 15.5

17 405.0 14.5

18 418.5 13.5

19 431.5 13.0

20 443.5 12.0

21 455.0 11.5

22 466.0 11.0

 

Scale Length: 25.50In.

Fret Number In. from Nut In. from Fret

=========== ============ =============

1 1.43 1.43

2 2.78 1.35

3 4.06 1.28

4 5.26 1.20

5 6.40 1.14

6 7.47 1.07

7 8.48 1.01

8 9.44 0.96

9 10.34 0.90

10 11.19 0.85

11 11.99 0.80

12 12.75 0.76

13 13.47 0.72

14 14.14 0.68

15 14.78 0.64

16 15.38 0.60

17 15.95 0.57

18 16.48 0.54

19 16.99 0.51

20 17.47 0.48

21 17.92 0.45

22 18.34 0.43

 

You will notice that in this case, I still left the neck and the fret board square as to be able to accurately draw the fret slots with a small square. The top of the fret board is still flat and not curved yet. Using the square along side the fret saw I partially cut the fret slots as to mark where they are. The reason why I did this at this point was that I still need to carve the curve of the neck and I don’t want to lose where the fret slots will be after rounding the fret board. This may be an unusual sequence on how to do this but it worked well for me.

I now turned the neck on it’s edge and drew and rough profile.

 

Here are some different strat neck shapes and their descriptions. This is totally a matter of preference. I chose something similar to the 60s Oval style only I made it a bit thinner (.780 at the first fret) as I personally prefer a thin neck and my son who is 12 years old has small hands.

 

Here I am beginning to carve the neck. I used a chisel, wood rasp, knife, sanding block and belt sander to do this.

Here I am using a belt sander to round the back of the neck. This works very good and fast but you have to be real careful as it takes it off real quick.

 

 

I found a simple way to make the black dots for the fret board. I got some black wood veneer and used a simple paper hole punch to make the dots. They just happened to be close to the right size. I realized later that I could have used just thin black plastic for this. Plastic would probably supply a cleaner cut but never the less it still came out good.

I simply drilled the holes on the fret board with a 1/4″ drill bit and it was just right. I actually just made the holes by turning the bit by hand without a drill as not to make the holes too deep. This was easy as I just needed to go down only about 1mm. With some white glue mixed with some white sawdust from the blond fret board wood I glued in the dots. I tried to make sure that the dots were glued in flush with the surface if not slightly above. When they were dry I sanded the dots flush with the fret board. I also used a cabinet scraper as this (unlike sandpaper) will help the black scrapings not to stain the blond wood.

Fret wire usually comes in 2 forms. It comes in long strips or like pictured above in pre-cut pieces.

The frets that I used for my guitar were medium sized frets. There are different advantages to different types of frets. Taller frets give more grip to the strings and sustain while lower frets can help you to play faster.

Cutting the Fret Slots

I want to say that the following method that I used is not necessarily the best way to do frets but because of the lack of the many tools that are available this is how I did it.

 

I didn’t have an official fret saw so I made one out of a small hacksaw blade that I got from the hardware store. This all depends of the frets that are used but it just so happened that the mini hacksaw blade that I got worked. It was a slightly too wide a cut for the frets to stay in snug so I ground the sides of the teeth just a little bit to make the slots a bit narrower. If you do this too much you will have a hard time sawing the wood as the protruding teeth on the sides or the “way” of the saw helps the saw not to bind up when cutting. Never the less it managed to work. As you can see above, I screwed the blade between 2 blocks of wood to make a handle for the blade and the wood also served as a stop for the blade. I made the blade stick out just slightly more then what the depth of the fret tang is. (but not too much). Using this I can safely cut the slots without worrying about going too deep using this automatic stop.

The only real trick is that you have to make sure that you cut straight and that the slot is at right angle with the fret board. If the fret slot it not at right angle with the fret board, the fret will not seat properly which is imperative. There are special jigs to do this which I do not have. You can probably clamp 2 square blocks of wood on each side of the saw to ensure that it cuts straight but I just carefully did it freehand.

Here I am cutting the frets with my little home made saw.

 

Here I am putting in the frets. There are handy machines to pre bend the frets before putting them in which I don’t have. I just got 2 pairs of players and held the fret at each end and then bent the fret as carefully as possible just a bit more then the curvature of the fret board. There are several different preferences to putting in frets but the way I like is to make them go in snug (not too tight or too loose) with a bit of super glue squeezed into the slot. I just tap them in lightly with a hammer. I never bang them in hard or this will ruin things. The ideal is to get them all to seat nicely and as even as possible. The better that this goes the less fret leveling you will have to do later. I used just a normal hammer but it should have a nice smooth surface as not to bang up the frets.

After I put in the frets I cut off the extra length with a pair of nippers then filed it smooth. I then leveled the frets. To do this I got an aluminum carpentry level which has a very flat surface and I glued some 320 grit sandpaper to the flat edge. You can use a piece of flat wood or anything that is flat. You can also use a large flat file to do this. I put wood under the neck to support it so it remained straight while working. I then stroked back and forth across the frets, sanding the tops of the frets with the level. I did this just enough to where I could see that the tops of all the frets have been slightly sanded. If the frets that were inserted were done right you shouldn’t have to do this very much. You will notice right away if some frets were higher then others. If you have to do a lot of sanding to reach all the tops of the frets, the frets will probably be lower then originally desired when the job is finished. You should be able to put the edge of a steel ruler on different areas of the frets and the ruler should stay flat. If the ruler rocks a bit on the frets, it is not flat enough.

Here is the level I used to level the frets. Notice the sandpaper that I glued with contact cement to the edge.

 

After the frets were leveled I needed to crown them. This is where you make the tops of the frets that are now square from the leveling round again. For years I have done this with a normal triangle file in which I ground off one of the 3 corners as not to scratch the fret board then I would file each of the frets round again. I also put masking tape on the fret board as to protect it from the file. You can see how I did this in my “How to build a Les Paul” article. This takes time and you have to really work at it to make the frets good. I finally decided to break down and get a real fret file. The fret file, or the crowning file is concave so you can file the tops of the frets to make them round much easier then using the triangle file. Boy am I glad I invested in this file. To do frets is now so much easier and better. This file came with 3 attachments; for large, medium and small frets.

Here is my new fret file I got from “Stewart Macdonald”

 

After the frets are crowned, I also use the same file to smooth out the sharp ends of the frets. You should be able to run your hand up and down the frets and not feel any of the frets catch your hand. After this is done I got some #400 grit sandpaper and vertically sanded each fret. I then did the same thing with some #600 sand paper. It is important that the frets are nice and polished and shinny without any groves or little scratches in them or else you will certainly feel the frets grinding on the strings when you go to bend notes when playing.

After the guitar was done and the strings put on I was very pleased at the feel of the neck and I was able to get a real low action on the strings without any buzz. Ahh! It feels so good!

Here is the typical shape of a Stratocaster Head

 

Here is the profile of the head. You will notice that the sum thickness of the head and the fret board is not even one inch thick. This makes it very easy to mass produce this style of neck.

The Nut

Out of all the nut materials that are available I prefer using bone. I usually make my own nuts out of bone from the butcher. Just one trip to the Butcher that costs nothing or at most very little and I have a life time supply of guitar nuts and acoustic guitar bridges. I usually cut the bone up in small pieces with a hack saw and then I grind and sand them into the desired shapes.

Here I am sanding to size a piece of bone for the Strat nut. I did this by gluing some #80 sandpaper to a piece of flat wood.

Using Dry Transfers for Decals

It varies from place to place, but here in Mexico it is very easy to find dry letter transfers in an office supply store. These are very useful for many things. I use them for labeling electronic equipment that I build and also for labeling homemade stomp boxes.

 

Here are some dry transfers that I got at an office supply store nearby. There are several brands available but I think that the most famous brand that made it popular is called “Letraset”. As of now, the company “Letraset” does not make dry transfers anymore but there are still other companies that do. There are quite a variety of letter fonts and sizes that you can get and it also comes in different colors like white and gold. You simply rub the letters on by using a pencil on one side of the sheet and the letters transfer to the desired surface from the other side. I had a hard time finding this in the United States but it is still popular in South America.

Here you can see the initials that I put on the Head using the dry transfers. I then lacquered over it when applying finish to the guitar.

 

String Tree

That little black thing you see holding down the first 2 strings is a “string tree”. Because of the very shallow depth of the strat guitar head, the string tree is necessary to give enough downward pressure of the strings on the nut. If this was not there, the tone of the first 2 strings would suffer. They are usually made of metal but I didn’t have one available so I just made one out of ebony that worked just fine.

A Homemade Truss Rod

 

I thought I would try this very easy to make truss rod for this guitar. I got some of the idea for the truss rod from a chat I had with Eric Hansel over at Ampage. It is simply a 3/16″ threaded rod that I got from the hardware store. I bent the rod in half by heating it with a propane torch.

I heated the middle of the rod until it started to get red, then I slowly bent the rod in half holding it with 2 pairs of pliers. I have also done the same thing with success using a gas stove. In the picture above after the rod was bent I then heated it again to where is was red then I crimped the bend tight with a pair of pliers to make the bend nice and sharp.

Here is a closer look at the end when it is finished

For the other end I cut a piece of 1/4″ square stock(about 1/2″ long) and drilled a 3/16″ hole in one end for one end of the rod to freely fit through. On the other end of the very short piece of 1/4″ stock I made another hole that is a bit smaller almost right next to the first hole. I tapped this hole with a 3/16″ thread. I then screwed the rod into this hole then bowed the other end of the rod into the other none threaded hole. You will notice that the rod is a bit longer on the bottom through the non threaded hole.

 

As you can see, I then screwed a long hex nut on to the treaded rod sticking out.

You can use a normal nut but I made this one out of a longer piece of hex stock from an old piece of junk that I had. It is best that the nut is made of brass because the softer brass will wear out before the steel truss rod does. It is also good that it is long because the tension on the threads is more spread out using a longer nut. This also helps the threads to not wear so easily

To illustrate how the truss rod works I tightened the nut. You can see that with the nut tightened, the top rod bows up. If this is in your guitar neck it will also cause the neck of your guitar to bow back. You do this when there is too much forward bow on your guitar neck from the tension of the strings.

Here is the truss rod placed in the neck. I cut a groove with a power saw and a guide just a bit more then 3/16″ wide and about a half inch deep into the neck. You will notice that I did this while the neck was still somewhat square as the square neck helped me to use a guide for the saw. I also notched out as necessary the end where the nut is, to accommodate the nut. I also put some soft plastic tubing over the rod to minimize any vibrations for the rod while in the neck. You can get the soft plastic tubing from some auto supply places or places that do wiring for automobiles. The tubing is normally used for running wires through. Please note that I would have put the tubing on the full length of the rods but I just didn’t have a piece long enough at the time.

I like the truss rod assembly to fit just barely snug but not too snug so it can move freely in the neck when adjustment is needed but certainly not too loose. I also make sure that the fret board will fit on top of it nicely without cramming the truss rod with too much pressure.

If a threaded rod in not available, it is possible to make a thread on the end of a 3/16″ round bar. I even welded a piece of bolt on the end of a rod for my truss rod on my Les Paul project.

If you can use a finer thread then the standard thread, this will work a bit better as a finer thread will bend the rod a little slower an give more torque and there will be less risk of stripping the threads. I still used just a common threaded rod which still worked fine.

 

As for now, I wired the guitar like a standard Strat but I plan to maybe do some modifications in the future like phase switching of the pickups and an extra switch built into one of the knobs so that when pulled out, it will activate the neck pickup at the same time as the other 2. As of now, you can only activate each pickup individually or if the switch is in between 2 pickups it will activate those 2 but there is not a way to for example turn on the bridge pickup and the neck pickup at the same time leaving the middle pickup inactive, or there is not a way to have all three pickups on at the same time. So by installing a simple pull out switch it is possible to have this flexibility and thus open another world of sound possibilities. Installing a second switch will enable me to switch the phases of one of the pickups in relation to the others. This is simply reversing the polarity or reversing the wires on one of the pickups. This will further open a door to a lot more sounds. The out of phase trick gives a very thin twangy sound as the signal of 2 pickups cancels itself out. The more similar the 2 pickups are the more the signal will be cancelled out or the thinner the sound. You would not want to use this feature in all of your music but it is a unique and interesting sound and can add a lot of variety.

You will notice in the above picture that the plastic pick guard cover is lined with aluminum foil to help shield the electronics from noise.

Here is the standard circuit for a Stratocaster and this is the one I am using at the moment. One ingenious feature of this wiring configuration is that by using the double pole triple throw switch, you can switch to the different pickups and independently set the tone of the middle and neck pickups. This also happens using only one condenser in the circuit. Something that is not indicated in the diagram is that when using a 5 way switch the circuit is similar to the diagram above except you are able to switch in between pickups giving you the flexibility of using any 2 adjacent pickups at the same time. For example: if the switch is positioned in between the bridge pickup and the middle pickup, then both those pickups will be activated at the same time. If you have the switch between the neck pickup and the middle pickup then both of those will be on. This is nothing new, as most Strats have this. I think that just some of the very old Strats do not use 5 way switches but 3 way switches. All the potentiometers are 250 LOG. The pickup wiring color code will differ from brand to brand but the important thing is that the phasing is correct. If when you are using any 2 of the pickups and the sound is extremely thin, then you probably have one of the pickup out of phase with the other.

Here is probably the simplest mod that exists but it is my favorite. You simply have an on and off switch that connects from the hot wire of the neck pickup and goes to the top end wire of the volume control. The above modification is in Red. With this little mod you can have all 3 pickups on at the same time or just the neck pickup and the bridge pickup on at the same time without the middle pickup on.

Here is how to hook up a phase switch with a DPDT (double pole, double throw) switch. The modification is in red. This can also be incorporated in one of the pots by installing a pot that has a pull out switch.

Here is a potentiometer with a DPDT switch incorporated. I got his at the local music store. They are usually 250K or 500K. The are very useful for doing just about any mods. There are many other different modifications that can be done on a Strat like connecting all the pickups in series which will yield all different kinds of results. You can check out the “Stewart Macdonald” web site for all kinds of ideas. http://www.stewmac.com

Here is a drawing of the wiring of a typical Strotocaster. The wires with arrows on them are ground wires. Some are soldered to the metal case of the pots.

The Pickups

As always, I am continually trying to scrounge parts whenever possible. Many of the parts to make this guitar were given to me by friends. I got the pickups from a guitar that belonged to “Jeremy Spencer” Jeremy (a friend of mine) used to play with “Fleetwood Mac” way back in the beginning. He has always been known by his incredible slide guitar playing. He had this Yamaha Strat copy guitar that he used for years and then at one point changed the pickups. I don’t know what other pickups he put in his guitar but I have the old ones that I used for this guitar. The single coil pickups measure a DC resistance of about 6K7ohms.

By John Fisher

Here is the shape of the cavity for the tremolo spring system from the back.

 

Here is the side view of the same cavity.

 

Here is my very childish drawing to try to illustrate the Tremolo system. If you simply push down on the Tremolo Bar the strings will loosen but when released, the springs will pull the bridge and the strings back to normal position. What a far out effect!

There are many details about tremolos that I will not cover here because time fails me. There are many details in making your tremolo work properly and sometimes it requires some trouble shooting.

Here is a shot of the spring assembly in the back. I didn’t have a claw to hold the springs so I made one out of a little piece of ” U” shaped steel in which I bent it into shape. You will notice the little yellow wire. That goes from the ground connection where the controls are in the front to the bridge and spring assembly in the back. It doesn’t really matter where it is connected onto the bridge or springs, just as long as it is connected. This connection is to ground the bridge and thus ground the strings of the guitar to help eliminate some buzz. This is particularly helpful with guitars that use single coil pickups. The amount of springs used is somewhat optional but here I used 3 springs. This worked ok with me while using .009 strings. If I was to use thicker strings I would probably add another spring or 2.

Well Here it is! This guitar is a real pleasure to play. Although I made it for my son I couldn’t get my hands off of it and I used it in a few recordings that I did.

 

 

 

 

Like I said before, I made this guitar out of things that I had sitting around. I really liked the gold parts with the black but I still need to get gold tuning heads.

 

 

 

 

 

 

I was really pleased about how the neck came out. It is on the thin side and is really easy to play with very good action. The compound radius helps a lot in comfort to play.

 

Here are the temporary chrome keys I have on until I get the gold ones.

 

A Comparison Test

I did some comparing of this guitar with an American Standard Strat that a friend of mine has. This was very interesting as the types of wood on the 2 guitars are different. I was pleasantly pleased as the one I built was comparable to his in sound and comfort. The action on mine was lower and his frets are a bit fatter which I like. In some ways mine was easier to play. Mine was slightly brighter and the wood on the body of mine was slightly heavier but not much. I’m just really happy about it as I was not sure what the woods would be like on mine. It is the kind of thing where you enjoy playing it even if it isn’t plugged in as the feel is nice and the stings seem to vibrate nicely with a nice sustain. I don’t want to be overly optimistic about this thing but I really like it.

http://behindthetone.com/johnfisher/

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