Making a Stratocaster style guitar from parts

MegiMegi Posts: 7,206Member
Hi folks - Richard has given me the go-ahead to write a blog covering the process of me making a Stratocaster style guitar from parts. This will be the fourth time I have put a guitar together in this kind of way, so I feel I've built up some useful experience at this point. But I'd also say that all my builds have been successful, and I do think that anyone keen enough could do the same as me, without prior experience. There is more than one way to approach a build, this will just be mine, but I hope the blog will build up to provide a useful guide. This is just building a nice guitar from parts, so I'm not claiming to be any sort of luthier here, just a keen hobbyist. And discussion and contributions very welcome at any point! So, at the moment I am very much in the "foothills" of my journey up the guitar build mountain. A few days ago, on another forum, I happened to be browsing just as someone put up an advert selling several guitar bodies, one or which was this lovely 2-piece walnut strat body:  ...for just £45! I find if you hang about on the web, bargains like this do sometimes appear. Anyway, I was unable to resist it - it is made by www.guitarbuild.co.uk who I have used previously, having bought directly from them for earlier projects. So I was fairly confident it would be good quality, and the walnut just looked so nice and different, that I had to give it a go. And this is basically as far as I've got in terms of buying the bits I need. As far as I can tell, this looks to be one of Guitarbuild's 1962 strat body replicas in shape - the contouring is just a bit stronger and more sweeping than on a later strat style body, also the pickup cavities are a little shallower (so some of the more modern pickup designs could be too tall to be a good fit). My previous strat build used the same body style, but made of swamp ash:  I love this guitar, and it has very much a shimmery, classic strat kind of tone. So I'm thinking I might try to make this project more of a "fat strat" kind of tone - perhaps something I could use for jazz even, while remaining very much in the general strat tone kind of area. That consideration will have some influence on the pickups I fit, and possibly on how the guitar wiring scheme is designed, but as yet I am very undecided about the pickups. I am also still thinking about how the guitar will look. I found a piece of software online, that allows me to try different combinations. Having already asked opinion on this forum, a lot of people, including me, have liked this possibility:  However, I am also quite taken with a black pickguard, to give a dark, sophisticated look to things:  We will see which way I go, and since pickguards can be bought for not too much money, it would be not too expensive to change my mind at any point. And finally, I am thinking about the neck for the guitar. My own preference is to use a new neck, and it is a case of sourcing something of good quality (and not all necks you see advertised are), and at the right price (I don't want to go much above £100, and less if possible). At the moment, the strongest contender is a rosewood board neck from Northwest Guitars. A keen builder/seller of parts built guitars, on another forum, tells me these are really excellent quality, made in Korea. Looking at the pictures in the ad, the maple looks to be good quality close-grained stuff, and also the shaping/contouring around the headstock and heel seems very smooth and well done - some necks I see for sale just look a bit roughly done in this respect, and just a bit "cheap" to be honest. I want this to be a classy guitar when finished. Here's the link if anyone's interested: http://www.amazon.co.uk/Northwest-Guitars-Stratocaster-Neck-Fretboard/dp/B006I0O7AK/ref=sr_1_3?ie=UTF8&qid=1386005176&sr=8-3&keywords=strat+neck Another consideration with the neck is the fit of the tuning machines. I have not chosen these yet, but I know I will want to use a modern Schaller/Gotoh/Grover type style, which will need 10mm holes in the headstock, which these necks have. A true vintage patterned neck uses narrower holes - just a consideration to be aware of. Well, all this waffle is really just to get the blog up and running, so time to stop for now, cheers!

Comments

  • BezzerBezzer Posts: 4Member

    Just what I wanted! I'll follow this project with interest!

    great!

    chris B.

  • Brian LurcherBrian Lurcher Posts: 15Member

    Shame to cover that lovely wood with a dirty great bit of plastic.

    One thing you'll find with Walnut: It is a moody wood. Sometimes it will sound just right and other times you really have to work at it to get anything nice at all. So yes, I'm interested in how it turns out.

    Have fun.

  • MegiMegi Posts: 7,206Member
    Originally Posted by Brian Lurcher:

    Shame to cover that lovely wood with a dirty great bit of plastic.

    One thing you'll find with Walnut: It is a moody wood. Sometimes it will sound just right and other times you really have to work at it to get anything nice at all. So yes, I'm interested in how it turns out.

    Have fun.

    Thanks Brian! It's a heavy wood for sure - this will not be a lightweight guitar - and it seems to have quite a deep kind of ring to it when I give it a rap with my knuckles. Anyway, call me an optimist, but I think things will turn out well. Has to have a scratchplate, like it or not, so might as well think about which is right for the build. Actually, I'd say for me, the scratchplate is an essential part of the strat "look" as well. And indeed I will be having fun, cheers!

  • MegiMegi Posts: 7,206Member
    Originally Posted by Bezzer:

    Just what I wanted! I'll follow this project with interest!

    great!

    chris B.

    Hope it can be of interest, and provide a bit of entertainment also, cheers Chris! image

  • JayWardenJayWarden Posts: 46Member

    Nice to see this in blog form Megi, I will be watching intently and following along a few steps behind. It's very reassuring knowing that I won't be alone on my first attempt!

     

    I decided to take the Wudtone approach to my finish to add that bit of colour I was looking for, so I'm hoping I won't regret not listening to you and Jocko about using Tru oil! I'm hoping to start getting my hands dirty sometime this week as soon as the kit arrives!

  • MegiMegi Posts: 7,206Member

    Cheers Jay! I did actually use just a basic satin Wudtone clear kit (no stain/colour) on my most recent project:

     

    gp2013-207

     and I found it easy to use, and good results. I would say if you want an easy to use finish, which allows you to give a coloured finish look, but which also keeps the wood texture coming through, it's a no-brainer. I think for a pure natural type of finish, I'd give Tru Oil the edge. But that's just for my taste, and both fine products. Wudtone is perhaps a bit quicker, and doesn't seem to need quite so many coats.

     

  • Mark PMark P Posts: 2,314Member

    Oooh - good to see. I always like to follow your project builds.

     

    Great price on the body. Walnut certainly has the looks that are good enough for a clear finish.

     

    As for the two pickguard pictures I do feel drawn more to the black - but for some reason I'm a sucker for black / gold as a combination on pretty well anything so I'm biased. Maybe also depends on whether you want to keep the combination of colours different to what you already have on other guitars, or whether you like a theme running through them.

     

    I look forward to seeing this build develop.

  • MegiMegi Posts: 7,206Member

    Cheers Mark! I admit I'm in a real quandary re the choice of pickguard - probably fair to say either option will look good though, so maybe it doesn't matter in the end. Black and gold is always a great combination, I agree with that. Still haven't ordered a neck yet, need to make a decision and get that done lol! image

  • MegiMegi Posts: 7,206Member

    Have been in contact with Phil (owner of www.guitarbuild.co.uk ) who tells me that I was wrong about this strat body - it is in fact their standard reissue strat body, and not the vintage 1962 spec one. I will have to compare with my completed strat out of interest - I guess the differences may be subtle. Nice to know about anyhow, and I think that also means the walnut body has slightly deeper pickup cavities, so I have more freedom in the types of pickup that will fit - still not sure about that yet though. Phil is a top bloke - he has offered to send me an offcut or two of walnut to test finishes on (even though I didn't buy the body directly from him) which is something I think I'll take him up on, could be very useful.

     

    Still hesitating about ordering the neck for some reason. Think it will be today though!

  • MegiMegi Posts: 7,206Member

    STILL hesitating about buying the neck lol... I now find myself contemplating this one-piece maple neck... Reasons being

     

    a) I've always thought there is just a certain something about a maple-neck strat - a certain brilliance to the sound maybe, plus Eric Johnson (of whom I am known to be a fan) uses a maple-board strat as his main axe.

     

    b) That neck has several features I like, including the 22 frets with overhang, plus the jumbo frets - both features I would actually specify if I was able to afford a custom made to order job (which unfortunately I can't!).

     

    c) Some other small points - the photographs look like a decent bit of wood, and quite well finished. Also I like the look of the dark surround at the truss rod access point on the headstock - just looks classier to have that to my eyes.

     

    The rosewood board neck I'd been thinking about is this one... The maple on that looks like really nice, close-grained stuff, and also the neck appears very well finished. It does only have the 21 frets, and smaller fret wire. Aesthetically, I think I might prefer it, but sometimes functionality has to take precedence. Plus I have looked at pics of some very nice looking walnut body strats with maple-board necks, so...

     

    Well, still clearly I have a bit of thinking to do!

  • MegiMegi Posts: 7,206Member

    Just found Axcaster's own website online, and more necks available than listed on ebay. I could push the boat out a bit and go for this birdseye maple beauty... Eek, shouldn't be looking at this stuff!

  • The23rdmanThe23rdman Posts: 1,560Member
    I saw that when looking for a maple neck for my telecaster. Very lovely.
  • JayWardenJayWarden Posts: 46Member
    I was having a look at them just last night Megi. They look really nice.

    I put my first base coat of wudtone on last night, but I'm not convinced I did it correctly as it looks a little light!
  • Brian LurcherBrian Lurcher Posts: 15Member

    Megi, that bird's eye maple looks the business. Would sit very well with the body.

  • MegiMegi Posts: 7,206Member
    Originally Posted by JayWarden:
    I was having a look at them just last night Megi. They look really nice.

    I put my first base coat of wudtone on last night, but I'm not convinced I did it correctly as it looks a little light!

     

    Originally Posted by Brian Lurcher:

    Megi, that bird's eye maple looks the business. Would sit very well with the body.

    You're not helping here guys lol! This is more than I was originally intending to spend on a neck, but the temptation is great. I might still go for the same spec of Mighty Mite neck, but with standard maple and black dots - I think that's a classic look, so would not be going wrong. Another concern is having gold hardware (really want that), plus the white pearl scratchplate, plus the birdseye maple and abalone dots - well, it might just be too much bling for one guitar...

  • JayWardenJayWarden Posts: 46Member

    I can see where you are coming from, not wanting too much 'bling' on the one guitar, but that birds eye maple neck looks lovely!

     

    If i could find a telecaster version for that price i wouldn't hesitate. I had the guys from Northwest spec me one but it was £150ish which is way more than i wanted to spend! So im still struggling to decide too.

  • MegiMegi Posts: 7,206Member

    It's ridiculous of me, but I am still very much at the considering what scheme to go for stage. Possibly won't really get going until the new year at this rate!  But I'm happy in a way to take my own sweet time on this one. Still thinking one-piece maple neck - I only have one other guitar with a one-piece maple neck, my tele, which I took to a jazz gig the other evening, and it was tremendous. Think I've gone off the pearl scratchplate idea somehow, and shock horror, I'm not even sure I want the gold hardware anymore... I'm thinking (gulp) that chrome might actually be the one this time. Found a pic that I might basically like to copy:

     

    scheme for maple neck

    OK, that's stained ash, not walnut, but you get the idea. Somehow, I think using gold hardware there might not work as well as the chrome does... Opinions anyone?

  • The23rdmanThe23rdman Posts: 1,560Member
    Hallelujah! No more gold! image Only kidding, but that appeals so much more to me. *hint, hint" image
  • MegiMegi Posts: 7,206Member
    Originally Posted by The23rdman:
    Hallelujah! No more gold! Only kidding, but that appeals so much more to me. *hint, hint"

    Lol

  • dharma66dharma66 Posts: 829Member

    I reckon you'll have to get a few more bodies and do one of each...

  • MegiMegi Posts: 7,206Member
    Originally Posted by dharma66:

    I reckon you'll have to get a few more bodies and do one of each...


    Well, there does always seem to be "one more build", despite the fact I keep telling myself that whichever one I'm on must be the last, so...  

  • Mark PMark P Posts: 2,314Member

    The darker the stain if it's brown in colour the less the gold hardware seems to work it seems.

     

    On your swamp ash strat the natural body colour has a hint of the golden to it and the hardware seems like an extension of it. With darker brown it doesn't seem to work so well - odd because gold and black go very well together. Maybe it's because of the red element in the brown colour.

     

    The stained ash picture you have shown with the black pickguard does look better than either the black or white pickguard with the gold hardware you posted earlier. Somehow the combination of colours seem more in harmony. Shows how useful mocking up various pictures can be for this issue. I remember doing colour prints of pickguards and hardware and guitar bodies, cutting them out and trying to mix and match them when I did my Strat build - was very helpful but needed a lot of consideration before reaching a decision.

  • MegiMegi Posts: 7,206Member
    Originally Posted by Mark P:

    The darker the stain if it's brown in colour the less the gold hardware seems to work it seems.

     

    On your swamp ash strat the natural body colour has a hint of the golden to it and the hardware seems like an extension of it. With darker brown it doesn't seem to work so well - odd because gold and black go very well together. Maybe it's because of the red element in the brown colour.

     

    The stained ash picture you have shown with the black pickguard does look better than either the black or white pickguard with the gold hardware you posted earlier. Somehow the combination of colours seem more in harmony. Shows how useful mocking up various pictures can be for this issue. I remember doing colour prints of pickguards and hardware and guitar bodies, cutting them out and trying to mix and match them when I did my Strat build - was very helpful but needed a lot of consideration before reaching a decision.

    Appreciate your thoughts Mark, thank you. What you say pretty much exactly mirrors my own conclusions - great minds again eh?

  • MegiMegi Posts: 7,206Member

    Just (finally) ordered the neck - one of these:

     

    http://www.axecaster.co.uk/ind...&products_id=152

     

    ...hope it turns out to be a good move! In the end, the birdseye maple fancy one, though nice, was just not quite what I wanted looks-wise, and the extra cost did also have to be taken into account. Pretty sure I'm going for that clean, classic kind of look, as in the last picture above. image

  • dharma66dharma66 Posts: 829Member

    The satin finish looks very nice on that!

     

    Lookijg forwards to watching this come together...

  • JockoJocko Posts: 7,107Member, Moderator

    Somehow I have managed to overlook this blog. Neck should do the job.  I like my MightyMite necks.

  • MegiMegi Posts: 7,206Member

    It doesn't look bad I agree, though more of a matt to my eyes - but photos in adverts are so difficult to judge from I find. I think the quality should be decent though, and I like the 9.5" radius and 22 jumbo fret specs. Ticks more of the boxes than anything else I could find at that kind of price - hope the post can get it to me before Christmas! image

  • MegiMegi Posts: 7,206Member
    Originally Posted by Jocko:

    Somehow I have managed to overlook this blog. Neck should do the job.  I like my MightyMite necks.

    I did notice your own successful use of these necks on your builds Jocko! image

  • lancpudnlancpudn Posts: 1,393Member

    Those look like great necks Megi, I've never played a Mighty Mite neck but read great reviews on their quality, I bid on a used mighty mite Stratocaster neck on ebay that had a little wear when I was doing my blue strat project, in the end it went for £85

  • MegiMegi Posts: 7,206Member

    Neck has arrived this morning. image It fits (!) and seems pretty decent, will get a new blog post with more details and some pics up soon. But I've seen enough to know I made a good choice, and I should say good service and communication from Axecaster also - always a bit wary of buying from untried sources, but they've done good, especially to get the neck to me so quickly at Christmas. image

Sign In or Register to comment.