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Author Topic: Customising Squier Stratocaster  (Read 13876 times)

Offline Hinfrance

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Customising Squier Stratocaster
« on: March 01, 2014, 05:26:15 PM »
Well, you know how it is . .

I've had my stock HSS Affinity Stratocaster for a year now. I still love the way it plays, but . . I'm not so impressed by the electronics. Fine to start with, but now, when up against my Gibson equipped Prophecy, sounding a little lame.

So, after several minutes of deliberation I have decided to give the guitar a couple of little tweaks. The process started today with ordering a set of Wilkinson hot single coils and all the pots, capacitors, switches and knobs to go with a new scratch plate. I intend to keep the original HSS plate ready wired to either go back in if I completely muck up the new set up, or perhaps to sell if it turns out that I am a guitar customising genius.

I have also ordered a set of Elixir strings and, possibly the most important modification, a Wilkinson billet bridge. AFAIK all the Fender and Squier bridges have cast tremolo  blocks; the Wilkinson one is solid steel and should™ give more sustain.

The stuff should be here in about a week. Updates will be posted (there is no escape!)



Offline Scarebear

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Re: Customising Squier Stratocaster
« Reply #1 on: March 02, 2014, 11:44:51 AM »
I look forward to the updates! I love a good guitar modification story :)

I butchered a very cheap Telecaster copy using some Wilkinson parts (the butchering was my doing, not the Wilkinson parts). It was still one of the most rewarding guitar experiences I've had to date. Hopefully yours (second time around it seems) will be as rewarding.
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Offline Mick

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Re: Customising Squier Stratocaster
« Reply #2 on: March 02, 2014, 11:54:47 AM »
Also looking forward to hearing how it goes Howard.  Are you wiring it up yourself, or are you buying a wiring kit. 

Hope it works out as intended, or better even. Keep us posted.
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Offline Hinfrance

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Re: Customising Squier Stratocaster
« Reply #3 on: March 02, 2014, 12:28:01 PM »
I look forward to the updates! I love a good guitar modification story :)

I butchered a very cheap Telecaster copy using some Wilkinson parts (the butchering was my doing, not the Wilkinson parts). It was still one of the most rewarding guitar experiences I've had to date. Hopefully yours (second time around it seems) will be as rewarding.

The bits should be here by the end of the week, fingers crossed I'll start next weekend. If all goes well I might buy myself a Thomann SG kit just for the craic.

This will be my first real stab at this. The Prophesy comes with Gibson 490H and 498T pickups as standard. I've had to resolder some dry joints in a couple of cheapies, but this time (in answer to Mick's question) I'll be doing the whole job with components.

Offline Mick

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Re: Customising Squier Stratocaster
« Reply #4 on: March 03, 2014, 06:41:44 PM »
So H, you're going to get rid of the humbucker in favour of a single coil, that'll give you a bit more twang mate. It'll be interesting to compare the difference, which I should imagine will be quite a lot. 

Look forward to hearing about the results.  :tup:

 
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Offline Hinfrance

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Re: Customising Squier Stratocaster
« Reply #5 on: March 04, 2014, 09:23:09 AM »
That's right Mick, I'm going for three hot single coils with 250k tone controls to smooth out the inevitable extra twangingness.

I have in the Prophesy a guitar with classic humbuckers, so I thought it would be fun to get the strat in some kind of traditional set up.  I am having a trawl around the interweb for a wiring diagram that will enable me to have a tone control on the middle pickup, hopefully in parallel with the neck pickup, but if I can't find anything suitable I'll have to stick to the standard wiring. One problem I have is that our local electronics components shop closed and I have to mail order all of the bits that I need.

Both sets of stuff have shipped, so just watching the post box now.  :tup:

Offline Hinfrance

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Re: Customising Squier Stratocaster
« Reply #6 on: March 06, 2014, 03:18:36 PM »
First lot of stuff (from Thomann) has arrived - the scratch plate, pots, capacitors, 5 way switch and various mounting screws and springs.

Just waiting on the Wilkinson stuff from Vanson guitars. Fingers are crossed.

Offline Scarebear

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Re: Customising Squier Stratocaster
« Reply #7 on: March 07, 2014, 10:13:33 AM »
First lot of stuff (from Thomann) has arrived - the scratch plate, pots, capacitors, 5 way switch and various mounting screws and springs.

Just waiting on the Wilkinson stuff from Vanson guitars. Fingers are crossed.

It's looking like your weekend could be exciting ;)
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Offline Hinfrance

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Re: Customising Squier Stratocaster
« Reply #8 on: March 07, 2014, 07:45:08 PM »
First lot of stuff (from Thomann) has arrived - the scratch plate, pots, capacitors, 5 way switch and various mounting screws and springs.

Just waiting on the Wilkinson stuff from Vanson guitars. Fingers are crossed.

It's looking like your weekend could be exciting ;)

More like scary!  :legit:

Offline Scarebear

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Re: Customising Squier Stratocaster
« Reply #9 on: March 08, 2014, 03:50:44 AM »
More like scary!  :legit:

That's my perfect weekend! ;) I'm sure you'll do fine and end up with another quality instrument that is not just a store bought guitar. We know that makes it worth it.
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Offline Hinfrance

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Re: Customising Squier Stratocaster
« Reply #10 on: March 10, 2014, 08:38:11 AM »
The weekend was very busy socially, so not much progress has been made. This is partly because I was also installing a replacement active circuit in my HBZ-2005 bass. That task took a lot longer than I would have liked on account of having to troubleshoot why the new circuit wasn't working. In the end I had to remove it and reinstall the old crackly circuit while I get the faulty new unit replaced.

The Strat now has the Wilkinson tail piece installed. This is slightly deeper than the Fender original and I am not sure that it floats properly. Difficult to tell without the strings on. I have also loaded the pickups, pots and 5 way switch into the new pickguard, which inevitably, does not line up with the existing mounting holes.

I'm going to try to wire the Strat pickguard today, using traditional wiring. It certainly looks a lot simpler than the bass active circuit.

Further bulletins will be issued as the project continues. When I'm done I'll post a what I did wrong report along with some pictures of the errors as they occured ;)

Offline Hinfrance

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Re: Customising Squier Stratocaster
« Reply #11 on: March 10, 2014, 02:39:20 PM »
It's done (ish).

Just finished - I haven't put the Elixirs on it as I wanted to make sure it worked first. Haven't done the action, but have done the intonation and adjusted the pickup heights.

Oh, my word it sounds deliciously dirty with Lidl's £1 a set strings on it. Loving it. I'll work on the 'what I done' story and hopefully post it with pictures by the end of the week. The pots from Thomann are a revelation - beautifully quite, smooth and just wonderful.

Offline Scarebear

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Re: Customising Squier Stratocaster
« Reply #12 on: March 12, 2014, 11:26:38 AM »
Very cool. Congrats. I look forward to the full run-down and the photos. I'm envious.
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Offline Hinfrance

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Re: Customising Squier Stratocaster
« Reply #13 on: March 12, 2014, 03:15:57 PM »
All done now.

Here's a brief history of the job, which actually pretty easy (compared to rewiring the faulty active circuit on my 5 string bass - still not working, long story):

Here are the bits to be installed:



That is:
1) New Wilkinson 6 point vintage floating tremolo bridge, with all hardware.
2) Set of Wilkinson hot single coils, with all fittings
3) 3x Goldo 250k pots and Harley Benton knobs
4) 1 Goldo 22nf capacitor (the second one in the picture is a spare - they can be easily damaged)
5) 1 Harley Benton white pickguard
6) Fender 5 way switch
7) Some new strings

I had decided to take a gamble on there being enough room in the space that the humbucker had occupied to allow for the angled single coil to fit without having to rout out the body any more. It paid off :)

The first things were to remove the rear body cover to allow access to the tremolo springs and mechanism for later. Then off came the strings:

   

Just about everything is attached to the body by screws, it's just a matter of unscrewing all of them carefully. Clearly the ones holding the bridge are rather firmly inserted. On mine the bridge had been completely screwed down flat at the factory, so there was in effect no tremolo. Removing the springs can be done by either the cunning deployment of a slotted screwdriver and careful leverage, or by partly undoing the spring retaining plate at the neck end and just lifting the springs from the bridge block.

     

In the first picture above the old pickguard had had the jack connections and the two earth wires, one from the body cavity, one from the bridge spring retainer, removed. The second image shows the body cavities with the original bridge still in place.

The next job was to replace the bridge. The Wilkinson bridge is somewhat heavier than the stock item, and also just a few millimetres deeper. It also did not quite align with the six existing screw holes, despite having some offset built in through the use of oval rather than round screw holes. It was, however, only a millimetre or so out of line and it still floats properly. This video from the Fender University was invaluable. How to install a classic bridge is from around 3:12 in the video.

That done, it was on to the wiring. I searched internet before ordering my bits and bobs and selected a vintage 50's wiring diagram from the choices that popped up on google.



Having mounted all of the relevant articles I fired up the soldering iron and set to. It really was very simple to do, although with the spare bits of wire just scrunched up in a bundle behind the pots it does look a bit of a mess. At this stage I tested the newly wired pickguard to make sure that there was a signal by tapping each of the pickups with a screwdirver in turn and with the selector in each position to make sure that it was all wired up the right way. Note that the Goldo pots are rather larger than the originals, but they do (just about) fit in the body cavity. Unfortunately the new pickguard screw holes did not line up with the old ones, so I cut down some matchsticks coated in wood glue and filled the errant holes before carefully drilling the replacement ones in the right place.

   

After that it was just a matter of screwing it all back together, restringing, setting the action, adjusting the intonation - in short basic set up. I have now restrung again with the set of Elixir strings.

   

Outcome, much vintage jangliness but with hot pickups giving a wide variety of tones and a cheapo Strat that can really drive the amplifier. Overall what I would call well worth doing, and all for less than £80.  :tup:

Offline Mick

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Re: Customising Squier Stratocaster
« Reply #14 on: March 13, 2014, 09:18:57 PM »
Nice job Howard. Looks like you had fun doing this. And the result was worth all the effort by the sound of it.  Must say the guitar looks fab too.  :tup:

I'm guessing you won't be so nervous when you start your next project, (yes there will be more now you've got the bug) lol..  :D

Thanks for sharing the pics as well, they give a good idea of the various upgrade steps.  8)
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