The Ash Stratocaster. Part Two.

There have been about four coats of the Crimson Finishing Oil in total now, and the bottle’s just about run out. With nice warm temperatures to help the oil soak in and cure between coats, the result is a nice, light covering which, nevertheless, seems to have penetrated well. The effect is consistent, and the grain seems well filled.

I applied the later coats of oil with finer and finer grades of grit – but it got to a point at about 600 or 800 where the paper didn’t really key any more. The best piece of advice is to make sure you get all of the excess off, and to keep rubbing the finish in until you’re sure more isn’t going to leak out. Check all of the drill holes – even when it’s been left for an hour or two. It’s amazing how much keeps seeping out. The later coats don’t use half the amount of oil as the earlier coats, since the wood is sealing, and is less absorbent.

Once the oil finsih on the body is completely dry, all the body needs is a rub over with Renaissance Wax. This is a secret from my picture framing work. The wax rubs on – a fine coat is all that is needed. On a warm day like today, the wax spreads super easy and dries quite quickly on the surface. All that’s required is a buff over with a soft, lint-free cloth, and the result is a shiny, waterproof coat. The finish can be re-applied as required – so it should be easy to keep this guitar looking in good condition.

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Now it’s time to look and see what things might turn out like with the hardware in place. The strap lugs are drilled and screwed into place. The pickguard, bridge and jack socket are test fitted, and then the screw holes are marked and drilled. All the hardware components are genuine Fender parts. The pickguard is a three ply, black-white-black plate – so I’m aiming to have the finished article looking a little like the Fender Stratocaster Lites, from a few years back. All the screws are quality, stainless steel fixings.

The tremolo bridge is a Callaham Vintage bridge. As I’ve said in previous posts – my general philosophy is to buy the best quality parts, wherever possible, from the off. This is all about building my own ideal guitars, and if by any chance I should fail in the process, (and let’s face it – it’s more than likely), then I’ll aim to move the components on to other, better finished projects, in the future. I’d rather buy quality components which might hold some value on their own, over cheap parts which will probably fail.

The Callaham bridge is a nicely put together piece of hardware. The string saddles are well made, and the whole thing feels much more solid than a lot of the cheaper bridges available – some of which are used on even genuine Fender guitars. The real difference is in the block which sits in the recess cut dead centre in the body. I have a bridge kicking around the workshop from, I think, a Mexican strat – maybe a Squier. Let’s try that against the Callaham on the scales for comparison.

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You can immediately see the difference. The Callaham is the second of the two – weighing in at 368g. Just over double the mass. You can see how the block is much more of a chunk. It’s also made out of solid steel – rather than the cheaper, alloy version. The intention is to have that mass at the heart of the contact between the strings and the reverberating wooden body of the guitar. There are other refinements too – such as the way the fastening screw holes are sunk to allow the bridge to move more freely when operating the tremolo, but for me it’s about trying to get a solid base to bring out the sound in this piece of wood – all in all it’s a better quality component, and one which I hope will play a large part in creating a truly unique voice for this project build.

I have obtained a pre-made, Stratocaster type neck. It’s certainly not a Fender – but the construction looks OK. There’s probably no point splashing out on a real quality neck until I know better, what I’m doing. The neck is a basic, all-maple construction, with a thin, nitro, clear coat finish. I’ve rubbed the nitro back on the neck, and the rear of the headstock to a nice satin finish. It’s super smooth and silky. One of the problems with a polyester finish on a guitar neck is the apparent “stickiness”. I’m hoping the nitro will stay silky longer. It certainly feels a lot smoother than a poly finish to start off with. The neck is already engineered to standard, Fender dimensions – but I need to dry-fit the neck in the neck pocket, just to make sure the fit is OK. It’s not the tightest – but it isn’t exactly loose either. Looks like it will do me for now.

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