The Ash Stratocaster. Finished specification.

SPECIFICATION

Body

  • Body: Swamp Ash – 2 piece, 1.74Kg
  • Body Shape: Vintage Stratocaster, by guitarandbassbuild.co.uk
  • Body Finish: Crimson Guitar Finishing Oil

Neck

  • Neck Shape: 1970’s, Large Headstock, 12″ Radius, Modern “C” Profile by northwestguitars.co.uk
  • Tuner Opening Diameter: 10mm (with nickel bushings custom drilled to suit tuners)
  • Number of Frets: 22
  • Fret Size: 2.6mm Medium Jumbo – Stoned and polished by hand
  • Position Inlays: Black dot
  • Fretboard Radius: 12″
  • Fretboard: Maple
  • Neck Material: 1 piece maple
  • Neck Finish: Nitrocellulose Gloss Lacquer – rubbed back to satin finish on rear of neck
  • Headstock Finish: Nitrocellulose Gloss Lacquer – Light Amber Tint
  • Nut Width: 1.650” (42 mm)
  • Scale Length: 25.5″ (64.8 cm)
  • Neck Relief: 0.010″ (0.25mm)
  • Strings – D’Addario, Nickel Wound – EXL140 – .010 .013 .017 .030 .042 .052
  • String Action at 17th Fret: Treble Side – 4/64″ (1.6mm), Bass side – 5/64″ (1.9mm)
  • Neck Plate: Genuine Fender “F’ – 4 Bolt, Chrome Neckplate

Electronics

  • Pickup Configuration: S/S/S
  • Body Shielding: Heavy grade, copper sheet, with conductive adhesive backing
  • Bridge Pickup: Ironstone “Platinum” Alnico V Stratocaster Bridge Pickup, 8.4K
  • Middle Pickup: Ironstone “Platinum” Alnico V Stratocaster Bridge Pickup, 7.4K
  • Neck Pickup: Ironstone “Platinum” Alnico V Stratocaster Bridge Pickup, 7.3K
  • Pickup Switching: 5-Position Blade, and additional 3-Position Toggle switch. Toggle off (Centre) – Position 1. Bridge Pickup, Position 2. Bridge and Middle Pickup, Position 3. Middle Pickup, Position 4. Middle and Neck Pickup, Position 5. Neck Pickup. Toggle Up (Neck) – Position 1. Bridge Parallel Neck (Gilmour Tone), Position 2. Bridge Parallel Middle Parallel Neck, Position 3. Neck Parallel Middle, Position 4. Neck Parallel Middle, Position 5. Neck Pickup. Toggle Down (Bridge) – Position 1. Bridge Pickup, Position 2. Bridge Pickup, Position 3. Bridge Serial Middle, Position 4. Middle Parallel Neck – all in series with Bridge, Position 5. Bridge Series Neck.
  • Controls: Master Volume, Tone 1. (Neck Pickup), Tone 2. (Middle Pickup).
  • Jack Socket: Mono socket
  • Pots: Ironstone, Gilmour Plate Assembly
  • Wiring: Ironstone, Gilmour Plate Assembly

Hardware

  • Hardware: Nickel/Chrome
  • Tuners: Genuine Fender Vintage Nickel Tuners with Logo (Gotoh Kluson Style)
  • Bridge: Callaham Vintage Stratocaster Style Tremolo with enhanced Vintage Block
  • Jack Plate: Fender Genuine Part – Chrome
  • String Nut: Bone
  • Switch Tip: Black plastic switch tip (with additional, plain steel, mini-toggle switch)
  • Tremolo Arm/Handle: Callaham ’64 Virtual Pop-In arm (4″ – Gilmour length)
  • Scratchplate: Genuine Fender – Black, 3-ply (BWB) – Aluminium Shielded
  • Pickup Covers: Black plastic
  • Rear Cover: Black, 3-ply (BWB)
  • Strap Buttons: Genuine Fender Vintage style, Nickel, with brown, recycled leather washers

Accessories

  • Guitar Strap – Souldier, Custom Series – “Greenwich” Yellow/Black – Recycled seatbelt with Vintage fabric – Black leather ends – Silver hardware
  • Fender, Pro Series Hardcase – Tweed
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I’ve had the Stratocaster plugged into my go-to amp for the last few weeks, (Custom rebuilt, hand-wired, Fender Blues Junior V3), and I’ve been picking it up and trying it out as much as I can. I haven’t had the time to do as much structured practice recently, but I’ve had a good few hours to try things out to see how the wood and strings have settled in.

Basically, the guitar plays as well as I could have expected. Checking over the neck geometry against basic Fender setup figures, I needed to loosen the truss rod by backing off about a quarter of a turn. That got me bang on the recommended 0.010″ (0.25mm) neck relief, and I ran over the string height and intonation checks again, to make the minor tweaks which were required in order to reset the action to vanilla Fender specification. Clearly, I’ve managed to stone the frets well enough, so there are no high spots. There’s little buzz in regular play with the action set at the Fender recommended 4/64″, (1.6mm), although I’m using a heavy bottom set of strings – so the bottom E appreciates a little more air. I’ve raised it by just under a quarter turn on the saddle screws. The neck is wide and flat – and with no sharp edges to the frets. It’s a decent action  – it seems enough to reassure and inspire confidence. The strings appear to have settled in, and there’s no apparent problems with tuning or intonation. The nitro finish on the headstock looks good – not as shiny as it could be, but it doesn’t telegraph too many polishing marks either. The satin nitro finish on the back of the neck is super smooth, and there’s no sign of the grabby, slight stickiness, that you sometimes get with a polyester finish. The simple oiled finish on the body has mellowed nicely – and tones with the slightly amber tint of the nitro. With the headstock echoing the honey tones, the overall finish looks simple but all the better for it. It’s harmonious, and the different components mostly look like they’re meant to go together. The body mattes down as it’s played and it picks up oil from my hands – but a light application of Renaissance Wax brings it right back to a nice sheen. The black hardware stands out in contrast with the wood tone and the darker figuring. For a first build – I’m really, really happy with this.

Like all my guitars – I like to pair it up with a good strap to finish it off. I like the vintage and decorative look of Souldier straps. I also like the way they use some reclaimed materials like seatbelts and vintage fabrics. They manufacture out of Chicago, and can be difficult to find sometimes, here in the UK – but gradually, I’ve been fitting out all my guitars with a Souldier strap. I’ve got a Yellow and black “Greenwich” pattern, which I’d originally bought to pair with my Sheraton. In my opinion, it’s much better suited to the new Stratocaster.

Sound-wise – it’s immense. The pickups are quite a bit hotter than standard Fender pickups, but the tones sound pretty authentic. The modifications provide the promised, distinctive David Gilmour flavoured tone – although I’ll probably need a few effects to nail it exactly. The extra bridge-as-series-switching offers a whole host of other, extremely useable and distinctive sounds. As usual, I like to set the guitar output at about 8 or 9 – with the amp set with the preamp gain high enough to offer a clean tone which skates on the edge of breakup, and with enough scope to let the valves do their job properly – adding that authentic, Bluesy character. The guitar doesn’t disappoint, and there looks like there’s plenty of scope to push it further.

In my very first session with the guitar, I find that the tremolo springs, (all five of which are installed, and stretched pretty much to maximum), are hugely resonant. In fact the whole guitar vibrates. Damping open strings and avoiding accidental string strikes becomes essential – too much so, in fact. There are way too many harmonics to keep under control – or maybe I just haven’t developed the skill yet. Anyway – the spring cover comes off, and I lay a piece of plastic foam, cut to size, into the cavity – sandwiching it between the strings and the cover. That has an immediate effect, and the guitar responds much more positively. In fact, it’s a massive improvement. With pickups this hot – I really don’t want too many harmonics messing up the clean tones. I take the opportunity to back the pickups down a touch, to make sure the dreaded “ice pick” top end doesn’t spoil the sound. The guitar still has plenty of sustain – it even feels “alive” when played acoustically. That’ll do nicely.

Things I’d do differently, or otherwise change? – Not much, to be entirely honest. I’m pretty much delighted with the results. Well – maybe a couple of things bug me slightly. If I’m really fussy – the grain on the front of the guitar, just above the scratchplate isn’t quite as consistent as the rest of the guitar. (I’m being really picky here. For the money, the body almost looks like a one piece, and it’s a nice piece of wood with no splits or troublesome endgrain). On the back of the guitar, the neck plate looks a little off centre – as though the through holes were routed ever-so-slightly off. There’s something just slightly out of line with the tremolo block fitting, within the through rout and spring recess. When the back plate is fitted centrally over the opening – leaving enough meat all around to screw the plate down securely – the openings in the plate for the string ball-ends, just don’t quite align with the holes in the tremolo block.

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It’s a minor annoyance. If I’d moved the plate to suit the block, it would have been touch and go for a couple of the screws. As it is – the plate will have to come off whenever I re-string. Or maybe it’ll just have to come off completely. Some people prefer it that way. It’s a minor inconvenience.

Inside, the tremolo cavity seems a little too close on one side for the tremolo block. OK, I’m not using the tremolo – so that doesn’t matter, but if I ever do unblock it, I might just have to check the block isn’t binding on that edge, and that it’s moving freely. It seemed to move OK when I first blocked it – but it needs to pivot freely, if it’s to work properly. If it comes down to it – it should be a relatively easy fix to rout out a bit of extra wood. One more minor thing? – If I get the chance, I’ll probably add a second string tree to keep the break angle of the strings at the nut consistent.

Otherwise, that’s about it. I’m going to have a lot of fun with this.

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