- Body: 2003 Fender “Classic 50’s” Stratocaster Body. (MIM)
- Body Tonewood: Alder
- Body Colour: Dakota Red
- Body Finish: Gloss Polyester / Urethane lacquer over colour coat
- Neck: 2019 Fender “Player” neck. Modern “C” shape
- Neck Material: 1 piece maple
- Fretboard: Maple
- Fretboard Radius: 9.5″
- Neck Finish: Gloss urethane finish
- Number of Frets: 22, Medium Jumbo fretwire
- Position Inlays: Black dot
- Nut Width: 1.650” (42 mm)
- Scale Length: 25.5″ (64.8 cm)
- Neck Relief: 0.008″ (0.203mm)
- 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″ (1.8mm)
- Neck Plate: Reproduction, Stamped, 4 Bolt, Chrome Neckplate. Serial #33023
- Pickup Configuration: S/S/S
- Body Shielding: Heavy grade, copper sheet, with conductive adhesive backing
- Bridge Pickup: Bareknuckle Apache, Single Coil , Alnico 3 Poles, 6.4K
- Middle Pickup: Bareknuckle Apache, Single Coil , Alnico 3 Poles, 5.6K
- Neck Pickup: Bareknuckle Apache, Single Coil , Alnico 3 Poles, 5.6K
- Pickup Switching: CRL, Sprung 5-Position Blade – Position 1. Bridge Pickup, Position 2. Bridge and Middle pickup, Position 3. Middle pickup, Position 4. Middle and Neck pickup, Position 5. Neck pickup. (Standard Modern Stratocaster)
- Controls: “Gibson style 50’s wiring modification” – Master Volume, Tone 1. (Neck Pickup), Tone 2. (Middle Pickup).
- Jack Socket: Switchcraft Mono socket
- Pots: Volume – 1 x CTS Custom Taper “SuperPot” 280k, Tone – 2 x CTS TVT (“True Vintage Taper”) 250k
- Tone Capacitor: Fender 0.1 µF “Phonebook” Reproduction, Paper in Oil Capacitor
- Wiring: Cloth covered, 22 gauge
- Hardware: Genuine Fender, Gold plated screw set, (with stainless steel alternatives for screws not included in standard set)
- Tuners: Fender, Vintage Kluson style tuners (Gold)
- Bridge: Fender Original USA Vintage series bridge, (Gold) with upgraded steel sustain block. Fender, Vintage style saddles, (Gold)
- Jack Plate: Fender “Boat” Jack plate (Gold)
- String Nut: TusqXL, Teflon coated nut (Black)
- Switch Tip: Aged White, Fender “Pure Vintage”
- Tremolo Arm/Handle: Hank Marvin, VML “Easy Mute” tremolo arm – 130mm, with Custom, anodized aluminium tip. (Gold plated)
- Scratchplate: Genuine Fender “Pure Vintage” – Parchment, single ply, with 50’s style aluminium control shield plate
- Pickup Covers: Aged White, Fender “Pure Vintage”
- Rear Cover: Parchment, Fender “Pure Vintage”
- Strap Buttons: Genuine Fender Vintage style (Gold), with white felt washers
- Guitar Strap – Souldier, 50’s style – Black on Black – Padded Saddle strap – Silver hardware
- Fender G&G Deluxe Tweed hard case – (“Centre pocket”, late 1954 “American Vintage” 2014 reproduction)
A 2003 Fender body, which was first purchased as a basis for further experiments in gilding, actually became more of an experiment in upcycling. The few dints which, presumaby, had originally led to the body being parted from its’ original neck, turned out to be so slight – that I couldn’t, in the end, bring myself to “scrap” the body and gild over that rich Dakota Red finish. With the abandonment of my first gilding project leading to a surplus of gold hardware in the parts drawer – a chance encounter with a Hank Marvin documentary offered a few, co-incidental and timely, re-styling suggestions. The original Fender “Classic 50’s” specification gave me a strong starting point, and I was able to build on it, in order to put together a very playable and attractive combination of Vintage style, and more modern components.
I originally sourced a Vintage style, 7.5 inch radius neck for the project and it came, already fitted out, with a quality set of chrome, Kluson style tuners. My abandoned Gold Stratocaster project had originally been put together using a more modern specification, Fender “Player” neck, to which I’d already fitted Gold Fender tuners. Swapping the tuners over was an option – but removing bushings from headstocks is fraught with danger, and in the end – without a special piece of kit to help – it just wasn’t worth the risk. Once I’d decided to use the gold hardware for this Classic 50’s rebuild – it became obvious that a straight neck swap was going to be the most sensible option.
Styling-wise – perhaps there’s not so much difference. The overhanging lip at the 22nd fret is the most obvious giveaway, but even the headstock Fender logo is in Vintage “Spaghetti” style. The main difference is actually in the fretboard radius and in the section profile. Despite my fondness of, and familiarity with, the original 7.25 inch radius – the 9.5 inch alternative does, in fact, seem to have a few advantages. The frets are a little fatter and wider and, in combination with the slightly more level board and deep “C”-shaped profile – it makes the neck feel solid, modern and extremely playable. I also think it helps stop the odd bent note from choking where, perhaps, a slight fret-level might be on the cards. Certainly – note choking has been an occasional problem on the odd Mexican Fender neck I’ve come across – however, in this case – the “fresh from the factory” setup seemed perfectly flat and actually helped me drop the string action to well below usual Fender tolerances.
The only minor problem I had with the neck from original, was the, slightly sharp, feel of the fret ends. I’ve read about this as a general criticism of some of the MIM necks of the last decade, but it’s easily remedied, and if you do the work yourself, to your own satisfaction, it’s a great way to make sure you get the setup right for you, personally.
The gold hardware certainly looks good on the Dakota Red, and the Hank Marvin inspired colour scheme, Red / White / Gold works really well with some Aged White pickup covers. In the end – the main item of Hank styling was, in fact, the VML “Easy-Mute” tremolo arm. I was glad to find them still in production. Thanks to Ian St.John White at VML. The inclusion on this build certainly helps push the vintage credentials of this time-travelling mongrel. I’m still on the hunt for the odd gold screw to match the screw-set, (I can’t find those countersunk, pickup adjustment screws anywhere), so they’re stainless steel, for now.
As usual, I tried to take the opportunity – as with all of my builds – to make a few tweaks here and there to improve, where possible, the standard specification. A heavy sustain block and Teflon coated nut will, hopefully, help me get the absolute best out of the, otherwise stock, Fender USA tremolo. It’ll be interesting to see how the different geometry of the VML arm helps me incorporate a well set up tremolo, into my usual playing style.
Additionally – taking Bareknuckle’s, “Apache”, single-coil pickups – (a slightly overwound, reworking of a Vintage Stratocaster set) – and incorporating them with a “Gibson”-style, “50’s wiring modification”, offers me a chance to experiment with a slightly different sonic pallette – albeit one based around traditional, Vintage style” tones. The Apache pickups sound immense – in fact I have to tweak the original mounting heights, (especially the neck pickup), to balance them out nicely. They really suit my Custom FBJ, and break up nicely into Blues territory. Rolling back the volume a little, however, brings out the traditional bell chime, more expected of a 50’s single coil. My usual, heavy bottom string-set works well with the usual, Fender “scoop” tones. There’s plenty of chime on top, and the wound bass strings are simply “twang-tastic”. I note that Hank Marvin preferred a wound third string on his setup. I might give that a go one day to see how it affects the overall tonal balance.
The old-style 0.1mfd Capacitor means that the tone pots do tend to get dark – fast. In fact, rolling off the treble on the middle pickup too much, acts more like a volume cut. This is the kind of setup where you find your sweet spot, and then hold it right there for the entire gig. Maybe that’s what it is. Vintage Strats don’t necessarily have an endless array of sonic possibilites, but they do what they do, well. That suits me fine – I’ve got other guitars if I just want to fiddle with the controls. This one is, very much, built for playing – and it’s going to get a lot of that over the next few weeks.