New Project. Gold-leafed Hardtail Stratocaster.

I managed to get a decent deal on another excellent alder body from guitarbuild.co.uk . This hardtail variant looked lost and lonely on the shelf, and I thought that the Reissue style, 2 piece body might just gild-up a treat. I’ve also had a few experiments with “High” or “Nashville” tuning in mind for a while now – and having a dedicated guitar, setup specifically for the task, seems logical enough. Gilding a high-strung guitar seems somewhat appropriate, too.

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Unboxing the hardtail body

With Nashville tuning – the four low strings, (E, A, D and G), are tuned up an octave – so you end up with six strings tuned like the high set of a 12 string guitar. The sound is in tune with a regular guitar, but it’s naturally higher in tone, and can be used to fill out the sound of guitar parts in production – in a really nice, chimey, mellifluous way. (Think of the high guitar riff in the intro to “Jumping Jack Flash” by the Rolling Stones).

Since you need specially wound, thinner strings to achieve the higher pitch – and since I can also forsee potential tension problems with the usual Stratocaster tremolo setup – I think this is an ideal prospect for a Hardtail Strat. The through-body stringing might change the character of the sound a little, but from the front, the actual bridge plate won’t look much different than on a standard Strat, and the high stringing won’t have to deal with the setup of a tremolo.

Custom Shop Stratocaster, and the main inspiration behind this build

I always envisaged that my previous experiments in gilding might end up looking a bit like the example above. I really like the figuring and “texture” on the gilded surface – however that’s actually something that’s usually frowned upon by serious gilders. I think I might be able to achieve something similar by draping sheets of fake gold leaf, and applying them using an oil medium, or “mixtion”. Fake gold leaf sheets are much easier to handle than real gold. With real gold – if you so much as touch the fine sheets, they just disintegrate and turn into dust. You need special brushes to handle loose gold – or you need to use transfer gold, which can only really be laid flat. Imitation gold sheets are much thicker, and can be picked up and literally draped into place by hand. Furthermore, imitation leaf, “Schlag” or “Dutch” metal, actually requires a final lacquer finish – to help stop the metal oxidising and gradually discolouring. I always prefer the overall finish and feel of a rich, liquid gloss lacquer – but have been dismayed previously, to see just how much “fire” was lost from 24 carat leaf – even when applying just a thin coat of clearcoat. With an imitation gold finish – I can concentrate on the decorative aspects of the leaf, and finish the guitar with a glossy lacquer coat, just as I like it.

For the rest of the build – I have a spare, all-maple Fender “Classic Player” neck, and a set of “Classic 50’s” pickups already loaded onto a Fender single-ply, vintage style, parchment pickguard – as above. Some aged white plastic covers and knobs – together with chrome hardware – I’m hoping the finished instrument will look, and sound, “golden”.

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The chosen neck fits well

So first things first. The body, as supplied, is really nicely finished – I think maybe 400-500 grit. Close inspection reveals absolutely no dints or scuffs or anything out of sorts. All the curves look good, and the edge contours all check out. Nice, gradual radii. The neck fits really well. Not quite as tight as some I’ve had – but there’s hardly any movement at all, and the joint at the junction of neck and heel lines up perfectly. I’ll be polishing up the body in preparation for gilding – so I can move right along and begin the next stage.

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