Late Night DIY: Setting Up a Guitar Made of Leftover Parts

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My handle, Stratkat, should tell you what guitar I play the most. I have been in the market for a rosewood fingerboard Strat to complement my MIA maple board Strat. When I tried this Strat at Orcoast Music, I had to have it.

1John, the owner and guitar tech, put this Strat together out of parts he had laying around the shop, something he does now and then when he has the time. I’m not really a fan of the HSS Strat, but this one is not made by Fender so the sound is a little different than the Fender HSS, and just different enough from my main guitar that it was interesting.

John doesn’t do much of a setup on these guitars, preferring to wait until they’re sold before putting in the time. They are playable but they are much like the way the guitars come out of a factory. They need TLC.

String buzz was pretty strong on this guitar. Looking at the various pics will give you clue as to some of the reasons.

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Pic 3 is just weird. Usually, a black pickguard gets you a black spring cover. Since I take them off anyway I really don’t care, but it makes no sense to me.

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John must have 20 or 30 bodies hanging around in the back room. Too bad they get dinged up. In the future, I’ll show you how to fix those.

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Pic 5 is one of the things that sold me on this guitar. Fender is now making these themselves in the Select line.

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The neck is a Mighty Mite, constant 12″ radius neck. It plays very smoothly and feels great. They are licensed by Fender so the headstock is correct for a Strat.

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Pic 7 shows the misalignment of the neck in the pocket. As it turned out, that was the least of the problems I found when I tried to do a setup on it.

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Some people are still addicted to the five spring setup on the trem. To each his own but the guitar plays better with two or three. I have stated before that you will get maximum tone through to the body if you have the bridge down tight. That assumes you really don’t use the trem much, if at all. I have always been a 3 spring guy, but just recently went to the setup I show in Pic 11 and I like it better than my old second-and-fourth-springs-out setup.

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Pic 9 shows the guitar done. I had to shave the pocket down to get this neck to fit properly.

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Check out Pic 9a. The fingerboard is really thick which made the thickness of the neck too much for the pocket to accommodate properly. Add in that the neck had a slight “wow” in it… it was high at both ends so, no matter how you adjusted the truss rod, you still had buzzing on the 22nd fret. There was no way to get rid of it. The mounting, or the neck, had to change. Obviously, a little pocket tweaking took care of the problem and the neck is now sitting at Fender specs and plays very well.

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I’ll take you through the procedure in a future DIY. I didn’t take pics when I was doing it and I have the guitar together and want it to cook in to the right position (20 years in my opinion) before I take it apart again. Give me 2 to 3 weeks and I’ll have it ready for you guys to see. No power tools needed.

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I’ve detailed the Strat setup I use in previous DIY posts so Pic 10 (the bridge setup), Pic 11 (the trem) and Pic 12 (the bolt-on neck alignment) should be familiar. (Check out the gloss on that body in pic 10.)

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The purpose of this post was to show you that building a parts guitar isn’t a hard thing to do and can save you quite a bit of money if you’re on a budget. Now, if you buy all Fender parts, you can spend more than just buying a pre-built Strat, too. John had this one listed at $229.00. Most of his guitars go for over $500.00 so I got a bargain. A little internet shopping will get you some great prices on good quality components that will assemble into a great guitar.

I’ll be detailing the choices a little better for you in upcoming posts: What wood should you get for the body? Alder, basswood, poplar, maple or mahogany – just to name some of the choices. What about pickups? Prewired or not?

Stick around… there are some interesting things coming up.

Click here for more DIY articles from Doug Knight.

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Doug Knight

Our “Man on the Street” reporter, with his “What’s New in Music Stores?” series, resides in Coos Bay, OR. You can find him on Friday nights at The Small Events Center at OrCoast Music in Coos Bay.

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