Matt’s unicorn was to again own a Blackout Strat like the one from his youth. Could the Unbrokenstring Crew make an equal-or-better unicorn?
The body is a Korean Fender Strat with genuine wear. The new neck is in superb shape. This will be the basis for a cool project, particularly since modern parts are available to upgrade this guitar.
The neck comes off and will be updated separately. Say ‘Goodbye’ to the Squire neck plate.
The dot inlays in this neck are really spectacular.
The pictures do not do justice to the spectacular mother of pearl in this fret board.
First, we’ll clean up a couple of handling skuffs that occurred while this project was coming together.
Tinted polyurethane, various grades of fine sandpaper, and a buff polish gets us back to where we belong.
A set of vintage tuners will be fitted to this head. Here, we establishing the center line of the tuners.
Screws for the tuners will go where the scratches cross.
The pin vise is pressed into service to bore the screw holes.
This drill bit will be used as a gauge to verify the diameter of the tuner holes in the neck.
Sure enough, this neck was pre-drilled for 3/8ths inch bushings.
The bushings are fitted tightly into the neck. This is essential for good tone, as the bushing supports the capstan, which is one end of the support structure that establishes string tension. If these are loose, your strings won’t work very well.
Turning our attention to the body, we find that the ground wire was not properly soldered to the string claw.
The interior routes of the body were painted with a conductive paint. This just won’t do for the Unbrokenstring crew. This screw ties the conductive paint to the rest of the ground circuit. We can do better.
The output jack is liberated from the stamped ‘football’ socket plate. We will rework the wiring with heat shrink support in order to support the wires and make it more durable. And the Unbrokenstring Crew will redo the soldering job, because We Own It if it fails.
The neck pocket must be square and clean. Any debris or finish will interfere with the transfer of mechanical vibrations from the neck. For maximum sustain, we need to take this pocket down to the bare wood.
This side view shows that the corners are square and clean.
Copper foil will be used to create the cavity shielding. We’re starting with the hard stuff, the output jack route.
All of the interior routes are lined with copper. The seams are tacked together with solder.
This is the bottom side of the new pick guard, also made in Korea. The aluminum foil must go.
All of the holes will be de-burred with this tool.
We will have a nice flat surface to which the copper foil will adhere without voids.
Foiling the pick guard takes just a few minutes! Again, the seams are tacked together with solder to form a plane.
The foil is trimmed away from the edges with an Exacto knife.
This build will use these pickups.
This set will be a very cool foundation for this instrument.
The controls are mounted right to the copper. True to Fender specs, we are using surgical tubing for pickup springs.
The pick guard assembly is done, complete with Orange Drop tone cap.
Here is another view. All that is missing is the output jack wires and the bridge ground wire.
Here, the body is going together. The output jack wiring and bridge ground wire is routed through the body and soldered to the pick guard assembly.
This workmanship turned out pretty. New Old Stuff (NOS) push-back wire insulation is used to complete the vibe.
The neck gets a little prep before the strings are installed.
Remember the Squire neck plate? This is the replacement.
This new neck has a new nut, which needs to be slotted and filed. String spacing is established here.
Here, the slots are taken to the proper depth, calculated beforehand. The stackup of feeler gauge blades establishes the bottom of all of the string slots. When each file touches the feeler gauge blades, we’re done.
The string slot depth is where we want it. Next is to file off the top of the nut and polish it, which has been shown in other blog posts. When this is finished, the strings will protrude just above the top of the nut.
Now this is beginning to look like a guitar. This is set up as a ‘hard tail’ so no tremolo bar is needed, but one is supplied.
We lost Matt somewhere in the bowels of Guitar Center.
This message came into the Unbrokenstring Global Command Center after this guitar made it back to the rehearsal room:
“BTW been meaning to tell you, OUTSTANDING job you did with the recreation of Crow’s Fender Blackout Strat!
“I think can say, without any hyperbole whatsoever, that just plugged straight into an amp with no tweaking whatsoever, that is the BEST SOUNDING GUITAR I HAVE EVER HEARD IN MY LIFE.
“Completely outshines even the original Blackout he was trying to unbury.
“We’re still absolutely dumbstruck by clarity and full tonal range of it. Truly amazing work, sir!
“Without question, your finest creation to date.”
Thanks for reading all the way to the end!
CONTACT – David Latchaw EE