The Left-handed Squire Stratocaster Gets Upgrades

Lindsey wanted new Texas Special pickups installed in her beautiful Squire Strat. While we’re at it, we’ll upgrade the tuning machines to Fender Locking tuners. Note that this is a left-handed instrument.

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Name, rank. and serial number, please! As we disassemble this instrument, we will see that this Squire is just a little bit nicer than the instruments coming from China.

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This is a good picture of ‘break angle,’ where the strings are stretched over the nut.

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I just love the red pick guard with the red burst finish! The strings are off.

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Lindsey purchased a new set of Fender Locking tuning machines. The original tuners are coming off.

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This is a picture of a pile of retired Squire tuning machines.

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Oops. These new Fender Locking tuners use a little different mounting pattern than the Squire tuners they replace.

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Little dimples next the the dowel pockets show where the new dowel pockets need to be bored. So there IS a difference between the Squire tuners and the ‘similar’ but full-sized Fender Locking tuners.

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The new tuners are lined up with a steel rule, to get them absolutely straight.

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After plugging the original holes with ash and boring the new dowel holes, the locking tuners are in place. No one can tell now that any gun-smithing was performed. They look pretty spiff!

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True to its brand, this neck plate says “Squire.”

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To remove the pick guard, the neck must be removed. Why? Because the neck has an ‘overhanging’ fret board.

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What is a fret board overhang? This.

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The Unbrokenstring Crew will augment the shielding around the electronics by adding copper foil to the body routes and the bottom of the pick guard.

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The ‘ground’ wire to the conductive shielding paint is removed so that the copper foil can be installed underneath it.

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This triggers my Obsessive/Compulsive Disorder (OCD.) Did someone add a center spring and just push the black ground wire out of the way?

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This film tone capacitor is just fine for this application.

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The output jack is liberated from the ‘football’ plate. The jack and cable will be removed from the body entirely.

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This neck pocket is VERY clean and true, and requires no remedial work to remove finish or glue. This is NOT a plywood guitar! It appears to me that a black Magic Marker pen was used to color the corners near the neck to cover the raw wood.

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The CNC machine cut one direction around the cavities of this body, causing tear outs in the wood grain. Then, they were just painted-over. This needs to be cleaned up and smoothed out to give the copper tape a proper surface to which to adhere properly.

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Here we see some router tear-out because of the conflict between the rotation of the router and the grain of the wood. The router bit edges tear and lift the grain up and away from the body. When routing by hand, the correct procedure is the change the direction from which the router approaches this part of the wood. But you can’t tell a CNC machine to stop and work backwards. Well, you can, but only if the programmer is conscientious, rather than cost-conscious.

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The white material is left-over polishing compound, used to buff the finish.

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With considerable application of elbow grease, the body routes are clean and smooth. The black paint is electrically conductive and helps a bit to shield the electronics. But we can do better.

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For some reason, I always start the copper foiling process in the output jack route. Note the tabs that will later connect to the foil on the underside of the pick guard.

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The body cavity routes are foiled at last!

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Turning our attention to the electronics, we remove the nylon tie wrap which bundles all the wiring under the pick guard.

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The bridge and neck pickups from Squire are exactly the same, and have white wire insulation for the signal. The center pickup wire has yellow insulation.

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The Squire pickups are removed and bagged. Perhaps someone can use some new Squire Strat pickups in their FrankenStrat Build.

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This aluminum foil sheet will be replaced with copper tape. I have no idea what the “H” stands for. Is it an “I”? Or The One?

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We can still see the original protective sheet that covered the pick guard under the knobs.

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This aluminum sheet is easily removed with a fingernail.

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To save my fingernail, a tooth brush handle is pressed into service as a scraper. This foil is mostly paper, with an inconsequential layer of aluminum over it.

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The remaining tape adhesive is dissolved. This chemical wash treatment will leave a surface on this pick guard to which the copper tape will securely adhere.

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The pick guard gets the copper foil treatment. The holes in the pick guard are cleared of copper, and the strips of copper are tack-soldered together to form one continuous shield.

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To remove the pickups from the pick guard, the wires that were soldered to the switch are clipped. Then the remaining wire ends are de-soldered. However, this switch was broken (probably at the factory) and the terminal was broken off. The wire was soldered directly to the printed circuit board upon which the switch is built.

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Enough of the circuit board trace remains so that a solder connection can be made.

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The new Texas Special pickups are the correct size. However, the holes in the Squire Strat pick guard are sized for the more diminutive Squire Strat pickups. So, a little gun-smithing is in order.

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The pickups are installed and the pickup leads are dressed where they belong. We are ready for final wiring.

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Before we solder the pickup leads in place, let’s just see how these Texas Special pickups ohm out. The display on the ohmmeter is a little hard to read, but the neck pickup measures 7.02k ohms.

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The resistance of the middle pickup is 7.22k ohms.

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This is the Texas Special bridge pickup resistance.

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The jack is oriented in such a way that the contacts and the wiring cannot touch the copper foil shielding. If it does, the instrument can go mute.

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The wiring is fished back through the drilled holes in the body.

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Finally, my OCD itch is scratched. The claw ground wire is underneath ALL of the springs. This guitar is to be set up as a ‘hard tail’ e.g. the bridge is not floating but is pulled into a stationary position by spring tension.

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Here’s one last look at the electronics before the guitar goes back together.

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This finish and pick guard are just spectacular!

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With the strings off, it’s the perfect time to condition the fret board.

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Restring, setup, bring the pickup heights back to where they belong, and this beautiful guitar is ready to play!

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Thanks for reading all the way to the bottom!

CONTACT – David Latchaw EE
281-636-8626

Fender Blackout Strat Becomes Even More Classic(al)

The original neck on this MIM Black Strat was made from wood that tended to twist when the string tension varied, either because of temperature changes or when employing different string gauges. It’s now time to take this guitar to the next level, and make it an iconic Blackout Strat

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The neck will be retired to another instrument.

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This instrument was built in 2006, which happened to be the 60th anniversary of the founding of Fender Corporation.

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The neck is off and headed to its new home.

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David Gilmour’s Blackout Strat has a maple fret board. This instrument will get a new maple neck, with a 59 ‘C’ contour and an almost 2 inch wide nut. With light strings, this guitar will feel like a nylon-stringed classical guitar.

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The aftermarket Fender tuners are lined up with the machinist’s rule and tightened into place one by one.

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These tuners are ‘locking’ tuners, which positively grip the end of each string in a clamp. This is necessary on this instrument because of the very light gauge strings we will be using.

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Head stock and nut are ready to go.

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The middle pickup appears to be not working. Let’s take a look inside.

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Sure enough, there is a broken wire inside the pickup cover.

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The break in the wire is literally in the very last turn! So one turn is un-spooled and threaded through the eyelet where it belongs.

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As was done at the factory, the wire end is pulled through the eyelet a few times and soldered in place.

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The middle pickup is tested and is right where it should be.

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The Classic(al) Blackout Strat is strung with 7 gauge strings; Yes, not 12s, not 10s, but with Billy Gibbon’s own Dunlop Reverend Willy Extra Light Electric Guitar Strings, .007-.038. With the proper setup, this instrument has the play-ability and feel of a nylon-strung classical guitar. Thus, we have the Classic(al) Blackout Strat.

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Thanks for reading all the way to the bottom!

CONTACT – David Latchaw EE
281-636-8626