The Red Stratocaster
I bought this one with the intention of turning it into a David Gilmour clone.  However, I found that the DG pre-wired harness I bought a short time later actually went better with the creme Strat I owned.  So I started tinkering with this one....


Modification: Phase switch on middle pickup
Control: Push-pull pot under the middle (tone) knob.

Function: Throws the middle pickup electrically "out of phase" (or "in" phase, depending on who you talk to) with whatever other pickup it is combined.  The middle pickup is normally wound in the opposite direction as the neck and bridge so that, when selected in combination with either of the remaining pickups, the 60 cycle (Hz) hum you normally hear with single coil pickups is canceled out (if you know what "phase cancellation" is from trig or physics, then you already understand this concept).


Modification: Neck pickup "on" switch
Control: Push-pull pot under the voume knob.

Function: This is a simple SPST (single pole-single throw) switch which adds the neck pickup to combinations where the neck pickup would otherwise not be present.  This gives you at least two additional combinations of pickups.  If you already have the bridge pickup selected with the 5-way blade switch, then add the neck pickup, the combination is usually described as Telecaster-like, but I guess that would depend on your pickups among other things.  As you have probably already guessed, the other combination is all three pickups at the same time via the bridge/middle pickup + the neck.  I found neither combination to be particularly special.


Modification: Varitone
Control: Rotary switch under the rear tone knob.  Originally this switch came with an extremely long shaft and a "chicken-head" knob.  I wanted to maintain the stock appearance or the guitar, so I cut the shaft down to a length which would accommodate a standard Strat knob.  Of course, with a smaller knob it was next to impossible to change positions on the switch.  I broke into the casing of the switch (it was a closed frame type) and removed one of the two ball bearings which hold the contact dial into its original position.

Function: This is a rotary switch which selects different values of capacitors across which to run your signal.  This drops out different frequecies to give you several interesting starting points for your sound.  This particular switch has 6 positions, the first of which does not involve a capacitor and is, therefore, a bypass.  These can also be found on B.C. Rich guitars of the past as well as on B.B. King's "Lucille" model by Gibson.  (Incidentally, I tried his guitar in the store one day, and did not find the effect to be as dramatic as on my Strat, probably because of different values of capacitors.)  I bought this varitone as a kit through Torres Engineering.


Modification: High-pass capacitor
Control: n/a

Function: Placing a very low value capacitor (.001 microfarad) across the appropriate lugs of your volume knob (or knobs) will keep your tone from loosing the high frequencies (i.e. getting "muddy").


The schematic
Coming soon(er or later).


Non-electronic modifications
Tuners - I bought new tuning keys to replace the originals which ended up on my creme Strat a while back.  These are Klusons and are of much higher quality than the originals. They are also more reminiscent of the '50s era Stratocasters, which was what I was aiming for.

Neck gloss - The wood on the neck was originally unfinished maple, but I put a thin coat of clear gloss over it.  This keeps it cleaner and allows greater precision when bending strings (your fingers glide across the neck rather than scrape erratically across the grain, especially how it does on rosewood fretboards).  Strats in the '50s used to be smothered in gloss, but they have backed off over time for some reason.  This option costs $50 from Warmoth, for example.  I paid $3 for a can of spray gloss and did it myself.  The finish comes off the frets shortly and your guitar is fine.  Your results may vary, but I had no problems getting the desired feel.


Update: Since this page was created, I sold the creme Strat and modified this one to have the same EMG/David Gilmour electronics as the creme Strat did.  I also added some more tricks to it as well over time.  Check out the red Strat v.2 and also my Evolution of a Guitar article.


Copyright Alexplorer.
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