[Gear] Upgrades to my 16 year old MIM Strat
As you may remember from my post a couple of weeks ago, I got a very special gift, my second ever guitar, a MIM standard strat. It was super cool and a great stroll down memory lane.
The only issue is that the guitar was in a very sorry state. The friend who kept the guitar didn't know to properly take care of it. It was only played a few times a year so it accumulated a lot of grime and corrosion on the hardware.
So I decided to give it a bit of a facelift without spending too much money. One of the things I knew I wouldn't be able to upgrade was the pickups and the neck. so I decided to change everything else.
Here is the album of the process.
Things to note:
I have never done any modifications on a guitar before. I do setup all my guitars so I am familiar with how all the hardware works but never had to touch any of the electronics before.
I'd never used a soldering iron before.
I never hard to do any fret work on any of other guitars.
Given all of this, it took me 3 evenings to get all the work done:
The first night I managed to do all the hardware upgrade. I put in new locking tuners, new bridge, new jack plate. I dreaded putting the new bridge in but it turned out to be a simple drop in. The tuners were another thing all together. I didn't notice that the originals didn't use screws, just metal polls that went into the headstock to keep them from moving. The new ones used screws on the opposite side of the tuners. Luckily the new ones were bigger and covered the poll holes. It wasn't an issue drilling new holes for the screws. What I messed was not using a piece of cloth when tightening the tuners. I completely scratched them. pfffff. Also one of the screws' top snapped and there's no way to get the shaft out. It was a clean snap so there's nothing to hold onto. double pffffff.
Second day was electronics day. The part I dreaded the most, soldering. I did use a harness for the pots so I didn't have to do too much soldering, just attach the pickups and output jack as well as ground wire to the bridge. The biggest problem by far was the fact that there was no slack to the pickup wires. They were just long enough for the original configuration. This means I had solder extension to the wires and then to the pots. I didn't realise the soldering iron I was using had a temperature knob which was set on the lowest setting, which is not hot enough to melt the wire. After 4-5 burns, I learnt how to properly hold the iron when it's hot. The hardest part was, because I was doing it myself, having to hold the iron, the pickup wire and the soldering wire (or whatever it's called) at the same time. I got a couple more burns before I finished that. I stuck everything on the original pickguard for a quick test. Another heart attack when only one of the pickups was make noise before I remembered to actually use the pickup selector. triple pffffff.
third day. Got the new pickguard because the original I got (sparkly red) was for a HSS strat. The one I then got was a matte black, which looks fantastic with the rest of the guitar. I also remembered to get a new back plate and pickup covers. Installed all of that, put everything in and breathed a sigh of relief. It was done. Cleaned everything up, gave it a nice polish. Gave it a proper setup. Intonation was also perfect out of the box. I had to fix the action. Didn't have to touch the truss rod. Gave the frets a proper polish.
And there I was, with what left like a new relic guitars. lots of dings and cracks but it plays like butter, sounds great. I'm mostly a metal guy so these pickups sound good enough for me so I probably won't be changing them anytime soon.
All I know is I won't be doing the upgrades on my nice guitars. This was a very good exercise and great experience. I feel like I know the instrument better now, having played with all its parts. The puzzle pieces fit better. I'm just not handsy enough to do a great job of it. So don't worry luthiers, you won't be losing your job any time soon.