Sunday, January 20, 2013

POS Re-Build, Tackling a Fender Squier Strat Bullet for a good cause ...

Once a quarter Local Music Gear has a POS (Piece of Shit) rebuild. This is when we take the most God-awful, poor excuse of an instrument and give it new life. We do this to show our readers that cannot, or will not, spend big bucks on an instrument how to make one that rocks within their budget. 

For this POS rebuild we did not have to go out and purchase a guitar. We had the pleasure of rebuilding one for a woman that is a little down on her luck due to ongoing health problems. Good for us her guitar was a Fender Squire Bullet Strat and that happens to be one of the biggest pieces of shit guitars I've ever seen --making it a perfect candidate for this series. 

So to me this was a no-brainer. We get a donor guitar for the editorial series -- and she gets it back with some serious modifications making it a playable instrument.

I took my time as I always do and from start to finish it was 2.5 hours/5 beers. Please note that you should have a luthier from your local music store work on and setup your guitar for you unless you really know what you are doing. This would be a 2 - 3 hour charge + bench fee to have a loaded pickguard, new block, new nut and saddles installed with setup . The total investment will be well worth it.

Pickup & Electronics By Mojotone

The pickups and electronics for this re-build where by far the easiest install I have ever done. The good folks over at Mojotone did all the work for me. What they sent was a fully loaded, prewired pickgard with pickups, pots, etc., all I had to do was solder the ground and input jack then attach it to the body. This took a total of 30 minutes/2 beers. 

Logan (my contact at Mojotone) not only had a set of custom shop hand-wound one-off pickups sent in for this re-build, but he and the Mojotone staff all signed a get well card for the woman this guitar was going back to. Besides Mojotone making some of the most accurate re-production vintage parts for guitars and amplifiers, they are also a group of kind classy people. With that said the pickups are ridiculous. A very warm Stevie Ray Vaughn "Pride and Joy" meets Eric Clapton's "Crossroads"  -- A dry spank with a round top end and never-ending harmonics. It amazes me every time I hear their pickups and how dead on accurate to a particular time era they are able to re-create.

Read the Local Music Gear review of Mojotone Fatback Srat Pickups -here-

Read more about Mojotone products -here-

Pickup & Electronics Install time - 30 minutes/2 beers.
Tools and supplies needed - Small Phillips head screw driver, 11 millimeter wrench, volt meter, soldering iron, solder & 2 beers.

FU-Tone Big Block Upgrade

FU Tone Big Block Upgrade

FU-Tone, formerly known as Floyd Upgrades, is the manufacturer of aftermarket high-performance guitar parts designed to optimize a guitar's voice, sustain, playability, and tone. 

As one of the easiest upgrade for the do-it-yourselfer -- an FU Big Block delivers immediate results that even the untrained ear can hear allowing the player to own a guitar with the character and tonality of the pros. Personally, I believe this is one of the best upgrades you could possibly do to a string through block designed guitar. This product makes such a difference in the guitar's characteristics I encourage anyone I see playing a string through block design guitar such as a Stratocaster to look into getting one.

Not only does Adam Reiver (the founder of FU-Tone) produce one of the industry's "must have" products that artists such as Eddie Van Halen, Slash, Phil Collen and many many more use, but he is a down to earth guy and was happy to help with this build. When high-end boutique guitar manufacturers such as C.R. Alsip use FU Big Blocks as part of their stock equipment due to their superior quality over other blocks -- you know this product really delivers.

Read the Local Music Gear review of FU-Tone Big Block -here-

Read more about the FU-Tone products -here-

FU Tone Big Block- 15 minutes/1 beer.
Tools and supplies needed - Small philips head screw driver 1 beer.

Tusq by Graphtech Guitar Labs

Tusq Nut and Saddles

One of the most important upgrades you can do is change the points where the strings touch the body. On less expensive guitars the manufactures use a plastic that kills your sustain and tone. The best fix is a product called Tusq by Graph Tech Guitar Labs. I prefer this to animal bone and use it on every guitar I own.

Even with Graph Tech being one of the largest manufacturers of aftermarket guitar nuts and saddles, Gray (my contact at Graph Tech Guitar Labs) was quick to respond to my request and within two days I had the nut and saddles for this build.

Read the Local Music Gear review of Tusq -here-

Read more about Tusq at

Nut Install time - 1 hour 45 minutes
Tools and supplies needed - Razor blade, sand paper, glue, gauged nut slotting files, small philips head screw driver  & 2 beers.

Amp used:
Bogner Alchemist 2 x 12

Cables used:

DR Pure Blues 

Setup & Impression:
The guitar stock was less than desirable. The fretboard had a cheap, waxy film on it making my fingers hesitate and hop instead of glide. The pickups were poorly made and to my surprise all three were labeled "bridge" but installed in all three positions. I'm guessing that it was either the installer's first day on the job or more than likely it was due to laziness on the assembly line. 

After I completely disassembled the guitar and gave her a good cleaning, I noticed that the truss rod had been overcompensated and was broken. I would normally just replace the neck but, but since I was using this guitar for editorial reasons I decided to fix it. I gave her a brand-new Stuart McDonald dual-action trust rod that I installed by steaming off the old fingerboard with a wet towel and iron then reattaching using hide glue and clamps. I do not recommend anyone doing this unless you truly understand how to build guitars. There will be a full editorial piece on how to replace a broken truss rod in an upcoming issue. On that note, if you do not understand what a truss rod does or how to make an appropriate adjustment don't do it -- you will break your guitar!

While the neck was off and drying, I added a layer of conductive shielding paint to the pickup cavity and rear panel to insure that the pickups would not squeal or hum and I gave her a satin/gloss finish using a silver pin stripe to accent the difference. Once I was ready to reassemble the guitar I used a micro-mesh finishing abrasives kit on the fingerboard to get that waxy film off. 

After the complete rebuild the total price tag including the purchase of the guitar was just $501.95. Even if I was to use a local luthier instead of doing the upgrades myself -- I would have still spent less for this guitar then I would buying a new American Stratocaster -- and the American Stratocaster would not even come close to the playability of this $129.00 guitar.

Overall this guitar is now enjoyable to play. My fingers flew up and down her fingerboard without any hesitation and the intonation is dead on. The guitar has amazing sustain and a true vintage American Strat sound that Stevie Ray Vaughan or Eric Clapton would be happy with.

Because this rebuild was for an individual and not simply going to a high school after as we normally do, we had an overwhelming amount of people respond to help out. I would like to thank everyone who participated with the parts for this rebuild including Mojotone for the loaded Pickguard, FU-Tone for the Big Block, Graphtech for the Tusq XL nut and saddles, Intex Cables for the instrument cable, and the Lou Rose Music Center in Edison NJ for chromatic headstock tuner. You are all wonderful companies made up of wonderful people that make me proud to be part of this industry. Thank you.

My advice:
If you are looking for a project or just do not want to spend big bucks on a guitar that you can really use, this is a great alternative. I would have no problem using this guitar at a gig.

Total investment:
Fender Squier Bullet Strat $129.00 USD + Shipping
Mojotone Loaded Pickguard  $254.40 USD + Shipping
Graph Tech Tusq XL Nut and Saddle Savers in Black $68.60 USD + Shipping
FU Tone Big Block Upgrade $49.95USD + Shipping

$501 .95

Total with using a luthier 



FU-Tone Big Block

Graph Tech Tusq Nut & Saddles:

Intex Cables:

Lou Rose Music Center

Posted 03/2013
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