Calling Col Mustard! Refinishing my Stratocaster

Discussion in 'Luthier's Corner' started by Layne Matz, May 13, 2018.

  1. Norlin SG

    Norlin SG Well-Known Member

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    First thing would be to remove the pick guard and sand inside the area to determine if it is a plywood body or not and also you might be able to figure out what type of wood was used.

    On my American Standard Strat I did sand all the way down through the finish and filler. I did not sand the entire body, just the flat areas on the front and the back and left the sides the original black. It now has a Minwax Wood Sheen rubbing oil as finish on the front and the back and sort of a black binding on the sides.

    It turned out really fantastic looking. I got a nice sharp line where the stained wood ends and the black paint begins by being very careful with my sanding. I used an automotive style orbital sander and made sure I always held it flat to the sanding surface. IIRC, I started out with 80 grit and ended up with 320 grit.

    One word of caution. Sanding all that finish and filler off did make the body about 1/8 to 1/4 of an inch thinner so I had the neck pocket routed by a local Luthier about that much deeper. So measure the thickness of the body before sanding and then after sanding so that you will know how much deeper your "teacher down the road" needs to help you route the neck pocket deeper.


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  2. Layne Matz

    Layne Matz Active Member

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    Can I substitute a hair dryer for a heat gun? I assume not.

    The wiring mod is a bit confusing to me, I'll figure it out in time. When I take it apart to begin I will finally resolder all the connections, the wires for the P90 I have in there are taped in place... I have a wheel of solder but no iron.

    Thank you for mentioning that, i wouldnt have thought of it until everything looked funny.

    This is going to be a long project. Ill keep you guys updated. Im a little wary to begin, this is my primary slide guitar, I use my acoustic with the strat pup too. Maybe its just me, but if I dont play much slide for a while and play mostly fingerstyle my slide playing starts to get worse and vice versa. I forget sometimes that I'm 18, and there should be plenty of time for me to continue developing my playing.

    Something that just occurred to me, can a heat gun cause the glue holding the body together to melt???
     
  3. Layne Matz

    Layne Matz Active Member

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    No harm done, I've said it before and I'll say it again- I like ALL advice and criticism because it helps me think outside of my own boxes. I hate when I'm closed minded about things because I know it just isnt right. I like this site because I can pose an idea and get many different views from many angles.

    Damnit, I forgot to insert a quote from chesier...
     
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  4. Col Mustard

    Col Mustard Well-Known Member

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    Thanks for calling me... I didn't respond right away because I knew there were some other
    members whose answers would be better and more knowledgable than mine. Listen to
    these guys. They know their stuff.

    I have learned the hard way to think of projects like this by using a "fun to pain ratio."
    I actually don't enjoy sanding very much... I do it because I know I want the results, but
    I don't think of it as much fun. I would not enjoy sanding through all those layers of
    finish. Those layers of finish were designed by very clever engineers, to be "tamper proof,"
    and to be very difficult to remove. They were designed to protect the guitar's wood
    against all abrasion (including yours), and they do a very good job of this.

    My preference is to begin with something that's easy to work with.
    My experience tells me that if I have something that's difficult to work with, I should
    apply intelligence and figure how to work around it. *grins

    The "heat gun" approach works, but I've never used it. So I'll leave the description of
    that to the guys who know how to do it. You can find online tutorials about it too.
    That seems to be the best alternative IMHO. You don't have to breathe in all that
    sanding dust containing gawd knows what.

    Include me among those who would not attempt this project.
    I would save some money up and buy a bare
    body that looks the way I want it to, and buy a neck that fits it, and then spend
    a reasonable amount of time making those things beautiful,
    and then spend more time playing music, which is what
    it's all about. It's about the music we make with these things, IMHO.

    As regards the red guitar you got for small money: Here's my recommendations...

    1. The first thing I would do is check the neck for straightness.
    If you can't get the neck straight, it's a wall hanger and deserves no further attention.
    Once you've got the neck straight, you can level the frets (or pay a good luthier to do it).

    2. Once you know that the truss rod actually works and the neck is straight, you can spend
    some money buying high quality parts for it. Shield the body cavity with Nashua Tape from
    the hardware store, ground the shielding to the output jack's ground.

    4. Throw out all the hardware, and buy the best parts you can afford,
    and have some good smokey fun soldering it all together. (or pay someone who knows how).

    5. Install good quality tuners, and a good quality nut, and a good quality bridge. These parts
    are critical, and they will determine your guitar's action and tone. Action and tone are the
    only things that are important IMHO. It's worth it to have the nut slots depth checked by
    a qualified luthier.

    6. Once you've done all this labor, or paid for it, get the best luthier you can afford to
    check your work and set the guitar up as best as it can be. This will cost you some money
    too, but what you'll end up with is a playable red guitar that you've improved to be much
    more guitar than it looks like. Then you can make music.

    You'll note that my recommendations leave the finish alone. I recommend you concentrate
    on those parts that affect the tone and playability of the instrument. The color is not
    important if the guitar's setup is right on, and the action is inspiring and the tone is killer.

    Good luck with all this!
     
  5. Layne Matz

    Layne Matz Active Member

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    After getting the strat i was astonished by the quality of it, with the lep of a local Nashville luthier helped me get the action right at no cost, we raised the nut and saddles to accomadate thicker gauge and higher action for slide. We lubed the nut slots with graphit after shaving a tiny bit away for the wound strings. The frets are damn near perfect, unlike other squires I've come across. The pots and switch arent good but they work. The two stock pups left arent too bad at all and the P90 is excellent. This thing will never be a wall hanger and the name on the headstock doesnt detract from its playability or capability of being a fine instrument. Oh, we also tightened the trem claw and added a 4th spring. I still dont have a screw in bar, just a makshift one that falls out so I hardly use it but i would and have used it quite a bit. If i had money to pour into this i would just buy a different amp. One thats more universal versus what i have now which has some lame tone limitations. I like AC30s and Fender Reverbs. The purpose of this thread was to give me an idea of what this change would cost me physically and financially. I will strip it in due time when i can afford it. I have no desire to just get another strat body, because thisnis the one I like and want. Pain in the ass included. I have zero intentions in EVER buying another strat, i have no desire either. This is the one for me. I know some people really cant accept the name on the headstocks. Honestly, as youve noted its the tone that matters but tone ALWAYS starts with the player. You know that, if I can play it and sound good, who cares if its a squire or how strange the wood finished body is?
     
  6. Norlin SG

    Norlin SG Well-Known Member

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    I didn't think to measure the body thickness until I refitted the neck so the amount I made the body thinner was more of a guess. In reality the thickness reduction was probably closer to 5/32 or maybe as much as 3/16th of an inch.

    Something else I didn't think about was that the inertia block does sit lower in the body so if I was to do some bat **** crazy vibrato stuff, I would probably remove the bridge plate and machine/grind a little off of the top of the inertia block. The inertia block is closer to the back cover, but it doesn't hit. I don't have the whammy bar so I don't even worry about it.

    A hair dryer won't get hot enough to do much of anything. The finish on your guitar is probably Polyurethane or Polyester both of which are extremely durable. You would probably scorch the wood or cause the glue joints to separate before a heat gun would soften the paint. IDK for sure on that point, but others here probably do.

    https://www.fender.com/articles/tech-talk/the-science-and-style-of-finishes
     
  7. Col Mustard

    Col Mustard Well-Known Member

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    Well it sounds like you're way ahead of me. If you've already gone to the effort and expense
    to get the guitar set up properly, then my suggestion is: PLAY IT!

    Don't take it all apart and have to set it up all over again, just for a coat of paint.
    If you can play it and it sounds good, then no one cares if it's red or black or natural.
    Spend your time on your music, not on cosmetic alterations to a guitar. Save your
    money and get a great amp. If you live in music city, then guys buy and sell amps
    every day. Save till you have enough to get the amp of your dreams.

    Oh and I predict something. You will get another Strat... if you like the way the Squier
    sounds, you'll want to get another one. You might get another SG too, these things are
    addictive and there's nothing wrong with that. So I wouldn't fuss so much over this
    rescue guitar. Just play it, and develop your skill and your chops, and your song craft.

    When I was 18, I could only afford one guitar and no amp. I played that sucker whenever
    possible, and my craft did develop. May you have this joy.
     
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  8. Layne Matz

    Layne Matz Active Member

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    Thanks for the words of advice Mustard, always much appreciated. I dont care enough about the aesthetics to go to the trouble to change it right now, but someday during string change I may get the urge to make the change. I was present during the set up of the guitar and I'm confident I could do it again, including dialing in the intonation.

    As for guitar buying, I honestly dont think I ever would get another one when I have this one thatbis tailored for my needs. I likely will buy another SG someday, a Telecaster and pedal steel guitar too but I doubt much else. Much more and things are getting impractical. I like to be a minimalist. I just moved away from Nashville a little while ago, but I'm 3 and a half hours away- I'll be going back many times. I actually have about 7 friends with recording studios of their own or ones they work for that were looking for good music to record. It is music city but its way too overpopulated in recent years, plus they are tearing down the old neighborhoods and putting aparments EVERYWHERE.

    I have to mention that my acoustic with the strat pup and dials is utterly fabolulous. Sounds unique and brilliant, its a short scale so it can be oufitted to accomodate both slide and fingerstyle real well. Never would i have guessed this would come out so nicely. Next practice I'm just going to bring that one. My friend only plays his Epi ES-335, and I've been using my SG for fingerstyle and Strat for slide. We need a good drummer... Maybe a bassist but I'd rather have a good organist.
     
  9. shreddy bender

    shreddy bender Well-Known Member

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    A heat gun, putty knife and a beer really make stripping a poly coated guitar easy AND therapeutic.
     
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