I modded my old Strat!

Discussion in '"Vintage" Instruments' started by hogy, Feb 18, 2020.

  1. hogy

    hogy Supporting Member

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    My own ‘64 Strat on the operating table. I’ve owned this guitar for many years. Got it from a dear friend who first spotted it on stage at the Star Club in Hamburg, Germany in 1966. He pursued it until the original owner was ready to sell. I’m glad he did, because it is my favorite guitar in the world!

    The pickguard is nitrocellulose, and it shrinks with age. Most eventually crack at the neck pickup, which is a real drag. Once they crack, they tend to buckle up and make adjusting the bass side of the neck pickup all but impossible.

    Ten years or so ago this pickguard started showing a faint line at the crack point. Now it has opened up into a real crack, but thankfully not broken through yet. I decided to stop it now while I still can.

    So time to modify (gasp) the old Strat. A thin layer if carbon fiber laminated to the underside of the ‘guard should keep further shrinkage at bay.

    First time I’ve had this thing open in 20 years or so. I hate taking old guitars apart for no reason. The old “never f*ck with a running system” thing. But this had to be done, and it turned out great. Phew!

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  2. Anje

    Anje Supporting Member

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    Nicely done hogy. I guess you made the carbon fiber layer real thin so that there is no significant added thickness to the pickguard in that area? Did you glue the carbon fiber after it being cured, or did you incorporate the carbon + the pickguard in some resin so that it makes "one" after the resin cures?
     
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  3. hogy

    hogy Supporting Member

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    It's a thin strip of carbon fiber. Stew Mac sells it for bridge plate reinforcement for acoustic guitars.

    I have done this before by routing out the underside of the guard to recess the carbon fiber into it, but that is incredibly scary. It doesn't take much at all for the old nitrocellulose to catch on fire. Last time I did it it started smoking and I was able to put it out in a split second by smothering it with my hand (and get burned in the process), but I'll never take that chance again. If you ever lit a ping pong ball on fire as a kid, you know how violently this stuff burns. Nitrocellulose is the basic ingredient of gun powder for a reason.

    So now I just glue it to the underside of the guards and sand the outside edge of the patch to feather it in. I fund super glue works best for this, especially after roughing up both the carbon patch and the underside of the guard with 120 grit sandpaper. Older repairs I've done this way have held up for many years.

    These old shrunken guards never lay perfectly flat anyway, plus there's still the aluminum shielding, so while the carbon adds a fraction of a mm in thickness, it is really not detectable.
     
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  4. WornFrets

    WornFrets Supporting Member

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  5. Anje

    Anje Supporting Member

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    Yes, thanks Hogy for the added explanation, that looks neat.
     
  6. shallbe

    shallbe Deputy Plankspanker Gold Supporting Member

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    Great work as usual, wonderful solution. Well done.
     
  7. smiert spionam

    smiert spionam Supporting Member

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    That does look pretty good -- but you know, for an old basket-case guitar like this, you probably should consider stripping it to reveal the grain that clearly desperately wants to be seen. And while you're at it, maybe you could try to turn it into a telecaster or something.





    ;)
     
  8. bluejaybill

    bluejaybill Supporting Member

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    Interesting, my '63 guard is straining at the seams, some of the screws are at a bit of an angle.

    So this arrests the shrinkage, or at least reinforces the guard?
     
  9. hogy

    hogy Supporting Member

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    That's the hope.

    Although "arrests" it is probably a stretch. Maybe delays it a bit while keeping the guitar functioning. It won't stop the chemical decay of the pickguard material. If I can squeeze another decade out of it, I'll be really happy. Several decades, I'll be dead and won't care.
     
  10. tonewoody

    tonewoody Member

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    Now that's a sexy strat!

    Just curious, from the back of the pickguard it looks like the other neck pickup screw hole is starting to crack too. Would CA glue in the crack help or ?
     
  11. scotticus

    scotticus Supporting Member

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    Shoot, considering the value of this guitar, think about how many gold tops you could save by selling it, instead of bitching about how other people spend their money.
     
  12. John Quinn

    John Quinn Member

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    That's a very clever and well done 'modification'. Would that 'repair' have any effect on the value of your guitar?
     
  13. hogy

    hogy Supporting Member

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    CA glue can't hold that. There is not enough gluing surface and the forces are pretty tremendous. Enough to pull the screws at an angle. That small crack on the treble side is very typical and usually doesn't sprout. It is of no consequence.
     
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  14. hogy

    hogy Supporting Member

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    There is no telling. The way I look at it, a guitar with a cracked guard is not "original", because originally in 1964 it didn't come from the factory cracked. So it's a repaired guitar.

    It's just part of living with an old guitar like that. They all crack, and eventually they will all need to have their pickups rewound (this one still has original winds, thankfully). I just had that discussion with Jim Rolph the other day.

    If you play them, they will all need frets. eventually.

    This guitar had almost no finish wear on the front when I got it, and look at it now.

    I used to fret about these things (pun intended), but these days I accept that nothing lasts forever, and the enjoyment I get from owning this stuff far outweighs considerations about "value", which nobody can predict anyway. Any number of global events or cultural shifts could make these things worth a lot more or a lot less. Is what it is. Nobody should buy these thing as investments.
     
  15. skydog

    skydog Supporting Member

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    I'd be suspect of a vintage guitar with a nitrocellulose guard that wasn't cracked.
     
  16. Joe Perry

    Joe Perry Gold Supporting Member

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    Very well done!! Looks great!

    I may have missed a chapter or two....Is this the one you sold to a friend and was able to get back after also buying the one from Nashville road trip and you now have two FR Strats?

    Just curious if you ever saw/used/installed one of those Lashing Celluloid Nitrate guards?
     
  17. skydog

    skydog Supporting Member

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    My dad was vehement about removing floor mats from a new vehicle. His thought being, I'm gonna' enjoy the carpeting; when it is worn, I'll throw the mats back in to cover up the holes!
     
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  18. hogy

    hogy Supporting Member

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    Yes, I let it get away for a year because my friend had to have it and made an offer I couldn't refuse.

    I ended up missing the guitar badly, and he ended up feeling guilty about having it. So we undid things. It's nice to have good friends like that. A friendship is always more important than stuff.

    And yes, I ended up with two fiesta reds in the process.

    Not familiar with Lashing.

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  19. woof*

    woof* Member

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    My 64 is cracked, pickup screw is at a slight angle, but still adjusts well. It’s been this way with no change I can detect for the last 30 years, but if I ever notice it getting worse I might try the repair.
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  20. WordMan

    WordMan Silver Supporting Member

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    I guess I did not know this. How come all pickups will eventually need to be rewound?
     

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