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Insanity? -- Look what I did to my Fender YJM Sig Strats

Deuterium

Member
Messages
1,188
Thought you blokes might get a kick out of this, and the heavy modifications I made to three of my YJM Strats. Specifically, I am hopeful it will be of interest to any of you folks who like to do some extreme DIY modifications to your guitars.

First, a brief summay on the modifications I have made to these guitars.

1) Replaced stock Fender YJM neck with USA Custom 24-3/4" scale conversion neck. This neck features jumbo stainless steel frets, as well as a graphite rod reinforcement. USA Custom doesn't do scalloping, so I sent the neck out for this work, and the scalloping was performed beautifully, by Smooth Grooves Scalloping service. I also installed an LSR roller nut, and Schaller Locking tuners.

2) Installed a four-bolt anchoring system with carbon steel threaded inserts (see below).

3) The stock Fender "vintage" bridge is too wide for the original YJM neck (as well as the USA Custom replacement)...which caused the dreaded high "E" string slip off problem. I replaced the stock tremolo with the Callaham V/N "Vintage Narrow" tremolo. The Callaham V/N has the standard vintage screw mounting spacing (2-7/32" E to E), but with the narrower saddle/string spacing (2-1/16" E to E). It is a direct replacement with the existing tremolo screw holes. It works just great, solves the high "E" string problem, and has improved sustain characteristics versus the stock tremolo. I also use Graphtech Ferraglide saddles, en lieu of the standard vintage saddles.

4) I eventually got a bit cynical with the low output, stock Dimarzio YJM and HS-3 pickups. Replaced them with medium output Dimarzio Choppers. Also removed the tone controls from the guitars' circuit.

Here are pics of my Frankenstein YJM Strat with all the mods:

Pic #1 -- Original Fender YJM neck w/ rosewood fretboard, from 2005 YJM Strat, vintage white.



Pics #2,3,4 -- Final, modified YJM strat.







------------------------------------

Walk-through showing the steps to retrofit one of my stock YJM Strats with a new USACG conversion neck (24.75" scale), employing the threaded insert w/ machine bolts anchoring system on the neck.

In the interests of full disclosure, I should point out that I retained the help of my father in performing this work. He is an excellent wood-worker, and has all the cool machine toys. We used his ShopSmith's drill press system for making all the required precision drills.

Here is the original neck on my 2005 YJM, which I will be keeping, and safely stored (same for my other two):





And here is the 2005 YJM Vintage White original body, upon which I will be installing one of the new USACG conversion necks.:



Now, the photos shown in the following steps happen to be of the USACG neck with the Rosewood fretboard, which I ended up installing on my 2006 Candy Apple Red YJM. I decided to install the full maple/maple USACG neck on the 2005 Vintage White body, shown above. Just wanted to clarify to avoid any confusion. The steps are identical on both, in any event.

The accurate positioning of the 4 threaded insert holes was a critical step. This was accomplished by dry fitting the new USACG neck into the neck pocket joint of the existing YJM Strat body, and then using an AWL to mark and pin point the center of each of the holes. The four impressions made by the AWL marks the exact location of each of the required drill holes, within which the threaded inserts will fit.

This next pic is showing the drilling of the required four pilot holes, using a 17/64" (approx. 6.75 mm) drill bit, using a ShopSmith woodworking machine. We had already measured the depth that was needed to be drilled. This was accomplished by taking one of the 8 mm machine bolts, pushing it up through one of the existing holes in the body neck pocket, and measuring how far out it protruded...which turned out to be approx. 5/16th of an inch. We then put a bit of masking tape around the drill bit at the 5/16" height mark (measured from the bottom of the drill bit, up the shaft). This provided a perfect visual aid to follow when using the drill press. In other words, we stopped drilling once the depth of the bit reached the start of the tape:



Here is a shot of drilling in progress:




Now, once the 4 pilot holes have been drilled, the next step involves using a taper tap to create threads inside each of the holes, with which the threaded inserts will bite into as they are screwed in. In this next pic, below, you can see the making of these threads with a special 8 mm taper tap tool:





After the internal threads have been made in each of the four holes, the next step was to screw a threaded carbon steel insert into each of the holes. These threaded inserts accept the 4 x 8mm machine bolts:





The carbon steel threaded inserts are screwed in such that they are absolutely flush, or even a bit counter sunk. This is key, as this part of the neck must be perfectly flat so as to fit nice and snug in the neck pocket of the guitar body.:



Once the inserts are in place, the new neck can now be fitted to the existing body with total precision and with incredible neck/body contact, strength and stability.

Here is a pic of the all maple USACG neck mounted on the vintage white 2005 YJM body. After ensuring fit, I removed the neck and sent it out for scalloping by Smooth Grooves guitar scalloping service.

 
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stratamania

Member
Messages
3,466
An interesting modification, not one I would want to do to my YJM strat but it's your guitar so if it works for you then it's fine.

What are you going to do with the original scalloped necks ? Are they up for sale ?
 

DGTCrazy

Mod Squad
Staff member
Messages
16,156
Love it! You are one brave man.....but then again, I can't hammer a nail straight...LOL
 

Deuterium

Member
Messages
1,188
An interesting modification, not one I would want to do to my YJM strat but it's your guitar so if it works for you then it's fine.

What are you going to do with the original scalloped necks ? Are they up for sale ?
Hi Stratamania,

I have put the original necks in safe storage (in the guitars hard-shell cases), after relieving the tension on their truss rods. I am not going to sell them.

I prefer the shorter 24.75" scale length, so that is why I ended up replacing the necks. However, I still have other guitars with standard 25.5" lengths. Indeed, in the future, I might decide to switch back to the original necks.

In any event, if I ever decide to sell one of my YJM strats, I want to be sure I can convert it back to original, stock condition/specifications. I have kept all the original hardware. So, it will be a relatively easy process to return it to factory specs. The original neck is easily put back, as well as the stock tremolo. The only time consuming part would be to put back in the Dimarzio YJM and HS-3 pups, and reconnect the tone controls. However, no big deal...and I am pretty good with the soldering iron.

Cheers,
John
 

Taller

Gold Supporting Member
Messages
3,891
I have no idea, but I would imagine with Mr. Malmsteen's name on the headstock, one would pay a premium above that of a similar Strat without his name attached. I'm wondering why, if the neck was to be changed (that being the most prominent 'signature' item on the guitar) you didn't purchase a cheaper 'doner' Strat?

I'm also surprised to learn (if I understand your post) the stock bridge is too wide for the stock neck? Fender should correct that if that's the case.
 

les_paul

Member
Messages
1,120
I have no idea, but I would imagine with Mr. Malmsteen's name on the headstock, one would pay a premium above that of a similar Strat without his name attached. I'm wondering why, if the neck was to be changed (that being the most prominent 'signature' item on the guitar) you didn't purchase a cheaper 'doner' Strat?

I'm also surprised to learn (if I understand your post) the stock bridge is too wide for the stock neck? Fender should correct that if that's the case.
Wondering this myself...

...having said that, this setup looks pretty neat though.
 

buddastrat

Member
Messages
14,689
Cool, strats are fun and easy to mod. But it might've been easier to just get a cheap strat for a platorm, and keep/sell YJM as is.

Still at least it's all reversible if you ever wanted. I played several YJM's and never had a problem with E fall off. Maybe your frets had a bit too much bevel from factory?
 

Honk

Member
Messages
310
It's good that you ended up where you wanted, but replacing so much makes it seem like an expensive way to start a partscaster! Any decent alder Strat body would have done. I definitely would not want to change the tone of my YJMs like that – when I plug em in it's because I want that 80s/90s Yngwie tone – but the Chopper is a fun pickup.
 

Deuterium

Member
Messages
1,188
I have no idea, but I would imagine with Mr. Malmsteen's name on the headstock, one would pay a premium above that of a similar Strat without his name attached. I'm wondering why, if the neck was to be changed (that being the most prominent 'signature' item on the guitar) you didn't purchase a cheaper 'doner' Strat?

I'm also surprised to learn (if I understand your post) the stock bridge is too wide for the stock neck? Fender should correct that if that's the case.
Hi Taller,

Yeah, I probably should have clarified. I bought my first YJM Strat in 2005. The other two were purchased in 2006 and 2007. After replacing their tremolos, I was absolutely happy with them (and still am). Back at that time, switching to 24.75" conversion necks wasn't even on my radar.

It was only a few years ago that I felt I might benefit from a slightly smaller scale length, and made decision to order the USACG necks, and putting all the additional work into the new necks. I have been very happy with the results.

However, I do hear you all...a bunch of extra money was put into these, given the fact that they were already relatively expensive Fender Artist series guitars. If I knew, back at the time, that I would be wanting a scalloped stratocaster with a Gibson scale length...I probably would have approached this from a completely different angle (e.g. maybe using cheaper MIM strats as the starting point).

In any event, I still love the original YJM necks, and who knows, I may end up switching them back sometime in the future.

In regards to the high "E" string issue...this has been a known problem with YJM strats for decades. It still is a problem, and I cannot fathom why Fender hasn't fixed it, after all these years. It isn't rocket science. Heck, I even sent Fender Customer Support a few emails, and posted on their website/forum, advising them about the problem...and recommending they switch to a tremolo with modern E to E spacing (i.e. 2-1/16"). If they didn't want to do that, than they should make the YJM necks a few mm wider. By the way, I don't think the high "E" string problem is limited to the YJM Strat (although this model seems to be the most egregious offender). I have read at least a couple of reviews / testimonials, from owners of the Fender Eric Johnson Strat, who report similar problems.

Cheers, all.
 

buddastrat

Member
Messages
14,689
In regards to the high "E" string issue...this has been a known problem with YJM strats for decades. It still is a problem, and I cannot fathom why Fender hasn't fixed it, after all these years. It isn't rocket science. Heck, I even sent Fender Customer Support a few emails, and posted on their website/forum, advising them about the problem...and recommending they switch to a tremolo with modern E to E spacing (i.e. 2-1/16"). If they didn't want to do that, than they should make the YJM necks a few mm wider. By the way, I don't think the high "E" string problem is limited to the YJM Strat (although this model seems to be the most egregious offender). I have read at least a couple of reviews / testimonials, from owners of the Fender Eric Johnson Strat, who report similar problems.

Cheers, all.
Fender addressed that issue by using a 1.65" nut width on the vintage styled guitars, so it's not a problem with a vintage width bridge. That's increased from the common vintage width of 1.625". They aren't going to use a narrow trem space because then the feel is not based on a vintage strat anymore, and the strings sit in far from fret edge, then it'll feel more like an Am. Std. Like I said, it's normally not a problem unless too much fret bevel.
 
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McShred

Silver Supporting Member
Messages
2,933
Really with the stickers?

Otherwise a pretty cool guitar and mod project.
 

Deuterium

Member
Messages
1,188
Fender uses a 1.65" nut width so it's not a problem with a vintage width bridge. They aren't going to use a narrow trem space because then the feel is not based on a vintage strat anymore. Which many prefer.

I've played a few YJM's and many EJ, and they are fine. The vintage strat feel is to NOT have the strings too far in like on an Am. Std. Pretty much all the vintage based strats use that spacing and like I said, it's normally not a problem as they use less severe fret bevel when they use a 1.65" width.
Hi Budda,

I am a bit confused (which is normal). Are you saying that Fender tried to correct the problem, and changed the YJM's vintage nut from 1.625" to 1.65"? If so, I don't understand...as the wider nut would only make the problem worse, yes??.

In any case, you must have got lucky. However, I am definitely not a lone voice in the woods, when it comes to this issue with the YJM Strat's high "E" problem. It may not affect every single YJM guitar...but enough of them that there have been many, many complaints. Just Google it. Here is but one example of a discussion on this matter:

http://www.rig-talk.com/forum/viewtopic.php?f=3&t=120333

In any case, I have to suspect it is an endemic problem with this particular model, as all three of my YJM strats (purchased new) suffered from it. One was worse than the other two, but they all had it to some degree. The issue literally made them unplayable for me, personally. I would normally have returned them. However, after buying my first YJM, I immediately recognized the issue and saw the Callaham V/N as a relatively easy fix (if you are willing to replace the tremolo). Once I got my first Callaham, I would have changed out the tremolos on my subsequent YJM strats without batting an eye, even if they didn't have the high "E" string problem. IMHO, the Callaham is a superior tremolo to Fenders.

With that being said, if one prefers the vintage tremolo string spacing (2-7/32"), replacing the tremolo with a modern 2-1/16" spacing would obviously not be a viable option. I can only speak for myself...and in my case, that was not an issue.

P.S. -- I do not have any personal experience with the Eric Johnson Strat, and only mentioned it because I remember seeing a one or two reports/reviews in which the owners mentioned an identical high "E" string issue. It stuck in my mind, due to my experience with the YJMs. However, I suspect the EJ Strat does not suffer the same frequency and degree as the poor YJM Strat.
 
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Deuterium

Member
Messages
1,188
Really with the stickers?

Otherwise a pretty cool guitar and mod project.
LOL, yeah, the application of that decal is from a less than proud moment in my past. :facepalm

Needless to say, it has since been removed...with extreme prejudice.
 

stratamania

Member
Messages
3,466
Hi Stratamania,

I have put the original necks in safe storage (in the guitars hard-shell cases), after relieving the tension on their truss rods. I am not going to sell them.

I prefer the shorter 24.75" scale length, so that is why I ended up replacing the necks. However, I still have other guitars with standard 25.5" lengths. Indeed, in the future, I might decide to switch back to the original necks.

In any event, if I ever decide to sell one of my YJM strats, I want to be sure I can convert it back to original, stock condition/specifications. I have kept all the original hardware. So, it will be a relatively easy process to return it to factory specs. The original neck is easily put back, as well as the stock tremolo. The only time consuming part would be to put back in the Dimarzio YJM and HS-3 pups, and reconnect the tone controls. However, no big deal...and I am pretty good with the soldering iron.

Cheers,
John
That makes sense. You could always get another pickguard to mount different pickups in...


No problems with the High E on my YJM.
 

Taller

Gold Supporting Member
Messages
3,891
Any problem with getting the intonation happening with the shorter scale length? I have no idea, but I guess I'm asking if there's enough travel in the saddle adjustment to accomodate the shorter scale length?
 

stratamania

Member
Messages
3,466
Any problem with getting the intonation happening with the shorter scale length? I have no idea, but I guess I'm asking if there's enough travel in the saddle adjustment to accomodate the shorter scale length?
It should not be a problem as a conversion neck is designed to work with the bridge in normal position so no more travel on the saddles should be needed.
 






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