Sanded the Neck Cavity of my Strat w/ Good Results

Discussion in 'Guitars in General' started by BuckeyeBrown, Sep 27, 2008.

  1. BuckeyeBrown

    BuckeyeBrown Supporting Member

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    After reading this article from Premier Guitar Magazine...

    http://www.premierguitar.com/magazine/issue/2008/Aug/10_Easy_Strat_Mods_to_Improve_Primary_Tone.aspx

    I thought I would take them up on their advise in taking my neck off and consider sanding the cavity down to the wood. I've always felt that my strat was very warm sounding but never very "straty" bright. I've got Chris Kinman AvN Blues pickups in it but they are also very full and warm. I've always liked the overall tone but I've always wished that there was a bit more bite on the high end that I could simply bring down with the tone knob if wanted. I've never taken the neck off before and I really never would have wanted to full around with it but I thought what the hell.:Devil

    After taking off the neck I found one long sticker and one smaller round sticker in there like the article mentions. There was also a bunch of red overspray in there and a fair amount of finishing clear (or lacquer?) sealing the entire cavity. My maple neck was also sealed up with the nitrocellulos lacquer where it contacts the cavity. It was a little thinner than what was on the rest of the neck but still evident.

    I have a small power detail sander.... before you gasp... I've been using it alot on my trimwork while finishing my basement so I'm familiar with it and I used a pretty fine grit sandpaper. I started in the neck cavity sanding off what remained of the stickers that wouldn't come off with the old fingernail and then used my sanding detail attachements to get down into the corners so that whatever I took off was consistent throughout all the points of contact. I then moved to the neck and again - slowly took off a consistent amount of lacquer. I used an attachment that allowed for the sandpaper to follow the countour of the heel of the neck so I didn't have a flat surface of sandpaper trying to sand a rounded piece of wood, but if I didn't have my little detail sander you could easily do this with a couple sanding sponges with different grits.

    I put her back together and everything felt very snug which was obviously my biggest concern in taking this project on and thank God I didn't over-sand anything.

    The results...

    After thinking that this could just be something that someone did because some computer detected some tiny bit of difference I am really happy to say that this actually made a great difference on "my" guitar. I took the risk of doing this because it makes sense that this connection should be a solid wood-to-wood connection. When I read that there may be a sticker in there (let alone 2 in my strat) I could easily see this sucking some tone. I don't know what the difference would have been between just taking the stickers off and going full distance and sanding everything but for me, this was a great change for my strat.

    With my tone knob, the clearity is exactly where I would have liked it to be able to reach. This definitely didn't give me a brittle sound at all. Unplugged the guitar plays a little brighter.

    My strat:

    It's a 98 Fender American Deluxe
    I mentioned the Kinman pickups - which I really dig.
    I also completely replaced the stock trem with a Callaham Vintage Floating Trem (Inertia Block, Trem, Saddles). This move previously added a touch more highes and a little more sustain. Acoustically this added a touch more volume.

    Let me qualify this next statement - No two strats sound alike. I really like the American Deluxe neck shape and quality of detail in the neck/frets so I've picked alot of them off of the shelf to compare. Here it comes.... I know there are some people whe feel like there are huge difference in one from another but I haven't heard it (un-modded - brand spanky). I'm not saying that there aren't some substantial differences at different ends of the tone spectrum but I've just never found any that were too dull and I've never picked one up that sounded what I would call especially bright. I've been playing consistantly for 17 years and maybe there is a chance that I don't have good ears - but I doubt it.

    If you happen to have a strat and you're thinking it's more mellow than stratty bright you might want to give this a try. If your a little intimidated on the sanding part - its pretty simple - go slow and take your time. I can't really decide if the stickers had little to do with it and it was mostly the sanding or if it was the reverse but it really begs the question why in the hell would Fender be putting stickers in there. Just stamp the dates on with ink. Anyway... It worked really well on my strat and maybe it won't work for yours but I just figured I would share this success story with my fellow GP'rs.

    Good luck on your own tone quest! :AOK

    Buckeye
     
    Last edited: Apr 17, 2009
  2. HurricaneJesus

    HurricaneJesus Member

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    I was thinking about doing this and sanding the trem block tonight on my '57 RI. What grit sandpaper do you recommend?
     
  3. 5E3

    5E3 Member

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    Good going Buckeye! :AOK

    BTW, you are much braver than I am. :eek: :worried
     
  4. Kelly

    Kelly Member

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    100 should do, then move to 220 if you want a smoother feel.
     
  5. Boris Bubbanov

    Boris Bubbanov Member

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    I like borrowing the blade out of my hand planer and scraping out the cr*p in the neck pocket - appears much more uniform in flatness when checked for level. Use great care around the edges not to chip the finish. Also sand/scrape the heel flat; perhaps this may reduce resale but all that yuk fender sticks on the underside of the heel makes no sense to me.

    Use great care when resurfacing those trem blocks. It is very easy to end up with a surface that is rounded or relieved, and no longer truly flat and that puts you worse off than when you started.


    Bubbanov
     
  6. Speed_Racer71

    Speed_Racer71 Member

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    crap...now ill have all this knowledge in my head when i go test a strat. after reading that article i wonder how much the sales on the EJ strat will go up? :D

    one thing i didnt see mentioned, since he says take the paint off on places where metal meets wood i wonder why he didnt say take off the paint under the neck plate.
     
  7. Pickaxe

    Pickaxe Member

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    A great trick for the trem block is to start with a medium grit over a flat surface, like a table saw top or your kitchen counter. Put the paper down and gently rub the block on the paper, being careful to keep it perpendicular to the sanding surface. I use 120 to start and work up through the grits, the higher the better.

    Just like sharpening chisels and plane blades, it should look polished and smooth, not scratched when you are finished.
     
  8. Tone_Terrific

    Tone_Terrific Member

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    It certainly seems like clean wood to wood contact at the neck joint is a good thing.
    It is only the flat contact surface that may need cleaning, however, not the sides/end of the heel, as these are not pressure points and rarely contact the pocket tightly, and will move or shrink with the weather, too.
     
  9. xgrip

    xgrip Member

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    Removing the finish down to the raw wood under the bridge plate makes the biggest difference. The the bridge is critical for tone and coupling to the body is crucial. Think about it, your bridge is sitting on top of layers of polyurethane finish, paint, etc. or at the very least a few layers of nitro on a CS or one of the 'thin skin' strats. Getting the bridge to couple directly with raw wood eliminates that thin plasticy sound that plagues most newer strats. I did this a long time ago and it completely changed the sound; much richer, woodier, more depth, complexity and dynamic response. It's not a hard mod to do either.
     
    Last edited: Oct 22, 2008
  10. Gas-man

    Gas-man Unrepentant Massaganist

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    My first reaction is I'm a little dubious...

    (I'm not saying it's not true, it just sounds like a little too much, even for TGP). LOL!
     
  11. buddastrat

    buddastrat Member

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    That article has a lot of crap in it. Anything to get out of practicing I guess.
     
  12. tmaker

    tmaker Member

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    I have to agree with that. And having built several guitars I do have some experience to support that opinion.
     
  13. HHB

    HHB Member

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    I did all the esoteric stuff to my parts strat and damned if it didnt turn out to be the best sounding strat I've owned, maybe it's just coincadence
     
  14. pesocaster

    pesocaster Member

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    Likely the player!! ....
     

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