Introduction


I have always desired to have something unique, and of my own making, rather than something that anyone could buy. Also, I am very value-conscious and as a result, have rarely paid the same prices that others typically pay. I have been purchasing new and used guitar parts and have been building my own custom Strats for years. I enjoy every aspect of this process, but most of all, I love to play a one-of-a-kind Strat that I built myself.

My objective in putting this site together (including the accompanying resources) is to document my learnings and share them with others such as yourself. It is my hope that I can provide useful information as well as inspiration to you so that you will go beyond just wishing you could build your own dream custom Stratocaster.

My approach is to present this information to you in the easiest and most concise form possible, including outlines, lists, links, photos and diagrams. The order of this material is in a linear (mostly) and logical sequence from beginning to end (best accessed using the navigation on the right of the page).

Here is the outline of the site:
  1. Introduction
  2. Planning and Design - Custom Stratocaster Project
    a. Considerations - Look, Feel, Sound, Durability and Resale
    b. Components – Fender USA and Import, Licensed
    c. Constraints – Tools, Skills, Workspace and Time
  3. Purchasing - Custom Stratocaster Parts
    a. Budget - new or used, finished or unfinished
    b. Resources - retail, Web stores and auctions, eBay, pawn shops, swap meets, friends
    c. Purchasing Strategy
  4. Preparations
    a. Body - sanding, filling, priming, painting, clear coating, wet sanding, polishing
    b. Neck - sanding, staining, finishing, hardware, decals, frets dressing
    c. Electronics - layout, soldering, testing
  5. Assembly and Setup
    a. Action - Neck Angle, Truss Rod,
    b. Tone - Intonation, Action, Pickups
  6. Related Topics
    a. Cases - hard or soft, vintage or modern
    b. Resale - ethics, pricing, marketplaces, ads, photos

You Can Build This Custom Stratocaster

Here is one example of the sort of custom Strat you can design and build for yourself. It is more possible than you might think. Sure you will probably make some mistakes along the way, but you will learn so much, you will know your guitar inside and out, and you will be better equiped with the skills and knowledge to further refine your custom Strat until you get precisely the look, sound and playability that you are seeking.

Don't say, "I could never build a custom Strat"

I would really like to communicate this one thing, if you take away nothing else from this site. You absolutely can build a custom Strat.

I will also add that most of us are lacking in the skills and experiences to do this well right from the start. The Strat you see pictured above (daphne blue) was my first project. It was incredibly cheap, and I made mistakes (almost catastrophic ones) along the way.

I acquired all of the parts to build my first (proof of concept) custom Stratocaster for around $250. This was really cheap stuff. You can tell by looking at the body that the contour for the arm relief was not as smooth and subtle as it is on a genuine Strat. I bought the body including the bridge/tremolo and neck plate (with screws, more on that in a moment) for $109. I bought the pickguard with switches and pickups, complete, for $25, I found the neck for $69., and got a steal on the tuners - 3 sets for $40.

The parts were all import and non standard, so I was lucky to buy the body, body hardware and loaded pickgaurd from the same guy on eBay. The neck was my first attempt at a vintage nitro finish with a waterslide decal and it came out pretty good. When I went to attach the neck, however, the screws that came with the body were little larger than standard and when I screwed on the neck, it cracked, all the way through to the fretboard. I took it apart, squirted superglue in the hole, the measure the screw shaft and depth so I could redo the holes in the neck. I also respray the neck fretboard, and then did my fret cleaning and polishing. It looked good and the crack was almost invisible, though I did declare it when I sold it on eBay.

My point is that there will likely be mistakes. Don't worry about it though. Most of them will be recoverable, and there will be lessons learned from each mistake. I have had tons (mistakes and lessons learned). My favorite was when I tried to move a freshly sprayed body, actually, the very last clear coat, and had it slip off the hanger I was using to suspend it. The body crashed to floor, bouncing all over the place, pickup up all sorts of disgusting bits of debris along the way. I had to completely sand it back down to bare wood, fill in the little dents and scratches, then paint all over again. However, I must admit that my second paint job was even better than the first.

So please don't limit yourself. You can do this. Start out small, make some mistakes, but of course, learn from my mistakes first (please). Many of my little tricks listed in this site are my resolutions to prior issues. I would be truly honored if my site could help you be more successful in building your own custom Strat.

Considerations


You need to decide what sort of Custom Stratocaster you want to build. Are you looking for something that faithfully recreates a guitar of a certain era? Perhaps there are aspects of a look from one era, but the feel and sound of another era. For example, I love the look of the 50's and 60's, with colors that were borrowed from the cars of that time period (Seafoam Green, Sonic and Daphne Blue, Coral and Fiesta Red), and necks that are now aged to a rich golden yellow, but I am not very excited about necks with 7.5” radius and I really don't care for vintage frets.

A vintage style custom Stratocaster from this era also works for me because I mostly play blues (BB King, SRV, anything 12-bar) and pop punk/rock (Green Day, Coldplay) and I am middle-aged. If you are younger and more inclined to play contemporary music, you might want a look, and certainly a sound, that goes along with that.

A whole other direction is to create a Strat that is unlike anything that has come from Fender. Maybe you want to do something with a quilted maple veneer, or perhaps and exotic solid wood like koa, or perhaps it is not the look of the wood but the sonic qualities from something like mahogany.

You will need to do some research if you do not already have a complete vision. Here are some galleries for you to look through along with whatever you can find on your own:
Also, if you are into vintage Strats, as I am, here are a couple of references so that you can design a project that really maintains that vintage vibe:
Hereare some other very useful resource that is list of other guitar building and repair sites. Lots and lots of links:

Designing Your Custom Strat


Personally, I am highly drawn to vintage Strats. I love the look, the colors, the feel and the sound. They seem to transport me to a different time. A great resource for ideas on what this sort of guitar would look like is the 'Stratocaster Chronicles: Celebrating 50 Years of the Fender Strat', which is available through many resources, and is even available at a reduced price used via Amazon.com.

Going vintage works for a couple of reasons. Vintage Strats were finish with nitro (nitrocellulose lacquer) which is pretty easy to work with and very forgiving. Highway 1 Strats have a nitro finish and are appointed with a vintage style tremolo.

If you are thinking of a vintage style Strat, you might search Google for 'vintage strat' and choose the images option. Another great resource to get a feel for what vintage strats look like is the Strat Collector site: http://www.stratcollector.com/inventory.html

Often, when I am trying to imagine how combination of body color, pickguard, and neck (Maple or Ebony, tinted or not) might look, I search for it through google and see if I can find examples.
If you are thinking of something a little more off the beaten track, more modern and more custom, you might look through the galleries from custom licensed component manufacturers like Warmoth ; http://www.warmoth.com/gallery/gallery.cfm?fuseaction=include_strat

I often learn a lot about parts, resources, building trick, and other ideas by reading the notes from the guitars in galleries such as Warmoths.

So many people have tried to achieve the look of highly used vintage guitar. This is called relicing, and in fact, the Fender Custom Shop produces some gorgeous examples that are in $2,500-$3,500 range. 95% of the relicing I have seen has been very amateur and just results in a Strat that looks like it has been dragged behind a car. I would like to dissuade you from going down this road. I my opinion, it looks like some people choose relicing to disguise a poorly executed finish, when, ironically, a high quality relicing is a very advanced and highly technical execution of guitar finishing.

When choosing pickups, if you don't already have a clear opinion, you should probably explore forums that discuss the pros and cons of various choices and how the work with tube amps and modelling amps.  For example: http://www.strat-talk.com/forum/pickup-forum/31066-best-strat-pups-poll.html

Components


You need to consider if you want to build your guitar from new or used parts and whether they are Fender or licensed by Fender (e.g., Warmoth, Allparts, MightyMite).

Personally, I prefer Fender USA parts (even further I really like Deluxe necks) and purchase almost solely through eBay. Fender USA parts are outstanding quality and they hold their value since they are most easily recognized by prospective buyers.

Necks
  • The frets are especially nice on the 2007 and later American necks with exquisitely rolled edges. This is true for the Highway 1 and Standard Strats, though I am not a big fan of the large, 70's style head on the Highway 1 necks, they are a great value. All of the more recent American necks have slightly wider string spacing at the nut.
Bodies
  • I also go for the Nitro (nitrocellulose lacquer) bodies with the vintage style tremolo. These are from the Highway 1 Strats and are much easier to strip and refinish than the Urethane finish of the other American (e.g., standard, deluxe, re-issue) and all import Strats.
  • One of the easiest ways to spot an import body is to look for 1-3 coin sized hole in the body under the pickguard and below the neck pickup.
Tremolo/bridge
  • You will need to consider whether you want a vintage style tremolo or the modern two-point style (which cost a little more, and definitely look more modern), as this will dictate which bodies you can use.
  • Its also important to note the tremolo requirements. Here Fender uses several types with the most common being the vintage 6 hole mount traditional style. These also come in two primary spacings of 2-1/16″ and 2-3/16″. Most import bodies use 2-1/16″ while American and vintage style tend to use 2-3/16″ tremolo kits.
Compatibility
  • You will need to be very mindful of mixing, USA, Mexican, Korean, and Japanese parts from modern and vintage Strats. They are often different dimensions. Same goes for Squires vs. Strats. This get tricky even when buying replacement nuts or saddles, so you will need to do some research to be sure.
Pickguards and Trem Covers
  • The pickguard patterns can vary, most are 11 hole. However, the 50s models have 8 hole and the 60s have a unique 11 hole pattern called ‘62 RI (pay special attention to the location of the screw hole just above the middle pickup). Fender bodies come routed for several different pickup configurations with SSS (single/single/single) or HSS (humbucker/single/single) being the most common. Some bodies have one larger trough cavity that can handle any pickup configuration but these provide the least shielding between pickup, and are thus, prone to being noisey.
  • There are some differences in style for the trem covers. The major two differences are whether there are six small oval holes for string replacement or one hole the is much larger and giving much greater access (more common in the eighties). The six smaller holes presume that you adjust your tremolo in a conventional manner, so, if you tend to have your tremolo flat against the body, you have to use the whammy bar to align the tremolo for string replacement. The second difference is whether the term cover is just barely larger than the rectangular screw pattern or 3/16" larger.
Tuning Machines
  • Vintage Strats and RI (re-issues) most commonly used Kluson tuners. These use 11/32" holes with a bushing press fit into the front of the head. These are great tuners, though perhaps a little delicate. These are fastened to the back of the head with small screws that overlap two adjacent tuners at the same time. It is easy to strip these small Phillips screw heads.
  • Modern Strats used various incarnation of the Fender/Schaller tuning machines including some very nice locking tuners in satin or chrome for the USA deluxe models. These use a nut on the front of the head that screws down over the tuner peg. One the back, there are two small locating pin holes for each tuner, that match up with the two pins (pencil lead sized) protruding from the underside of the tuner and ensuring the that the tuner does not rotate.

Constraints


Other factors that may constrain your project include: budget, tools, workspace, skills, time and patience.

Time and patience are a bigger factor than you might think. If you have time, but not a lot of money, you can patiently shop ebay until you get a 'steal' on each of your parts (it is not hard to save 25%-50% off the average prices if you are diligent and clever).

If you don't not have a safe, clean, enclosed space where you can modulate the ventilation, yet control the dust, you may not be in a position to do any painting and refinishing of the body and/or neck. This might limit your possibilities to what you are able to achieve as far as you control over custom finishes, that is, unless you are willing to pay for someone else to do it for you (e.g., Warmoth).

Additionally, if you don't have some basic skills and tools, then it may constrain you options on the degree of assembly you undertake. On the other hand, non of this is too difficult, and doing so will give you much greater options on your project.
  • Soldering the electronics, at least the output jack if not all of the pots, pickups, capacitors and grounds.
  • Sanding, painting, wet-sanding and polishing the body and perhaps the neck
  • Drilling the neck for tuning machine alignment posts, string tree, possibly dressing the frets and rolling the edges.
  • Screwing together the neck/body, pickguard, attaching the tremolo and spring claw, using a wrench/screwdriver to mount the tuning machines (modern or vintage style), and securing the pots/switches/pickup to the pickguard

Sources and Approach



There are many approaches to purchasing your parts. Each has its own attributes in terms of risk, ease of effort, cost, timeframe.

  • Purchasing at retail from shops like the Guitar Center. This is likely to be medium in expense, and unlikely to deliver truly exciting and unique parts. Also, it is unlikely that the sales staff have enough experience to add value by helping get the right parts.
  • Purchasing on the Web from places like Steward MacDonald, Allparts, MightyMite and Warmoth is another option. This can offer some better values than retail prices or Fender parts, and definitely more custom parts, but the information may be marginal. Some options, like Warmoth custom bodies and necks, can be very expensive, but then you can get some very unusual stuff (e.g., solid rosewood neck with mother of pearl inlay and your choice of nut and frets.
  • One of the Web sellers that offers amazing values and are great people to deal with are the folks at Aamp's electric guitar store. Check out the Allparts and MightyMite necks under parts (deeply discounted, as in less than on eBay).
  • Another Web retailer that I like and are really great folks are Picker's Parts.
  • Ebay is a little risky, though much less than you might think.

Ebay can be a treasure trove of parts depending on what you want to build and how self-reliant your are. Here are some tips to assist your getting the best results:

  • Stick to sellers that have lots of sales and are 100% rated (or very close). Examples include Reliable Fender, Stratosphere, Music Parts Guru.
  • Watch for a while (a week) and notice the price trends on items you are interested in.
    Get a PayPal.com account, it is so much easier, and they provide both the buyer and the seller some protection.
  • Don't bid directly, you will only drive the price up. Decide on a reasonable price you want to pay, taking into consideration what the shipping is, and use a bidding tool such as ezSniper.com to bid – it will place your maximum bid for you, just in the last few seconds of the auction. You will not always win, but eventually you will win, and at the price that is acceptable to you.
  • My experience is that many times, if the deal is too good to be true, it probably is. Be very suspicious of parts that are not photographed or described well, especially if the seller does not answer questions directly and clearly and if they do not have a well established selling record of satisfied customers.

Sample Budget

The numbers presented above are representative of an USA (mostly) Strat that was built with carefully selected parts and thrifty buying via eBay. This ends up being about the same price as a used American Strat on eBay (see below). However, instead of a used guitar that looks, sounds and feels just like thousands of others you can have something that is one of a kind, and take the pride and satisfaction in bring that guitar to life all by yourself.

Typical Prices eBay Web MRSP
Mexican Strat $325 $399 $599
American Std. $699 $999 $1359
American Dlx. $1099 $1250 $1725

In this example, I went for an Allparts neck that combined vintage styling (no visible truss rod adjustment) with modern features like jumbo frets and a 12” radius. Also, this example provides a budget for a very cool pickup configuration using 2008 American pickups and an aftermarket 7-way switch (similar to the S-1 switch on the Strat Deluxe). Since this guitar was to be the primary illustration project throughout this site (Fiesta Red Strat), I specifically chose options that required the most work so that I could discuss and demonstrate more techniques.

Going down this road (non Fender USA parts), may render a guitar that will have a little less marketability should I decide to sell it later. This is because most buyers are a little skeptical of the quality and value which others, such as myself, can be relied upon to deliver. If you are not planning on selling the guitar any time soon, this route offers you more control and lower cost, though more effort and more risk (clearly, the more control you have, the more opportunity to have it come it just the way you want, or to have challenges that manifest as flaws in the look, feel or even function of the guitar).

I use a spreadsheet to track my parts, mostly because I tend to be buying and selling a number of items simultaneously, and it can be easy to loose track of where I am in a project like this (e.g., ordered, shipped, received along with overall costs). This sort of rigor is even more important if you are attempting to complete your project in a short time frame, as you will have not room for error, such as realizing that you never made your final order for the tuning machines.

The sample spreadsheet shown above serves multiple functions. Although this may seem like overkill, it really helps in a number of ways:

  • A complete and thorough shopping list is built, down to the last screw
  • The cost of the project, including supplies, taxes (where applicable) and shipping is accounted for.
  • This spreadsheet, with an initial budget, can help you stay on track with your intended overall cost, otherwise, you might get anxious and be tempted to pay a little more just to get the purchasing over with.
  • It will take a while to find and purchase all of the parts and supplies. This sort of spreadsheet can help you keep track of what you have already ordered and when/how it is being delivered.

Timeline

This sort of a project has some inherent time factors that mean you will have to have certain amount of time and patience. Here is an example:

  • Week 1 - research, planning and designing your project, the process and the budget.
  • Weeks 2 & 3 - purchase all the parts and supplies that you will need, then wait for them to arrive.
  • Weeks 3 & 4 - prepare all the components prior to assembly. This includes neck refinishing, body refinishing, electronics work.
  • End of Week 4 – assembly and setup, then step back and admire your one-of-a-kind Strat!

Believe it or not, this is actually a pretty aggressive timeline, and it may not go this quickly your first time through. Please resist the temptation to rush this process, it will likely result in your making painful, costly, and time consuming mistakes.

One of the things that is most tempting to rush, is the curing time for your finish. Depending on the temperature and humidity this can vary tremdously, not to mention how heavy you spray your finish (without runs) and how close together these coats are.

Custom Stratocaster in Fiesta Red


Fiesta red custom Fender Stratocaster which served as the primary illustration project for this site:
  • Fender USA Alder body with ReRanch fiesta red nitro finish and polished clear coat
  • Fender USA vintage tremolo
  • Fender USA switch/pots with .064 Sprague orange drop capcitor and SCN pickups
  • AllParts maple neck with Kluson vintage tuners, jumbo frets and 10" radius finished with satin nitro and stains for vintage look, plus vintage decals.

Custom Stratocaster in Olympic White


Olympic white custom Fender Stratocaster:
  • Fender USA alder body with ReRanch nitro olympic white and hand rubbed clear coat
  • Fender USA vintage tremolo
  • Custom 7 way switching and Lace Sensor pickups
  • MightyMite neck with compound radius 10-16" and jumbo frets, ebony fretboard and mother of pearl dots. Neck finshed with vintage amber look using satin nitro and stains, plus vintage waterslide decals and satin finish locking tuners.

Custom Stratocaster in Seafoam Green


Seafoam green custom Fender Stratocaster:
  • Fender USA Alder body with ReRanch seafoam green nitro and hand rubbed clear coat
  • Fender USA Vintage tremolo
  • Fender USA Custom Shop hot 50's pickups and USA switch/pots
  • Fender USA Deluxe V profile neck with amber vintage tint, all maple, and abalone dots with chrome locking tuners

Custom Stratocaster in Copper Metalflake


Copper metailic custom Fender Stratocaster which also served as an illustration project for this site:
  • Fender USA alder body with ReRanch nitro copper metalflake paint and hand rubbed clear coats
  • Fender USA switches and pots, and pickups plus .064 Sprague orange drop capacitor
  • Fender USA vintage tremolo
  • Fender USA Deluxe maple neck with ebony fretboard and abalone dots
  • Fender USA deluxe neck with satin finish locking tuners

Custom Stratocaster in Vintage Cream


Vintage cream custom Fender Stratocaster:

  • Fender USA body with ReRanch nitro finish and hand rubbed clear coats.
  • Fender USA Vintage tremolo
  • Fender USA SCN pickups and S1 switch and .047 Sprague orange drop capacitor
  • Jimmie Vaughan signature Fender neck with vintage tuners

Neck Installation

I used a caliper to measure the neck screws inner diameter and thereby select the appropriate drill diameter, also, marking the depth with tape on the drill bit. Going to deep would cause the bit to come through the fretboard, and going too shallow could result in splitting the neck or breakking a screw when installing the neck.

There is much written about the use of tiny shims to adjust the angle of the neck on this sort of body (modern style American bodies have a micro tilt adjustment screw). I have not had to ever use any shims, and I am glad as I fear it would impair the integration of the neck and body, thus affecting the sound and sustain.

Vintage Tweed Amp


My first tube amp that was worth anything was a 70's era Silverface Fender Vibrochamp. I liked it, however, Fender had been, ironically, tweaking their amp circuitry to have more clean headroom, and as a result, that breakup and distortion we all love was just not possible in this amp.

I did some research and found a lot of boutique (French word for expensive) amp builders that were recreating the early era Fender Tweed amps. After some patient searching, I came across a great deal on this Hot Bottle Champ on eBay and have just loved it ever since. I have changed the tubes over time (can't leave anything alone I guess), but the Jensen speaker (C8R) is just to perfect and so I have left it alone.

By the way, if you are looking for a great guide on vintage Fender amps, I think this resource is outstanding: AmpWare

Classic 'F'

For my Fiesta Red Strat, I wanted a vintage look all the way around, so I choose a classic 'F' logo neck plate.

Custom Fender Tweed Amp


It is my nature to want to adjust, refine and otherwise put my personal mark on anything I do. To that end, I could not stop with custom building my guitars.

This is essentially a Tweed Champ (5F1) with a much larger pine cabinet and a 12" custom ordered speaker. I ordered the speaker from Weber Vintage Sound Technology. The specs I chose give it a warm, crunchy, early breakup similar to the early 50's Chicago Jensen P12R (I have had to play it a while before this character really started to show up).

I special ordered the cabinet after doing a lot of research, I finally figured out who does the cabinet work for a lot of the custom tweed amp builders (I recommend these two: Amp Cab Co and Better Built Workshops though I ultimate chose Better Built). The tricky part is to get a large cabinet, suitable for a 12" speaker, yet cutout at the top for the tiny Fender Tweed Champ chassis.

The chassis was bought on eBay and I am assuming that the individual sold it because the amp stayed very (no breakup) clean, even at high volumes. I addressed this by researching tubes and determined which ones would provide the color and breakup I was looking for (check out Mojo for tubes).

I really, REALLY, love this amp! It smells yummy, pine and lacquer and hot tubes and toasted dust, and the parts (tubes, speaker, cabinet) all work together very nicely. It can been very sweet and clean, and with a little overdrive (Fulltone Full-Drive 2) you can really get some fabulous blues sounds.

Pickguard Choice Makes a Big Difference


It is interesting to see how much of an impact can be made by merely changing the pickguard and pickup covers color. I started out with white pickup covers, pickguard and trem cover on this copper metallic custom Strat, but later decided that black would look a little more edgy, and so I made the change, which I am still happy with.

Installing the Pickups

You should use a soft cloth to protect the finish on your body as you install the pickguard. If you have carefully trimmed and routed the wires when you did the assembly of the electronics, then things should fit into the body quite neatly and easily. There are three ground wires: 1. the output jack, 2. grounds the body (see the screwed black wire in the switch cavity), 3. the tremolo is grounded by routing the last ground wire through the body and soldering it to the tremolo spring claw.

Pickup Upgrade



I had built this Stratocaster quite a while ago.  At that time, I had purchased a fully loaded pickguard with Fender 69' Custom Shop pickups.  But truthfully, the sound never really worked for me.  For years I have loved the look and feel of this Strat, but always gravitated towards some of my more recent Custom Strat guitars where I had designed and assembled the electronics.

I recently decided I needed to do something about this.  After a lot of research, it seems that the Fender 54' Custom Shop pickups were the way to go for me. Not only do they have a sound that most players agree upon as a rich and full classic Strat sound, but they play very well through a modelling amp such as my Line 6 PodXT Live.  While I had this guitar apart, I decided to paint the electronics cavity with electrostatic insulating paint that helps cut down noise.  I also changed out the capacitor to one that is 475k (orange drop).  I really like the wax cloth wire insulation that came with these vintage pickups; which actually contributes to the sound, but also because it is simple to slide it back a little when doing the soldering. 

Patient shopping on eBay landed me these wonderful pickup for $110 to my door.  However, this was not a cheap project when you add in my time.  There was an issue with the pickups where one side of each of them had not been tapped (threaded correctly).  This was not easy to determine, since they were also coated in wax.  So, once I determined that they used a different screw than my prior pickups, I had to drill counter sunk seats for each screw in the front of the pickguard, then tap out the missing threads on one side of each pickup.  I trimmed the wires to length and after removing the prior pickups, resoldered the new ones and did a preliminary test.  Re-assembled the guitar, cleaned it, and replaced the strings. 

All told, it was about 2 1/2 hours, and I am fairly fast at this.  Thankfully, I had all the right tools for the job, or it would have even taken longer and cost more.  My point to you is, be prepared for things to go wrong (a little or a lot) and then adapt from there to get what you want.

Custom Touch

If you want to further distinguish your guitar as a custom guitar, you might add a custome neck plate. You can get them laser etched or stamped, they can have one of the manufacturers standard images, or some will even make them custom for you.

Neck Install

Like the smaller holes for the pickguard and output jack, I have filled the neck screw holes prior to painting and now clear them out with drill bit by hand in preparation for the neck installation.

Bridge Installation

Here you see that I am clearing out the filler that I had previously used to keep water out of the holes in the body. This filler nevery hardened since I painted the guitar shortly after filling the holes, and the holes were easy to find because they each show a slight depression. I used a drill bit and my finger tips to remove the filler.

Once the bridge is in place (again, there are differing opinions on this) I install all six screws, tightening each one down until the tail of the bridge just lifts, then I slightly loosen it again. This results in tight fitting bridge that does not bind.

Output Jack

I find that SwitchCraft makes the best output jacks. I am very carefull when performing this last soldering step. The last thing you need is a splatter of hot solder to hit your finished guitar.

Grounded Tremolo

It is important to ground your tremolo to help minimize any unwanted noise your guitar might generate. You can also see the first steps when installing your spring claw and tremolo springs. I use three springs, and get the spring claw initially installed, then add the springs, followed by further tightening. Do not put your tremolo cover on till later, as you will have further adjusting to do once you have your strings installed.

String Tree

As always, I am very careful to select the appropriate diameter drill and mark the depth so that I will neither drill to deep or too shallow. This is especailly critical as I will be drilling the final step on the neck, which is for the installation of the string tree/guide for the E and B strings.

All Done

The final product. The guitar looks great, sounds and plays even better. I thought I would sell it, so I left the stickers on, but I love it too much to sell, so it is now a daily player and the sticker are off.

Hard Shell Case

After all that hard work, you will want to transport your guitar in a way that ensures its safety. The new Fender hard shell cases are ideal if you fly because they have latches that are protected from accidently opening during transport (a fatel flaw of the earlier cases) and locks that are TSA approved so you can lock the case for extra security.