The Road to Wijk aan Zee pt 2

Well it’s nearly finished! I’ve had a few trials along the way with this guitar, not least of all having to de-fret it and reshape the fretboard due to some abysmally damp weather and a non conforming saw!

Most of the work has been undertaken in the last week or so, after the neck and body had been oiled and sat to dry. I was going to finish it in satin nitro, but the eventual owner of this one (it’s already promised to a customer), has said he prefers oil.

So this afternoon, I bolted the neck on having done a basic dress, screwed in the tuners, set some rough heights and lengths for the bridge saddles with a steel rule and put on a set of strings. And what you see in the video is the result. I wired up the scratchplate about a month ago, it had been tested with a tuning fork to test for equal output from the three pickups, but what you see in the video is really the very first time it has been plugged in and played.

Well, I was quite surprised with the pickups. I had expected not to be very happy with them. These are the Jeff Beck higher output noiseless pickups, and having heard the first incarnation of these I really wasn’t impressed. These were much more naturally stratty than the old ones, and more alive than Lace sensors (which tend to be a bit too smooth for my ears).

Again, the telecaster wiring (in fact I very rarely use anything but the bridge or neck pickups on a strat), is certainly a more pleasing tone than the middle on its own (which is the sound that has been lost from the selector switching). The duck quack is fairly authentic, as is the SRV ish neck and middle.

I’m going to let the neck sit for a day or two – I never have liked working with Birdseye maple, as beautiful as it is it just isn’t as stiff as the harder Canadian rock Maple for necks. The neck might very well start to pull up under tension given time.  I think I’m more tempted in future to only use Birdseye for fretboards, it’s almost as flexible as Mahogany. This neck has already given me a few problems in that the maple began to twist very slightly. It wasn’t helped by the new fretsaw I was supplied. The blade was very slightly too narrow, which encouraged the neck to start to pitch back as I fretted it the first time! That led to a total de-fret and the fretboard being reshaped.

But all’s well that ends well. I’d rather forgotten how much I like the 70’s strat, with it’s slightly oversized neck and silly bloated headstock. And this one has all the real hallmarks of the 70’s especially in terms of the neck shape, which was modelled on Bob Youngs’ genuine period Fender. What I’ve tried to undo a little is the extreme fretboard radius, and of course mine has no tremolo (because Rory Gallagher never used his, and in truth I never used mine either!)

So on to the weekend, and the first proper rehearsals for Mark, Tim and myself. See you all in the Netherlands in March!

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