Well, why not? The Strat (tm Fender) design is about 50 years old. Things change. The people who were playing gigs with them back then are grandfathers and great grandfathers now. For some styles of play, the inside horn is just something to whack your wrist on the high notes. Most solid-body electric guitars are about 1-1/2 inch thick, and a bit heavy and unwieldy, expecially with tremolo hardware, for some people, say female players. There is a need for lighter guitars.
The modifications described here were not perfectly done to a commercial level of polish. But for a first time ever effort, the results are not entirely trashable. In some respects, the guitar functions better than it did before, and what it lacks in finesse, it has in character.
First you start with a Strat (tm FMIC), such as a Squier Bullet Special (tm FMIC). It's cheap enough to dare to mutilate, yet still has good enough sound quality to survive. Strip off the hardware, mark it with a set of French curves and cut off the horns with a jig saw. In this case, the belly cut was also widened. A router 3/8 inch round-over bit was used to soften the cut edges of the shoulders.
The picture to the left shows the front of the body superimposed on the back in PhotoShop. The dark solid lines show areas chosen to be removed from the back to a depth of about 1.1 inches to lighten the guitar body. Notice that they avoid a) the structural column between the bridge and the neck, b) the screws holding the bridge to the body, c) the cutouts for pickup and electronics on the front of the body, d) the belly cut, and e) the forearm slope on the front face, where the lightening cut could have broken through. A rectangle with a light outline on the left just below the shoulder places a 9-volt battery box on the back so that the cut will break through into the front electronics cutout at one end. The picture on the right shows how the lightening and battery box cuts actually turned out. The lightening cuts could have gone all the way through the body, but I wanted to leave support to put a guitar art decal on the front.
I finally got tired of trying to get the finish right. The multiple attempts included layers of Dupli-Color metal underfinish and blue anodizing finish, clear coat, polyurethane spar varnish, Rustoleum (tm) blue metallic finish, blue Krylon (tm), and one or two kinds of bubble-pack two-part epoxy. There could have been as many as a dozen layers. When the last coat of two-part epoxy failed and began to detach when treated with solvent, I pulled it all off, along with several layers of finish, which stopped at different layers in different places. Since I wanted this doneand the guitar reassembled before I went into the hospital for a hip replacement, I smoothed it all off with 600 grit wet sandpaper and 0000 very fine steel wool. Then I polished it in sequence with TurtleWax (tm) brown rubbing compound, white polishing compound, and hard shell car wax. I used both hand power and an orbital sander with the sandpaper replaced by a section of tube sock.
What you see is what you get. The gray things on the left are picks stuck under the pick guard. Note that the strings run almost directly over the pickup poles peices (see tuning notes below). Nevertheless, what this guitar lacks in commercial perfection, it has in character. One large guitar maker sells a line of preworn guitars that it claims look and sound like they have been played and abused in thousands of bar gigs. One can only suppose that the purpose of this product is to allow the owners to say, "Oh yeah, that old thing. It's just something I used to open the Stones."
Well, this guitar didn't open the Stones, but it is about a pound lighter, weighing in at about 5.8 pounds. That leaves it a little neck-heavy, but much more suitable to smaller musicians, such as women, or those whose age or disability makes it harder to hold up a standard weight solid body guitar.
This guitar is tuned G-C-E-G-C-E, from the 6th to 1st string positions, with string diameters 50, 38, 30 and 22 thousandths inch wound, 13 and 11 thousandths plain. The first string is missing in the picture below, with the strings centered over the poles. Except for the 50 string, a GHS DY50 Boomer, they are Ernie Ball strings. The Ernie Ball strings were chosen according to a string chart to allow down-tuning of from 2 to 4 frets.
The position of the pickup, as assembled at the plant, was shifted slightly in the direction of the largest strings. Previously on this site, I suggested that this made the pickup output more nonlinear and that it would be better to put the strings centered directly over the pickup pole pieces. After more thought and experimentation, I found that I was wrong.
The output of the pickup depends upon how the metal string affects the magnetic field of the round pole piece. The output changes as the string moves between lesser and greater values of the field. As I recall magnetic field theory, the output is also higher the faster the string moves, but I could be wrong.
The field is more uniform over the center of the pole piece, therefore, as the string moves over it, there is less change in the voltage. The field drops off quickly away from the center of the pole, especially at the edge of the pole piece. So, although it may not be linear with string position, the pickup produces more of the fundamental vibration of the string when vibrating over the edge of the pole piece. When it vibrates over the center of the pole piece, it produces higher spikes in the output and higher harmonics of the fundamental that do not actually exist in the vibration of the string. That sound is harsher, more metallic.
In the picture above, the bridge saddles are canted to place the strings over the centers of the poles as much as possible. Which is not fully evident from the perspective in this closeup picture. The volume pot on the guitar connected to the pickup can affect the sound by muffling the higher frequencies, making the sound "muddy", especially for pickups of higher impedence or pots of lower resistance. So in this case, the volume pot has been removed from the circuit. The pickup is connected directly to the output jack. It will sound best when connected to an amplifier with a very high input impedence.
How does it sound with the strings over the edges of the poles? Judge for yourself. Click here for a sample digitized (wav) file of the guitar connected to a computer sound board (PCM 22.050 kHz 16 bits) through Altec Lansing (tm) Model BX2 computer speakers. The Altec speakers provide a higher input impedance than the sound board, allowing more of the high frequencies through. The tuning is nominally G-C-E-G-C-E, picked with a 0.6 mm nylon pick. It plays well on QuickTime 6.5.1. With this digitizing setup, the side and center pole string positions do not sound much different. The differences, if any, are apparent only when listening directly.
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