Fender Stratocaster

This is probably the instrument that most people imagine when they think of an electric guitar. First released in 1954 it is one of the most beautiful and practical pieces of industrial design of all time. It remains as relevant today as it was revolutionary nearly two generations ago. There is nothing about its design that is wasted, it is the perfect instrument, a classic example of when form follows function beauty is the result. It is incredible that a stock ’54 Strat in the right hands is capable of producing virtuoso music to the highest of modern standards (listen to Eric Johnson, Live from Austin TX). There can be few other pieces of design, in any area, that could still make that claim – think of cars, aircraft, fridges etc from the mid ’50’s and you’ll realise quite how special the Stratocaster is. All the more amazing considering that Leo Fender – the genius behind the Stratocaster, Telecaster, Precision Bass and so many wonderful Fender amplifiers – didn’t play the guitar.

That the Strat has been the instrument of choice of so many incredible guitarists; Jimi Hendrix, Stevie Ray Vaughan, Eric Clapton, Jeff Beck, Eric Johnson, Robin Trower to name but a few, absolutely underlines what an extraordinary guitar it is.

I’ve put together a couple of Stratocasters out of various bits and pieces I’ve picked up. One is a maple fingerboard guitar roughly similar to the first Strats made in the mid 50’s and the second is more like a 60’s Strat with a rosewood fingerboard.

Strat Number 1

The first guitars I really fell in love with were 2 tone sunburst strats from the mid ’50’s, and the first decent electric guitar I owned was a ’80’s Squire 1950’s replica (I still have it although ¬† various parts of it have been incorporated into this guitar and the neck and body are waiting to be built into another project). So when I first decided to start building my own this was the obvious choice.

Body:

Eric Johnson signature strat body – I really like these, they have the original ‘deep contours’ and a very thin nitrocellulose finish, alder.

Neck:

Eric Johnson signature neck – lovely quater sawn maple, with a ‘v’ profile at the nut changing to a ‘u’ at the heel, flat 12″ radius and a deeper carve at the headstock to eliminate the need for string trees.

Hardwear:

A mixture of bits from my old 80’s vintage reissue strat and Callham parts

Electrics:

Bare Knuckle ‘Irish Tour’ hand wound set with 50’s style cloth ‘push back’ wire, second tone control wired to the bridge pickup – actually I have a Dimarzio HS3 pickup in the bridge position at the moment.

 

 Strat Number 2

This was the second guitar I made, I was after something more like a 60’s strat with a rosewood fingerboard (don’t worry, this is actually Pau Ferro, a non-endangered, sustainably sourced rosewood equivalent). I’m really pleased with this guitar, it’s amazing how different its character is to the maple board version.

Body:

Eric Johnson signature – again, it’s the perfect combination of the older style deep contours and a super thin nitrocellulose finish – I’m sure this lets the wood breathe and resonate better than an impermeable finish.

Neck:

A Fender custom shop ‘Limited Edition’ thin skin nitrocellulose finish neck, 10″ radius with jumbo frets.

Hardwear:

All Callham Guitars

Electrics:

Bare Knuckle ‘Mother’s Milk’ hand wound set, 50’s style cloth wire, 2nd tone control to bridge pickup.

 

Both my strats are wired like this: