The Strat build project – part 4

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The Strat project lives!

“IT LIVES!!!!” cried out the mad scientist. Yes, finally the Strat project has been strung up and it’s a beauty. Until my nice custom bridge arrives I’ve installed a Wilkinson vintage Strat bridge. Unfortunately it’s a 2-1/8″ screw pattern, so I could only mount it by the middle four screws, but it’s fine it it’s bolted right down used strictly as a hard tail.

My custom bridge, which has been made by Hantug Custom Guitars out of Turkey, is going to be something special. It’s a vintage 6 hole style Stratocaster bridge, with the screw spacing at 2-1/16″ to match the Mexican Strat body I’ve used, but the string spacing will be 2-1/8″, pretty much like most Floyd Rose type guitars.

The sustain block is made of titanium, something I’m really looking forward to trying out. I have two sets of saddles to try, some brass and titanium ones. The brass are finished black like the baseplate, but the titanium ones are straight titanium. The whammy bar will be a pop-in type too.

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My finished bridge will come with two types of saddles, black brass ones, and unfinished titanium (see the two front examples).

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The titanium sustain block looks fantastic. Specs are etched too, which is a nice touch.

Anyway, back to the guitar. The neck is fantastic. It’s a little thicker than I’m used to, but I’ve not noticed it at all. The Warmoth Standard Thin carve is just so natural. It fits in the hand beautifully, and is easy to get around. The 10-16″ compound radius fretboard is a thing of beauty. You don’t notice the radius change, everything is just so easy to play!

The stainless steel frets are a little narrower than I was expecting. I must have accidentally selected the wrong option. They feel great though, and things like vibrato are nice and easy with the jumbo height, and slick stainless steel feel.

The guitar as a whole is so nice and light. The alder body is incredibly light weight, and the neck is very light too. The guitar will be lighter still when the titanium bridge goes in too.

In terms of playability this guitar is fantastic. I’m still dialing in the bridge, and the truss rod may need some more adjusting, but the action is nice and low with minimal string buzz higher up the fretboard. With the 2-1/8″ string spacing at the bridge and a 1-11/16″ nut everything feels just like my Ibanez guitars do, which is just what I wanted. So far the staggered Gotoh Magnum Lock tuners haven’t had any difficulties ensuring the strings stay in the nut slots when bending. Things might be different when I start using the whammy bar, but I hope I don’t need to use any string trees.

The tone is fantastic too. Unplugged the guitar has a very big and resonant acoustic tone. Plugged in it’s the same. With the combo of woods, stainless steel frets, and the Tone Zone in the bridge I get a nice big fat tone with plenty of clarity. Sustain is pretty good too, even with the cheap bridge components. This guitar should really sing once the new bridge is installed. It’s a bit of a one-trick pony right now, but once I install a push-pull potentiometer, and have the ability to switch between series and parallel tones it should hopefully be versatile enough for my needs.

So, I’ve been really happy with the overall turn out of this project. Whilst my finish on the neck isn’t exactly pro quality I’m still pleased with how the neck plays, so the imperfections in the clear coat aren’t such an issue. Once I have the new bridge installed I’ll give a thorough review of the guitar, but truth be told right now I’m really impressed already with how it turned out. For minimal outlay I’ve been able to put together a guitar that if I were to buy new off the shelf, or off a custom builder probably would have cost me at least a couple of grand. Considering I’ve got just over $600 in this guitar (including shipping costs) it really is an amazing guitar and great bang for buck.

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