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  #1  
Old 04.18.10, 4:50 PM
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Squier Strat Mods

I'm sure this forum gets a lot of these kinds of threads, but I would appreciate some advice and opinions on the subject.

So I'm fixing up my old 2002 Squier Affinity Strat, the first guitar I ever owned. It needs a lot of work, but it should make a fun summer project.

The main problems with it, which I think are typical for a chinese-made Squier, are the following:

-Cheap wood in the neck; it snapped on me 5 years ago. Had it glued once by a luthier, but it snapped again from string tension.

-Cheap Squier pickups. Weak magnets, poor quality pole pieces.

-Cheap hardware & electronics. Cor-Tek 5-way switch, gritty Alpha 500kΩ pots, .33uF capacitor, Hardly any shielding.

So far, all I've done is strip the body of it's hardware, removed the original, broken neck and ordered a Warmoth replacement. I've also gutted the body of all the pickups and electronics, and shielded the cavities with adhesive aluminum foil tape.

My next goal is to replace all three pickups and replace them with a set of either the Fender Hot Noiseless or Vintage Noiseless pickups, add a phase reversal switch for the middle pickup and a master volume kill switch. I was going to replace the pots, but I thought I'd just clean them up a little bit and see how they do.

I've been following the wiring diagrams from the Seymour Duncan site for a 3 single coil 1 volume 2 tone Strat, as well as their diagrams for the Kill Switch, Treble Bleed, and Phase Reversal switch. I've also found some good information from some other websites listed below.

GuitarNuts Shielding a Strat
Reworking a Korean Squier Strat
Guitar Wiring Site
Guitar & Bass Wiring Techniques

Along the way, I've been told to just throw out this piece of crap guitar, that it wouldn't be worth the investment of time and parts, but this guitar has a lot of sentimental value to me. It turns out that it is one of the limited edition 2002 Squier Affinity Strats in British Racing Green with a CBS-style headstock, so it does have a little market value in that respect.
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  #2  
Old 04.19.10, 12:51 AM
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Dude, this reminds of a project I undertook last year to build me a guitar out of parts I bought of eBay. Unfortunately, it ended up as £300 of crap in my loft, because I hadn't a clue about building a guitar. All I'm saying is research it to the fullest, and you will get your dream Squier! Good Luck!
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  #3  
Old 04.19.10, 9:48 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Insomniak View Post
... 2002 Squier Affinity Strat, the first guitar I ever owned...

My next goal is to replace all three pickups and replace them with a set of either the Fender Hot Noiseless or Vintage Noiseless pickups...
...
Along the way, I've been told to just throw out this piece of crap guitar, that it wouldn't be worth the investment of time and parts, but this guitar has a lot of sentimental value to me. It turns out that it is one of the limited edition 2002 Squier Affinity Strats in British Racing Green with a CBS-style headstock, so it does have a little market value in that respect.
SELL THE GUITAR!! ...was my initial gut reaction...

But I do understand the compulsion of fixing up your first guitar. Yes, your money would be better spent on a better guitar, and now that you're replacing the neck it is going to barely be your first guitar anyway...

However, knowing how to fix up a guitar is a valuable skill, so enjoy the learning process.

My only bit of advice is spend A LOT of money on pick-ups. As they'll do most the work. Lindy Fralins, Chris Novak, Lace Sensor, or Rio Grandes.

Best of luck!
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  #4  
Old 04.19.10, 10:43 AM
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If you're UK based I have a Squier Strat neck that's going spare (my modding project pretty much ruined the body).

Before you go any further I'll give some advice I learned the hard way: not all the parts are as interchangeable with other Fender equivalents as you'd expect. Affinity Strats have a different number (and slightly differently-positioned) scratchplate screw holes, and the string spacing at the bridge is slightly narrower. Not by much, but enough to present a problem.

The priority really is to get it structurally sound (i.e. doesn't fall apart, stays in tune, intonates properly). Then move onto the electronics (you're dead-on, they DO suck on Affinities!) - get CTS or Dimarzio pots, a new 5-way switch, decent wiring, new caps for the tone controls, ask around here on pickup recs and slap some copper shielding tape onto the underside of the pickguard. Fitting decent circuitry and pickups ought to lessen the noise issue too with any luck.

My gut instinct is, for a cheap Strat-style guitar, to get a Yamaha Pacifica (no, really) but I understand the importance of sentimental value, even when it looks like a useless chunk of firewood to everyone else!
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Old 04.19.10, 4:22 PM
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go for it, it is so worth while!

i fixed my squier jagmaster in a similar manner, but you may want to also think about getting so good ( possibly locking even? ) tuners!

these as well as a nice set of seymour duncan's made a dramatic difference in tone, also i may suggest sanding it down to natural wood finish then waxing it, this has given mine a rite lush feel and plays very nicely indeed...

wiring wise, maybe put stack pickups and coil taps in to get more tonal options? have a look at all the various strat wiring set ups on the seymour duncan website
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  #6  
Old 04.21.10, 11:55 AM
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badger: how much does an aff. squier neck go for?
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  #7  
Old 04.21.10, 12:27 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Hides-His-Eyes View Post
badger: how much does an aff. squier neck go for?
Haven't a clue! Be interesting to find out though...there's one going on the US Ebay at a buy-it-now price of $49, if that's any indication.
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  #8  
Old 04.21.10, 3:17 PM
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So I bought a set of Fender Mod Shop SCN strat pickups to put in this guitar, but I was not expecting them to each have a third wire. My old pickups were just 2 wires, so I could use a little help figuring out which wire is which. They're wired like this:

Neck: Black, Green, White

Middle: Black, Green, Yellow

Bridge: Black, Green, Red

Now I get that the black ones are the ground wires, and that the red, yellow, and white wires are the hot ones, but what are these green wires? Coil taps? I honestly don't know. The wiring diagram that came with the pickups indicates that the green ones are supposed to be soldered to the volume pot along with the black ones I can't find any resources to determine which wire is which.

I've also added a phase reversal switch for the middle pickup, so am I supposed to use both the black and the green from the middle pickup with this switch? A little help would be appreciated.

BTW the replacement neck I ordered was a Warmoth CBS Strat neck. After what happened to the old one, I would never trust Squier with another one.

Last edited by Insomniak; 04.23.10 at 2:24 AM.
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  #9  
Old 08.15.12, 11:11 PM
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*Bump*

OK, so I've been waiting 4 or more months for some potentiometers to arrive through a local music shop. FINALLY, they arrived today!

I've been doing a second wave of repairs and upgrades to my Strat. Now, the only original parts that are still on the guitar are the body, the bridge, the jack plate, the strap buttons, and the tuning pegs. Everything else has been replaced.

My latest replacement parts include the following:
  • Authentic Fender replacement pickguard, in white/black/white, with shielding
  • Ernie Ball 5-way blade switch
  • Push-button ON-(off) momentary kill switch
  • Two "Ernie Ball" 500K ohm pots, stamped CTS right by the shaft
  • Set of 6 TUSQ stratocaster saddles
  • New mono phono input jack

Previous mods and replacement parts done two years ago included:
  • New Warmoth "Reverse Right-Handed" neck, solid birdseye maple with THICK (1" thick at 1st fret and at 12th fret) "boat" profile, and a TUSQ nut.
  • Fender "Mod Shop" Samarium Cobalt Noiseless (SCN) Stratocaster pickups, set of 3, now out-of-production
  • Fully shielded cavity, covered with aluminum foil tape
  • Phase Reversal switch for the middle pickup

I decided to make this into a 1 volume, 1 master tone Strat, and the volume pot is wired to be a "Treble Bleed" circuit. The tone is wired to be a "Greasebucket" circuit. There is also the same old DPDT Phase Reversal switch mounted onto the pickguard, wired to the middle pickup, so I can still get 7 tones instead of 5. No series/parallel switching.

The usual hole in the pickguard has been bored out to fit the push button kill switch. I just gotta wire it up to the hot lead and the ground, so it makes the correct circuit.

Rather than solder all the green and black wires from the pickups, I've decided to try using a twist-on wire connector, a.k.a Marrette caps, to join all of the grounds together, because I had a hell of a time getting the capacitor to stay on the tone pot during the soldering process, and I don't really want to have a mountain of solder covering up 8 or 9 wire ends again.

Previously, the guitar had two stripes of white electrical tape wrapped around the body, to make it sort of look like the stripes on a Fender Mustang. These have been removed, and I have painted the full 3 strips on with white spraypaint, and then covered the entire body (except for the cavities and spots where the pickguard will cover it ) with automotive-grade acryllic lacquer clear coat. It looks a lot more professional now.

Finally, taking some advice from Paul Balmer's Fender Stratocaster Handbook (which was a valuable learning asset, and I wrote the author to thank him), I decided to make this strat a hardtail, using a block of wood to brace the bridge, and prevent it from being able to do whammy bombs. Even with 5 springs in the back, and a Tusq nut and saddles, this guitar just would not stay in tune after even the mildest tremolo arm bend, so I've decided to make it a semi-permanent hardtail.

So all I gotta do is finish the soldering and grounding, test it, restring it, and then adjust the action, string height, and intonation. I would appreciate some feedback regarding using a twist-on cap for grounding, and on any of the other mods I've done. Photos soon.
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  #10  
Old 08.16.12, 6:23 AM
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Did you get to know what the third wire was for?
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  #11  
Old 08.21.12, 11:38 PM
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No, I never really did. In the other thread (coil taping SCN's), I looked up some into on the patent, but since they both run in parallel to the main ground, I can only assume that they are both grounds of some sort, only that one is specifically designed for series/parallel wiring, which is currently beyond my skill (not to say that I wouldn't like to try that further on down the road). The pickups each have a small white space on the back with a pen marking showing a "P" on the neck and bridge and an "S" on the middle.

Some more notes on this modding project:
  • Everything seemed to check out with the multimeter, so I sealed it up and restrung the guitar. I don't have my amplifier here, so I tested it out by plugging it into a set of amped stereo speakers using a 1/4" male to 1/8" female adaptor. The bridge and neck sounded good, but I got no sounds at all from the middle, and only the neck and bridge individually from positions 2 and 4.

    I suspect this is because of the shielding on the back of the pickguard. I neglected to cut any off from around the hole where I mounted the phase reversal switch, and as such, the electricity traveling through the shielding tape is also going through the metal hardware on the DPDT switch and messing around with it. I'm going to try isolating it with some electrical tape (which is also quite copious on the backs of the new pots, because the solder isn't adhering to the pot casings). I'll post again if that works, because after analyzing my old photos of how I had it wired before, comparing it to the Seymour Duncan wiring diagram, and then comparing it to my current wiring job (and testing it with the multimeter), it's exatly the same, minus the shielding.
  • Had some trouble getting the three-terminal push button kill switch wired up correctly, but got it resolved.
  • The tone is so sweet, even unplugged, and even better than it was before. I cite the TUSQ saddles for this awesome change, as well as the hardwood block wedged between the tremolo block and the body in the back cavity. There's a lot more reverberation throughout the body, up and down the neck, and with the 5 springs still loaded in the back (this is how Eric Clapton had his "Brownie" Strat set up). The previous saddles were Sung Il chrome-plated steel, and had deep grooves set into them from the wound nickel strings. These new TUSQ ones compliment the new white pickguard and pickups, as well as the TUSQ nut.
  • Using a Marrette wire connector to connect all of the ground wires together was another great idea. It's a hell of a lot cleaner and easier to navigate inside, and there's no lumping them all together on the volume pot with a pile of solder on top. I wasn't sure what size to use, so I bought a variety pack, and wound up using the smallest size, an orange Marrette XTP 331. I would recommend using these to anybody doing wiring work on their guitars
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  #12  
Old 08.22.12, 1:26 AM
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Turns out the problem with the middle pickup was that the ground wire leading out from the phase reversal switch was not making a full circuit. After much testing and experimenting tonight, I managed to get it to work, as tried it out through the stereo amp. So far, so good; going to try it out with a real amp later today.

Also, I'd like to add the following. I was worried about the middle pickup being dead, so I decided to check out the DC resistance. Having lost the original packaging years ago, I just looked it up, and here's what they said:

Bridge pickup: 1.6K DC resistance; 3.8 Henries inductance
Middle pickup: 6.5K DC resistance; 2.4 Henries inductance
Neck pickup: 6.5K DC resistance; 2.4 Henries inductance

The bridge pickup reading is a typo; my reading was 11K ohms! That's a hot bridge pickup! It's a shame they stopped making them, because I would put these into every single-coil oriented guitar I'd own.

Pics, as promised:


IMG_1284


IMG_1285
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Last edited by Insomniak; 08.22.12 at 6:16 AM.
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  #13  
Old 11.22.12, 1:51 AM
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Just thought I'd post another update regarding this ongoing project. I've had my head inside this guitar for quite a while now, and working on it has really prepared me for any future guitar work I might do.

The "Greasebucket" circuit has proved to be the most difficult element in this guitar. The wiring diagrams I got from Dirk Wacker's article for Premier Guitar ("Mod Garage: The Fender Greasebucket Tone Circuit", Premier Guitar, March 2011) are for the typical 2-tone knob Strat. The wiring in the picture above is incorrect; the yellow jumper between the volume and the tone pot is on the wrong lugs. The tone knob was completely dead. That didn't stop me from playing a show with the strat that very weekend.

I tried re-wiring it again, this time in a corrected way, but I still had no tone control, or so it seemed at the time. In reality, I may not have been playing with enough volume or signal strength to notice any tone difference. In one instance, I could hear it change, but it was only when I got the buzzing of an improperly grounded circuit.

By this time, I had removed the strings, unscrewed all 11 pickguard screws, loosened the neck pickup (22 frets, so I had to carefully slide out the pickguard from under the fingerboard extension), and had re-assembled & restrung it about 4 or 5 times, causing me much grief. This latest time, I tried a different wiring scheme that I picked up from the Telecaster forum:



I still got it a little ****ed up, though. The wiring is backwards: instead of going to the selector switch, the volume pot's output goes to the tone pot, then off to the kill switch & output jack. This results in a functional Greasebucket tone pot, but the tone will change if the volume is altered. Oh well. I can deal with that for the time being (using a volume pedal, I hardly ever adjust the guitar's volume pots myself). Next time I get the urge to open up the Strat and work on it, perhaps maybe then I'll fix it once and for all.

A word about the Greasebucket: It sounds amazing. WAY better than any other tone control I've ever used, on any guitar. A big part of this is because I use 500K ohm pots in my Strat instead of the usual 250K ohm ones (this guitar originally came with stock Alpha 500K's,), so by rolling it to about 5 on the dial, I start to get that nice, vintage Strat sound, especially in the neck pickup. The lower, the better, like around 2 or 3. I'm getting some really unique tones in the between-pickups settings, and with the altered, phase-reversed modes, I'm getting sounds I've never heard before. It's so much different than the usual, linear tone taper you get with a normal tone circuit no matter what your capacitor rating is. Try it!
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