New project - number one with a bullet!!! - Jemsite
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post #1 of 16 (permalink) Old 07-27-2017, 04:58 PM Thread Starter
 
Join Date: Jan 2005
Location: Canberra, Australia
Posts: 9,198
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New project - number one with a bullet!!!

Finished my latest project a couple nights ago. I've been wanting an actual "stratty" stratocaster for a while, but budgets hadn't really provided for the ability to fulfil the indulgence.

I happened to look in Cash Convertors during my lunch break the other Friday and discovered this little gem, a Squier Bullet Stratocaster. It was dirty as hell, and didn't look overly appealing, but I checked the serial and it happened to be a particular year, popular for the surprising quality of their necks and general build. Despite the feral nature of it, the neck looked okay and there didn't appear any real damage to the guitar. It was for sale at a very good price, so I brought it home.







I started off by giving the guitar a thorough scrub, and cleaned up and conditioned the fretboard. After this I realised that this guitar looked practically new, with very few dings or scuffs.

I already had a Wilkinson bridge at home and figured it would be a great upgrade over the tiny and flimsy stock unit. I had to fill and redrill the outer two holes to mount this properly on account of the Wilkinson's 2-1/8" screw spacing. It was the first time I had done modifications of this nature. A bit nerve-wracking, but it came out well.

I also swapped the vintage-style saddles with some solid brass ones I got from Hantug Custom Guitars. I also installed a Hantug milled titanium spring claw, and Raw Vintage springs.

The bridge pickup is a DiMarzio made IBZ/USA hum-cancelling single, based off the HS-3, the other two are stock Squier pickups with replaced black pickup covers. The neck sounds particularly great with some dirt. A fantastic bluesy lead sound. The pickup cavity has been shielded with aluminium shielding tape too.

I swapped the badly cut stock nut with a Graphtech TUSQ nut, which dramatically improved the tuning stability and tone. The ****ty stock Squier tuners have been replaced with some very reasonably priced Jin-Ho locking tuners, which have a nice 18:1 ratio, and I finished off the headstock parts with some black roller string trees.
I also swapped out the other nickel parts like the jack plate and pickguard screws with black ones, as well as the controls. I had a spare black DiMarzio Cliplock strap, so it finished off the guitar nicely.

The finished product is a guitar that plays far better than it's cheap price would suggest. Very little money was spent to turn this budget beginners guitar into a killer player. It sounds amazing unplugged, the body resonates so well, and it even stays pretty much in tune with a bit of whammy bar work. The neck feels great, and the frets are in pretty decent nick too. Kind of wishing it had 22 frets, but I've got plenty of guitars with 22 or more frets anyway.

This was a great stress relief project, and I'm very happy with the final product. It'll be doing its first gig tomorrow night.

I'm considering getting some better pickups, but these will do for now. Tossing up between the DiMarzio Injectors, which I've been keen to try since they were announced, and the Seymour Duncan YJM Furys, which I already know are amazing. Keeping an eye out for some cheap upgrade options, but that may be a way off for now.














Last edited by LonePhantom; 07-27-2017 at 05:06 PM.
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post #2 of 16 (permalink) Old 08-30-2017, 09:42 AM
 
Join Date: Apr 2006
Location: Inverness, UK
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Re: New project - number one with a bullet!!!

I'm surprised nobody's commented on this...

Good job, I like it. How did the 1st gig go?

I agree, working on guitars is often a stress-buster. I recently redid the electrics on a 1950s archtop that I have, must get pictures up here at some point. Lovely guitar but the pots had seized and the wiring was so old and brittle it had just broke. Luckily being an electronics engineer we have a rather extensive parts bin at work, raking about during a quiet afternoon I found a couple of 100k pots (perfect for this guitar) and a .47uF Capacitor, some spare wire, a wee while with a soldering iron and I had the thing working again. Felt so good!

'87
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post #3 of 16 (permalink) Old 08-30-2017, 09:19 PM Thread Starter
 
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Re: New project - number one with a bullet!!!

Quote:
Originally Posted by Shredder87 View Post
I'm surprised nobody's commented on this...

Good job, I like it. How did the 1st gig go?

I agree, working on guitars is often a stress-buster. I recently redid the electrics on a 1950s archtop that I have, must get pictures up here at some point. Lovely guitar but the pots had seized and the wiring was so old and brittle it had just broke. Luckily being an electronics engineer we have a rather extensive parts bin at work, raking about during a quiet afternoon I found a couple of 100k pots (perfect for this guitar) and a .47uF Capacitor, some spare wire, a wee while with a soldering iron and I had the thing working again. Felt so good!

'87
Yeah I'm surprised too! lol:

The guitar was brilliant, plays great.

Working on guitars is a great stress-buster when they work out.

I've since dropped a DiMarzio Injector bridge, and the guitar sounds amazing. I've got an Injector neck on the way too, and I've moved the IBZ/USA to the middle. It seems crazy spending coin to this extent on a Bullet Strat, but when it plays and sounds so good, why wouldn't you.
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post #4 of 16 (permalink) Old 08-31-2017, 05:55 AM
 
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Re: New project - number one with a bullet!!!

Superb. The black 'n' white is a great mix. Perhaps even cooler than a white strat with a tortoiseshell guard

I'd imagine the DiM sounds killer. I wouldn't say spending on it is insane at all. If its a good axe, and especially if its hardly cost you anything, then its worth a few upgrades for all the cost of pickups etc. You've ended up with a great player that is totally custom and hasn't cost the earth. Thumbs up!

I had a Squier Strat that was my first electric, I considered doing it up but ended up selling it as it wasn't getting played anyway (too many guitars, too little time) and I'd gone off Strats at that time. Great guitars to mod though

'87
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post #5 of 16 (permalink) Old 08-31-2017, 07:56 AM Thread Starter
 
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Re: New project - number one with a bullet!!!

Quote:
Originally Posted by Shredder87 View Post
Superb. The black 'n' white is a great mix. Perhaps even cooler than a white strat with a tortoiseshell guard

I'd imagine the DiM sounds killer. I wouldn't say spending on it is insane at all. If its a good axe, and especially if its hardly cost you anything, then its worth a few upgrades for all the cost of pickups etc. You've ended up with a great player that is totally custom and hasn't cost the earth. Thumbs up!

I had a Squier Strat that was my first electric, I considered doing it up but ended up selling it as it wasn't getting played anyway (too many guitars, too little time) and I'd gone off Strats at that time. Great guitars to mod though

'87
Yeah I love the look of this guitar, even if I prefer maple fretboards. I've even swapped all the nickel screws on the pickguard area wth black ones now.

The Injector bridge is brilliant, i'll be reviewing it on my blog soon, and hopefully my first youtube video in some time too. Looking forward to the Injector neck when it arrives.

That's what I figured. The basic carcass was fantastic, great neck, and resonant body. When you get that combo it's more than worth whatever upgrades you can afford if you want to keep the guitar.
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post #6 of 16 (permalink) Old 08-31-2017, 08:40 AM
 
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Re: New project - number one with a bullet!!!

Its pretty surprising the number of cheap guitars that have a surprisingly good resonance and aren't bad to play and, with a few carefully selected mods e.g. pickups and a decent setup can be completely transformed into great players. Many folks turn their noses up at such guitars without seeing the potential, if you know what you're doing and can be bothered with the effort. It can get you a great guitar without having to spend megabucks.

I have a 12-string dreadnought that I bought 13 years ago, a cheapo Stagg, a make that few of us care for. I was in my first job only a few months out of school, so I wasn't flush. I fancied a 12-string acoustic for pratting around on at home and maybe the occasional gig, nothing fancy, most Yamahas/Chinese Fenders came in at around 200, still a good price but a little more than I could afford. I found this one in a guitar store on sale new for only 80. I couldn't believe it. It was finished all over in black, made in China, nothing fancy but the finish was perfectly reasonable and the fretwork whilst not tidy was absolutely fine to play. I tried it and was struck by how good it sounded, very loud with lots of presence but not too bassy or trebly, the action was fine and required no adjustment, intonation good and I couldn't fault the price. I bought it straight away and to this day it's still probably my favourite strum. It has travelled with me and been gigged on many an occasion. A few years back I restrung it with D'Addario Phosphor Bronze strings which made it sound even better. I learned a lot from buying that guitar.

'87
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post #7 of 16 (permalink) Old 08-31-2017, 09:37 PM Thread Starter
 
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Re: New project - number one with a bullet!!!

Quote:
Originally Posted by Shredder87 View Post
Its pretty surprising the number of cheap guitars that have a surprisingly good resonance and aren't bad to play and, with a few carefully selected mods e.g. pickups and a decent setup can be completely transformed into great players. Many folks turn their noses up at such guitars without seeing the potential, if you know what you're doing and can be bothered with the effort. It can get you a great guitar without having to spend megabucks.

I have a 12-string dreadnought that I bought 13 years ago, a cheapo Stagg, a make that few of us care for. I was in my first job only a few months out of school, so I wasn't flush. I fancied a 12-string acoustic for pratting around on at home and maybe the occasional gig, nothing fancy, most Yamahas/Chinese Fenders came in at around 200, still a good price but a little more than I could afford. I found this one in a guitar store on sale new for only 80. I couldn't believe it. It was finished all over in black, made in China, nothing fancy but the finish was perfectly reasonable and the fretwork whilst not tidy was absolutely fine to play. I tried it and was struck by how good it sounded, very loud with lots of presence but not too bassy or trebly, the action was fine and required no adjustment, intonation good and I couldn't fault the price. I bought it straight away and to this day it's still probably my favourite strum. It has travelled with me and been gigged on many an occasion. A few years back I restrung it with D'Addario Phosphor Bronze strings which made it sound even better. I learned a lot from buying that guitar.

'87
Exactly, these days, even cheap instruments can often be solid. In all seriousness, the stock Squier pickups even sounded okay, and shielding the cavity is easy enough, and reduces noise a little. A player on a tight budget could easily save some coin, get even a Graphtech TUSQ XL nut, and some better than stock tuners, and have a guitar that plays pretty well with a home-done basic setup too. I went a long way with the mods on this guitar, but my project was essentially trying to show what can be done on a tight budget to turn something like a Bullet Strat into a top notch player. At the end of the day I've got a guitar that may cost as much as a Squier Standard, or even a Classic Vibe, etc, with the mods in it, but slays them on all counts.
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post #8 of 16 (permalink) Old 09-01-2017, 03:53 AM
 
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Re: New project - number one with a bullet!!!

The stock p/ups in my old Squier were alright, the only thing was the nut (which was dreadful - badly V'd and caused no end of tuning woes, it also eventually detached itself from the fretboard...!) which I had replaced by a GraphTech and it made all the difference. Hardware was fairly tough, needed a neck shim, my only real criticism was the body finish was a little fragile. Mine was sunburst and had the big 70s headstock, it looked the business.

Totally agree with your closing comment!

'87
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post #9 of 16 (permalink) Old 09-01-2017, 08:56 AM Thread Starter
 
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Re: New project - number one with a bullet!!!

Quote:
Originally Posted by Shredder87 View Post
The stock p/ups in my old Squier were alright, the only thing was the nut (which was dreadful - badly V'd and caused no end of tuning woes, it also eventually detached itself from the fretboard...!) which I had replaced by a GraphTech and it made all the difference. Hardware was fairly tough, needed a neck shim, my only real criticism was the body finish was a little fragile. Mine was sunburst and had the big 70s headstock, it looked the business.

Totally agree with your closing comment!

'87
Yeah, they're surprisingly usable, and yes, nut is the major factor. Do the tuners and string trees, deck the bridge, or swap block, or whole unit for a better one and it's a killer guitar.

I got my Injector Neck today, wow it's a nice pickup.
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post #10 of 16 (permalink) Old 09-11-2017, 03:07 PM
 
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Re: New project - number one with a bullet!!!

Nice work on this guitar!
I get your point on modding 'cheap' guitar, and making it much better for limited budget, but ... I always end up being pissed with the tiny squier fret wires. Bought 2 standard squier over the last couple of years... And got them out a couple of months later
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post #11 of 16 (permalink) Old 09-11-2017, 05:35 PM Thread Starter
 
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Re: New project - number one with a bullet!!!

Quote:
Originally Posted by jeromereuff View Post
Nice work on this guitar!
I get your point on modding 'cheap' guitar, and making it much better for limited budget, but ... I always end up being pissed with the tiny squier fret wires. Bought 2 standard squier over the last couple of years... And got them out a couple of months later
Hmmm, the fret wire on mine is listed as medium jumbo, and seems reasonably sizeable. I've found it big enough for my liking. Do the Standards come with a different spec to the Bullets and Affinity series?
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post #12 of 16 (permalink) Old 09-12-2017, 03:08 PM
 
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Re: New project - number one with a bullet!!!

I think standard and bullets use the same fret size. Being used to ibbies, the frets on both squiers I had seemed low, and refret is not something I am equipped for and capable (yet?) of. And I didn't find them worth paying for the refret. Compared to the frets on standard American Strats, squiers definitely look smaller to me.

It basically just comes down to personal taste and habits. Strats are great for mode, so wondering if anyone will follow you on this track and show us the results.
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post #13 of 16 (permalink) Old 09-12-2017, 05:40 PM Thread Starter
 
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Re: New project - number one with a bullet!!!

Quote:
Originally Posted by jeromereuff View Post
I think standard and bullets use the same fret size. Being used to ibbies, the frets on both squiers I had seemed low, and refret is not something I am equipped for and capable (yet?) of. And I didn't find them worth paying for the refret. Compared to the frets on standard American Strats, squiers definitely look smaller to me.

It basically just comes down to personal taste and habits. Strats are great for mode, so wondering if anyone will follow you on this track and show us the results.
Yeah they are a little smaller than the Ibanez frets. Plenty have modified Bullets and the like before me. I just thought I'd document it so people could see. It also helped me get inspired again to get onto writing my blog, modifying guitars and the like after a really ****ty period in my life.
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post #14 of 16 (permalink) Old 09-15-2017, 07:59 AM
 
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Re: New project - number one with a bullet!!!

How does the Injector neck p/u sound LonePhantom? In comparison to the stock unit?

Hope its virgin gig went well, and things are OK in life for you. I've had a bit of a difficult time recently and coming back to music/guitars after a long break has helped a little, even if I don't manage much actual playing time due to family life. However if I get a couple of 10 minute plays a week I'm happy.

'87
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post #15 of 16 (permalink) Old 09-17-2017, 09:29 PM Thread Starter
 
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Re: New project - number one with a bullet!!!

Quote:
Originally Posted by Shredder87 View Post
How does the Injector neck p/u sound LonePhantom? In comparison to the stock unit?

Hope its virgin gig went well, and things are OK in life for you. I've had a bit of a difficult time recently and coming back to music/guitars after a long break has helped a little, even if I don't manage much actual playing time due to family life. However if I get a couple of 10 minute plays a week I'm happy.

'87
The Injector neck is such a sweet pickup. It's softer, in comparison to the Injector Bridge, and provides a nice round, smooth tone, without being too muddy. At first I thought it's output may be a little lower than I like in a neck pickup, but I think it's working for me. I'll be reviewing the pickups at some point soon on my blog, when I get some clear headspace to get into review mode.

Things are always interesting in my life, but this last week or so has been a killer on several fronts. I know I'll be right, but some time out will be good. I've already pushed some of it into creative pursuits, writing some music, so it least I'm pushing the tough stuff into a positive outlet.

Hope you're doing okay too.
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