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.