New Highwood Vintage Strat Saddles

A vintage style Gotoh tremolo

I consider vintage strat tremolos an iconic piece of guitar heritage and engineering. They are undoubtedly one of the most common bridges used on electric guitars, yet many players find certain aspects about them frustrating. On the positive side, I have always found that these bridges sound great and bring a really cool vibe to the guitar. The drawbacks that are typically cited are tuning stability, play in the tremolo arm, rough saddle adjustment screws (this hurts the palm of your picking hand), strings not staying in the center of the saddle, and probably others I’m forgetting about. Interestingly enough, some of the most prolific guitarists that favor strats manage to not be deterred by these issues, particularly players like Jeff Beck & Scott Henderson come to mind. Both of these guys make heavy use of their tremolos and almost embed the tremolo bar into their picking hands.

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New Strat Wiring

tl;dr

The following combination of strat mods is simple to install and greatly increases the tonal palette of the instrument IMO. This requires giving up the traditional 3rd position (middle pickup), but that’s a small price to pay.

  1. Tone knob assignment – Connect the first tone knob to the neck & middle pickups and dedicate the second one to the bridge pickup.
  2. Super switch – Replace the standard 5-way with a super switch or 2-pole 5-way w/ the following wiring: N, N+M, N+B, M+B, B   This preserves all the “good” strat sounds and adds the “tele” middle sound.
  3. Strangle Switch (aka high-pass filter) – Basically just a .003 capacitor on a push pull potentiometer. This will cut out low-end frequencies and make the guitar sound so funky.
  4. Treble Bleed circut – Add a 560pf cap & 300k resistor to the volume pot to preserve tone while using the volume knob.

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Gotoh Tuners > Schaller Tuners

Over the years I’ve had several sets of both Gotoh & Schaller tuners. When I built my last strat I opted for a set of Schaller mini locking tuners. I went this route because this was the only locking set that Warmoth sold. In hind sight that was a dumb decision. This marks the last time I settle for hardware over convenience. The Schallers did work OK, but after a re-string they take FOREVER to settle in and hold tune. Not only that but they felt cheap and the gears didn’t feel very smooth. Even though I wasn’t 100% satisfied with them I was planning to just tolerate them. That changed a few weeks ago when the high E string tuner on the developed a rough spot on the post. It basically sliced the string as it’s tuned to pitch. 100% useless; total garbage. I’ve never experienced anything like this before with a tuner. Continue reading “Gotoh Tuners > Schaller Tuners”

Dimarzio Area 58s & 61

Thanks to Amazon and Fedex my pickups arrived on time today.  I decided on the Area 61 for the bridge and the Area 58 for the neck and middle slots. These are fully hum-canceling and have the standard six poles on top.

Looking at the bottom of the pickup reveals nine magnets in the pickup. I assume the extra three magnets are reverse wound to cancel the hum, but that’s only a speculation.
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The fatback has arrived

The strat neck came in yesterday afternoon, and it looks great! I ended up going with a birdseye maple neck/fingerboard. It’s also a fatback cut, which is pretty thick but not too much. Other specs are stainless steel 6155 frets, abalone inlays, Schaller locking tuners, and a Tusk nut. Warmoth did a much better job with the frets on this one than my previous two; there isn’t a single high spot on the neck. The wood grain is also just what I wanted. My only complaint is the inlays don’t look as good as my other necks, but everything else makes up for it.


Strat Project

Lately I’ve really had an itch for another strat. Since my last two Warmoth projects have turned out so well, I decided to go this route again. This time around I don’t have the time or the patience for the finishing process so I’m going to have Warmoth take care of that for me. I saw this Mary-Kay white, chambered swamp ash body and pulled the trigger. I’m going to go with the six screw Gotoh 510 solid steel bridge (pictured below). Right now the body is being routed for the bridge and H-S-S pickup configuration. I can’t wait for it to ship.