The Squier Project – Part 1

Ok, so first some background – this is actually a project that was already started, but didn’t go as well as I’d hoped. Being “GuitBit”, I felt is wasn’t all it could be, so I decided I needed to go a step further. Here’s the back-story:

One of my first guitars was a black Samick Strat copy. And this was a pre-Greg Bennett one, not the newer style. It had the swoopy headstock, which you’ll see on a lot of the lowest-end strat copies, as apparently lots of really inexpensive guitars were manufactured at this plant. Mine had the SSS configuration, with a tremelo bridge, rosewood fretboard, and black matching headstock. All told, it was worth the $50 I paid for it. What I liked least about this guitar was the tuning machines. They are basically just the same as individual open-style tuners, but with a stamped steel cover over them. The tuners are pretty much the same as the Affinity strats.

So, I decided I would watch for some locking-style tuners, and try an upgrade. After a short time, I saw a Squier on CL that had been upgraded to Sperzel locking tuners. He was asking $110, so I thought I’d try to get it for some cash and some trade. I ended up trading for a couple of good pedals, worth approximately $60-$70, so I think I did pretty well. Also, while I was watching for the locking tuners, I saw a deal on a loaded MIM pickguard (white), for $50. so I bought that also. I already owned a MIM, so I knew what to expect from the electronics.

The first things that I discovered while doing this is that Samick wasn’t all I thought it was. The earlier Samicks had bodies made of plywood. I didn’t realize this until after I’d pulled it apart, which was disappointing, but not horrible. In the pickup and control cavities, it was pretty apparent, as the plywood used wasn’t very good quality, so it looks as though it had already started delaminating before they even had painted. This meant that shielding it with the copper foil wasn’t going to go well, so I decided to forgoe that part of the project.

Secondly, the Sperzel locking tuners that came on the Original Squier headstock (the one I bought specifically to upgrade the Samick), were the larger diameter for the newer style tuners. The Samick had the vintage-sized tuners, and would have had to be drilled out. The problem is that the Samick has a paint-matched headstock, so drilling out the holes could be dangerous, potentially damaging the paint. I chose to push forward anyhow, choosing to swap the neck out entirely.

The last part of the project was to swap out the Samick electronics (which are pretty bad) with a MIM strat loaded pickguard. After I completed desoldering all of the pickup leads, twisting them together in pairs, and then resoldering, I realized that the Samick body’s pickguard wasn’t quite the same as a standard 11-hole strat. This meant filling the holes on the body and also camoflaging one that was just barely visible.

The things I found I didn’t like were the pickguard hole problem, the plywood body, and the fact that the neck pocket in the Samick is slighty shallower than the Squier, so I had to adjust the pickups and bridge saddles way up to get it all right. It may have been slightly off angle as well, as I had to make a slight adjustment to the truss rod, also. It seemed all of my issues with this build were a direct result of the Samick body. Also, I couldn’t use the Squier body from the donor, as that was a single humbucker Bullet, with no route for the other pickupsĀ  (yes, I thought about pulling out the router, but then decided that it was probably a bit much for a first project).

So, I watched for another donor Squier, hoping to find just a body for cheap on CL, and eventually found one better – a project Squier with everything except the pickguard and tremelo spring cavity plate. Here’s a photo:

Squier Donor number 2

Squier Donor Number 2

I haven’t verified for sure that all of the parts are there yet, but it looks like they are. It even came with the electronics, which I might try in the Samick when that’s back together. However we’ll have to see. Perhaps I’ll try them, perhaps I won’t.

Ok, so that’s the background for the project. In the next post, we’ll discuss shielding the body cavities, and other prep work we’ll be doing to get this to a point at which we’re ready to assemble. Hopefully this time around it will all turn out exactly as hoped.