This is custom hybrid guitar with looks of slightly modified Fender Showmaster and some features of Ibanez JEM and similar modern guitars. After almost five years of playing with my first electric guitar – Squier Strat, I got pretty bored with it. I got it to play stuff like Deep Purple and Rainbow and it can serve for that somehow. But for the last few years I started listening (and playing) some heavier stuff like Satriani and Steve Vai which just don’t work on poor old Squier. It was almost impossible to get any heavier sounds with it because above some point all you get is annoying hum. Also, tremolo on Squier (or any other cheapo guitar) is completely useless. One little touch and it goes out of tune. Neck could be nice for someone with really small hands maybe, it’s only 40mm wide on nut so strings are close together with action too high for nice legato. So this one needed to have good tremolo, quality hi-output pickups, comfortable wider neck (not too thin like Ibanez Wizard) and of course, cooler looks.
Instead of ceramic disc caps widely used in guitars (because they are cheap) tone control cap is Orange Drop 0.022uF cap. To reduce noise I shielded whole control cavity and pickguard with great self adhesive copper tape from StewMac, even adhesive is conductive so you don’t need to worry about making solid contact between tape pieces. As for pickup wiring, it’s pretty standard (recommended by DiMarzio for multi-pole switch), from 1st to 5th switch position: bridge pickup, outside coils in parallel, both pickups, inside coils in parallel, neck pickup. Both pickups are high output so it’s impossible to get 100% clean tone in humbucker mode, but positions 2 and 4 are really great for that. Much better clean tone than my Squier Standard Strat; reminds me of piano tone, very musical.
Few words about neck: shape is something like Warmoth Standard Thin neck and Ibanez JEM (Steve Vai signature) neck. To ensure neck stability two 6×6.35mm carbon rods are installed below fingerboard in addition to adjustable stainless steel truss rod. Fingerboard is made of ebony with compound radius surface. Radius at first fret is 10″ and it gradually increases to 16″ at 24th fret. This allows lower action than with usual fingerboards and easier string bending. And it really helps, action on first fret is just below 1mm and on last fret it’s between 1mm and 1.5mm only! Neck relief is about 0.5 mm measured at center of neck, string pressed at 1rst and 24th fret. Those carbon rods do the job well, I didn’t have to tighten truss rod at all, it’s only set not too be loose. Scale is 25.5″ long, a standard for super-Strat style guitars. And I’m glad we didn’t go below 19mm for neck thickness because this shape fits just right in my hand.
- Single piece ash body
- Maple neck with ebony fingerboard and two reinforcement carbon rods, parts from StewMac
- Compound radius 10″->16″ fingerboard with abalone inlays
- StewMac Wide/Highest fret wire
- DiMarzio Tone Zone bridge pickup, both pickups from GuitarSam
- DiMarzio Paf PRO neck pickup
- Schaller Floyd Rose tremolo from Warmoth
- Gotoh tuners
- 5-way multipole switch
- Tele-style output jack
- 500K Volume pot and 500K Tone pot
- Black pearloid pickguard
4 years after this guitar is completed I decided to upgrade it to look as good as it sounds. I’ve had two very nice figured maple tops for a while and decided to install the flamed one. That also means getting rid of the pickguard. I used to be a fan of pickguards, but nowadays I prefer electronic cavity to be on the back of the guitar. That way it’s easier to mess with the electronics, especially with Floyd Rose equipped guitars. Installing a top on already finished guitar proved to be much harder than making it from scratch.
Top needed to be bent to follow arm rest contour of the body. We used water and heat to bend it. Area that needed to be bent is soaked in water, heated up with iron (regular home iron works well) and then carefully bent. It took 30-45 minutes to bend the 4mm thick top. We left it overnight pressed tightly to the body to dry out. The next day it’s glued down and left a couple of days to cure.
Maple top is stained with black to make the figure pop out and then in red as a primary color. After several clear coats, nice thin black burst was added and sides/back are painted black. For more details on staining see my “Staining Guitar Tops” tutorial.
Also I took a chance to replace tone cap and treble bleed circuit with my new favorite: 10nF Russian PIO tone cap and 1nF in series with a 130K resistor as treble bleed. Pots are replaced with CTS/Fender.
Finally, I added an interesting ToneZone mod I found on the web. It involves a single 10nF (others used values up to 47nF) in series between pickup hot lead and pickup selector switch. It forms a hi-pass filter and reduces bass frequencies. Any pickup with strong bass could benefit from this mod, so I recommend trying it before switching to a more tame pickup.
I finally got sick of ToneZone muddiness and decided to replace it with something much tighter. So I get DiMarzio FRED which uses the same idea with asymmetrical coils to produce nice harmonics, but has much tighter low end response and less power. It made a huge improvement, all the mud is gone. FRED matches PAF Pro nicely, no wonder that Satriani used that combo for years before getting his signature pickups. For full review of FRED, and other pickups, click here.
Click on a thumbnail to play the video on YouTube.
Audio Clips (after the pickup swap)
Deep Purple – Burn (Solo)
Deep Purple – Highway Star (Solo)
Click on an image to see more details.
Some new photos I took in 2015.
It took about 10 months to complete this project! I never knew there are so many annoying little things that can come up and slow down process. For example, I had to wait more than a month because it was less than -10° Celsius here and it’s not good for paint to dry below zero.