Spotlight:Spending money and upgrading a Guitar you'd never sell

People often wonder if spending money on a guitar that they own but would never sell - maybe it was a first guitar or one with strong sentimental attachment, is foolish or a good move.

Whilst certainly spending heavily on a guitar that you aim to sell soon may be unwise if you are spending extra money that you would not re-coup in the sale, but on a guitar that you intend to keep that investment of money is not foolish , especially if you will end up playing that guitar much more as a result.

A case study: Daniel's Squier strat.

Dan is a regular customer and we have looked at many Gibson, Fender and ESP guitars for him.
Eventually we got to discussing his old Squier strat that was the first electric guitar bought for him by his parents when Dan was just a teenager.
Dan certainly was not going to get rid of this guitar and wondered if there was anything worth doing to it so he may enjoy it again, as it had languished in the corner since he had higher spec guitars.

We took a long hard look at the guitar together and identified some areas to improve .

 Tuners and Bridge

Two areas that immediately stood out was the machine-heads and the bridge which were letting the guitar down in terms of tuning stability and tone as the bridge had a flimsy "pot-metal" block.

So first the tuners went from these:

  to these quality but relatively inexpensive Gotoh ones:

 Next up was the tremolo. We sent the block off to our engineer who makes the FatCat parts for us and had a steel block made to match the spacing but seriously upgrade the mass and material quality. The tremolo block upgrade we have found is something that can radically improve the sound in a guitar like this.

Frets and Nut

Next up we gave the neck a careful fret dress in the neck jig to get the frets lovely.
The guitar had quite a lot of fret left, so a careful dressing was all it needed on that front 

We replaced the cheap plastic nut with an Earvana one which would go a long way to improving the in-tune-ness

 Electronics and Pickups

So finally we found ourselves looking at the electrics and pickups

First job was to screen the cavities  so that the electrics would be shielded from external noise


The pickup selection was a fun part of the project for Dan . As a teenager it had been the band Green Day that inspired Dan to play and practice and for this project Dan wanted to fit the Seymour Duncan JB like Billie Joe had had in his strat that he had not been able to afford as a teen.

Looking for a pair of strat single coils that would keep up with that hot humbucker led us to select some Oil City Pickups "StoneTone" model which would give some classic voiced sounds including handling some SRV and Gilmour-ish stuff too .

With the wiring we went with a couple of push pull  pots on the tone controls - one to split the JB leaving a hot single coil tone and the other to let the neck pickup into the mix irrespective of the position of the 5 way switch allowing mixes of pickups that included neck and bridge and all 3 on together.
We used a 500K volume pot and the first tone was for neck and middle pickups whilst the 2nd tone control was for the bridge pickup. An orange drop 0.022uF cap did the tone cap duties. 

You can see some heat shrink colour coding of the push back wires to keep things ordered: Bridge p/up is red, middle is yellow and neck is blue.

Dan went with a black JB as it achieved the whole mismatched/hot rodded look of Billie Joe's original, along with the parchment of the singles against the new white pickguard and knobs.

A new matching set of white knobs and switch and trem arm tip were used too 

A restring and completed set-up and the guitar was ready to rock again 


Dan was extremely happy and has found himself using the guitar constantly when teaching guitar as it is now very versatile and good sounding.
He was surprised at how much he uses this guitar and confessed to having a good laugh when his dad saw that he was still using it and confessed that it  certainly proved him wrong for wondering if it would all be a short lived fad when he bought the guitar for Dan all those years ago.

Dan recalls ......Yeah, on the way back to the car when leaving the shop my dad said "you're going to quit after 6 months...." 26 years later I still have the guitar 😄

Dan finds it useful as a teaching guitar because it reminds his students to practice and not just assume that you need the highest price guitar to play like a pro. 

This is typical of the happy stories we could tell about returning players first half decent guitars to them in an upgraded form