Music Monday - Restoring My Squier Fender Stratocaster Part 1

I'm restoring my childhood guitar. This is a Japanese 1983 Squier Stratocaster made by Fender. I played it a lot from my mid teens into my early 20s then stopped playing. It sat behind my dresser collecting dust for the last 20 years or so. I decided to start playing guitar again in March of 2020. I purchased an Acoustic guitar on Amazon. I started really enjoying playing again and decided to pull my old guitar out from behind the dresser. After 20 years, covered in dust, I was actually surprised it was still in decent condition.

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After pulling it out and dusting it off. I plugged it into my amp and discoverd the pickup selector switch was shorting out or cutting out. The tremolo is stripped and everything else seems to be cosmetic.

So to start this restoration I decided to start with the obvious problem and fix the pickup selector switch.

After doing some research I discovered that a lot of people are restoring these Squier guitars with authentic Stratocaster parts. I also found out that early Japanese models are sought after by collectors. BONUS!

The concept of restoring the guitar with authentic strat parts intrigued me. I mean why not? I've had it this long. If I'm going to restore this thing I may as well get some decent parts for it. I've kept it this long, I'll probably own this guitar till the day I die.

I found a five way selector switch on Amazon and ordered it. I watched a few YouTube videos that taught me what I needed to do. When I opened the guitar NOT TO MY SURPRISE the switch was completely different than the 37 year old switch that was in there.

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As you can see from the picture the pieces are completely different. The first thing I did was see if the new one would fit and it did. It fit no problem at all.

I looked over the two pieces and took an educated guess on how to wire it. To my disappointment and complete disgust I wasn't far off but wired it backwards. 🤣

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Yes, I'm a messy solderer.

I almost gave up because I had removed them one wire at a time from the old one and soldered them where I thought they belonged on the new one. I hadn't labeled anything and thought all hope was lost figuring out the wiring without a diagram. I also found in my earlier research that the wiring was slightly different for each year guitar and you didn't want to find yourself in this situation ☹️

Not wanting to give in I carried on! I wasn't going to be defeated. I took everything apart again and this time looked for a diagram on the internet. To my luck, someone had posted one with what looked like my exact style switch. Apparently this is a switch to a 1950s style Stratocaster.

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Source

Thank God! My world made sense again. I cleaned the solder off my messy wires, they were pretty short to begin with and I didn't have much room for error. If I cut them I'd have to go to the store to buy new wire and would have ended up rewiring entire sections of the guitar. I DID NOT WANT TO HAVE TO DO THAT!

Once I cleaned up the mess I made I slowly began rewiring everything following the diagram. It made perfect sense, I understood what I was doing now!

The volume and tone knobs wired to the right side, the pickups wired to the left side. I soldered a bridge from the right side to the left side for the volume, put it all back together again, plugged it into my amp and to my delight everything worked perfectly!

On a side note... I have no idea how we accomplished anything before the internet. Had I not found this diagram I would have not been able to figure this out on my own. I'm not really an electronics guy although I do like to tinker!

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As I took the strings off and worked I cleaned everything as best I could. I would normally never use harsh cleaners on a guitar but it was filthy. Over the last 30 plus years or so of sitting in attics and behind dressers without a case it had a nice coating of grunge on it. Plus with the white finish, I figured the bleach wouldn't hurt at all. The guitar cleaned up nicely!

As soon as I finished with the harsh cleaners I ran a rag over the neck with a string and fret cleaning oil I purchased.

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With everything working now I ordered some new strings. Strings should arrive tomorrow. I made an adjustment to the truss rod and I'm trying to lower the action. The tremolo is stripped and I'm debating if I want to replace it or not. I feel like I should but that will probably be a task down the road depending on how the rest of the repairs go. For now I'm just trying to get it to play and sound as nicely as it did when I was a kid. I've almost got the action to where I want it, I'm waiting to finish that tomorrow when the strings arrive.

The problem I'm having now is with what I think is considered the intonation. It tunes fine in the open strings but by the time you get to the 12th fret it's really out of tune. My understanding is this has to do with the bridge adjustment. I've been tinkering with it a little with mixed results. It's a little better but still needs much improvement. If anyone has any tips on proper adjustments please comment and let me know what to do to fix this tuning issue.

I did purchase a book on Kindle that teaches proper guitar setup so I'll probably tear into that towards the middle of the week. Hopefully I can get this tuning issue straightened out soon.

So for now, the guitar is cleaned up and looking decent again. The pickup selector is working great and feels so much better than the original. You can just tell it's a much higher quality part by the feel of it. It really seemed to improve the sound of the guitar too. I still have a long way to go but it's a start! As far as the Tremolo goes, if I can get this to play and sound as good as I remember it, I'll spend the money on a nice strat Tremolo, otherwise I may just get it in playable condition and leave it be. Although I'd never sell or trade this guitar in I have been shopping around for a nice electric hollow body to add to the collection.

I'm going to be tinkering around with this a little more. Once I get this tuning issue straightened out I'm going to start on a 3 string cigar box guitar build. I purchased the same type of "strat" bridge for it. So once I learn how to adjust the bridge on this guitar, I'm going to start on the cigar box build.

Thanks for reading and please feel free to share any tips or tricks you may have to straighten out this intonation tuning issue I'm having.

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