#1
I have a Squier Affinity HSS Strat in B/W and while it still feels nice to play and is maybe my most comfortable guitar to play the electrons are so bad compared to my other guitars that I dont really have the desire to play it.

As anyone who has even owned a Squier will know their pickups are their major downfall and mine is no acception. The humbucker is noisy and thin and the two single coils are so weak sounding that I never use them. As its my first guitar and holds sentimental value I want to 'do it up' and use it to learn a bit more about guitars.

I plan to relplace all the hardware in black and and add a mid to high output humbucker, a rail and a nice sounding clean tone singlecoil with the aim of using my new and improved guitar primarily for punk and post-hardcore stuff. Its not all I play but for now Im not putting my expectations too high as Ive never done this before. Anyway I have some possibly stupid questions.

Ive been looking at pickups from this site http://www.axetec.co.uk/index.htm which sells Iron Gear pickups but the only reviews Ive seen for them are on this site so I was wondering if anyone has any experience with them. I was looking at Seymour Duncans but they seem expensive to go on a Squier.

Am I best putting the rail in the neck or the middle?

There seems to be two screw configurations for pickguards, is there some way I can find out which I need or will I need to do some measuring?

Is replacing a nut difficult?

Are all nuts the same size?

Are locking nuts better or just for guitars with Floyd Roses?

How do I know what size tuners to get? Measure?

When I take all the strings off do I need to support the neck in any way or do I just get it set up afterwards?

Will the POTS be good enough for the new pickups or will they need replacing?

I think thats it for now, I know its a lot but Im anxious to get the best result I can first time.
#2
Only thing I am really going to answer to is about the seymour duncans.

If you can mount a pickup, you can unmount it, so if the guitar still sound's terrible after the swap, save it for another project
Incarnation of awesomeness on earth.
#3
I can't answer anything apart from the pickups question.
Irongears are suprisingly amazing pickups, I put two of their humbuckers (rolling mill and hot slag) in my epi les paul, and they sound top class. So i'd definitely go for those if price is an issue, as I don't think they're any worse than seymour duncans.
#4
For where to put the rail- its personal preference. It makes most sense to me to have a humbucker in the bridge, single in the middle, and a rail in the neck. I say that because its pretty common to have an hsh setup, which is what you'll be getting close to

I don't know about the screw locations..you may be able to look it up, but measuring will really be the best 'for sure' way

With nuts- they're not very hard to replace at all. Its just a matter of heating (to loosen the glue), pulling the old one off. Then just place and re-glue the new one
They aren't all the same size though. The nut width makes a difference. There's also 'gibson style' and 'fender style'. Obviously you'll be going with fender style.

As for a locking nut, they're only for floating bridges. Keep in mind that a floating trem like a floyd rose has fine tuners at the bridge. When you lock down the nut the tuning will change slightly, so you need the fine tuners to fine tune. You can't do that with a fixed bridge. Instead of a locking nut, look at locking tuners.

For the tuners, again, measuring will tell you for sure. I'm sure you can find the measurements online, but I'm just not sure off the top of my head

And you're good to just let the neck sit when the strings come off. If you're super worried and will have them off for a long time, just loosen the truss rod a bit. For what you're doing it should be fine though

Hope that helps
I'm posting from my phone so its a little harder to give full detail, but if you've got more questions feel free to ask for clarification
#5
- Go used with pickups! You can often get them for great prices on ebay or craigslist. I'm sure someone else can help you with Irongear, but Duncans are excellent. I'd try to get a set of those if you can.

-Rails in the middle, I think. A strat really benefits from a single coil pickup in the neck, for clean tones. Plus, you probably want the pickups getting hotter towards the bridge instead of hot at both ends and colder in the middle.

-You shouldn't need to replace the pickguard, unless you want one that looks different. If you do, you'll want to go by the number of holes in the pickguard (usually either 8 or 13). Keep in mind that the hole location changes a lot so you're probably going to have to drill another hole or two. Luckily, they're covered up by the pickguard so even if you get the wrong one, it won't matter.

-Replacing a nut is sort of a pain. It's not hard to do, but it's hard to do properly. Physically getting the old one out and the new one in is just the beginning - it's more about getting the nut cut and filed properly so your setup and action is good.

- Nope! You'll want to measure yours. It's also likely that you'll need to cut the one you get to fit the fretboard properly.

-Locking nuts are not something you want to mess with unless you absolutely need one, for all sorts of reasons.

-Measure. There are several measurements - tuner hole size, distance to the set screw hole, angle to the set screw (if there is one; Fender style ones should be inline). Stew-Mac has a specs tab on their tuner pages that give you all the measurements. I'd start there.

- Just know that the neck is going to be stressed by having all the tension on, then off, then on again. Don't leave the strings off for too long, and give the neck time to settle after you put them back on before you start messing with the truss rod.

-Squier pots are crap. They'll work with any pickups, but as long as you're getting new electronics you might as well get new pots. Some sealed CTS or Alpha pots will be a lot less likely to go scratchy or cut out on you.
#6
Am I best putting the rail in the neck or the middle? - your choice depends on what sort of sound you like

There seems to be two screw configurations for pickguards, is there some way I can find out which I need or will I need to do some measuring? - yh measure it and compare with axetec's diagrams

Is replacing a nut difficult? - yes, without the right tools

Are all nuts the same size? - no

Are locking nuts better or just for guitars with Floyd Roses? - they keep the guitar in tune better than anything else, save locking tuners

How do I know what size tuners to get? Measure? - yes measure everything

When I take all the strings off do I need to support the neck in any way or do I just get it set up afterwards? - be quick with restringing and a small set up should be fine

Will the POTS be good enough for the new pickups or will they need replacing? - replace, squier pots are cheap and nasty
#7
and as for axetec pickups i own one - a steamhammer (bridge) it kicks ass, sounds like a duncan distortion with less treble bite, and i have it in a modded cheapo strat, single humbucker.
#8
Ok thanks for all the help guys. Considering the nut is difficult to replace, how would I heat it btw? is a graphite one considerable better than the current plastic one?