#1
My girlfriend bought me a cheap fender knockoff for my birthday. It looks awesome (real strat body covered in stickers from local bands and businesses).
It has really cool acoustics for an electric guitar, too. And it's the perfect guitar to quietly work out a melody without bothering guests or something.
There are two problems with it, though, that stop it from replacing my main, or even bringing it to the occasional gig:

The neck is fairly rough. Both the fretboard and back of the neck aren't finished all nice and glossy like a Fender (or even most Squiers). It's not a huge problem, but when I switch to my LP, I definitely notice.
The second's a bit more important; the stock pickups are garbage. You can't push them with gain and they sound flat clean.

How do I go about fixing these issues, and what kind of money should I expect to drop?
Custom-Built Strat
Epiphone Les Paul Custom Pro
Orange Rockerverb 50 Combo
#2
Pickups and electronics, $$80 to $250 DIY? - Depending on how much you spend on pickups.

Refinish the back of the neck, $20 DIY to new finished Warmoth neck, about $250.

Labour costs could be about $100 if it wasn't DIY and you used a ready-finished neck that didn't need fret work.

I've DIYed fairly costly things like that, no problem, and if I wanted to keep my girlfriend happy.......

EDIT - Just to be clear, you willbe spending more than the guitar is worth, but what price mojo?
Last edited by Tony Done at Nov 27, 2014,
#3
Is it easy to install pickups yourself? Otherwise I guess I'll be paying a visit to my local music shop.
Custom-Built Strat
Epiphone Les Paul Custom Pro
Orange Rockerverb 50 Combo
#4
installing pickups is easy I find. It's two wire solders. Trace the wires back and do a cheat sheet if you're new to wiring. If you need a diagram seymour duncan has the best strat diagrams.

new pickguards IKNMusic is fantastic for them you can get HSH HSS or SSS in 15 or so colors. Granted you'll most likely have to re-drill but think of the final product.

but for your questions:
ok so a big budget Dimarzio or Seymour Duncan hum cancelling pickups are your go to guide. the SD hot rail, the hot stack, dimarzio Injector , chopper. Lots of options.

on a budget the cheapest pickup that would really push the amplifier is the double rail pickups on ebay they are in 3 colors. I put them in real mexican fenders. There is no 60 cycle hum the bad kind of hum in strats. They are 4 wire pickups so you can coiltap them if you wanted as well.
if screws aren't included 3-38 is your go to screw. Buy 4-40 just in case. Philips round head


tips
the closer the pickup is to the strings the better as you get more volume

for this part it was part of a part time job I had in high school to make guitars look as new as possible here's what I'd do.

ok so the feel, this is for the back of the neck. We'll deal with the fretboard last.
before I get started we're using sand paper.. every single guitar made on the assembly lines use sand paper there are grades of it. 60 or 80 strips paint. The higher the number the less aggressive it is. This is exactly what I'd use.

first see if there is any wood finish on the neck. If there is wood finish the neck will shine like glass. This matters in a few minutes into this description.

dents and scratches in the necks finish
this gets rid of minor stuff
use 220 or 400 grit sand paper until they are leveled. Don't worry about scratch marks too much. They will go away by the end.

assuming it doesn't get the dents where you compromise the neck shape
krazy glue - not super glue. This process is called drop filling. Put a drop on it. Let it dry, sand with 400 until everything is the same level as the rest of the neck where you won't feel it. Clear nail polish works great for drop filling too as it's a variant of varnish.

ok so lets finish off the neck. I can go more into detail but for the most part.
sand with 1000 or 2000 grit (automotive stores) - 1000 = not as smooth for a glass like feel.
use swirl and scratch remover car wax to get rid of any scratches from the sand papers. Swirl and scratch remover only removes very very minor scratches with a machine if you're wondering what kind they mean.
if there is no wood finish use 2000 grit on the entire back of the neck. Do this monthly.
tip when using super fine sand papers. wet them. Not on raw wood surfaces though.


ok so the frets are easy.
put tape across the fretboard (wooden part) and we're gonna polish the frets.
use 2000 grit sand paper and then polishing compound
for the best results use a micro mesh kit. The guitar will play better than new.

for the fretboard where our fingers play.
lighter fluid to get rid of any dirt on the fretboard
pure lemon oil 3 minutes after to re-hydrate the fretboard
if the dirt is persistant a razor blade or 0000 steel wool works.

interesting fact you can use turtlewax super hardshell wax on a shop cloth to polish the guitar and people will swear it loos new.

after that you're done.


worst case scenario sand the neck down with 220 grit
polish the raw wood to 400 then switch to 2000 grit
unfinished necks are lightning fast in feel. The only down side is that you have to re-sand the neck where our hands slide across every now and then because our hands oils get into it. Luckily 2000 grit sand paper removes literally microns (100s or so of a millimeter of material). I let people play my unfinished necks I've had 10 or so years and they can't believe I sand them.
Last edited by Tallwood13 at Nov 27, 2014,
#5
This site has some good but inexpensive pickups and parts that are perfect for moding cheap guitars.
www.guitarfetish.com
2002 PRS CE22
2013 G&L ASAT Deluxe
2009 Epiphone G-400 (SH-4)
Marshall JCM2000 DSL100
Krank 1980 Jr 20watt
Krank Rev 4x12 (eminence V12)
GFS Greenie/Digitech Bad Monkey
Morley Bad Horsie 2
MXR Smart Gate
#6
One last question; what pickups should I get? I usually play strats only in the bottom selector position (which only uses the bridge pickup I believe), and I tend to only use strats for light, clean tones, because even Fenders don't seem to push overdrive/gain enough.
I played a knockoff Mustang with a pair of P-90's and really dug the tone.
At first I thought I'd put a P-90 in the bridge and have the two standard strat pickups for the neck and middle, but I don't really use neck and middle strat pickups...
I play light emo and indie and metal-infused punk. Like everything from American Football to Blink 182 to My Chemical Romance and Rise Against.
I tend to use my LP for harder stuff, but the more versatile my strat can be, the more I can use it and the happier I (and my girlfriend) will be.
Suggestions?
Custom-Built Strat
Epiphone Les Paul Custom Pro
Orange Rockerverb 50 Combo
#7
I'd suggest you pick up a Mean 90 pickup from the GFS site Robbgnarly linked to and a HSS pickguard from the same place. Then you could have the P90 sound along with the other two pickups just in case you feel like using them.

Of course that will depend on exactly what your guitar is routed for, if it's SSS routing then you'd have to do more work to fit a P90 or humbucker in the bridge position.
#8
It's got SSS setup right now. When you say extra work, do you mean cutting a bigger hole out of the body?
Custom-Built Strat
Epiphone Les Paul Custom Pro
Orange Rockerverb 50 Combo
#9
not necessarily, peek under the pickguard and see if there is enough space for a humbucker in the bridge. It'll attach on there just fine. 90% of the time there is space for one.

ebay is full of used pickups, just find something to get excited about. For the best possible sound always hum cancelling pickups. Like my previous post has a lot of great tips and ideas besides that "ok" at best Guitar fetish parts. If we want the best we got to spare no expense to a certain degree. Not like say Seymour Duncan Zephyr pickups or whatever but you know.
#10
Quote by Mayge
It's got SSS setup right now. When you say extra work, do you mean cutting a bigger hole out of the body?

Yes that is what he is talking about.

Because it is SSS you could get a single coil sized HB. The Seymour Duncan JB Jr is a nice hotter pickup and the Hot rails has even more output.

GFS has some decent versions for cheap
www.guitarfetish.com/Lil-Killer-Black-Humbucker-Rail-Pickup-for-Strats-Three-Versions-Available_p_461.html
2002 PRS CE22
2013 G&L ASAT Deluxe
2009 Epiphone G-400 (SH-4)
Marshall JCM2000 DSL100
Krank 1980 Jr 20watt
Krank Rev 4x12 (eminence V12)
GFS Greenie/Digitech Bad Monkey
Morley Bad Horsie 2
MXR Smart Gate
Last edited by Robbgnarly at Nov 30, 2014,
#11
Quote by Robbgnarly
This site has some good but inexpensive pickups and parts that are perfect for moding cheap guitars.
www.guitarfetish.com

If TS is in Europe, www.axetec.co.uk is a great alternative to avoid higher shipping costs and potentially Customs issues.

I just overhauled an old, cheap guitar with Axetec hardware and I'm extremely pleased with it. And the pickup I got from them sounds amazing. Everything they have seems to be good bang for buck.
Squier "VMC" Stratocaster
PRS SE Singlecut
tc electronic polytune
CMAT MODS Signa Drive
Blakemore Effects Deus Ex Machina
DIY gaussmarkov Dr. Boogey
EHX Small Clone
Mooer ShimVerb
DIY Beavis Devolt
T-REX Fuel Tank Chameleon
Ampeg GVT52-112
Last edited by Linkerman at Dec 1, 2014,