I had wanted one of these guitars for a looong time and last christmas I finally decided to buy one! It’s a 2007 Fender American Vintage ’57 Stratocaster Reissue. Beautiful, lightweight instrument with bright vintage tone and classic 2-tone sunburst colour.
Being a vintage reissue it comes pre-installed with a 3-way pickup switch but the previous owner had already replaced it with a 5-way upgrade switch (included in kit). Ex-owner also used really light string gauges so I needed to set this up to my own specs.
Of course it never ends to just changing the strings and doing a normal setup. Since I’m taking it apart why not improve it a little: new pickguard, shielding, blender wiring and a no-load tone pot :)
Standard vintage strats have 1 x volume and 2 x tone controls. One tone control for neck pickup and the other one for middle pickup. With a maple neck guitar this doesn’t make that much sense because in some setups you really need tone control on the bridge pickup! However when you use bridge pickup without tone control with a dark amp it sounds really good and raw (no tone controls in between!). To fix the bridge tone issue but still keep the option to go raw, I decided to install a no-load tone pot and wire it as a master tone control for ALL pickups. No-load potentiometer works like a normal potentiometer on settings from 1-9 but clicks on 10 (no load) and removes the pot and capacitor from circuit. This way I can still get the raw “tone controls bypassed”-sound and the standard tone control behaviour. For tone cap I used a Mallory 150’s 0.047uF / 250v.
In place of the other tone control I wired in a blender pot. It lets me blend bridge and neck pickup sounds together. Fully clockwise – no blend, fully ccw – full blend. On switch positions 2 & 4 I can even get all 3 pickups at once! Here’s a list how it works with different switch positions:
1. Bridge – Add neck with blend pot
2. Middle & Bridge – Add neck with blend pot
4. Middle & Neck – add bridge with blend pot
5. Neck – Add bridge with blend pot
Standard vintage 57 has a thin 1-ply white pickguard which is very basic as they used to be back in the day. I wanted to add some depth and class to the looks without ruining the vintageness(?) of the instrument so I got a 3-ply aged white pickguard.
Being a single coil guitar it is sensitive to hum and noise so I installed some conductive aluminium tape shielding to reduce interference. I also changed the signal wire from guitar jack to volume pot to shielded cable. I’ve done these mods to a few strats in the past and it really reduces noise!
To help setting up string height and action I used my very handy self made radius gauges. In the pics you can see the fretboard radius tool. I also have another tool which I use under strings near bridge to set individual string heights to match fingerboard radius. Action has never been smoother :)
Now it’s perfect!