Strat in pieces

Re-gluing the fingerboard, ready to work on the innards.

Usually, in English, that expression would imply some level of theft or underhand dealing. In this case it really is just a guitar that fell off the back of a truck. The truck was moving too. Quite fast, I was told, on a French motorway. Mathieu, a great double bass player, wanted his beloved Squier Strat ready for a punk gig that week and between our existing schedules it meant that I didn’t have much time to work on this. Naturally, I was expecting something of a disaster.

Surprisingly, when he came over with the guitar, it was already pretty beaten before the accident but had survived its ordeal mostly intact. A few machine heads needed replacing and had lost their ferrules, but Mathieu didn’t seem to mind that and actually re-strung the guitar with three strings. He even liked it that way.

The fingerboard had started separating from the neck which had of course changed the neck-body geometry and the string height was pretty screwed up. The finger board was easily re-glued and structural integrity of the neck thus restored. Other than that the guitar was structurally in pretty good shape, despite its high-speed meeting with tarmac.

Broken ceramic magnet

Broken magnet from the middle pickup, a fragment shorting the neck pickup

What I found interesting during the initial testing it was that the bridge and middle pickups worked fine but the neck pickup was weak and sounded very thin. When I opened the guitar up, the reason became clear – the ceramic magnet on the base of the middle pickup had shattered into three pieces. A small central portion had broken off and attached itself to the neck pickup, partially shorting the coil to its own magnet. Oddly enough the middle pickup didn’t seem to be affected by any lack of magnet in contact with the two central pole pieces.

Magnets glued in place

Broken magnet from the middle pickup, a fragment shorting the neck pickup

Removing the offending piece of magnet fixed the neck pickup’s tone. Broken ceramic magnets can’t easily be re-glued once broken, (try it – because the pieces refuse to go back together, it’s fun!) but the two remaining pieces were large enough to each cover three pole pieces. They were glued in place and the pickup worked perfectly.

Mathieu Strat 4After a thorough clean of the body and paintwork, frets polished, fingerboard oiled, bridge assembly taken apart and cleaned, the guitar was reassembled, given a “full” setup and handed back to a grateful owner, strung as he had wanted it – with just half a set of Slinkys – low E, D, and G in the A, G, and B positions!