Quantcast Ryan's Guitars: New Guitar!! '88 Lefty Japanese Fender Strat

Friday, October 15, 2010

New Guitar!! '88 Lefty Japanese Fender Strat

As I mentioned in my Weekend In Nashville post back in early September, I recently purchased an '88 black lefty '60s re-issue Fender Strat that I have restrung to play right handed. For years I've wanted a flipped "Hendrix" Strat, so when I started to look this one over I knew I had found what I've been searching for (and it's black, just like Jimi's number one!) The goal was to find a quality lefty for cheap and then fix it up... at $270 this guitar was a steal! '80s Japanese Strats are often considered as good or better than the equivalent American version.

Once I got the guitar home I immediately removed the strings, popped the neck off and tested the truss rod to see if it was still functioning properly (many times old guitars have broken truss rods that have been over tightened by people who shouldn't be working on their own instruments.) Once I verified that the truss rod was working I gently removed the nut, flipped it over, reinstalled it and slightly back filed the slots so I could finally test out the guitar strung right handed. I also set up the vintage tremolo bridge to float. The previous owner had 5 springs in it with the claw cranked down to immobilize the bridge. Leo Fender designed his bridge to float, and I personally feel that Strats play and sound better with the bridge set up this way. Of course, all of this was just a quick, down and dirty test to see if it was worth keeping. I was really impressed with the tone of this guitar! I knew it was a keeper within just a few minutes of playing time.

I played the guitar for about a week to see if I could accustom my right picking hand and arm to the knobs, tremolo bar and input jack being on top. This definitely takes some getting used to. Another caveat is the limited upper register access due to the top horn being further up the neck than the bottom one. Once I realized I could overcome most of these disadvantages I decided to move forward with having the fretboard re-planed to a flatter radius and having the neck refretted. I dropped it off at Joe Glaser's shop in Nashville where they took the 7.25" neck radius down to a more comfortable compound radius-- 10" at the first fret merging to a 12" radius at the octave. I opted for 6105 profile fret wire and provided the shop with my own favorite nut material, Stew Mac "slipstone" (delrin plastic.) This material is excellent for guitars with non-locking tremolos. Afterward, it was given the full Plek treatment by Joe himself. The Plek ensures that all the frets on the neck have a balanced sound, thus eliminating potential dead spots. The result is a stunningly comfortable, highly playable neck and consistent tone all over the fretboard.

I am now debating on whether or not to change out the pickups or leave the originals in there. The old pickups that are in it do appear to be the OEM set that came with the guitar. Of course, the 60 cycle hum is there and I've accustomed myself to the ultra quiet and great sounding DiMarzio Virtual Vintage pickups, which I use in all my other Strats. I'll need to do some further testing to decide, but so far I love the tone of the originals.

Despite some basic wear and tear (far less wear and tear than you would expect on a 20+ year old instrument) the guitar is in superb condition. The only mods I've done (besides the neck work at Joe's shop) is to relocate the strap pin to the lower bout horn, replace the old eyelet-style tuners with a new set of lefty Kluson split-shaft tuners and install my treble bleed mod on the volume knob. Eventually I'll replace the strap pins with locking Schallers. I also plan on replacing the bridge with a Callaham narrow-spaced lefty vintage tremolo sometime next year when he gets another batch of them made. According to Mr. Callaham, his shop only makes one batch of these narrow-spaced lefty models per year. Can't wait to get one of those on this guitar!

I am really excited to finally have a lefty Strat in my collection! And I am very pleased with how this guitar is coming together. I'll be sure to post a follow up when all the mods I pan to do are complete.

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