Overview – Prior to founding my business in the fall of 2021, I realized that I needed a guitar that would live in my repair shop all year round. If a customer brought in a guitar that had faulty electronics, I could use my guitar as a reference. I could also use it to test my own line of guitar pedals before shipping them to customers. I had a couple different shop guitars over the years but nothing that seemed quite right. They were either too heavy, or bulky, or honestly just too nice to leave in an unfinished basement. What I needed was something solid that could withstand the elements without hassle, but also something lightweight and simple. Eventually after looking through local online ads, I found what I was looking for in September of 2020:
What I ended up with was a Squier Bullet Stratocaster that I bought used through a local online ad for $25. It has a fairly thick maple neck which lends itself to stability. It’s a smaller guitar with a 1-1/2” plywood body, and it’s lightweight. It comes in at around 7lbs overall. Although it’s considered an electric guitar for beginners, after using it for a few months I was pleased with how it was working out. Since I would be using the guitar regularly, I decided to make it as best as it could possibly be. I levelled, crowned, dressed and polished the frets, made a new Micarta nut from scratch, replaced the electronics and added a tone control, and I also did a full setup. Here are a few progress pictures from January 2021:
I used the guitar in this fashion for over a year before I began thinking about adding a single coil pickup to the neck position around February 2022. This was around the time when I released the Winter Storm guitar pedal and I wanted a way to test future guitar pedal circuits in my shop with both a humbucker and a true single coil pickup. I took a spare pickup that was it was originally from the middle position of a budget Ibanez RG, and began making preparations to add it to the Squier shop guitar.
The first step was marking out the holes for the neck pickup and the 3-way switch location. Fortunately I had a spare pickguard that I used as a template. I drilled the holes, removed the pickguard from the guitar, and applied some low tack protective tape and traced the outline of the pickup and switch routes.
I decided to use a Dremel tool to cut the switch route, I used a piece of MDF with some double sided tape as a guide. I don’t recall ever having performed this operation and I wasn’t thrilled with the results, but since it’s my guitar I decided to experiment. In the future I would probably drill holes and clean it up with a saw and files. Moving on from here I used my spare pickguard as a template once again, this time I wanted to make an MDF template for the pickup route. The size of the hole diameter was 11/16” and all I had was a 3/4” forstner bit. I decided to improvise and use the 3/4” bit, but when making the actual route into the pickguard, I used a router bit with a slightly oversized bearing. This allowed me to make a more accurate route, I did need to touch up the pickguard with a drum sander afterwards but this was no big deal.
I removed some material with my drill press to make routing easier. Since the guitar is plywood, it’s very forgiving to cut into. Afterwards I applied my template with double sided tape and routed the cavity. I then removed the pickguard and applied another template, this time for the body cavity. I scored the finish around the edges to prevent chipping. The route turned out nice and clean, you can see the layers of plywood. After that I drilled a hole through the body that connects the cavities. It probably would’ve been a better idea at this point to route a channel on the top of the body. This is something I would remedy later on. Anyway, I applied some shielding paint to the body, and then some copper shielding tape to the underside of the pickguard.
Here’s a before and after picture of my Squier Bullet Stratocaster from October of 2022:
Around June of 2023 I decided it would be worthwhile to add an out-of-phase switch to the guitar:
It was around this time that I was also noticing that the guitar was looking a bit dull overall. I decided to add a few stickers to the pickguard and planned to eventually cover the entire thing eventually. In the image below I used stickers from AnalogMan, LoveMySwitches, AmplifyFun, and one of my own which I later moved.
In July of 2023 I decided to update the shop guitar further by adding a P90 in the middle position, a coil split switch for the humbucker, a bridge always-on switch, and also a killswitch on the lower horn. I also added stickers courtesy of Liars’ Conspiracy to the rest of the pickguard. Below are a collection of pictures of the work that I did including a swimming pool route for the guitar body cavity.
This is where the guitar currently stands and I’m planning on creating a video that goes through all of the pickup combinations. Stay tuned and thank you for reading! If you have any questions or comments, feel free to message me through the Contact page and I’ll get back to you.