Mexicaster Overhaul with stone age tools (with pics)

Discussion in 'Fender' started by DarrellV, Mar 15, 2017.

  1. DarrellV

    DarrellV Likes > Posts Silver Supporter Premium Member

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    2 weeks ago I put my Lester in for a re-fret.

    In the meantime I had ordered a new pick-guard, pickups and pots for my MIM Strat that used to be my #1.

    But it had been developing problems like loose knobs and intermittent loss of sound so I haven't played it much as of late.

    So as luck would have it the pick-guard showed up the day before and yesterday I stayed home because of the snow.... So.....

    I used the time to start my long needed Strat overhaul.

    I've seen other threads on here like this so I hope someone finds this useful, or at least amusing!

    It also shows one of the biggest perks to owning a 'beater' guitar!

    These mods were done without luthier tools. Just my toolbox assortment.

    I would NOT recommend this method for a Les Paul! LOL!

    It turned out great in the end, I love it all over again, and my finger tips still hurt from playing it all day yesterday!

    And that's what counts at the end of a good project, isn't it?
     
  2. DarrellV

    DarrellV Likes > Posts Silver Supporter Premium Member

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    This is how it started out, as a HSS start configuration.

    I bought it as someone else's project guitar and just changed the pick-guard.

    It has an active tone control from EMG that was originally for a Bass,
    and a 9 volt battery under the hood.

    I loved the sound of the humbucker since I first bought it, but had no idea what it was. The dealer thought it was an Antiquity.

    The mystery humbucker turned out to be a Rio-Grande Barbecue.

    Never heard of them so I looked them up.

    The stickers were compliments of my grand-kid!

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]
     
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  3. DarrellV

    DarrellV Likes > Posts Silver Supporter Premium Member

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    What really gave me the push to get off my arse and fix this once great guitar was finding this set of pickups in the dumpster bin at my local music store. You know the place where the put out the used and old parts for cheap..

    [​IMG]

    Well, you can imagine my delight at finding a boxed matched set of pickups like the one I already had and knew I loved!

    Apparently they had been in store stock for years, un-bought, (they are dated 2006 but NOS).

    I got the set for less than what 1 pup goes for on their website! :thumb:
     
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  4. truckermde

    truckermde Senior Member

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    Those are sweeeet p'ups.

    Great score.

    Watching :)

    :cheers2:
     
  5. DarrellV

    DarrellV Likes > Posts Silver Supporter Premium Member

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    Gut shot of the original build showing battery and copper foil put in by previous owner.

    The foil is grounded, so it looks like he took the time to do it right! :applause:

    You can also see the stacked tone pot electronics.

    At this point I should mention that I thought this guitar was already routed for double humbuckers going into this... Oops!

    [​IMG]
     
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  6. DarrellV

    DarrellV Likes > Posts Silver Supporter Premium Member

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    Wow! Cool, so glad you like! I haven't seen them mentioned a lot on here, although VictorB surprised me by mentioning them once... :hmm:
     
  7. DarrellV

    DarrellV Likes > Posts Silver Supporter Premium Member

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    New pick-guard with double hummers!

    I know it looks the same, I wasn't changing it for looks....

    Now the fun begins.....


    [​IMG]
     
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  8. DarrellV

    DarrellV Likes > Posts Silver Supporter Premium Member

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    A closeup of the original mess!

    [​IMG]
     
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  9. DarrellV

    DarrellV Likes > Posts Silver Supporter Premium Member

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    Ok, so I didn't take any pics during the hammering (SORRY) :shock:

    But if you look around you will see the broken steak knife and the leftover drill holes and hacked up raw wood where the top pup route used to be.

    Also the pieces of wood and copper everywhere! Even my glasses went flying. It really was an energetic time, LOL! :D

    BTW, I didn't have a hammer handy so I used a large flat file and my Woodsman multi-tool to beat on the steak knife! :naughty:

    [​IMG]

    P.S. Does anyone know what type of wood is used in these? It's not particle board or plywood or even pine.

    Some kind of tough reddish wood almost like hog from the look of it.

    Of course, I don't think they would use hog in a mexicaster...!
     
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  10. StingyCH

    StingyCH The Bearded Baron Premium Member

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    Man i love tinkering with Strats..i had a MiM Blacktop, Sonic blue with maple neck..i sold it in 2011 and i still missing it so much, i had so many mods on that guitar..me fool :(

    [​IMG]

    Follow this thread with MUCH interest :applause:
     
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  11. DarrellV

    DarrellV Likes > Posts Silver Supporter Premium Member

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    The ears on these new humbuggers proved to be a bit of a sore a$$ trying to get them to sit down into the body.

    The new pick-guard positioned the neck pup a little lower than center of the old single coil route, so the ears didn't align to the widest part of the cavity.. GRR! :mad2:

    So after finally chiseling and fanageling the wood around the neck pickup so it would fit I STILL couldn't get the pick-guard to sit flush to the body! Like :wtf:

    Turns out the humbugger adjusting screws are way longer than the single coil originals and they were hitting the bottom of the cavity. :wow:
    Place the empty pick-guard on the body, drop in screws and whack them hard to leave a mark. Gosh, I LOVE doing that! :D

    Then it's time for the trusty cordless drill and viola! Problem solved!

    The extra langth just goes into the holes in the floor.... Also keeps the pickups horizontal as a side benefit, LOL!! :laugh2:

    [​IMG]
     
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  12. DarrellV

    DarrellV Likes > Posts Silver Supporter Premium Member

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    Stingy! Good to see you in here old friend! :cheers:
     
  13. DarrellV

    DarrellV Likes > Posts Silver Supporter Premium Member

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    So now we can finally load the pick-guard with the new pups (YaY!) and one original single coil.

    This picture is upside down to make it readable, so you are not going crazy!

    Here I am testing the alignment of the screw holes for both pups and neck routing.

    Had to fine tune a couple of them i.e. take drill, stick in hole, wiggle back and forth to create oval, LOL! Gosh I love low tech! :thumb:


    [​IMG]
     
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  14. DarrellV

    DarrellV Likes > Posts Silver Supporter Premium Member

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    After confirming I can drop everything in flush easily it's time to start placing the rest of the components into the pick-guard and soldering everything up.

    The Rio-Grandes come with nice braided shielding over single conductor.

    This set was not a 4 wire split set. The old aged nickle one IS 4 wire.

    I did use the coil split sometimes in the old config for Strat tonez on the bridge, but I won't miss it enough to go through the extra bother this time.

    I bought all new parts this time including the 5 way switch and pots. All 500k now for the humbuggers!

    [​IMG]
     
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  15. DarrellV

    DarrellV Likes > Posts Silver Supporter Premium Member

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    I am fortunate to have been soldering most of my life, including tinkering as a young kid.

    I'm not going to use an electric iron on this, the cord is too cumbersome, and the distance to the outlet is too far.

    So for this project I broke out my trusty gas powered soldering iron!

    That nuclear orange glow at the end says she's ready for business, and God help anyone who gets near the business end of THIS thing! It WILL leave a mark, LOL!

    [​IMG]
     
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  16. DarrellV

    DarrellV Likes > Posts Silver Supporter Premium Member

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    Here we are further along and everything is pretty much hooked up.

    The wiring is not the prettiest I am capable of doing, but I DID mention this was a quick and dirty job.

    It will be functional and as strong as any, just not as pretty.

    But who is going to see it once it's together anyway?

    I will venture to say I am happy with the solder joints. They are clean, sized well and secure.

    I used the leftover scraps of shielded wire from the pups to use on my output jack and second neck selector wire. More about that in a bit, so everything is shielded from pickup to output jack.

    And yes, I had already done the single coil with shielded wire in the past, so it counts too.

    [​IMG]
     
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  17. DarrellV

    DarrellV Likes > Posts Silver Supporter Premium Member

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    Now, before I tighten everything down, I test the wiring and pots for proper operation.

    I use my handy dandy (don't laugh) Digitech box and a set of headphones to test it out.

    This is my practice rig at home so I don't disturb anybody, and I don't have to carry the amp back and forth.

    No need to re-string at this point.

    I use any steel object (in this case the washer on top in this pic) to tap the different pickup poles to see if they are on or off as I go through the selector and volume pots.

    Turns out I still had an intermittent problem in the output jack. Wiggling the cord made it work.

    Also had the 2 volume pots wired wrong. Turning either one off killed the volume for the whole guitar. Wasn't supposed to work that way...

    So, after verifying function and bugs it's back to the table..

    We are close, I'm excited at this point (to almost be done) :D

    [​IMG]
     
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  18. DarrellV

    DarrellV Likes > Posts Silver Supporter Premium Member

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    Fixed the output jack by rotating it into a different position.
    The tip of the cable plug was hitting the metal shield on the wiring of the jack.

    Also fixed the 2 volume control issue.

    I should explain at this point how I departed from the standard Strat wiring.

    When I got the guitar it was already someone else's project guitar.

    Beside the tone mod they had also modified the volume controls to work as follows:

    The second (middle) knob was used as a master volume
    The bottom knobs were the stacked active tone controls
    The top knob was wired to bring the neck pickup in at any time.

    Thus in the 4th position (center and bridge on) the neck could be brought in as well for the sound of all 3 pickups!

    Tele tones were also possible on the neck and bridge.

    I really liked this versitality so when I re-wired it this time, I made sure to copy that scheme.

    I did mine a little more elegantly than he did, though. He had wired the neck pup straight to the output all the time.

    I used the second side of the selector switch to activate the neck option only in position 4 and 5 where it would be most useful anyway.
    This unloads the neck pot from the circuit until it is needed.

    Now about that pesky Tone control!

    Since I removed all the active tone parts I found myself at a loss for some passive tone parts. I had apparently ditched the old tone caps at some point in the past during the last overhaul (when the single coils got their new shielded wire, remember?)

    I searched high and low for a proper tone cap so I could finish this thing and not have to take it apart again!

    This was all I could find.....


    [​IMG]

    Anybody care to venture a guess as to what the he!l this old dinosaur is? :wow:

    Anyhow I just un-soldered the biggest ceramic cap I could find on it (said 608 if that means anything to anybody) and stuck it in there on the tone pot and hooked it up.

    It works beautifully! LOL! I know, it's hard to believe, but it does! Totally makeshift! :laugh2:
     
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  19. DarrellV

    DarrellV Likes > Posts Silver Supporter Premium Member

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    Now that everything tested fine with the washer and Digitech we can re-string and get ready to play.

    But wait, one more thing since we've got it here anyway....

    Ever since switching back from my bound edge Lester I have been bothered by the fret ends on this neck hitting my hand. :shock:

    Played the dang thing for over 2 years before I knew any better and never felt a thing that bothered me before.... :wtf:

    So out comes the trusty flat mill for some home made fret edge leveling :shock:

    Also filed the deep a$$ nut down to even with the strings while I had it on the table Muaaahhhhaaass (evil laugh) :naughty:

    See how shiny they are? No more fret edges! :thumb:
    [​IMG]
     
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  20. GitFiddle

    GitFiddle Premium Member

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    Looks like a big ole bunch of fun. :thumb:

    I made some similar mods on an old 99 MIM Strat. I found it in a local pawn shop. Got it just to hack on. I decked the tremolo on mine. I went looking for a small piece of Ash or Maple to shape and fit between the trem and body. Could not find any at all at Lowes. All they had was red and white oak. As we were leaving through the flooring section, I spied a small bin that had flooring samples in it for 25 cents each. I found a small block of Hickory that worked perfectly.

    I got a new tortoise shell pickguard, a Strat 50s wiring harness from Jonesy, and a set of Strat pickups from Sheptone. Oh yeah, and I sanded the back of the neck down to bare wood, then finished it with Tung oil. Best feeling neck I have ever had.
     
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