Back in 2010, I was in the middle of seminary and had finished leading a Jr. High camp at a United Methodist facility in Wrightwood, CA. As I always do, I had my acoustic guitar there for leading music, and this was a rare occasion that I brought my electric guitar as well. We had a fantastic time musically, and when the week ended it was time to pack up all the gear.
And that’s when it went wrong…
For the sake of portability, I had a soft-sided gig-bag for my electric. It’s one my dad bought for me years before, a nice inexpensive Fender Strat (made in Mexico, based on the serial). It was a standard glossy black with a warm rosewood neck.
But I’ll never keep a guitar in a gig-bag again.
Sometimes I get distracted. And while I was loading some of my heavier items in my car, I took out the Fender and leaned it alongside the car. Because putting heavy stuff on top of a minimally-protected guitar is a pretty poor idea. But then I realized there was other heavy stuff in another building and I didn’t want to carry it a long distance. It seemed much more efficient to move the car closer.
If only I had remembered the guitar. But I was distracted!
As far as I can tell (because I wasn’t watching directly), the minimally-protected guitar fell over as I backed up, and ended up directly in the path of my front wheels. I remember the bump of the tires and the sinking feeling as I realized what had happened.
In this first set of photos, you can see the tire mark on the gig-bag and the damage to the guitar.
After considerable shock and grief, I set my mind to repairs. I was intensely fortunate in having the support of friends, colleagues, and church members who generously donated toward replacement parts. But in the whirlwind of all this, I realized that there was an opportunity for creativity. I could fix it and have some dings and “character” on the instrument. Or I could take it up a notch. Instead of making it a guitar I could play (arguably), I could make it a guitar I loved.
That sounded WAY more fun.
Once I knew my direction, I had to make some decisions. The original guitar had a rosewood neck, but i thought I might like the difference in sound I’d get from a maple neck. It’s a more dense wood that – to my ear – lends to a bit of an edgier sound. I ended up finding a Fender neck on Ebay with the serial number for a Mexican-made Strat, so it seemed the perfect fit!
I wanted to broaden out the tone a bit too, so I also decided to switch out the original single-coil pickup with a humbucker. I ended up using a hand-me-down pickup that came from another guitar.
In terms of functionality, I stuck with the original Fender trem (though a Floyd Rose was a passing thought), added some locking tuning heads, and bought my first soldering iron. This was indeed my first radio.
And then I bought paint. And tape.
These images show most of the process. Of course, I started by sanding the body down and then a black base. I added tape before painting white. After drying and removing tape, I put on new tape and painted red. And more red. And more red.
To my ear it sounds beautiful. To my eye, it’s amazing.
And if you wanna play it, just let me know!