1963 Fender Stratocaster
This guitar was brought in to GuitarWorks by Mick Hughes of Reading band Predatur. When Mick bought the guitar back in the eighties it was sporting a dodgy red paint job which was peeling off at the edges and revealing what Mick believed to be the black outer edge of the original sunburst finish underneath. Back in the early 60's the UK distribution was held by Selmer who refinished a lot of new guitars in red to keep up with demand for Hank Marvin coloured instruments, so we assumed the refinish was probably carried out then. Since then Mick had stripped the guitar and painted it black, stripped it again and varnished it natural. Mick now wanted the guitar returned to its original factory colour all be it with a relic finish in keeping with the guitars 40 plus years on the road.
My first job was to strip off the varnish and clear all the layers of paint from the cavities, a labourious job but one that revealed a few hidden secrets of the guitars past.
Firstly, peeling back the multiple layers of finish and primer, no evidence of a previous sunburst was found, the only red that was visible was on the wall of the bridge pickup route and this was opaque, not the translucent red of a sunburst. However the very bottom layer, right on top of the Fullerplast sealer was sonic blue. Also faintly visible under the paint in the trem cavity was the pencilled body date 8/63. It looks like this guitar left the factory in the summer of 1963 sporting one of Fenders most sought after custom finishes.
I continued with the prep, steaming out some buckle rash on the back and sanding the guitar flat ready for its new finish while Mick pondered my findings. Mick decided on going with a full repro finish in the original factory sonic blue. This would involve essentially 4 steps, stain the wood yellow, seal with catalized sealer, spray the colour coats and clear lacquer. Fender stained almost all alder bodies in the early sixties as this was the base colour for the standard sunburst finish and was much quicker than spraying a separate coat after the sealer. The catalized sealer Fender used back then was called Fullerplast and is still manufactured by the Fuller O'Brien company today.
Stain and sealer coats. The sealer, being catalized rather than solvent air drying, dries very fast, it is also easy to sand and provides a nice flat surface for the colour coats. In the photo above you can see the body resting on 4 nails hammered into the front, fender used this method of storing the drying guitars until 1965
The old nail holes are visible in the guitar under the pickguard, one by the pickguard screw next to the bass side of the tremolo (see photo above), one near the neck pocket, another on the treble horn and the last one is under the jack plate. On this guitar the hole by the jack route wasn't visible, so I assume the mounting screw for the jack plate has drilled into it.
Sonic blue! one of my favourite colours, must be something to do with my blue Mancunian blood. I'll add a few more coats of clear lacquer then it's destined for a trip in the GuiTardis.
Mick asked me to rewire the guitar back to original spec. The guitar was sporting a non original 5 way switch and all manner of coloured cable. I removed all the non original parts and wiring and rewired the Texas specials with longer cloth covered wire.
Luckily Mick had the original switch which still had the original wires for the pots attached. I added new output wires and a string earth for the tremolo spring claw. I also repositioned the capacitor across the back of the pot and wrapped the pickup wires in 1/2" masking tape.
The guitar was then reassembled and set up.
I am pleased to report that the guitar is now getting regular outings with Mick and the boys.