Like a lot of Asian kids growing up I had piano lessons (well, in my case, organ lessons!). I wasn’t into the keyboard so the lessons soon stopped. In high school my mate Spiro, a KISS obsessed fan, let me have a go of his electric guitar. When he handed it to me I instantly turned it upside down (I’m left-handed). He taught me how to play the main riff of “I was made for lovin’ you” and from there I was hooked.
I had decided I wanted to get an electric guitar and my parents were so super encouraging, they took me to Sunburst Music in Coogee Beach (they’re still there!) to buy my first guitar. Like most guitar shops, there were so many amazing guitars on show but there were so few left-handed guitars, in fact, only 2. Both lefties were second hand, one was a metal shredder (I don’t even remember what brand it was) and the other was a Stratocaster copy. The whammy bar, the humbuckers, the locking Floyd Rose style trem… I had to have the shredder!
But alas the shop guy was really trying to convince me to buy the Strat which was a sunburst Japanese made Tokai which he thought was the better guitar. I couldn’t play, so he plugged the Tokai in and played some stuff which I remember thinking was soft rock crap (hey all I wanted to do was play metal!), but in retrospect I now know he had that amp cranked up, did some amazing bends, blues licks and had amazing clean tone. How I hugely regret not buying that lefty Tokai Strat even to this day.
Fast forward to 1997 I bought this lefty Squier Stratocaster. Up until that time I’d only owned heavy metal shredder type guitars with buzzing low strong action, fast thin necks and Floyd Rose tremolo systems so this guitar was a massive departure from all my other gats. I found the creamy vintage blonde finish so offensively ugly that I loved it. The guitar feels funky. When I play it I play funky stuff. I also almost always play it clean (I’ve never used my beloved BOSS Metal Zone pedal since). I’ve tried to buy a few metal shredders since buying this Strat but I’ve never ever been able to go back. This Strat has well and truly killed metal for me and not until recently have I started to really understand why.
In doing some research on the current Fender range of guitars I came to realise that this Strat of mine is something quite special. The guitar was made in Korea (the current Squires are made in China) and rumour has it that the build quality on the Pro Tone series was so good that Fender discontinued them because they were cutting into the American sales. With the specs on this guitar I’d say it’s more in line with Fenders current Player Mexican made series of Strats (and much more sought after and desirable now too). I’ve since found out that it’s got a much thinner neck than most Fender Strats, even thinner than a Modern C which is one of the most common neck profiles on current Fender Strats, and that really explains why I love playing it so much. Sure, the neck isn’t as fast and thin as say the neck on my Jackson King V, but it’s damn close and the fact that it’s thinner and/or different than the necks on all current American Fender Strats makes me very nervous about buying a new Strat without first playing one.
I recently bought an Artist Telecaster style guitar and it’s been the wake-up call I think I really needed. The Telecaster body is super heavy, it’s basically a block of wood whereas the Stratocaster body is super light and it’s an ergonomic wonder with a huge cutaway on the back for you hip and a cutaway on the front for your strumming hand. Swapping between the Tele neck and Strat neck is thick to thin, the difference is light and day.
The Strat fits me. I like wearing it.
The plan was always to one day go all in on an American made Fender Stratocaster. It still is, but for now I’ve decided to put a bit of TLC into my Korean made Fender Squier. My intention isn’t to fully restore the guitar, nor is it to do anything to it that I can’t undo. I just want to give the guitar a bit more life and reliability with the intention of playing it more and keeping it as a forever guitar.
Series: Squier Pro Tone Series
Body: 2 piece Solid Ash
Neck: One piece Maple
Width at Nut: 42 mm
Pickups: 3 Alnico Single Coils
Color: See Through Vintage Blonde
Country Of Origin: Korea
These die-cast tuners were a lot heavier than I thought they would be. The guitar can’t keep tune, most likely due to the really rusty and grabby string tree but I’ll be replacing them with locking tuners in any case.
I thought about polishing the original saddles but instead bought some new genuine made in USA vintage saddles which I found on eBay. Sadly one of the saddles came defected (intonation screw would not screw in), super annoying but hey this shit happens. I’m sure I’ll find a solution.
Knob Puller… I impulse bought this cool volume/tone knob remover as I was going to replace the knobs with really offensive neon green and pink ones. I impulse bought those too from eBay China and they were the first thing I purchased, and most likely will be the last thing to arrive!
The new locking tuners makes putting on a fresh set of strings such a pleasure. String action is now lower than ever, and man, after playing the Japanese made upside down Squier Strat, and the Chinese made Artist Telecaster, and the Dillion Phoenix for the past 2 weeks it’s SO damn good to be back on this guitar. The neck is just so ridiculously thin, you’d think it was a metal shredder if you were blindfolded.
PS: I’m running a set of Ernie Ball 8 gauge strings now too. Have always been curious, so far so good. I’m at standard tuning right now though, not sure how the strings would feel if I tuned down a half step, or a full step (maybe they’ll buzz as my action is lower now?). Will have to try soon.
PPS: The DeoxIT spray is magic spray! The crunchy crackles are completely gone now from the volume and tone knobs. 100% recommend every guitarist buy some of this stuff.