Electric guitar #2

The starting point

guitar pictureI just bought this Excel strat via internet. Itīs a typical cheap chinese stratocaster copy, not common here in Finland but more popular in USA and UK I think. I am pretty sure Iīm just second owner because the guitar came in original box with unused looking gigbag. It looks like it hasnīt been played much (little wear marks on frets) which is no wonder since this guitar really sucks! Itīs totally unplayable in this condition - strings are way too high and intonation is terrible.

Other problems: sticky stuff on the neck (like some glue residue from tape?), missing trem bar and strap button, loose jack plate (someone has over-tightened the screws and theyīre not holding any more, same problem with one screw at the back cover). Dirty fretboard.

Positive: body and neck look ok except for one small dent in the neck. Electrics work nicely and unplugged sound is decent, I didnīt find any dead spots.

This should be a fun project, Iīm pretty confident that I can turn this piece of junk into a quite playable guitar. Weīll see how much work it takes...

Basic fixing

tools for neck fixingI started with the neck. This is the stuff I used: Zippo fluid, steel wool, gunstock oil (like Tru-Oil), masking tape, pieces of old T-shirt and "Scotch-Brite".

First I covered the edges of fingerboard with tape and rubbed the neck with scotch-brite. Personally I donīt like gloss lacquer finish on necks, they feel sticky. This treatment gives the neck a satin finish and itīs very easy and safe compared to sandpaper.

Next I covered the whole fingerboard with tape between frets and polished them with steel wool. 0000 grade would be best I guess, but I have just 000. Thatīs ok if you are carefull.

fingerboard before cleaningfingerboard after cleaning

After removing all tape I cleaned the fretboard with zippo-fluid. Then I applied oil and let it rest for 5-10 minutes before wiping the fretboard dry. I was extra carefull to dry areas close to the frets to avoid oil creeping under frets and loosing them over time.

string treeneck pocketThe string tree is a basic "butterfly" model and luckily it already had a spacer. I used fine sandpaper to polish surfaces that are in contact with strings. You can see the difference in the picture.

Factory had left the neck pocket very rough. I used a  piece of sandpaper over a small block of wood to smooth it a little to get a better contact between body and neck.

wiring before modswiring after mods

I was not happy with the wiring - factory had not shortened the pickup wires and shielded wire was not used for output jack connection. After fixing those problems the wiring looks much neater and itīs easier to attach the pickguard. I also made the "Eric Johnson" mod to tone controls. Now the upper tone pot works in neck and neck & middle positions, lower pot in bridge and bridge & middle positions.

I solved the loose jackplate problem by replacing the screws with longer ones. Finally I installed "new" (second hand) strap buttons, again using longer screws to make sure theyīll hold.


setup toolsThese are the tools I used (a screwdriver is not in the picture): rulers, welding tip cleaners, feeler gauge set, hex keys for saddles and truss rod and a pencil to lubricate nut.

I did the setup in usual order. Truss rod, nut, string height, intonation and pickup height.

There was too much neck relief. I made a small adjustment at time and left the neck settle down overnight. I had to repeat that 4-5 times but I was in no hurry. I left just a little bow because thatīs how I like it.

Otherwise the setup was very straightforward. The only surprise (positive one!) was that all frets were nicely in level. I had expected to do some fretwork.

Now I can actually play this guitar! The bridge is still an issue but Iīll have to wait until I find a fitting trem bar. Now the tremolo is "blocked" by over-tight springs.


I didnīt like the original cheapo bridge. Luckily I found a replacement from internet, a Fender PW-29 with a big block. Second hand but looks like new after some cleaning and I got it at very reasonable price. It came without a trem bar but I had one with a fitting thread (metric 5 mm).

backside picturespacer picture

The body of this guitar seems to be thinner than the real thing. The bottom part of the bridge protrudes from the back a little. I made a frame from thin plywood to work as a spacer. Using that I was able to fit the back cover. I set up the bridge as dive-only (not free floating). That way itīs easier to use different tunings.

Master volume master tone mod

I just couldnīt get used to the awkward placement of the volume pot. The easy solution was to remove the "upper" tone pot and move the volume pot there. I can live without two tone controls. I made a removeable cover from white plastic to hide the extra hole.

front image

ĐJukka Korppi 2015
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