Friday, 12 August 2011

Fender Stratocaster Relic - Trem problems

I'm a big fan of the Fender Relics. When they first came out I really wasn't keen but they are so much more than 'stonewashed jeans'.
To get the lacquer to crack and check it has to be thin nitro-cellulose which does wonders for the sound.

Guitars that are worn in all the right places feel wonderfully comfortable and of course there's no fear of scratching them.
Fender also put a lot of effort into ageing the hardware.

This trem looks cool but Fender don't lubricate the parts after the relicing process which makes them very susceptible to seizing.
 This Strat is about a year old and came in for a set up. When I undid the 6 pivot screws at the front of the trem 5 out of 6 of them snapped off.

This is the only survivor. The others all snapped at the top of the thread leaving the remaining part stuck below the surface. They had rusted to the wood. If Fender has used some wax on them this would not have happened.

So the problem was - how do I get the snapped screws out with minimal damage to this rather expensive guitar?

I used an old paper punch as a kind of 'apple corer'. This tool has an outer diameter of 5mm and inner diameter of 4mm. I sharpened the end and cut a saw toothed edge into it to help it cut into the wood. I name it 'The Extractomatic 2000'.
 The next little hurdle was how to line it up over the hole accurately without it skating across the guitar. I don't want to relic it any more.

 I opened the holes out to 4mm with a drill bit.

I placed the drill bit into the hole upsidedown.


The Extractomatic fits over the drill bit - this ensures it is centred and doesn't skate across the finish. 

I use a chordless drill. It cuts a very neat hole, perfectly centred.

I use masking take to judge the depth ( I don't want to drill right through). And hey presto the screw is removed.

The new holes are a touch bigger than the original ones but not by much.

I plugged them with hardwood.

Then re-drill pilot holes and using new screws fit the trem. It is very important to wax all the screws thoroughly.
With a Relic it's worth while waxing all the screws that go into wood - pickguard screws, tuner screws... Don't use oil, it will expand the wood and grip the screw, candle wax is best.
Fender should do it but they don't. If you don't feel happy taking your Fender apart I can do it for you.

So here's the finished article - you'd never know.