2012 Fender American Vintage 56 Stratocaster Electric Guitar

I'm not usually a Strat guy, but when a nice one comes across my path I do really enjoy them. The last one I really "had a thing for" was a 1980 ESP clone, and that one's in my pile of "guitars that I regret that I sold." The reason I'm still hung-up over that one is the same reason that this one does it -- it was built and felt and responded like an old, original Fender. This one takes it up a notch, however, as it's clearly built just as well as the originals and perhaps a bit more precisely, too.

A customer sent this in for "re-stocking." He'd had the guitar extensively modified (complete with a buffer/active system, blocked trem, S-H-H configuration, metal nut, replaced pickguard and trem plate, and high-quality gold hardware everywhere) and wanted to put all the original components back on. That all went smoothly, though the (very-well-done) "swimming pool route" and new black shielding paint shows when you take the pickguard off.

After putting it all back together, adding a ground to the "claw," and re-soldering the leads, I set it up with 10s and it plays perfectly -- 1/16" at the 12th fret action -- and has a dead-straight neck. I adjusted the springs on the whammy for a medium-light touch, though of course that's user-adjustable. I didn't have the right thread of whammy bar to give it a really good test, but you can hear it in the soundclip nonetheless.

It's a very pretty guitar and extremely lightweight as well. You get a bit of a belly-rub when playing it. The body finish is "see-through-blonde" in the "Mary Kaye" fashion and the plastic bits are thin, 1-ply stuff like the originals.

I would personally love to see this with a gold-anodized aluminum pickguard -- though white is a classic choice.

The finish also appears to be some interpretation of nitro, and you can check out the full specs for these models at Fender's own site.

The original ferrules were missing as Hipshots had been installed with a "helper plate," so I modified some nickel-plated Kluson-style ferrules to fit. I'm not sure if the string tree had a "riser" post on it when it was made, but it was on it in its last incarnation, so I left it on as a little less down-pressure helps keep the trem in tune.

Note the 1 11/16" bone nut.

The decals appear to be put on after the clearcoat, to simulate the original effect.

The neck has the vintage 7 1/4" radius and medium-jumbo frets. It feels classic. I've always liked bigger Fender necks and the rear profile on this (a medium-sized soft-V -- or what I call C/V hybrid shape) is excellent and as close as it gets to the handful of original 50s Fenders I've plunked-on.

The pickups are pretty authentic, though they do have staggered poles to help with unwound-G stringing. They also sound gorgeous.

The trem block and bridge are high-quality and durable. The vintage-style saddles are also nice to see.

Unlike original '56 models, the wiring has a 5-way switch installed from the factory.

The neck is one-piece maple with a "skunk stripe" concealing the truss rod on the rear.

The trem plate has on corner chipped-off. The guitar has a second plate, but it's a bit brighter white and thicker, so I figured that despite the chipped corner, this was a superior look for "vintage" styling.

The original hard case is in excellent shape.

Here are the neck stamps.

Note also that the last guy to work on this modified the bolt holes -- instead of four wood screws, four "actual" bolts tighten-up against set-in nuts in the neck. This gives a tighter fit that's harder to strip-out.