Rebuild Squier Strat – Artisan Stratocaster Revival
Learn how to rebuild a Fender Squier Strat guitar to get a true Fender Stratocaster vintage sound.
Can you rebuild a Fender Squier Strat and make it sound as good as a true Fender Stratocaster guitar? We say, yes you can! We’re sharing one example of how we turned a Squier Affinity SE into a vintage sounding guitar that is cleaner than a stock MIM Stratocaster or MIJ Stratocaster.
Which Squier Guitars Can Be Rebuilt?
Choosing the right type of Squier guitar for your project will make a huge difference in the final result. Yes, any guitar can be rebuilt but what you begin with has a huge impact on how far up you can improve the instrument.
The Fender Squier guitar, in stock factory form, is an entry-level guitar. As such, these guitars use lower quality components in order to meet the budget of entry-level buyers. The entry-level price points (and quality) are further tiered among models of Squier guitars.
Types of Fender Squier Guitars
- Squier 3/4-Sized Mini Stratocaster
- Squier Bullet Strat
- Squier Deluxe Stratocaster
- Squier Affinity Strat
- Squier Standard Stratocaster
- Squier Contemporary Stratocaster
- Squier Classic Vibe Stratocasters
- Vintage Modified Stratocasters
Other Strat Style Guitars
There are a number of Strat styled guitars from manufacturers such as AXL, Johnson, and more. (AXL started as a licensed manufacturing plant to produce Squier guitars) These brands are cheap knock-off versions of the Fender guitar lines. Most of these guitars can be rebuilt with OEM Fender parts but we do not recommend investing the time and money to upgrade on these guitars. The price for a used AXL Strat is around $50 while the price of a used Squier Strat is around $75-$100. For only $25-$50 more you can start off with a vastly superior project guitar.
About Our Squier Rebuild Project GuitarWe just completed a superb rebuild of a Squier Affinity SE Strat (made in the AXL factory). The Squier Affinity SE production was a relatively short-run production done in China. The Squier Affinity SE has a full-size 1/75″ Alder body, C-shaped neck with a 9.5″ radius that measures 43mm at the nut. This model is extremely close to what you find on a true Fender Stratocaster.
We purchased our Squier project guitar through an online posting with a ridiculously low price for a flawless 2008 Squier SE Strat Sunburst guitar. The original owner purchased the instrument new from a local guitar shop. Her son picked it up only a few times, and for over a decade had sat untouched in a corner of his bedroom.
Upon inspection we found that the neck needed more than an average amount of adjustment. It took over a week of incremental truss rod adjustments to carefully restore proper string height. All of the chrome hardware was in perfect condition, no rust or other blemishes. The body, neck, and head cleaned up nicely and the luster was brought out with a seven-step finish restoration process.This was a great find opportunity to pickup a rebuild project guitar. We quickly decided to buy it and utilize it as an example project to show how a Squier Strat can be made to sound as good or better than a stock MIM Strat or MIJ Strat.
What Parts Are Needed to Rebuild a Squier Guitar?
Our parts list came in at only $370 (the majority of which was the Seymour-Duncan pickups). You could do it for close to $300 if you skip the conductive shielding, reuse your pickguard and trem cover plate.
The following is our parts list with prices and vendors. We will add more content when the assembly is finished. We plan to make a video for YouTube to demo the playability and sound.
List of Parts for Rebuilding a Squier Guitar
We shopped to find the best prices for parts to rebuild a Squier guitar. We rebuilt this Squier guitar for only $370 USD. Here the list of what you need to transform your Squier into a true Fender Strat level guitar:
- Tuning Heads $0.00 Squier (did not replace)
- String Trees $10.48 Musicians Friend Graphtech H73633 TUSQ XL Sleek String Trees (black)
- Nut $10.48 1 Musicians Friend Graphtech 36045 TUSQ XL pre-slotted (black)
- Pickups (Paired Set – Seymour-Duncan Antiquity Texas Hot) $249.14
1. Neck Pickup Seymour-Duncan Neck 6.3 Alcino 2
2. Middle Pickup Seymour-Duncan Middle RWRP 6.5 Alcino 2
3. Bridge Pickup Seymour-Duncan Bridge 9.8 Alcino 2
- Pots $23.85 Musicians Friend DiMarzio 364665 EP1200 – 250k Custom Taper Split Shaft
- Cap $12.00 Musicians Friend Allparts L39459 Orange Drop, .047 (*We later changed out the .047 to .022 be better work with vintage sounding pickups)
- Bridge/Trem $0.00 Squier (did not replace) Visit FU-Tone.com or GuitarFetish.com for options
- Trem Springs $0.00 Squier (did not replace) Visit FU-Tone.com for options Output Jack $6.00 Musicians Friend Fender H65583 Fender, 1/4″, dual contact
- Strings $7.99 Musicians Friend DR Pure Blues, Nickel Lite n Heavy, 9-46
- Pickguard $19.59 eBay (Guitar Audio) 099-1359-000 Fender OEM, 3-ply B/W/B 11 hole
- Switch 5-way $9.99 Musicians Friend Fender 361211 Standard 5-way blade switch w/ knob
Get Insulated Circuit Wire for Guitar Wiring
For this project you will need 22 AWG circuit wire. We sell guitar wiring for this project. We offer 16′ of 22 AWG wire (shipping included) for only $9.99. To buy our wiring package simply visit our Reverb.com shop and buy online.
What Tools and Supplies Do You Need?
The core part of rebuilding a Squier guitar requires a fairly short list of common tools and supplies. You should do a professional guitar setup procedure to make sure you get maximum benefit from your work.
- Phillips Head Screwdriver
- Wire Stripper Pliers
- Soldering Iron and Solder
Tools for Optional Upgrades
- Shielding Tools: Conductive paint, paint brush and grounding lugs.
- Nut Replacement: Hammer and center punch (to remove old nut), Glue (to secure new nut), nut slotting files (if you want something besides a 9-42 set of strings.
Tools for a Professional Guitar Setup
- Guitar Strings (9-42 is standard)
- Electronic Tuner (We use a Korg Pitchblack rack tuner)
- Notched Straightedge (to check neck relief)
- Hex Wrench (to adjust truss rod if required)
- String Action Gauge (to accurately set string and pickup heights)
- String Radius Gauge (to check string radius, and adjust if required)
What Work Is Required to Rebuild a Squier Guitar?
"Rebuilding a Squier guitar" generally comes down to replacing the electronics in the guitar. This means replacing the input jack, 5 position selector switch, three potentiometers (pots), one capacitor (cap), and three pickups. To do this properly you need to follow a reliable Strat Wiring Diagram. All connections must have quality soldering work!
Replacing the pickups is very simple. From the face side of the pickguard, remove the screws found at the ends of the pickups (six screws total). The pickups will now fall away from the pickguard. Install the new pickups in a reverse order. BE CERTAIN to install the pickups in the correct order and orientation. (Seymour-Duncan identifies each pickup in the set with a N, M, and B for neck, middle, bridge.)Replacing the Selector Switch is easy, and the wiring is very straightforward. From the face side of the pickguard unscrew the two screws that hold the existing switch in place. Next, install the new switch in the same position, using the two new screws provided with the switch. You will make six connections to lugs (two lugs are unused). TIP: attach wiring and route wires in a manner to keep all below the height of the lug. This is very important to help the assembled unit fit in the body cavity.
Replacing the Pots starts with removing the volume and tone knobs from the pickguard. Carefully pull them straight up from the pickguard to remove them. Next, remove the thin silver nut that is found under the knobs. Removing this nut allows you to push on the shaft of the pot to separate it from the pickguard. Install the new pots in a reverse manner. All wiring connections are solder joints configured as shown in the wiring diagram. Exact wiring configuration and solid connections are critical!
Installing the Orange Drop Cap gives you the benefit of the acclaimed "treble bleed mod". Visit the Fender website to learn how the treble bleed mod can affect your tone.Replacing the Input Jack is as simple as removing the two screws that hold the jack in place. Pull out the existing output jack, snip the two wires where they are joined to the switch.
Strip approximately 1/8″ of the PVC shielding from the end of the wire to expose the copper wire inside. Solder the two wires to the appropriate lugs on the new switch. (The black ground wire goes from the sleeve lug to a grounding point on a pot. The red (or yellow) hot wire goes from the jack tip lug to the center lug on the volume pot) Reinstall using the reverse process of removing the switch.
How to Lower Costs of Squier Guitar Rebuild
Not doing Aesthetic Upgrades are one way to lower costs when rebuilding a Squier guitar. For this Squier rebuild we wanted to take this stock Sunburst towards the classic SRV look and feel. So, for this reason, we replaced the pickguard, knobs and trem cover to OEM Fender black parts after removing the tortoiseshell style pickguard, tremolo cover, and ivory knobs.Don’t do conductive shielding. Shielding is strongly recommended but not an absolute necessity. If you buy a guitar shielding kit online you will probably spend $20-$25. Being a guitar repair shop we have shielding paint and tape on-hand so this was easy for us to do.
Don’t replace satisfactory stock parts such as machine tuning heads, nut and string trees. Installing Fender locking tuners is a great upgrade but not necessary. Installing a new Graphtech nut and string trees are also great upgrades that you can postpone for now.
How to Improve Sustain
If you want to improve sustain you can replace the stock Squier tremolo block. You can buy a new trem block from fu-tune.com or guitarfetish.com. Personally, we’ve found fu-tone.com to be the best choice for these. Fu Tone also sells coated springs for noise reduction, and they come in several levels of strength/tension. When buying a new trem block you need to make certain the body cavity has the depth for the new block size. Cutting a deeper cavity on a Squier usually results in a very thin thickness between the cavity bottom and face-side. This makes that area very prone to cracking and ruining the guitar body.
Do You Need to Make Mods to Your Squier?
Depending on your choice of parts and particular guitar model you may need to make some physical modifications. On this Squier rebuild we wanted a richer sound so we opted to install DR Pure Blues 9-46 strings. This meant a quick refile of the nut slot for the 46 ga. string (make the nut slot wider than the standard 42 gauge sized slot).
Let Us Know Your Thoughts
We encourage you to leave comments about our Fender Squier Rebuild project. This feature project is probably our best guitar rebuild to date. We attribute this largely to the high quality of the master craftsmen at Seymour-Duncan. We also give a special thank you to the folks at Musician’s Friend who is one of our top vendors for quality parts at highly competitive pricing.
Artisan Revival™ Guitars and Bass Guitars
Artisan Revival™ is our brand name for various electric guitars and bass guitars that we customize and rebuild to substantially higher performance specifications. All Artisan Revival™ guitars are upgraded with top-tier electronics and given a professional setup. Some Artisan Revival™ guitars receive custom aesthetic treatments including nitro paint, metallic paint, pickguards, trem covers and truss rod covers. If you have a custom guitar in mind, contact us to discuss getting your own Artisan Revival™ guitar or a custom built guitar.