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Thread: Salvaging an old Samick Strat copy

  1. #1
    Member lunaticds's Avatar
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    Salvaging an old Samick Strat copy

    Back in the 90s when I was a young chap, I decided I wanted some guitar lessons to complement my bass lessons.
    I went out and brought the cheapest new guitar at the local dealer. I found a black & white Samick strat copy. It seemed OK, so I forked out my hard earned and went to my music teacher. One lesson was spent just on the setup. It wasn't too bad for a $300~ guitar. The fret work wasn't great, the electronics were what you expected for cheap kit and I got about doing some lessons on it.

    Eventually the first fret gave me trouble. It was loose, and in the pre-Google era, I decided to belt it back in. Every so often it popped out a fraction, and one day I gave it a tap with something between the strings.. but lost a string. That string went back to its position.. right under where I was hitting, cutting into the fret. From there, it became the bastard fret. It would catch, it was noisy and I'd made poor attempts at dealing with it such as flat filing it. Mostly I brought other guitars and stopped playing it.

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    The fret is now too low.

    Fast forward to yesterday and I decided to do something about it. I'm working on a Pit Bull TB-4 build, and I figure there's some possibility I might need to do some work on the fret board, so I'd like some practice. Thinking about the fact that I've been carting around this guitar for over 20 years and hardly used it since the start of the millennium, I figured there's some learning to be done.

    After checking the neck was pretty straight, I stripped the strings off, and started checking the fret level across the board. It needs a fair bit of love. So I figured I'd order some fret wire and a fret level as I have neither. Then it dawned on me that I don't really have anything to grab the fret with nor any low tack tape to cover the fret board. More bits on order. It was probably always like this. I don't recall if ever having a low action, and that's something that older me has gotten used to with progressively better guitars.

    By this point, I remembered that the electronics were pretty average, the switch used to cut out and so on. Then I figured well I might as well make this thing playable again. I hate the white pickguard (I actually hate pickguards full stop), so I wanted that to change. I found a Squire pickguard loaded with some refurbished electronics. It won't be a direct fit - Samick in their infinite wisdom used some different dimensions for their guard (and checkout the socket orientation...). Luckily with a bit of polishing, the finish under there comes up pretty well. I know I'll have at least one visible screw hole - I'll just put a screw in it and move on with my life. It cost $60. If that doesn't turn out, I'll retro fit the electronics into the original pickguard.

    The machine heads were always garbage, and one had lost the top. I figure I'll replace them with Gotoh SG381-05s. A little budget, but I doubt I'd get $100 for this guitar no matter what I do with it should i try to sell it, so it's only really for my benefit. If it was worth money, I'd probably be using all Fender spec stuff. I think there's about $150 into this restoration + some tools I don't have (but are intended for the TB-4 build anyway).

    The bridge was pretty average too, but I'm not sure I want to replace that. This has had some serious scope creep already.
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    Endgame? Make it play. I'll have a crack at getting the fretwork done properly as that's why I put it on the bench in the first place.. If I fail miserably, I'll replace the neck and move on. With some reasonable tuners, reasonable electronics and some time working on the setup, I expect this will be playable. I'm long over *cheap* crap guitars, so if I can get this performing somewhere between the Corts and Epis hanging on the wall, I'll consider it good and find it a home on the wall. If I can't, it'll go to the kids.
    Hopefully I can get this done with no more money poured into it. I couldn't afford to even start this one
    Last edited by lunaticds; 16-08-2021 at 07:57 AM.

  2. #2
    Member ross.pearson's Avatar
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    Fantastic idea! I've got an old Samick Warlock in pieces in a hardcase somewhere that I'll be restoring one day. I also bought a really cheap crappy pawn shop guitar to practise replacing hardware etc, so I'll be using that to practise fret dress and leveling. It's nice to not have to worry about breaking something that's already not working or being used.

  3. #3
    Member lunaticds's Avatar
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    New loaded pickguard arrived today in fantastic condition. The seller did a terrific and clean job redoing that wiring. He even included instructions for wiring to the jack and a phone number.

    The strat guards are definitely not a drop in to this Samick - I've had to make some modifications to the guard - cutting out where it meets the neck, reshaping and reducing the horn and increasing the bottom cut away.

    The bottom tone knob also doesn't fit in the existing cavity, so I'm about to have my first crack at using a router that doesn't live in server rooms and data centres. It doesn't need a lot out of it - just a bit. Hopefully once that's out I can position the guard properly and work out how much more reshaping of the pickguard is required to match the body.
    So far a dremel has worked well to reshape, using a grinding attachment to get the angle around the edge somewhere near right. With some luck some fine sandpaper and a bit of a wet sand will clean it up to an acceptable state.

    It's gonna be a little ghetto, but then it supposed to be a learning experience.

  4. #4
    GAStronomist Simon Barden's Avatar
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    You can use a sanding drum on a Dremel to enlarge the control cavity. It’s quick and less risky than a router if you aren’t used to using one. I’ve done it several times.

  5. #5
    Overlord of Music McCreed's Avatar
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    So far a dremel has worked well to reshape, using a grinding attachment to get the angle around the edge somewhere near right. With some luck some fine sandpaper and a bit of a wet sand will clean it up to an acceptable state.
    Another good tool for working on pickguards is just a Stanley knife blade held in the hand (without the "knife" part).
    It can be used as a scraper and affords a lot of control if you looking to remove a little bit at a time. Actually, you'd be surprised how much material you remove quickly as well. They're good for both fine tuning bevels or heel and vibrato cut-outs.

    FWIW, the plain old blade has a plethora of uses doing this kind of work.

    [Edit to add: Fine sandpaper used dry then wet will clean up the new edges nicely. You can even use a bit of polishing compound after.]

    Like Simon, I was going to suggest a sanding drum on the Dremel for widening the control cavity. Definitely less risk of accidental or incidental damage.

    BTW, that first fret is #@#$^ mess! (but you probably knew that already )
    Last edited by McCreed; 18-08-2021 at 04:42 PM.
    Making the world a better place; one guitar at a time...

  6. #6
    Member lunaticds's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by McCreed View Post
    Another good tool for working on pickguards is just a Stanley knife blade held in the hand (without the "knife" part).
    It can be used as a scraper and affords a lot of control if you looking to remove a little bit at a time. Actually, you'd be surprised how much material you remove quickly as well. They're good for both fine tuning bevels or heel and vibrato cut-outs.

    FWIW, the plain old blade has a plethora of uses doing this kind of work.

    [Edit to add: Fine sandpaper used dry then wet will clean up the new edges nicely. You can even use a bit of polishing compound after.]

    Like Simon, I was going to suggest a sanding drum on the Dremel for widening the control cavity. Definitely less risk of accidental or incidental damage.

    BTW, that first fret is #@#$^ mess! (but you probably knew that already )
    I do wish I'd been a little more patient before getting in there with the router. That said, I did survive. Just. I did need to take a lot out. The original pickguard only ever had 2 pots, so the addition of the third needed a fair chunk of space, as did the centimetre I needed to knock off above the bridge to allow for the pickup. The originals were up higher.

    I spent a couple of hours reshaping the pickguard and trying to get the angle right to deal with that middle white ply. It's really not great, but it's better than it was after my first attempt at it. Due to the alignment differences from the differing shapes I can't have this quite as tidy as I'd like - I'd probably need to get a fresh cut made of the original pickguard, but I'm not sure I care quite that much on this guitar.
    Theres a particularly odd bit near the bottom of the neck - that was a screw hole.

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    I definitely prefer the black pickguard and pups. Given how slow Australia Post is, I suspect it'll be a week or two before I get the new fret wire and tools to have a crack at sorting that neck out.

  7. #7
    GAStronomist FrankenWashie's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by McCreed View Post
    Another good tool for working on pickguards is just a Stanley knife blade held in the hand (without the "knife" part).
    It can be used as a scraper and affords a lot of control if you looking to remove a little bit at a time. Actually, you'd be surprised how much material you remove quickly as well. They're good for both fine tuning bevels or heel and vibrato cut-outs.

    FWIW, the plain old blade has a plethora of uses doing this kind of work.

    [Edit to add: Fine sandpaper used dry then wet will clean up the new edges nicely. You can even use a bit of polishing compound after.]

    Like Simon, I was going to suggest a sanding drum on the Dremel for widening the control cavity. Definitely less risk of accidental or incidental damage.

    BTW, that first fret is #@#$^ mess! (but you probably knew that already )
    + 1 on cavity adjustment with dremel + sanding drum.
    Routers are wonderful labour saving tools but to be safe and protect your workpiece, you have to know exactly what you want to do and jig/ template accordingly.
    it is possible to freehand effectively, many here have done so, but I wouldn’t attempt it on your first ride.
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  8. #8
    Overlord of Music McCreed's Avatar
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    Due to the alignment differences from the differing shapes I can't have this quite as tidy as I'd like - I'd probably need to get a fresh cut made of the original pickguard, but I'm not sure I care quite that much on this guitar.
    I reckon if you went over it with a Stanley knife blade as I mentioned earlier, you could smooth those curves out nicely.

    What I would do is, screw it down to a bit of scrap timber or your bench so it's stable with the horn overhanging the edge. The hold the blade on the same angle as the existing bevel, drawing the blade toward you holding it with two hands for good control. Think of it as a plane. You should get nice little curls of material coming off the blade. You can also do it pushing away, but with a curve like that horn, I think drawing would be better, working from the neck pocket down.

    As a side note, there is a good chance you could turn that Samick into a real player. The Samick factory made guitars for Fender in their Squier range in the late 80's - early 90's (and I think some Fender FSR models). It should have "good bones" and with new electronics, pickups and a fret job, there's heaps of potential there.

    One of my oldest and best playing strats is a MIC 2002 Squier Bullet!. I've put stupid amounts of time & money into it with pickups, hardware and a refret and a refinish; but the neck just feels and plays great and it always sounds fantastic.
    Making the world a better place; one guitar at a time...

  9. #9
    Member lunaticds's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by McCreed View Post
    I reckon if you went over it with a Stanley knife blade as I mentioned earlier, you could smooth those curves out nicely.

    ..snip..
    Thanks for that advice. I'll take it off at some stage soon and have a crack at that and see how I go tidying it up.

    Funny you bring up Fender. I remember conversations with my music teacher - he used to own a music shop and was reasonably impressed with the quality of the Samick at the time, and he figured that its quirks like the bizarre jack orientation were probably to avoid upsetting its bigger customers.

    I'm hopeful I can make a player out of it. Given it's now loaded with Squire electronics I think I'm a step closer. Getting the neck right worries me. Plenty of opportunity to make a complete balls up of it, but at least there is always a back up plan if I make too much of a mess.

  10. #10
    GAStronomist Simon Barden's Avatar
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    The jack orientation is certainly different, aesthetically challenging, but not really bizarre.

    For a start, the jack is less likely to fall out and the lead naturally runs out over the strap for extra support. There are a few 'name' guitarists who have done something similar with their signature or custom-made models. And some Ibanez S-series models have a less angled, but still slightly upwardly pointing jack socket.

    The output leads from the jack also now flows straight from the end of the jack socket into the control cavity, instead of having to be folded back on itself to exit through a hole in the side of the jack rout, which is a technically better solution.

    The standard Strat jack socket is a really poor execution of what it should have been IMO. The design forces the end of the jack into the end of the rout, and the socket has to be rotated just so inside the rout for the whole thing to work. Get it wrong and the wires snag the jack and it either won't go in, or the plate won't fit flat. I think visuals overcame good engineering. The whole angled indent needed to be at a shallower angle with a longer plate and a rout big enough to have some leeway when fitting the jack.

    Or else the jack should have been on the edge of the guitar body.

    You could always get a black or black chrome jack plate, which will be less visually obtrusive.

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