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James V. Roy | profile | all galleries >> Guitars and stuff >> The Gear >> 1954 Fender Stratocaster tree view | thumbnails | slideshow

1954 Fender Stratocaster

My 1954 Fender Stratocaster restoration. The only parts I beleive to be original to this guitar is the neck, neckplate and screws, body, bridge, saddles and claw, jack and jackplate, pickguard and shield, strap buttons and string tree. The pickups are from another 54 strat. The tuners are restored to original No-line klusons. The switch is an original 3 patent number CRL, the pots are CTS NOS from February 1954, the .1 capacitor is from a 56 Strat. The pickup covers and switch tip are "bakelite" repro's by Jim Rolph of Kentucky. The knobs I believe to be late '50s or '60s. The pickguard screws are '50s NOS and the trem cover is a repro. The neck has been refretted (at least once sometime ago). The body appears to have its original sunburst but at somepoint was painted red and then removed to the burst and cleared over.

Keep in mind this is a player and hasn't been babied. Itís not a clean all original collector piece that some one wants to hide away. If it was it would be out of my price range and most likely yours. This is the story about how I got it and what I've done too it:

I first saw the guitar at a guitar show in Auburn, MA, in 2000 I think.

At the time it had custom shop 54 pickups in it and contemporary pots and wiring. It also had mid 60's double-line tuners on it that had been replaced after someone had replaced the no-lines with late 60s/70s tuners. The owner at the time, the vendor, was at the show from NY State, about 3 hours from me and I took his number.

I called him a few days later, he hadn't sold it so I drove out with my camera and we took it all apart and photographed it. I came back and passed the photos around to anyone and everyone and trying to authenticate it as best as possible. The consensus was that the neck, body, hardware (bridge, jack plate) were original to that guitar and that the finish (body) was most likely painted over with red or something and then stripped back to the burst and then sprayed over with clear. You can still see the red in some of the grain on top of the burst.

The vendor said he bought it from someone he met through a friend (both antique finders/sellers) who were not really into guitar collecting. Prior to that the guitar was briefly on consignment with Sunrise guitars of New York. They couldn't arrive at a deal so the guitar was returned to the owner. I talked to the person at Sunrise and he said they had it and had advertised it in VG for awhile.

I went back, we agreed on a price and I bought it. I spent about a year and a couple thousand looking for era replacement parts.

The no-line tuners I got from a dealer in NY.

The pickups, repro covers, switch and tip from Steve Schmidt from Class Axe in Chicago. Steve said the pickups were from a parted out 54 that was damaged, have the original leads and weren't rewound. They cost me $1200 for the set. The pickup covers and switch tip were made by Jim Rolph in Kentucky and resold to me by Steve.

The 54 CTS NOS 250K pots came from a guy advertising in VG (theyíre not the stackpole 100k's that should be in it). Mike Eldred from Fender told me they didn't use 100k's in their limited CS run of 54's last year because they would've sounded horrible. The shafts are slightly taller than normal and necessitate an extra washer.

The knobs are older Fender Strat knobs, don't know the exact year but are not 54s obviously.

The rear trem cover is a replica made for me by a friend sometime ago from a template supplied by another friend from her Dad's 54. With the bridge locked down the spring hooks in the block protrude ever so slightly that they hit the cover preventing it from sitting completely flat.

The chicklet capacitor is from a 56 Strat from Cohn Rude in Oregon and the pickguard screws (NOS) from eBay.

I had asked the vendor I bought it from if he had actually parted out the rest of the guitar before I saw it but he said he didn't. Aside from having a friend make repairs to the guard who put some type of adhesive film/paper to the back to reinforce and hold it all together, he had received the guitar in the same condition that he sold it to me.

The only concern with regular playing would be the guard, its getting a tad brittle. It would be a good idea to replace the guard if youíre going to gig with it. Iíve always found the distortion of this one uncomfortable while playing; it bulges somewhat under the strings. I tried to finagle a replacement one from Fender in 2004 from their CS run but no luck.

The frets are playable, low and could probably use a recrowning at the very least. Itís been refretted at least once and has an ugly fret job in my estimation, especially when viewed from the side. I contemplated having Jim Mouradian of Mouradian guitar in Cambridge refret it but didn't think it would add much to the value or playability.

The neck is thin (side to side wise), small and rounded. Itís almost got a subtle V feel too it, not Fat and chunky like a Nocaster. I had almost expected it to be. There was a guy in Western Mass. that had a 54 too and he described his the same way. Itís got the classic rolled over edges to the fretboard and the strings sit close to the outside but haven't presented a problem with fall off to me. It sits narrow in the pocket of the body and there is a gap between as visible in the pix. A friend who I used to let play it described the middle pickup as one of the sweetest he's ever heard. My ears aren't that discernible. When I used to go to jams with it and my 64 VR everyone raved about the tone, not sure which gets the most credit.

I lock the bridge, a bar came with it when I got it but itís not the original. The bridge itself had some type of yellowed overspray on it when I first got it but I scraped it off. I later saw a picture of a 54 in the "Galaxy of Strats" book with the same overspray and wondered if it was originally on it, but, too late.

The guitar itself weighs in at 8 lbs.

Some people ask about the decal and I have no knowledge to say if itís original. There appears to have been a social security number faintly discernible on the rear of the headstock at some point but was removed.

The poodle case by the way is a reissue; I got that from a dealer in LA that bought a lot from G&G I believe they said. It seemed fitting at the time to have a vintage style case for it.

The pick guard is no longer usable, an attempt to unwarp it caused distortion and shrinkage. I was able to obtain a sheet of polystyrene .060 thick and sent it to Bryan Boots in California to cut. The guard came out looking great and for now is an adequate replacement, far better than a new vinyl one would be. I have a lead on an original from an old 54 that had been badly refinned and since made to be a player. The owner has the original guard in mint shape with the stackpole pots still on it but he's not yet sure he wants to sell.

I had to disable comments and guestbook entry for those that didn't have a pbase account. There was just too much spam entries to deal with. If you have any questions and need to contact me you can do it through scottymoore.net or myspace.com/scotmo.

1954 Strat (#0022)
1954 Strat (#0022)
TG 6-54 (Tadeo Gomez June 1954)
TG 6-54 (Tadeo Gomez June 1954)
neck jig alignment hole
neck jig alignment hole
tuners replaced early on with late 60/70's style
tuners replaced early on with late 60/70's style
restored with original Kluson noline tuners
restored with original Kluson "noline" tuners
Heavy freatboard wear
Heavy freatboard wear
pre-wiring channel flush routing (poor attempt to shield with paint)
pre-wiring channel flush routing (poor attempt to shield with paint)
Front without guard and electrics
Front without guard and electrics
The body was evidently sprayed over red and later removed.
The body was evidently sprayed over red and later removed.
trem cavity and claw
trem cavity and claw
Original polystyrene pickguard heavy warping
Original polystyrene pickguard heavy warping
Original polystyrene pickguard heavy warping
Original polystyrene pickguard heavy warping
Guard very brittle, heavily cracked but repaired and reinforced.
Guard very brittle, heavily cracked but repaired and reinforced.
Original 54 pickups with repro polystyrene covers
Original 54 pickups with repro polystyrene covers
front of guard assembly
front of guard assembly
NOS CTS 250k pots 137406 (Mid Feb 1954)
NOS CTS 250k pots 137406 (Mid Feb 1954)
rear guard assembly
rear guard assembly
3 patent number CRL switch used 54-59
3 patent number CRL switch used 54-59
black wiring as original early 54
black wiring as original early 54
control plate
control plate
.1 meg chicklet capacitor
.1 meg chicklet capacitor
CTS NOS pots circa 54 (137406) (stackpole unavailable)
CTS NOS pots circa 54 (137406) (stackpole unavailable)
bridge ground wired to ouput ground lug
bridge ground wired to ouput ground lug
Assembly installed
Assembly installed
Guard
Guard
body - front
body - front
Pat Pend saddles (lacquer overspray on bridge since removed)
Pat Pend saddles (lacquer overspray on bridge since removed)
tracings of the neck profile at several frets
tracings of the neck profile at several frets
neck gap
neck gap
neck pocket
neck pocket
Jim Shine and me (JVR) at the Boston Guitar Show 11/17/02
Jim Shine and me (JVR) at the Boston Guitar Show 11/17/02
The picture on pg 130 of March 2003 issue of Vintage Guitar Magazine
The picture on pg 130 of March 2003 issue of Vintage Guitar Magazine
Me and Nuno trying out my 54
Me and Nuno trying out my 54
Nuno Bettencourt
Nuno Bettencourt
Greg Koch and Fender DSM Scott Lombardo
Greg Koch and Fender DSM Scott Lombardo
Scott tries out my 54
Scott tries out my 54
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CTS NOS pots circa 54 (137406) (stackpole unavailable)
CTS NOS pots circa 54 (137406) (stackpole unavailable)
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3 patent number CRL switch used 54-59
3 patent number CRL switch used 54-59
54 Reissue Poodle case
54 Reissue Poodle case
54 Reissue Poodle case
54 Reissue Poodle case
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Older strat knobs, non 54 short shirt
Older strat knobs, non 54 short shirt
Older strat knobs, non 54 short shirt
Older strat knobs, non 54 short shirt
54 Strat pickguard ruin
:: 54 Strat pickguard ruin ::
repro polystyrene pickguard installed
repro polystyrene pickguard installed
Fender vintage polystyrene parts
Fender vintage polystyrene parts
now with Fender's 1954 Polystyrene shortskirt knobs
now with Fender's 1954 Polystyrene shortskirt knobs
now with Fender's 1954 Polystyrene shortskirt knobs
now with Fender's 1954 Polystyrene shortskirt knobs