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Guitar Project

Hohner Arbor - the finished project


I've had this Hohner Arbor Series "strat" type guitar from new, which I bought at Cornell's music shop on Spring Bank Hull, when I was about 16.  That's just over thirty years ago.  Wow.  I had a blue Hondo II Les Paul style a couple of years before that, which had had quite a bit of modification work done to it before I got it, but I was very much into the Dire Straits guitar sounds at the time so wanted a Stratocaster of some sort.  It started life as a standard stratocaster copy - white scratchplate, 3 single coil pickups, with what I can only describe as a banana yellow paint finish (I think it was supposed to be cream).  Not sure what the other options were, but I chose that for some reason.    
Original spec. 1989 6th form college band.  I've always had style, as you can see.

Fast-forward a few years and my tastes began to change, so I tinkered with it, replacing the bridge pickup with a salvaged humbucker, and changing the pickguard to black. I changed the tone controls and overall it took on a different sound. Oh, and let's get rid of that banana paint and varnish it while we are at it.  
How it was for many years

I did a few other upgrades of a Gotoh 1088 tremolo bridge and tuners, changed to a graphite nut and some roller string tees to help the thing stay in tune!

And so it remained untinkered for a very long time, although until recent times when I yearned for that old simple stratty sound back.  Now, these days there are many, many good strat-copies or reasonably-priced Squier/Fender guitars out there that I could have bought and it would have fit the bill perfectly, but sentiment wouldn't allow me to part with this, and I just didn't have the space for another guitar, so it was time to dust off the soldering iron.

I'd always kind of regretted going to the natural finish, because it showed up the "cheap guitar" element of being a plywood body, so I decided to do a proper job and refinish it, after seeing a Fender Custom Shop 1962 Stratocaster in Lake Placid Blue with a tortoiseshell pickguard on Instagram.  

So, off came the hardware, and neck, and I took to it with a blowtorch (exciting and extremely scary in equal measure) then sanded, filled, sanded, primed, sanded, filled a bit more, primed a bit more and then finally painted (about six coats of  nitrocellulose) to the new shiny sparkly blue.  People saw my efforts through my snaps on my Facebook page but, as a professional photographer, I thought I'd add some better photographs of the finished job.

After some gentle roasting with a blowtorch to remove the old paint and varnish - note I kept the original cream/yellow inside.
looks a bit tidier after a base coat of primer
Hardware-wise, I felt the budget body didn't justify expensive equipment so went with modestly-priced parts with good reviews, from reputable suppliers.  This guitar wasn't supposed to change the world.  I just wanted my old guitar back how it used to be, with maybe a few niceties thrown in, like a treble-bleed circuit on the volume, new tone pots and a new 5-way switch, because somehow during the project a contact got damaged and stopped working when I put it back together.


The hardest part of the project?  Trying to get matching parts.  White? Black? No problem?  Off-white/ivory/cream/parchment?  Yes, you can search all over for those but everyone has a different shade, so not everything matches perfectly, and pickup suppliers didn't supply the other bits, so a it was hit and miss.  And, if you look close enough, my filling and paint-spraying wasn't too perfect either, but it all adds to the charm, I'd say.  Glad to say, it still plays nicely and sounds great.
Like my playing - perfect imperfection.
The knobs don't quite match the pickup covers but hey-ho. This close-up also shows the shortcomngs of my body refinishing!

Technical bits:
Sprague Orange Drop Capacitor .022uf
Oak Grigsby 5-way Selector Switch
250k A potentiometers
3ply tortoiseshell pickguard
Lake placid blue nitrocellulose spray paint  - All from Northwest Guitars  - brilliant choice and fantastic service
Vanson 'Classic Pro' Alnico V Pickup ivory - Vanson Guitars, Amazon
Ivory/cream control knobs and switch tip - Black Dog musicDartford sanding sealer primer -
Sprague orange drop treble bleed kit (130k resistor and .001uf capacitor in parallel - Ebay


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