Repair log: a 2013 left handed Squier by Fender Classic Vibe 60’s sunburst Stratocaster. Crafted in China by AXL.

Copyright retained, Terry Relph-Knight 04/02/20 

Value – £ 422 new £ 250 resale, purchased via EBAY auction – £120

? Fender web site RRP = £369

Weight – 3.4 Kgm, 7.495 lbs

Note – Owner says the truss rod required a ¼ turn tightening after he got the guitar home, so it seems the neck moved even after normalising in my workshop for several days.

A Squier Classic Vibe 60’s Left Handed Stratocaster delivered in a Fender tweed finish gig bag. Missing the left handed vibrato arm. Strung with Rotosound 9 to 42 as delivered. Re-strung with the included set of Ernie Ball orange pack RPS Hybrid Slinkies 9, 11, 16, 26, 36, 46.

 

Hex keys required for adjustment – 4mm or 3/16 inch for the truss rod and 1.5mm for the bridge height grub screws.

The Squier Classic Vibe 60’s Stratocasters are very well regarded, although this opinion is based on the earlier Chinese made instruments. In 2019 manufacture of this model switched from China to Indonesia with some changes in specification. There is some speculation that these Indonesian instruments are inferior to the earlier Chinese guitars. Most recent web site listings show the body as pine for the 50s CVs and nato for the 60s and 70s, rather than the alder of the earlier instruments.

The CV 60’s Strat has a classic appearance, with a tinted finish neck, Kluson style tuners, a vintage trem and a three colour sunburst body (other colours may include Candy Apple Red and Lake Placid Blue). It has a three ply pick guard while the 50s models have single ply. But this CV 60s Strat model does nod towards modernity with a 9.5 inch radius neck, fairly substantial frets, a 5 way pickup switch and a ‘calibrated’ or graduated set of pickups with RWRP middle pickup. 

The curved “veneer” rosewood fretboards, like the board on this guitar, are apparently made by sanding a concave curve into a slab of rosewood, not by bending a thinner board. Fender supposedly introduced them either a) because they had trouble with the slab rosewood boards overpowering the maple neck, causing warping, or b) because they wanted to retain the signature Fender sound, but with the cosmetics of a rosewood board. Although slab rosewood fretboards are the most common construction used today.

Problems – In for a general setup and rewiring and possible fret work. When the pickup selector is in position 4, only the neck pickup is in the circuit. Neck and middle pickups are hooked up when the selector is part way between positions 3 and 4. Loose output jack. Rewire to a PTB and a 6 way pickup selector for a neck plus bridge pickup option. Buzz on the G string. Wonky grub screw on the low E saddle. Poorly installed vibrato.

Body –  A two piece alder body with an almost invisible join, slightly off centre towards the treble side. Finished in a three colour sunburst with a high gloss poly clear coat. There are two noticeable dents in the front of the guitar and one on the back. Routed for a single coil neck, P90 middle and a humbucker at the bridge. A61996 is punch stamped in the bottom of the middle route. The body cavities are screened with black conductive paint. The neck pocket has 41114L written in ball point pen. There were no shims in the pocket, but it does have some odd chisel marks in the bottom. The neck is secured with a four bolt neck plate. The four screw holes seem symmetrically drilled and perpendicular through the body, but they are very tight. 

Neck – A 21 fret, 9.5 inch radius maple neck with some nice quilt figuring, finished in a vintage tint gloss poly. The thin curved ‘veneer’ fretboard is probably Indian laurel (maybe rosewood). Fret markers are white plastic dots with quite small white side dots and, of necessity given the thin fret board, half in the board and half in the maple neck. Neck profile is a generic C shape. The nut is ‘synthetic bone’ with an orange tint. Truss rod (3/16 hex key) adjustment is from the headstock. The hole for the key is trimmed with a walnut fillet. An ink stamp on the end of the neck shows the date 2013-05-14. The Squier logo in gold with a black outline, preceded by STRATOCASTER in black, appears on the front of the headstock with a small black Fender below it. In black on the back of the headstock – “Designed and backed by Fender, Crafted in China, s/n CGS1314190”.

Hardware –  The vintage style left handed vibrato has a thin, low mass, zinc alloy inertia block and is missing the vibrato arm. The vibrato has six folded steel saddles with a string spacing at a ‘modern’ 2 1/16 inches or 52.5mm (the six pivot screws are at the same spacing). It is fitted with three springs with the outer two set in a V. Although this is, for some reason, a ‘fashionable’ way to fit three springs, in this case it may be to help one of the outer springs not rubbing on the cavity wall because the vibrato spring tension screws have been very poorly installed. The route for the vibrato through the body is at a slight angle. The vibrato cavity cover is thin, single ply, gloss black plastic with six individual string access holes.

The tuning machines are vintage style Kluson reproductions, with the fixed oval metal buttons and slotted posts with a central hole. A single bent metal string tree is fitted under the E and B strings on a 4mm spacer.

The four bolt neck plate is nickel plated steel with the Squier logo by Fender etched into it. The neck is attached with four large head nickel plated steel wood screws with 8mm of plain shank below the head.

The three controls, fitted with cream plastic non-genuine Fender UFO knobs, are wired as for a classic Strat with a global volume, the first tone for the neck pickup and the second for the middle pickup. They don’t feel like they are the correct law for a lefty (turns out they are labelled anti-log -C250K). Pickup selection is via a 5 way switch (economy PCB type) that isn’t switching the neck and middle combination – only the neck is connected. If this is a switch fault it doesn’t matter because the plan is to replace the switch with a 6 way.

The three, spring mounted pickups have lightly bevelled Alnico rod magnets in a modern stagger. Some online sources say that the pickups in a 2013 CV use Alnico 3 magnets. The Fender web site says only ‘Fender® Designed Alnico Single-Coil’. Measurements show this guitar has Alnico 5 magnets and the centre pickup is RWRP for hum cancellation in the in between switch positions.

The pick guard is a three ply tortoiseshell guard (dark brown with yellow streaking running top to bottom) secured by 11 ‘large’ headed screws. The jack plate is secured with two ‘small’ screws (usually the jack plate and the pick guard screws are all the same).

Work done – The guitar was examined for obvious external faults and measurements taken of the set up as delivered. Used steam to reduce the depth of the body dents.

Replaced the control pots and wiring with a 6 way pickup selector switch, adding the combined neck and bridge pickup selection and a Passive Treble Bass control layout. Replaced the low cost single leaf output jack with a recurved tip contact Switchcraft jack.

Stripped the bridge and soaked all the small parts in WD40. Fitted M5 brass washers under the outside two bridge pivot screws to minimise friction. Replaced the six rather small vibrato pivot screws with larger chrome plated hardened steel screws. Bolted three steel plates to the inertia block to increase mass, reducing string vibration cross talk. Replaced the two vibrato spring tension screws with more suitable screws and re-drilled the two screw holes with an ‘aircraft’ bit, so the spring claw sits in the centre of the spring cavity and the tension screws have a good range of adjustment. Used a Dremel tool to sand back the rear corners of the vibrato route to clear the corners of the inertia block.

Adjusted the truss rod to get the neck dead straight and then re-levelled, re-crowned and polished all the frets. Sanded the gloss off the bottom of the neck heel to improve friction against the neck pocket. Tightened all the loose tuner screws to stop tuner waggle affecting tuning stability.

Adjusted the truss rod, neck and bridge for action and intonation. All parts cleaned and polished. 

Analysis

With the strings off, the neck unbolted from the body and the frets polished it is possible to see fret wear divots under the plain strings extending all the way down to the fifteenth fret. The last six frets after the 15th look factory fresh.

This guitar has been played and played hard, there are even the beginning of some fingernail grooves under the G string from the third fret to the sixth. The first five frets look relatively normal apart from the wear under the plain strings, the next ten frets show signs of levelling (flat tops) mostly across the middle of the frets and then the last six frets look factory fresh. So there are three sections of frets each in different condition. Perhaps a previous owner removed the strings and the neck from the body and tried to level the frets without adjusting the truss rod for a flat neck. Correct levelling would have removed material all the way across the tops of all frets, until all wear disappeared, followed by re-crowning and polishing of all the frets. It will require some careful truss rod tweaks and a re-level and re-crown to restore the frets, if they have it in them.

As delivered the vibrato was flat to the body. Effectively it was locked in place by the six (rather small) pivot screws, which were all screwed down to the top of the bridge plate. Checking the saddle heights at the bridge, the G and the B string were sitting below a 9.5 inch radius gauge. 

Apart from the vibrato/tremolo bridge being the cheapest version of the Fender design, with a skinny zinc alloy inertia block and the obligatory sloppy, screw in vibrato arm, it has also been very poorly installed. The six screw holes in the body for the vintage vibrato bridge are not drilled in a straight line, which is always a bad thing as far as stability is concerned for this type of bridge. The two outside screws are drilled a little forward of the other four so this might be an attempt by the factory to have the bridge pivot mainly on the the two outer screws. These wood screws are unusually small; 2.7mm diameter on the smooth shaft below the head by 25mm in length. 3.5mm diameter is a more common size for bridge pivot screws. The two spring tension screws go the other  extreme and are fat and short, 3.6mm by 30mm, countersunk headed screws. They are drilled low in the spring cavity, at quite an angle and are offset to the treble side, so the claw tends to foul the wall of the cavity. The range of vibrato spring tension is restricted by the shortness of these screws. I removed these screws, redrilled the holes so the spring claw sits central in the cavity and fitted longer screws with smaller heads. The routing in the body for the bridge is not quite true.

 

Drilled fresh holes and fitted new screws to centre the claw and springs in the vibrato cavity

 

The saddle intonation screws are all nickel plated steel M3 by 15mm, all the springs are 12mm except for one 6mm (for the low E). Height grub screws are either M3 by 10mm, or 8mm on the two E strings. All of the intonation screws had started to rust. The six folded steel saddles are plain, with no branding stamp. The die-cast zinc alloy inertia block is the economy lightweight (128gms) skinny version. The addition of three custom made steel weights to the block increased its total weight to 226gms. In comparison an original Fender machined steel block weighs 283gms.

 

Steel weights bolted to the skinny zinc alloy inertia block 

The electronics are three small (16mm case diam) C250K (anti-log) Alpha pots, measured as – vol 255.4K, tone 1 245.9K, tone 2 244.3K, a low cost PCB based selector switch and a 2A333J brown resin dipped plastic film (marked value 0.033uF) tone capacitor.

 

Squier electronics re-wired

Set-up notes

Once reassembled with the modified bridge it’s apparent that a neck shim will be needed.

Added a 1 inch long by 0.029 inch thick shim.

But nothing is simple – the screw holes in the body are so tight that they won’t allow the neck to tilt  to the angle dictated by the shim! So I need to drill the body holes for  a looser fit on the screws. The screw thread diameter is 0.195 inches or 4.95mm. Redrilling to 5mm was just enough.

Action height

As delivered the open string action height at the 17th fret is 2.25mm for the low E and 2.0mm for the high E. After set-up the action is 1.50 and 1.25mm.

Intonation 

Saddle position measurements are between the front of the saddle and the back of the bridge plate.

CentsmmAfter re-string and adjustment

E +16 27.06 27.61

A +7 29.92 29.89

D +11 30.89 30.94

G +10 29.60 28.89

B 0 30.33 30.83

E 0 37.24 32.35

Pickups –

The three single coil pickups use vintage construction with the six rod magnets push fitted into black Forbon fibre end plates (a.k.a. flatwork).

The neck pickup is labelled STA3N-L(fender)-VC, the middle pickup STA3M-L(fender)-VC and the bridge pickup STA3B-L(fender)-VC, white lettering on transparent labels. The silicon rubber insulated output wires are colour coded red and black for the neck, yellow and black for the middle pickup and blue and black for the bridge. The pickups show little sign of wax potting and the windings are wrapped in a protective layer of black fabric self adhesive tape.

As far as this coding is concerned, ST probably means Stratocaster, A3 might be taken to mean Alnico 3, which is how some descriptions of this guitar refer to the pickups, although my measurements show the magnets are Alnico 5, N B and L stand for neck middle and bridge, L for left handed, fender in brackets indicating the pickups were made for Fender (Fender is unlikely to refer to its own pickups in this way) and of course VC stands for vibe classic (yes it really says VC on the labels).

Roswell Pickups uses the codes STA-N (5.6K Alnico 5) STA-M (5.8K Alnico 5) and STA-B (6.4K Alnico 5) for one of the sets in its range of Strat pickups. So it seems possible that the pickups in this guitar are either that Roswell set, or a customised version of that set, made by Roswell for Fender. The listing on the Fender web site for the Squier Classic Vibe 60’s only says ‘Fender Designed Alnico Single-Coil’ for the pickup description.

Pickup measurements

Neck – STA3N-L(fender)-VC measured without strings Capacitance – 92.18pF

L in HenrysQESR in Kohm

100Hz 2.459 0.253 6.10

120Hz 2.455 0.302 6.11

1000Hz 2.48 2.43 6.40

Lp at 1000Hz = 2.902H

Magnet orientation – South up

Low E = 1190 gauss, 1110, 1050, 920, 880 High E = 1120 gauss (the high E magnet is the shortest)

Middle – STA3M-L(fender)-VC measured without strings Capacitance – 92.13pF

L in HenrysQESR in Kohm

100Hz 2.765 0.259 6.70

120Hz 2.761 0.309 6.72

1000Hz 2.789 2.48 7.04

Lp at 1000Hz = 3.242H

Magnet orientation – North up

Low E = 1120 gauss, 1000, 1120, 960, 810 High E = 920 gauss (the high E magnet is the shortest)

Bridge – STA3B-L(fender)-VC measured without strings Capacitance = 93.95pF

L in HenrysQESR in Kohm

100Hz 3.059 0.278 6.89

120Hz 3.053 0.333 6.9

1000Hz 3.089 2.64 7.34

Lp at 1000Hz = 3.534H

Magnet orientation – South up

Low E = 1150  gauss, 1090, 1190, 930, 900 high E = 910 gauss (the high E magnet is the shortest)

The measurements show this is a ‘calibrated’ set, with the inductance increasing from the neck to the bridge. An Alnico 5 set, slightly hotter than vintage pickups, but with quite a low self capacitance. The Gauss readings only roughly follow the magnet lengths. The tallest magnet is under the D string so this should be the strongest magnet, and the shortest is under the B string. The neck pickup appears to have a weirdly strong high E magnet. This pickup set should provide a snappy standard modern Strat sound. Hum cancelling in selector positions 2 and 4 due to the RWRP middle pickup. With an inductance of slightly over 3H, the bridge pickup should avoid ‘ice pick’ trebles. 

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Fender Classic Vibe 60’s sunburst Stratocaster

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