Those who have been following this blog know that I’m a beginning guitar player. Very beginning, and a slow learner (ask me how long I’d been writing before I was selling regularly, if you want proof). But that aside, I’m also still working out what sort of guitar I want to play. Do I, will I have a preference? Les Paul? Stratocaster? Both? Something else entirely? Right now I’m in the experimental phase. My first guitar was and is an Epiphone Les Paul Special II, which I still think was a smart choice for a beginner’s electric guitar. The controls are relatively simple and it sounds great except when it doesn’t, and when it doesn’t I know it’s me and not the guitar. No excuses.
Yet I admit I’m Stratocaster curious (Let’s face it—like the Les Paul, the Fender strat is iconic), so when this pawn shop special showed up on an online auction, I bid low. And won, somewhat to my own surprise. That’s the first photo. It’s an entry-level Squier Affinity Stratocaster, made in 1999 in Taiwan (Squier is to Fender as Epiphone is to Gibson, sort of). The resolution of that photo is such that you really can’t tell, but believe me, that guitar was pretty beat up. Playable, but just barely. One of the tone controls was out, all switches were “scratchy” from accumulated dust and crud and three of the machine heads (tuning pegs) were shot. You could tune it, but it wouldn’t stay tuned for very long or sound very good even when it was tuned.
So what went through my mind? Aside from “WTF was I thinking?” I mean. Sure, I hadn’t paid much for it (to put it mildly), so the smart thing would have been to cut my losses. Riight. I went straight to “I can fix this!” but wasn’t content to stop there, oh no. I proceeded right along to– “I can make it better!” The tone controls weren’t really a problem; I found a broken solder joint on a capacitor that would have been an easy fix. I used to make up serial cables for our old mini-computer system, so I’m not afraid of a little soldering. But the pickguard was flimsy white plastic, the pickups (what feeds the sound from the strings to the amp, if you didn’t know) were low-end and cheap even when they were new. So if its immediate problems were corrected, the guitar still just wasn’t good enough. But it could be. Continue reading