Trying my hand at an Eldon Shamblin '54 Strat build: pics and process

vanguard

Strat-Talk Member
Mar 26, 2011
38
Salt Lake City, UT
I've decided to try building a replica(ish) of E Shamblin's famous 1954 gold Strat. I want the instrument to look more like it did a few decades ago, before it was totally beat. I also want to reimagine it as a prototype of sorts. There were some really cool features on those early strats, and it also leaves room for me to imagine some other scrappy, shop-floor experiments like might have happened in those early days.

Here's Elden's guitar:
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I decided to start with the electronics, as I build aged, replica guitar pedals for a living, so that part comes easily enough.
 

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vanguard

Strat-Talk Member
Mar 26, 2011
38
Salt Lake City, UT
I used oversized linear 100K pots, as I've heard were used in some very early strats. They're high quality, heavy Canadian parts.
Pickups are correct, wide alnico 3 slugs, vulcanized fiberboard, heavy formvar wire 42, lamp-black wax flash pot, cloth wire, etc.
I saw a prototype Strat with an Astron tone cap, which likely was grabbed from a bin in the amp shop. That's the kind of detail I live for, so I used one for the neck tone, and then the familiar wax CDE cap for middle.
The neatest part so far was the bridge pickup baseplate. I read somewhere that some early plans for the Stratocaster included baseplates for the pickups. This idea was probably scrapped for cost reasons. I imagine that a scenario could have happened where, during experiments with the pickups, someone in the factory just grabbed a piece of scrap metal, in this case a cut off a 1940s Weatherhead parts bin, and hastily snipped it into a base plate. I love the way this detail looks.
 

vanguard

Strat-Talk Member
Mar 26, 2011
38
Salt Lake City, UT
Soldering to the cases on the stainless pots was a challenge (there are actually countless threads online about this very thing lol). I ended up using a grinder to clear a good pad, then a ton of rosin and prayers.
I used the thick shielding plate found in '54. All cloth wire in black and white, and a '50s brown bakelite jack.
 

vanguard

Strat-Talk Member
Mar 26, 2011
38
Salt Lake City, UT
Next up: neck. Bought an Allparts neck that had a sort of CBS pre-cbs hybrid headstock, and nice thick v. I reshaped the headstock, and completely redid the sharp volute. I looked at lots of photos of 1954 strats, and tried to emulate that Tadeo smooth tapering with the rounded edges and no sharp angles anywhere. I also round over the ball part of the headstock, like I saw on some real examples. It catches light beautifully now, with the neck profile seamlessly flowing into the headstock. Did a touch of aging, but avoided the amber nitro, as it always looks weird to me.
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Intune

Senior Stratmaster
Jan 14, 2021
4,879
Edmonton, Alberta
Awesome build so far!! That reshapes Allparts neck looks spot on to my CS 54 neck. Good job and no doubt it’s going to look wild. Love that aged gold finish too.
 

vanguard

Strat-Talk Member
Mar 26, 2011
38
Salt Lake City, UT
I’ve always wanted to buy a unfinished Allparts neck and reshape it. They’re my go to neck but I have no patience to spray the finish on. Especially on a maple board and sanding between the frets!!
They're great necks that have really accurate vintage specs. Your mileage may vary, but when I spray maple fretboards, I do it on a really hot summer day (or in a really hot room), and leave the lacquer out in the heat for 30 mins or so. A couple wet coats that lay down completely flat, and no sanding required!
 

Intune

Senior Stratmaster
Jan 14, 2021
4,879
Edmonton, Alberta
They're great necks that have really accurate vintage specs. Your mileage may vary, but when I spray maple fretboards, I do it on a really hot summer day (or in a really hot room), and leave the lacquer out in the heat for 30 mins or so. A couple wet coats that lay down completely flat, and no sanding required!

Really, I might have to give that a try on my next project. Yes I’ve had all the aftermarket necks before. The closest I’ve found to actually replicating the fender headstock is Allparts.
 

Odell

Strat-Talker
Mar 24, 2011
131
Nashville TN
Great project! I'm interested in the 100k pots. We've had a couple of recent threads discussing values, tolerances, etc, but 100k haven't come up. Have you tried them in a different guitar?
 


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