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My Strat came with the "parchment" chip guard (left) that looked like an accordion was sacrificed to make it. The black chipguard from Stewart-MacDonald came with all first class wiring, switch, pots and three of their hot in-house pickups (right) that gave my Strat a solid kick in the tone butt.
Click images to enlarge

Blackout Stratocaster

Taking my used Strat to the dark side

Text and photos by Tom Hintz

Posted – 11-24-2012

Let me start by saying that I had never been a fan of black guitars. I don’t know why, just never liked them much. But when I came across my used Fender Standard Stratocaster® I liked the guitar itself and the deal more than I disliked the shiny black body. Besides, I figured I could always refinish it.

While looking at parts to hop the Fender Standard Stratocaster® up I began noticing that all of the parts I was considering were available in black. That gave me the idea to over compensate by creating an all-black guitar. Well, everything but the neck anyway. I am not foolish enough to mess with a good Fender Maple neck so that will remain cloaked in its factory polyurethane finish.

 

Step One

The thing that first got me considering the blackout concept was noticing that the Wilkinson/Gotoh VSVG Vintage Tremolo I wanted to add to the Fender Standard Stratocaster® was offered in gloss black. When I placed the order for the black Wilkinson/Gotoh VSVG Vintage Tremolo I also found a gloss black Strat output jack plate and a black tremolo spring cavity cover that would replace the silver-based parchment version on the Fender Standard Stratocaster® as it came from the factory. I can’t help it, I think that silver parchment plastic looks to me like Fender was recycling accordions.

During the install of the Wilkinson/Gotoh VSVG Vintage Tremolo I also added the black jack plate and tremolo spring cover. I had everything but the jack plate off anyway so this part of the project has to make sense to you even if taking a perfectly good Fender Standard Stratocaster® to the dark side does not.

First up was adding the Wilkinson/Gotoh VSVG Vintage Tremolo (left) that got rid of the chrome factory piece that was giving me tuning fits. At the same time I added a black spring cavity cover (right) just in case somebody looks at the back.
Click images to enlarge

Since all this costs money the “blackening” is going to happen in two steps. If I was going to replace just the chipguard with a black one I would have done that now also but I have difficulty just replacing parts without putting on new ones that improve performance in some way. In this case that meant that the new chipguard would not be alone when it was installed.

 

Step Two

The second phase of the “blackening” came when I installed a new (black) chipguard from Stewart-MacDonald that came loaded with their high-end control pots, switch and three of their own hopped up pickups. The back of the chipguard is also shielded from interference that could take away from the odd tones my unpracticed fingers are occasionally capable of making.

After swapping out the hideous parchment chipguard with the black one (OK, it has thin white edges visible around the outside) I wiped down the new and hopefully more dark-hearted Fender Standard Stratocaster® and stood back to check it out. I felt good about it and since it is my guitar, that’s all that really matters. I would be a little happier if others liked it as well but I will survive if they do not.

 

Conclusions

I know there are some out there that see this “blackening” project as frivolous or perhaps even worse because I did it to a Fender Standard Stratocaster®. I understand that there will be a range of opinions and that’s a good thing otherwise everyone would be as cool (or delusional) as I am and what would the world be like then?

Not so long ago I would have liked the chrome jack plate (left) but this time I went for the black version (right) to complete the transformation. That should mean that I will play metal stuff better right?
Click images to enlarge

Anyway, I like the new look of the now-black Fender Standard Stratocaster® and enjoy playing it. It actually does sound a better thanks to the hotter pickups and the Wilkinson/Gotoh VSVG Vintage Tremolo which also helps it stay in tune after I mess with the whammy bar. I still like to plunk around playing country but for some reason I now feel a need to cover Black Sabbath……

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