By Thad Shumaker
Thad here from Shumaker Guitar Works for part 2 of making a cheap guitar awesome. This time I'm using a Squier Affinity Strat I picked up at a pawn shop for about 60 bucks. Squires are decent guitars right out of the box, as I discussed the last blog, but with a little time and a bit of money you can make them like no other.
When I bought this guitar, it still had the original hang tags and everything with it, so it couldn't have been very old. I don't think it was ever played. I took it home, cleaned it up, put a good set of strings on it and played it for a bit. I decided it could be better than it already was. I got online and started looking for options as to what I could do to improve this guitar. I found Dragonfire pickups. They make a whole line of clone pickups, at about 1/3 the price of the big names. I chose their loaded Strat pickguard with 3 humbucker hot rails type pickups. This setup is unique in which it has individual pickup control and coil tapping. I can choose 1, 2 or all 3 pickups together running in or out of phase, for a myriad of sounds, and I can split the coils for that single coil sound as well. The whole setup, with the pick guard, cost me 69 bucks I believe..
Moving on to installation… First remove the strings, then unscrew the jack plate and the original pick guard. Squires have 2 screws inside that are ground screws for the shielding Faraday cage which also need removed. lastly, you have to remove the back cover to unsolder the bridge ground from the tremolo claw, and the 2 wires for the jack. You can then completely remove the stock pickguard with all the pickups attached.
Installing the new loaded pickguard is just the opposite of removal, but there's no ground screws for the shielding. Solder your jack wires, and your bridge ground to the tremolo claw. This will be the only soldering to do on the new loaded guard. Install the jack plate and new pick guard with the screws you took out of the old one. Next step, install a new set of strings, and set your pickup height. While I had the strings off I also installed a new tusq nut I had, and did a mild setup on the guitar.
Doing a side by side comparison of the guitar with the original all white pickguard and pickups and the new red pearloid guard, looks phenomenal! Now to plug it in. I play through my pedal board, and a 1977 peavey deuce tube amp. I set all eq's at noon with just a bit of reverb. My pedals of choice are my trusty 20 year old boss stereo chorus and a boss turbo overdrive. The sound difference from the stock single coils to the Dragonfires in single coil mode was huge. I then switched to humbucker mode, running the bridge only. Holy heavy metal bat man! These pickups sound great. Next I decided to run all 3 as humbuckers, and crank up the amp a bit. Talk about drive you out of the room raw power. I love these.
In conclusion, I have about 150 bucks into this Squire. If you went to a shop and bought this guitar new you'd pay around 150 bucks for it. The Dragonfire pickups come not only in rails, but as single coils, p90's, H90's(p90 in humbucker size), regular humbuckers, high output humbuckers. Basically there's something for everyone and every style. If you're looking for a cheap but great upgrade to make your cheap guitar awesome, look them up on the web.
Check out Dragon Guitars here!