2 years ago1,000+ Views
"Mischief Maker" is the name the Fender Custom Shop has given that rare unicorn of a Stratocaster that has been made to accept the neck of a Telecaster. The neck joints are not compatible between these two iconic Fender designs. The Telecaster dates back to the late 1940's - the Stratocaster dates back to the early 1950's. Both guitars have neck pockets with the same width and height - it's the depth into the body that is an issue -and technically it's the shape that's cut into the body that's the problem. Tele necks have a straight heel across the front where the neck touches the neck joint. Stratocasters are curved. The accepted formula for moving necks between these two guitars is as follows - A Strat neck will fit into a Tele body - but with gaps on the sides of the neck at the heel of the joint. A Tele neck will NOT fit into a Strat body - it won't seat deep enough and therefore intonation will be off because this will throw the scale length of the guitar off. It's not hard to find "Frankenstein" Telecasters with Strat necks - but to me personally it's silly. The Tele neck is more comfortable and feels better to me. The magic happens when you can take the great tone and comfort of the Stratocaster and make it even better by adding a more comfortable neck.
I'm not going to lie. I'm a picky guitarist. Most guitarists are - it's in our nature... And I'm not talking about picky as in guitar picks. I like a certain tone. I like a certain feel. I like a certain balance and weight. And most importantly I like a certain neck profile. Even though you can order a Mischief Maker from Fender's Custom Shop - it's not cheap BTW - best price I've seen on one is around $4,200 US - You are not really getting a "true" hybrid. You're getting a modern Tele neck that's been routed to fit the Strat body. I wanted a classic/vintage Tele "V-Shaped" neck - that meant I had to take the Strat body and route it to fit the square Tele neck heel. And so I did.
When you order a CS Mischief Maker - the "waterslide" (the term used for the decal that guitars have that's under the clear-coat on the neck) says "Telecaster". It's correct in essence - you're putting a Tele neck on a Strat body - so of course the neck says "Tele". But I wanted to be a little more clever. I wanted my neck to say "Stratocaster". I dug around and found a Fender Strat waterslide decal and I bought a brand-new "Modern Classic" neck - 22 frets (a modern neck standard - not a vintage neck standard - they have 21 frets) but with the vintage "V-shape" I wanted. The neck came unfinished. No stain, no holes, no nut, no waterslide. I then spent nearly 2 months creating an authentic looking vintage - "road worn" or "relic" neck finish. And my Mischief Maker says "Stratocaster" on the neck.
I carefully sanded the wear marks back through the traditional nitrocellulose stained finish I'd created. I used water-based wood dye to get the vintage "yellowed" color. I then used a thin layer of watered down wood glue between the top layers of the nitrocellulose lacquer to make the lacquer crack and check like a 50 year-old finish would. I used power graphite in the base layers to create string dust and grime that is also typical of vintage guitars.
I used muric acid and denatured alcohol to tarnish the chrome parts. I did a clean - Arctic White nitrocellulose gloss finish - then I sanded back down into it to create the areas of wear associated with really old guitars. Places where picks would wear into the finish from aggressive strumming... divots where you miss the jack plate when inserting a cable into the guitar - places where bracelets and belts, and the rivets on your jeans would slowly wear and scratch the finish. Then I took a razor blade and carfully marked the finish - creating "crack" patterns in it. Nitrocellulose is notorious for becoming extra rigid and brittle as it ages. When you take a guitar from somewhere cold - say the back of a car or truck while you're driving between spot - and then pull it out of its case inside a warm place - the wood expands faster than the finish does. This will cause the finish to "check" or crack. To get the "yellowed" look that these cracks develop (because the oils from the wood below start seeping up and out through the finish because it's now cracked - I took a very light oil-based maple (yellow) wood stain and quickly wiped the entire body down and then wiped it clean. Oil based products will react with the lacquer and so if you leave it on it'll melt into the finish and that's not good. What happens is just enough will run into the cracks you've made with your razor - that it reacts inside these cracks and causes the nitro finish to "heal" or melt back together - but at that fissure point the color of the stain - the maple yellow - remains. Also some of this maple color stain will react with the white gloss finish - making it yellowed and again - adding to the whole "aged" feel. I waited a couple of days and gently sanded the finish with 320 wet sand paper - then I did another 6 coats of nitrocellulose clear coat - sealing all of that old color and the cracks under a healthy new finish.
One last "no way Fender would do this for you" thing - I prefer the Floyd Rose bridge. So I routed this body to fit the FR. The FR bridge wasn't invented until the late 1970's - some 10 or so years after this guitar would have been built. For the first decade or so that FR bridges were being made - Kramer Guitar Company of Neptune, NJ, had the exclusive rights to them. So unless you bought a Kramer - you were not getting a FR bridge on your guitar. Other companies made "copies" but it would be nearly 30 years after this guitar would have been made before you could get one on a factory made Fender Strat. I did a serious mod to the authentic vintage 1983 FR that I installed on this guitar. I used a Dremel to widen the port where the bridge lock screws go from the bridge saddles to the back - and I installed new saddles and screws which allow me to put the string through them - eliminating the need to cut the ball ends off of my strings - making changing strings 10x faster.
In the end I build a totally custom guitar - made to my exact specs - will new parts (except the vintage Floyd Rose bridge - which I modified - and the vintage electronics - pickups - jack - pots). It has a relic - vintage finish that is extremely authentic looking. I've already had 3 different vintage Fender collectors look at it and get really angry with me because they thought I had routed out a vintage body for the FR bridge. What's great is that although it looks old and has a unique mash of vintage style parts and new modern parts - it isn't delicate. It's NOT a super rare 50 year old guitar that you need to baby and truthfully preserve from further decay. In all it's about 200 hours worth of work. I took my time. From finding and ordering JUST the parts I wanted - to modifying them - finishing the guitar - doing the relic work - and making sure along the way that everything would be perfectly functional and solid while looking old, dirty, and wicked. Old vintage Fenders have unique tonal personalities - I'm happy to say that this guitar is actually very authentic feeling and sounding - but without the issues that owning guitars with really old parts brings.
For these photos I simply chose to use natural light - my living room has several natural light sources including a glass wall... so the light is good and it comes from multiple directions. I did choose an overcast day - this meant that the light was softer than normal direct sunlight. I didn't have to deal with hot spots or deep shadows. I used a 50mm f/1.4 lens. And I was careful to place the guitar in places where I could make the guitar the star - and not distract the subject with too many miscellaneous background items.