Posted by: kubiakl | December 21, 2011


So apparently I lied when I said that I was done with upgrades for my Stratocaster.  In the past week I’ve installed a new bridge pickup and given it a little cosmetic surgery.  What used to be a standard sunburst Stratocaster, with white pickguard and knobs, now looks like this:

Now that is a gorgeous guitar.  The pickguard is from Warmoth, where they will make a guard to your specifications in whatever material you choose.  They don’t have all the graphical pickguards that other sites offer but do have a good selection of white-ish, black-ish, and pearl-ish colors.  Plus you can have it made to your specs.  Mine is the standard Strat configuration – three single coil pickups, three control pots, switch, 11 holes, standard tremolo route.  The main reason I ordered from Warmoth, besides trusting them after having a good experience with my neck, was that they offered a vintage pearl color.  I thought the standard white pearl would look too bright against the sunburst.  And having seen the result, I stand by that.  The vintage pearl is yellowed so it blends a little more.

To go with the pickguard I also bought Fender aged white parts (knobs, pickup covers, and switch tip) from Mojotone.  They match pretty closely and complete the look.  Installation didn’t take too long – remove all the old parts, remembering where they go, and screw them into the new pickguard without anything coming unsoldered.  The fit was perfect (a little tight for some of the pickup covers, but not a problem at all) and the screw holes matched up to my existing holes in the body.  One was a slightly off but went in just fine.  The guard is solid and looks better than I imagined even.

While ordering from Mojotone I decided to try out a new bridge pickup, the Rene Martinez Strat bridge.  Rene Martinez has a pretty long history in the industry as a guitar tech and worked with Mojotone to develop his own line of pickups.  They tout them as having “that Texas tone”, which is code for the Stevie Ray sound.

Now I’ll be honest – Stevie Ray played a big part in me picking up the guitar.  His tone is legendary.  But it’s not a tone I want to copy.  So why a Rene Martinez pickup?

The magnet stagger was a huge factor.  Rene seems to have realized that many people don’t want a vintage stagger these days, with the super tall G pole.  It doesn’t make sense on modern strings or guitars without the vintage 7.25″ fretboard radius.  Those were made for string sets with a wound third string, which would make it the weakest string (the thinnest wound string), so it needed a little boost.  Almost all of you reading this with an electric guitar have an unwound third string on there.  So that would make it the strongest string (thickest unwound), which means that your lower three magnets are the ones that need to be raised, but not the third pole.

Martinez does just that – the lower three magnet poles are staggered upwards, then the upper three magnets are dropped down.  It gives more balance across the strings.

So far I’m really liking it.  I had never used the bridge pickup by itself – it was thin and sounded way too trebly.  Now I can switch to it and find a useable sound, even when strumming chords.  It also works well in conjunction with the middle pickup for the 4th position.  One thing I found out: the way it is wired is different from standard Fender wiring.  I’m not sure what the technical term is for it, but to make it work in the 4th position without a volume loss I had to wire the black to the selector switch and ground the white on the volume potentiometer.  Had to waste a new set of strings to learn that little lesson.

I like it enough that I’m considering completing the set with a neck and middle pickup from Mojotone/Rene Martinez.  I’m not unhappy with them, and after my failed experiment with the Seymour Duncan APS-2 I thought I was finished with pickups, but life will surprise you sometimes.



  1. Looks great, I’ve been looking to do the same to my sunburst strat and was struggling with the white vs vintage pearl. It’s a shame you can’t just get samples like at a paint store to hold up against your guitar.
    Anyway, your picture is exactly what I was looking for. Vintage pearl it is then.
    Thanks for sharing!

  2. I just recently bought a second hand Strat from 2003 or 2004 according to the serial number, but it has the pearloid pickguard as i bought it, i was just wondering if it could be original done by Fender or is it after market ?

  3. Don, I am definitely not an expert but I’m fairly certain that would be an after market pickguard. My Strat is from ’01 and came with a 3-ply white/black/white guard, which is true for most Standard Strats. Now if yours was a special edition of some kind (Lonestar, Roadhouse, etc.) then it could be the original.

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