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Warmoth / Seymour Duncan Zephyr Silver Strat® Project
 
ZEP CAT 1

On January 26, 2017 I began the process of building myself a new Strat® with a first time purchase of a body and neck from Warmoth Guitars in Washington state. The Seymour Duncan Zephyr Silver single coil pickup set will be the heart of this new project.

The body is a chambered Strat® with Black Korina core wood and the laminate top is also Black Korina.  The neck is 22 fret maple with dark Indian rosewood fingerboard, 6150 frets with a 10" - 16" compound radius and a Graph Tech Tusq XL nut.  Both the body and neck were purchased from Warmoth's "showcase" which saved a considerable amount of money as opposed to having them both custom made.  There was no reason to have the body or neck custom made, both showcase offerings were the exact wood, finish and style that I would have used for the custom build anyway, so it would have been a waste of time and money. Also, by ordering from their showcase the body and neck were basically complete, all they had to do was finish the body pickup routings and bridge style mounting / routing to my option selections. I sent them the bridge pivot pin bushings so they could press them into the body and total turn-around time from payment on January 26 until the body and neck were delivered on February 8 was only 13 days.

More Details Of The Build Components:

My pickguard selection is one of my custom manufactured black 1 ply 0.120" Acrylic with the rounded and polished perimeter edge and will incorporate a Gilmour style recessed mini-toggle switch for the neck pickup selector mod.  Volume and tone control knobs are a set of custom machined aluminum knobs. Potentiometers are CTS 450G series low rotational torque 250K 10% audio taper solid shaft. Tone capacitor is a 0.022 uF polyester film Orange Drop 225 series capacitor with a CRL 5 way selector switch.  I've also installed one of our new treble by-pass filter kits.  Back plate is also one of my custom manufactured vintage style black 1 ply 0.120" Acrylic with the rounded and polished perimeter edge.  The bridge is a new American Professional Strat® with the traditional bent steel saddles but I fabricated the plastic tremolo arm bushing to allow it to accept the larger diameter of our custom manufactured Deluxe Strat® style tremolo arm.  The tremolo arm is a 4-1/2" length version of one of my custom manufactured stainless steel pop-in tremolo arms.  The bridge pivot pins are Fender® American standard Strat® pivot pins that are typically a dark gray in color but I hit them on the buffing wheel and they polished up to a finish similar to chrome, so they look much nicer now.  The neck plate is Fender® Black Nickel (Cosmo black) with nickel mounting screws.  String tree is a Fender® American Elite Strat® string tree.




Seymour Duncan's Descriptive of the Zephyr Silver Pickups:

Summary

The world’s first silver wire Hi-Fi Strat® pickup set, designed for extended frequency range, complex harmonic content, and amazing dynamic response.

Description

The Zephyr series was born from a challenge issued to Vice President of Engineering Kevin Beller to come up with a pickup that wasn’t constrained by the usual considerations of costs or materials: just dream it, design it and build it. The result is a tone with unprecedented treble clarity, vibrant harmonics and incredible dynamics, where your guitar simply feels like it has more of everything. More highs, fuller yet tighter lows, fatter mids and greater responsiveness. 

In the bridge position, the Zephyr’s solid silver wire coil will add richness and dynamic sensitivity to your low strings, while the extended upper register delivers unprecedented clarity and sonic detail. The Zephyr middle pickup will transform that ‘number three’ pickup selector position into a much more complex and dynamic sound which will become your secret weapon for solos and snappy, complex rhythms. And the Zephyr neck model takes your Strat® neck position sound to a whole new level with rich, complex harmonics and remarkable dynamic sensitivity to deliver gorgeous, open sounding highs, with lows as walloping as you want them to be.

The sound is what immediately stands out about the Zephyr, but how we get there involves careful selection and implementation of the highest-quality materials available. We use silver wire – the only material with a lower CD resistance per unit length than copper (5.36%). Silver wire doesn’t boost highs and lows; it just does a better job of transmitting them. And silver’s softness compared to copper allows for an exceptionally even, neat coil form with increased immediacy whether you play with your pick or fingers. We use Alnico 5 pole rod magnets for true Stratocaster® tone. Finally we use Cryogenic treatment which has been proven to enhance the detail available from audio equipment. 

Below are stock photographs of the body and neck that I purchased from Warmoth Guitars. These are photographs taken at Warmoth, but their photography renders the bodies wood colors much more vibrant and color saturated than they actually are.  That's one of the side-effects of allowing your camera to interpret the scene in front of you.  As Ansel Adams had once said about the automatic camera's, "Turn camera on, turn brain off...".  I prefer to make my own photographic settings decisions and in the end I achieve results that are typically much better.  Ansel had also said "The single most important component of a camera is the twelve inches behind it" and this refers to the person, not the equipment...  The actual body wood does not have the yellow/orange tint portrayed in Warmoth's stock photograph below, you can see this by comparing it to the completed guitar photographs that I took which are further on down in this page, they are a realistic rendering of the body wood color.  Not a good idea to over process images used to depict a product for sale when the allure of what you see advertised is what entices you to make a purchase, but then when you get it you may be disappointed to realize that what you got is visually different than what you saw...  But in this case the actual body wood finish color is very nice and I like it, even though it is different than Warmoth advertised/depicted it.

NOTE: For those of you who are unfamiliar with Ansel Adams, take a look at his body of work at www.anseladams.com, he was a great teacher and photographic artist of the 20'th century and taught me a lot about photography and interpreting the scene before me expressively. Every day in all my photographic endeavors whether it is simply item photography for the web site or my creative photography I employ techniques and ideals I learned from his vast body of work and writings...  "f/64 and be there...." :)

Warmoth Chambered Strat® Body.

  • Core wood and laminate top are both Black Korina.
  • Finish (Front): Black to clear burst.
  • Finish (Rear): Black
  • Weight: 3 lb. 13.1 oz.
  • Body shown before bridge routing, before bridge pivot pin inserts were pressed in and before final pickup routing which was changed to universal to give me full versatility in pickup selection options.

 

Warmoth Neck:

  • Dark Indian Rosewood Fingerboard
  • Neck Wood: Maple
  • 22 Frets (6150 Size)
  • Compound Radius 10" - 16"
  • Back Profile: Standard Thin
  • Tuners: Kluson SD9105MN
  • Graph Tech Tusq XL Nut
  • Weight: 1 lb. 5.9 oz.

Body shown after I had received it where Warmoth had performed my selected universal pickup routing. With a universal routing I would never be constrained by the body routing as to which pickups I could install and on the plus side it also removed a little extra weight as well...  Photo was take just after I had drilled the pickguard and output jack plate mounting holes as well as the strap button mounting holes and installed the locking strap buttons.

February 17, 2017 @19:00

Today I reamed the tuner holes in the headstock to allow the bushings to be pressed in. The tuner holes had a lot of black paint and clear coat build up in them that would have prevented the bushings from being pressed in correctly.  The peg hole reamer came from StewMac, it is their #0344 standard 2-degree taper that starts out on the small end at 0.200" and goes up to 0.375" at the big end and is 5.63" total cutting length, so it is a very gradual taper and works nicely for cleaning up the holes correctly and keeping them nice and round and gradually opening them until they were the correct diameter.  I also drilled the tuner mounting pilot holes for the #2 mounting screws for the Kluson SD9105MN tuners and installed the tuners.

February 18 to April 21, 2017

I've been far too busy for the last 2 months to get back on the project...

April 22, 2017 @ 22:00

Today I discovered that there is not enough clearance underneath the 22'nd fret overhang and the surface of the 0.120" thick Acrylic pickguard.  Upon inspection of the underside of the 22'nd fret I found that there was quite a bit of black paint and clear coat build up so I had to remove all the excess paint and clear coat down to just the bare wood which was enough to give about 0.005" of clearance.  If I had not checked for this clearance it could of easily lead to a separation of the rosewood fingerboard from the neck by leveraging the fingerboard away from the neck when tightening down the neck to the body.

April 23, 2017

Drilled the pilot holes for the pickguard and output jack plate. Countersunk each hole gently to prevent the finish from cracking by the installation of the screws.

April 24, 2017 @ 13:08

I sanded and polished the Black 1 Ply 0.120" Acrylic pickguard and fabricated the stainless steel recessed mini-toggle switch mounting bracket

Black 1 ply 0.120" Acrylic pickguard: Edge sanded, polished and mounting holes countersunk. Brown protective backing paper still affixed to both sides.

Rounded and polished edge of the black1 ply 0.120" Acrylic pickguard.

April 25, 2017 @ 13:32

Components Of The Guitar Electronics

  • CTS 450G 250K, 10% Audio Taper, 10% Tolerance, Solid Shaft Potentiometers
  • CRL 5-Way Selector Switch
  • SBE Polyester Film 225 Series 0.022 uF Orange Drop Tone Capacitor
  • Custom Machined Aluminum Tone and Volume Knobs
  • Custom Fabricated Recessed Mini-Toggle Switch Mounting Bracket - Stamped "ZEP CAT 1".
  • Salecom T80-T Series Mini-Toggle Switch
  • Black Fender® Selector Switch Tip

I also tested the 3 Zephyr Silver pickups today.  The DC Resistances of each pickup as follows: Bridge = 6.04K, Middle= 6.026K, Neck= 5.87K.

April 26, 2017 @ 11:45

Completed the pickguard assembly this morning...

I decided to assign the bridge pickup it's own tone control and have the middle and neck pickup share a tone control.  The tone capacitor is a 0.022 uF polyester film 225 series Orange Drop capacitor.  I also decided to install one of our new Treble by-pass filters on the volume control to help retain the high frequencies in the tone when the volume is turned down. 

There is not much more to do and this Strat® will be all ready for a full setup.

April 28, 2017

I finally received the Elite Strat® string tree from Fender® today and drilled the pilot hole and installed it. It only took 2 months to get it!...

April 30, 2017 @ 11:02

I completed the Warmoth Strat® build yesterday, performed all setup procedures, filed the nut slots to their appropriate widths and depths and the Zep Cat 1 is now ready to rock!

May 20, 2017

Today I finished up the project by fabricating one of my Black 1 Ply 0.120 " Acrylic back plates that has the rounded and polished edge, I selected to use the vintage style that has the 6 oblong holes for the strings to pass through. I also drilled the pilot holes in the body for the back plate mounting screws and mounted the back plate.

I initially installed a set of D'Addario's XL (10-46 EXL110) strings and performed the initial setup on April 30'th but I found that the high E string was completely lifeless, it had zero chime, it was like a dull thud....  So after the back plate mounting screw pilot holes were drilled I cut off the D'Addario strings and installed a set of Dean Markley Helix 10-46 (#2513).  I re-checked the setup and everything was still where it was originally set, no changes in neck relief or intonation.

Now that this Strat® project is complete I thought it would be a good idea to see how much it weighs, total weight is 7 lbs. 12 oz.

It took me just about 3-1/2 months from February 8, 2017 the day I received the body and neck from Warmoth Guitars until the day I finished the entire project on May 20, 2017.  Running OverDrive Custom Guitar Works does not leave much time in the day to get back to projects like these so time was at a premium, especially just trying to find any extra time where I actually felt like working on something else guitar related....  At the end of the day working on everything Strat® related all day long with the business, sometimes it was just hard to go right back at it again with a personal project. But luckily I found a few slow days every once in a while where it felt good to work on this beautiful Strat® project.  Now that it is all finished I feel my planning really paid off, I really like the overall theme and color balance throughout the entire Strat®, a little planning on all aspects really worked out... At least I think this is my best looking Strat®...

Oh, and by the way, this one has a name, it's "Zep Cat 1".  You might ask, "what the heck is that"?

June 10, 2017

Today I replaced the Switchcraft output jack with one of our new Pure Tone multi-contact output jacks simply due to the fact that with the Pure Tone jack dual contact design it can only help with the audio as well as ground connections to the guitar cable.

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