Sunday, January 25, 2015

Fender Squier Bullet Strat - Peg

This is your big debut
It's like a dream come true
So, won't you smile for the cam'ra?
I know they're gonna love it, Peg

The guitar in the following picture isn't likely to be featured in a photo with it's name in lights anytime soon, but my son sure enjoys it.  When my son started playing guitar in his middle school jazz band this past fall, we decided it made sense to have a guitar he could leave at school for practices and performances in addition to the Epi LP Junior he plays at home.  Wanting a contoured body and something with a tremolo bar, we started looking online and locally for a used Stratocaster.  We found a few Squier Strats at our local Guitar Center in our price range that were in playable condition.  After trying a few of them, and missing our chance to pick up a sweet Sunburst model, we settled on a gently used Chinese-crafted 2010 White SSS Bullet Strat.

After playing her for a few months, my son mentioned that a couple of the tuning pegs didn't work well.  So, when he brought his Strat home for a new set of strings over winter break, we figured we'd also look into upgrading the tuners with a higher quality set.  Very soon, winter break was over, and that Strat was back at school before we put any more thought into replacing her tuners.

Although I knew little of the finer points of Fender tuning pegs, I knew a few different styles have been used over the years.  Not knowing the history of this Strat, I also wasn't sure if she had all of her original parts.  In efforts to avoid having to overbore peg holes and redrill screw holes, I asked my son to describe what the machines looked like from the rear.  When that proved fruitless, I asked him to identify the the machines by the orientation and number of screws holding down each machine.  The best that I could tell was that a 70s style set should work fine.  The genuine Fender slotted peg set I found on eBay arrived in the mail, just in time for a long stretch of teacher work days and a weekend.  With a few turns of a screwdriver, we figured we'd end up with something that looks like this.

Right away, we noticed a major difference in the screw orientation these two sets of tuners.

After a little more internet research, I confirmed that this difference in attachment screws was typical with Fender tuning peg upgrades.  Since it would result in a higher quality tuner, we decided this still was the way to go.  With any luck, we figured we'd end up with only two extra holes - one at the high E string tuner and one at the low E string tuner.  Instead, it was necessary to redrill holes for more than half of the screws.  Swapping out these tuners also entailed overboring the peg holes from the rear about 3/16" in depth, just to the edges of the grommets, to accommodate the bushing shoulders of the new machine shafts.  The tuner in the next two pictures during fitup is shown with the genuine F-logo stamped cover removed.

After removing the grommets, enlarging one of the holes and replacing a grommet, I was pleased to find that the original grommets would work with the new pegs.  That's a very good thing, since the 70s style grommets have a larger outer diameter and a very different outer profile.  Fun fact, a No. 2 pencil is a great tool for pushing out grommets.

I modified the remaining peg holes the same as the first one.  After making the necessary screw hole modifications, I attached the pegs and reattached the stock string trees with the Bullet's screws.  All but one original screw hole, the one near the high E tuner, is not concealed by the new machine covers.  I plugged it while it was on the work bench, minimizing the imperfection resulting from this upgrade.  Looking at the front of the headstock, the way you can tell the pegs have been upgraded is by the concave surfaces of the peg buttons and the slots in the peg shafts.

Those buttons and slotted shafts sure do make restringing and tuning This Old Guitar quicker and easier!

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