Two weeks ago a customer brought in this old Strat which she picked up for only € 20,-! After a bit of research it turned out to be a Westminster Stratocaster, probably from the mid 70's. The Westminster brand was made by the famous Matsumoku factories and was market below the Tokai brand. Some may notice it even shares exactly the same body contours as many Tokai's from that era. Although not a highly valuable guitar it still represents a a bit of guitar-history and the aim of the repair was to get it playable again and address the worse cosmetic issue, which is the butchered headstock..
The previous owner had attempted to reshaped the headstock with a dull chisel or something along that line! These guitars came with a big late 70's style headstock and the owner clearly aimed for a smaller 50's to mid 60's shape. This will need to be touched up, along with the front of the headstock where part of the poly-finish was removed and a now worn of Fender decal was installed. Also the original but incomplete tuners will be replace, and there's some fretwork to be done..
To reshape the headstock I took out my Iwasaki file and quickly acheived a smooth result. With a bit of sanding and finishing it will look fine again.
The next step is to work on the frets. The guitar is fitted with a single action truss rod which has been tensioned without the guitar being stringed for an extended period of time. This has caused a significant back-bow. I clamped the neck to slightly bend it in the opposite directing and got most of the back-bow out. (forgot to make a pic of this..)
The guitar will be re-fretted and the fretboard will be sanded because it is so worn it currently has a very inconsistent radius. This allows me to sand out any remaining back-bow from the fretboard as well. Actually I tensioned the truss rod to a slight back-bow before sanding the fretboard, so that ones the fretboard is level and I release to tension from the rod I end up with a slight up-bow. This up-bow will in turn be countered a bit after installing the frets, as the tangs of the fret push the neck ever-so-slighty into a back-bow again. I'm working with marginal measurements here, but ones the frets were installed I ended up with a perfectly straight neck. The pull of the strings will give enough force to get the desired release, and if needed the truss rods purpose is to counter that.
After sanding the fretboard to a 12" radius as discussed with the customer I sanded of the front of the headstock and applied a few coats of nitro, also to the touched up side of the headstock. After the finish had cured the neck received it's new frets, which were than levelled and crowned. I did need to deepen the fret slots slightly as I removed quite a bit of wood to establish the new radius.
Fitting the new tuners, first filled the old holes with tooth picks.. By the way the customer didn't like the shiny neck so I sanded it down with a fine grit of sandpaper and steelwool to give it a satin like finish and smooth feel. This also helped to blend in the original finish with the nitro touch-ups.
The guitar was fitted with an oversized aftermarket nut which was raised to the desired height with carton!? So the final step before setup was to make a new bone nut..
Ready for the next 40 years!