A David Gilmour Inspired Strat - Redux


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A couple of years ago I built a partscaster using a set of EMG DG20 pickups. It sounded decent clean, but when I went to stack it with my various Gilmour inspired effects and amps, it just didn't work. Over time I really didn't play it as the active pups just weren't doing it for me. I had other strats with passive pickups that would get a lot (and I mean a LOT) closer to the sound I wanted. So I decided to pull the active pickups and find something else to go into the guitar (as it was a lovely guitar)...

Flaming Black Strat - Rebuild - 06.jpg

On any build like this, the first decision is what pickups to use. I've always loved the tone of Gilmour's original Black Strat, so I decided to see if I could track down some pickups that would match that guitar's electronics. There are tons of sites out there that will recommend one pickup or another, but while cruising Reverb I happened across Radioshop Pickups. They're a small outfit in the UK, and they had a set of pickups specifically wound to match the Frankenstein set in the Black Strat. They weren't cheap, but they weren't any more expensive than the original DG20 set - and as I like supporting small businesses - I decided to go for it.

Flaming Black Strat - Rebuild - 01.jpg

I was absolutely blown away by what I received. My pickups were made to order so it took a few weeks for them to arrive from the UK. When I got them, everything about them - from the presentation to the pickups themselves sort of screamed bespoke - but in a good way not a pretentious way. It felt like they really cared not only about their product but how it was presented. The set came in a lovely box with each pickup individually wrapped. The pickups themselves (shown below in my initial test fit) were all clearly marked and used high quality vintage wiring.

Flaming Black Strat - Rebuild - 02.jpg

I knew with pickups this nice, I needed a great wiring set to go along with the amazing pickups. I decided to go with the 920D pre-wired harness with a five way switch and pure-tone jack (I've really loved using those on several projects). As it was Christmas, I'd gotten a couple of Amazon gift cards (as some people seem to think I'm hard to shop for... and to be fair they're absolutely, positively right) and I was able to pick one up with my Christmas money. The only odd bit about the pre-wired harness is the pure-tone jack is already soldered in - which makes actually running the wiring to the top jack plate, well, impossible. I ended up having to de-solder the jack and re-solder it once the jack was installed on the plate.

Flaming Black Strat - Rebuild - 03.jpg

The nice thing about the wiring all being set on a harness is I could run the connections from the pickups to the rest of the wiring harness without removing the pots and switch from the backing card. The 920D harness comes with detailed instructions, and all of the vintage wiring looks amazing. I added a separate ground for the body as well to finish the ground path (the green wire).

Flaming Black Strat - Rebuild - 04.jpg

Once everything was wired up, I attached everything to the pickguard and it was ready to install in the body of the guitar. Final installation was straightforward. Next I worked to set the pickup height. As these are more vintage-style pickups, I used my '57 American Vintage II Stratocaster as a guide.

Flaming Black Strat - Rebuild - 05.jpg

I figured it would be worth a comparison of the "before" and "after" shots of the guitar. Below is the DG20 in its original configuration. There were a few changes after this. First I moved from a white-tipped tremolo arm to a black tipped one. Eventually I replaced the whole MIM bridge assembly with one from an ultra Stratocaster.

Fender Strat - EMG DG20.jpg

As you can see below, the current incarnation (and likely the final incarnation - the only tweak I may eventually make would be to move to locking tuners) still includes the same body (MIM aged cherry burst - simply because it's amazing), the American made neck and tuners, the Ultra strat trem, and the new (-ish) pickguard and pickups.

Flaming Black Strat - Rebuild - 06.jpg

Once this was together and set up, I immediately had to test it with all of my Gilmour inspired pedals. It literally exceeded all of my expectations. I can get a very respectable "Time" or "Comfortably Numb" tone with a Big Mutt (Violet Ram's Head Big Muff), Thagomizer (Colorsound Power Boost), and a nice analog delay pedal (honestly the limitation is me, not the guitar). It also does other genres well and has turned into a really amazing instrument! I'm glad I ended up going with the rebuild, because it's definitely a keeper now!

Original blog entry: https://steggostudios.blogspot.com/2024/02/a-david-gilmour-inspired-strat-redux.html
Great job and beautiful guitar. I've never seen that shielding plate before. Did you make it?

Of course now all that's missing is a Pompei fuzz!
Shielding on the inside of the pickguard is stock Fender, actually. I figured I was going to have to use my copper shielding tape, but it was ready to go! :D

I do have a Pompei fuzz... I need to run it against my Violet Ram's Head 2 / Colorsound Power Boost combo...

... of course, I need to get that Hiwatt built too... *LOL*