Whack Job: 2012 Frankencaster "Jade"

January 10, 2014

DUE TO THE MODULAR NATURE OF Fender guitars and the incredible number of companies that offer after-market replacement parts, most guitarists know that you can do almost anything to a Fender. You can trade out a couple of knobs, hot rod it, or even build a whole new guitar. So that’s what I did here—I constructed my own “whack job.” This guitar’s name is Jade, because of the old piece of white jade I attached to the headstock, and it was put together with mostly used parts that I bought online. I chose the most garish pieces I could find in order to make a good-playing guitar with a unique look.


Jade is made out of parts originating from at least six different countries: a used Fender paisley body; a used compound-radius, 22-fret Mighty Mite neck; new Artec pickups with pots prewired from Tricked Out Guitars; a new Greasy Groove multi-sparkle pickguard; a used Trev Wilkinson vibrato system; new Kluson locking tuners; and used Q-Parts knobs.


Although a parts mongrel, my Frankencaster plays and sounds like it came out of some high-end boutique custom shop. I passed it around at the Guitar Player office, and the editors were rather knocked out at just how nicely the guitar plays and how wonderful the lipstick-style pickups sound. The Wilkinson vibrato—in tandem with the locking Klusons—is super-smooth and holds tuning quite well. All five pickup positions sound great, albeit kind of hard to describe. The bridge pickup really screams when you lay on the distortion, but it’s the clean tones that give up the most pleasant surprises. If you can imagine blending together the sparkling tones of a Stratocaster, a Danelectro, and a Mosrite, you’ll get the idea. Jade is definitely one of the prettiest-sounding guitars I have ever heard. It’s bell-like, complex, and chime-y, and while the high-end is rather outspoken, it is never harsh.


If Jade was available as a fully assembled, new guitar model, it would probably retail for between $800 and $1,200. If you decided to buy the parts new, and build it yourself, you could easily spend that much and then some. By acquiring new and used parts, I spent a total of $400 on parts, and then I paid Dave Stein at Starving Musician in Santa Clara, California, another $100 to assemble Jade and do the setup.


For $500, I have an amazing-looking guitar that sounds and plays great, and is pretty much a one-of-a-kind instrument. So, go on, build yourself a main or backup guitar out of parts. If you’re patient, you might just come up with something unique and awesome and affordable.

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