I’m a big fan of 12-string electric guitars, and I’m a big fan of Stratocasters, but I’ve never been a big fan of 12-string Strats. Until now! Paul McEwen, a veteran of the Nashville guitar-slinger scene, is also quite a luthier and inventor.
Among the guitar mods he offers at Pull Tone Devices are externally mounted B-benders for guitars and even banjos. But what drew me to Paul was his extremely cool 12-string conversion for virtually any six-string guitar, including my 2003 MIM Splattercaster.
Since his shop is in Connecticut and I’m in California, we did the transaction through the mail. And, folks, I am here to tell you, this is a wonderful mod.
The spin-art design aside, this is a Mexican Fender Custom Shop Strat with all the amenities you would expect. You may recall that I wrote about it here just last year. What’s notable is that Paul’s patented design cleverly adds six tuners from the side of the headstock, avoiding the enormous hockey-stick paddle typically found on 12-strings.
Playability and Sound
I traded out the guitar’s stock pickups years ago for a set of Fender Noiseless. They elicit the chime we all love in Strats, and on a 12-string the beauty is doubled. The guitar plays great because the nut spacing prevents the strings from feeling crowded, and it’s more balanced because the headstock, while heavier than before, doesn’t have the mass it would if it were elongated.
As it happens, Fender uses the same truss rod for six- and 12-string necks, so there’s no need to worry about stress from the increased tension. However, many 12-stringers tune down to D and use a capo at the 2nd fret.
This not only sounds cool but also eases pressure on the truss rod and makes the guitar a little easier to play. But even tuned to standard, this guitar plays great. The action is low and fast, the dreaded F barre chord is easy, and there are no dead spots.
To complete the mod, Paul cut a new nut and installed a 12-string bridge. Six strings come through the back, six come through the top of the bridge, and each has its own intonation adjustment. The tremolo system is locked.
For about $350 plus shipping, you get six additional tuners, a new nut and bridge, and a lot of impressive routing. Paul’s setup was fantastic, and it played sweet right out of the box.
Why It Rules
It sounds wicked beautiful, plays like buttah, and maintains the mojo of how a Strat should look. Plus, it was a pleasure working with Paul. Thanks to Paul McEwen! Visit him at Pulltonedevices to see his other inventions and hear his latest CD, Telecrafter.
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