Coffee – my “Superstrat with a twist” build and lessons learned

VanHeGen

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Welcome to my first build thread!

The name of my guitar build is “Coffee”, which I relate to the words “roasted” and “copper” (like an old-school coffee pot). There´s a lot of “roast in the build”, as the body is made of Roasted Swamp Ash and the neck is made of Roasted Flame Maple. The body color is Copperhead Dye. When (and if) this guitar build will be successful, I am hoping that if/when I have the blues, I can grab my Coffee, and everything will feel good again.

I ordered a Soloist body and a Warhead neck from Warmoth, but the main thing that makes this build different is how I have planned to make the most out of a one-pickup guitar through inventive (?) wiring.

I did a lot of “research” myself, but having said that, the Warmoth site (help, FAQ, configurators) and the YT videos by @aarontunes (incl. his own builds) are great, the Warmoth staff (thanks Joe!) is also very helpful, and the same applies to this forum and the people here. My special thanks go (of course) to @stratamania , who answered so many of my questions and provided me with the crucial wiring diagram – but he has also commented so many other posts on this forum, that I learned so much from!

I wanted to “give back” to this forum and I also promised @bruzanhd and others that I would describe my build. As I spent quite a lot of time finding out if this build actually would be possible, I thought I´d cover my “thought process”, as well as some of the things that I learned during the process. Apologies for this monstrous thread, but hopefully somebody will find something useful out of it!

Here are the things that I will cover in the upcoming posts (including learnings):
  1. Background and design goals
  2. Homework
  3. The Neck
  4. The Body
  5. Electronics/hardware and wiring
 
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1 Background and Design goals

I have owned three guitars (and only tried a few others), but as they are quite different, I have experienced different scale lengths, necks/frets, pickups, bridges, wiring, woods, contours, weights, etc. These are the guitars
  • Eric Johnson Stratocaster RW (stock)
  • Godin Richmond Empire P90 (Gibson-type guitar, I’ve added Wolftone PU´s)
  • EVH Wolfgang Stealth Special (with all kinds of mods and pickup replacements)
Out of these the Godin is my favorite guitar, and the EVH is the one that I am going to “replace” with my guitar build, Coffee. I was looking for a guitar to buy (not to build) for over a year, but I couldn´t find one that would fit the bill. And when I sold my Strat (!) I naturally had to get a new guitar to keep the Universe in balance 😊

The basic specs for my next guitar were basically this
  • “Superstrat” with great playability (for me): A comfortable body, with a 22-fret, thin, 24.75 scale neck (hard to find this combo from guitar manufacturers). And a Floyd Rose. So, some things that I miss on my EVH, and hopefully also lighter (5.4 kg …11,9 pounds)!
  • Style: The guitar should be suitable for “playing a wide variety of music” (copyright @aarontunes ) – but also beyond. And I wanted to ensure that Coffee is different enough that I will still play my Godin.
  • Pickup: I wanted one (bridge) pickup, only, as I have spent too many years chasing pickups – especially looking for two that would be a good match. I also wanted to experience a one PU guitar. I have fallen in love with P90’s, but I wanted less hum in this guitar. My preferred DC Resistance is around 9K.
  • Wiring: This is where I wanted to deviate from the traditional one-PU guitars. I was googling the entire internet for a wiring diagram for my idea, and I was already prepared to stop my build project until @stratamania came to the rescue. So, you can actually blame him for this entire thread 😊 It turned out that the solution requires a 3-way super switch, something totally new to me. See the post “Electronics/hardware and wiring” for details.
  • Woods: I chose Swamp Ash, as it might not be available for that long (says Fender). And also, because I have already experienced Alder, Mahogany and Basswood. The neck is Maple, as I wanted to try the Ash/Maple combination.
 
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2 Homework

I was quite overwhelmed by how many “components” and alternatives there are when it comes to a guitar build – and the possible dependencies and impact of those. I now have huge respect for guitar builders and I examine guitars in a totally different way when I see them! I did a proper homework, and I’ll cover additional things in the next posts, but here are the ones that I spent the most time on:
  • Neck scale: I feel more comfortable playing a 24.75 scale neck, but I still thought about this for a long time and played guitars with different scale necks to be sure that I really wanted this option, as a 25.5 scale neck (for this type of guitar) would be more “standard” (=safe). And I had never experienced a 24.75 scale neck with a locking nut. And the playability aspect continues with this:
  • Neck details: Playability is a huge thing for me, so other neck details were also something I thought a lot about (thickness, profile, nut width, fret size, 720 mod, etc). I soon decided to go for a thin neck and no 720 mod (= “standard”, “safe”). The fret sizes that I have played are 6130, SS6230, 6105 and 6100. I was not ready for 6100 (yet), so I went with 6150. BTW, too me it looks like “neck” on the Warmoth site really means “headstock” – everything about the actual neck has to be defined after you have chosen the headstock you want.
  • Floyd Rose:The whole Floyd Rose thing drove me – well, nuts 😊You know, the radius differences (or not) between an OFR/FR 1000/Schaller Lockmeister bridge and/or an R3 nut
    • If it is true that the OFR R3 has always been 10”, but their documentation was wrong for years (showing 12” and only later 10”), I am actually quite shocked.
    • And why is the OFR and Schaller bridge the same thing (both manufactured by Schaller), but the bridge radiuses are 10”/12” (OFR) vs 12”/16” (Lockmeister)?
    • Updated August 2023: I had to find out the truth, so I purchased three locking nuts (OFR R3, FR1000 R3, Schaller R3) - and there was a difference. The OFR was 10", the FR1000 was almost 20" (!!!) and the Schaller was 12". I also verified the Lockmeister bridge radius (from Dr. Lars Bruning, Managing Director/Owner of Schaller!), and it is 12" with the shim, and 16" without it.
    • However, as discussed on this forum, too, the differences in radius may not matter that much. So I may have gone nuts for no reason.
  • Woods:
    • It has been fascinating to read (on various forums) about the almost religious debates stating how woods affect (or not) the sound of a guitar. The opinions go from the extremes of Jim Lill (the famous YT video) to Paul from PRS 😊. Regardless of what people think, Warmoth has a lot of information about woods (site, and videos), and from the videos I can actually hear a difference.
  • One pickup:
    • The other “religious debate” I’ve read about is the “how one pickup affects the sound of the guitar”, which covers things like how the magnetism of a neck pickup has a negative effect of the sound (so you should remove it).
    • My conclusion is that with less pickup routes there is more wood in the body, which could affect the sound (and can break your back 😊).
    • Whatever the truth is, guys like Jared James Nichols show that you can get a wide variety of great sounds out of a one-pickup guitar.
When the guitar is ready I´ll hopefully laugh (or *blush*) at this thread and the things that I have been wondering about. But whatever happens, I´ve had a fantastic learning experience!
 
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3 The neck: Warhead

I learned that one can order off-menu items from Warmoth like a different headstock color/veneer. I did not choose any of those for this neck. Below the neck options that I chose, as well as some comments regarding the options, including learnings.

Warmoth optionsMy choiceComments
ConstructionGibson Scale ConversionThis means a 24.75 scale guitar, which I wanted. It automatically chooses a “Modern” neck, which is one of the construction options
Shaft woodRoasted Flame MapleTo my understanding the roasting could make the neck more stable. And I thought it looks nice.
Fretboard woodRoasted Flame MapleMore roast…
Unique choiceNoWe’ll see how good my guitar looks without this
Nut width43 mmThe EVH is 41, the Godin (that I like) probably 43 and the EJ Strat somewhere in between.
Right/leftRight-HandedThat´s right
Neck back profileStandard thinMy EJ Strat neck was a boat neck, so anything thick was out of the question for me. I thought about choosing ”Wolfgang”, but that profile seems closer to Peavey Wolfgang (thicker) than EVH (which I actually like), so I went with thin for a good (and safe) compromise. I measured the necks of all my guitars (at the 1st, 3rd and 12th fret) so that I could make the comparison at the Warmoth site.
Fretboard radius12-16 compoundI like this on my EVH, so I ”copied” it. I learned that the fretboard radius is related to the locking nut and bridge radiuses (see also “Homework”)
Number of frets22I tried a Charvel DK24, which was a nice guitar, but I got lost somewhere in the 24 (and big jumbo) frets, so 22 it is for me. And as I chose “Gibson Scale Conversion” under “Construction”, 24 was not even available.
BindingNoMaybe I’ll regret it later, but I did not choose this option
Fret size & materialSS 6150This is a new fret size for me. Let´s see how it feels.
Tuner hole sizeGotoh/GroverI don´t know too much about other tuner brands, so I chose this option
Inlay shapesStandard dotsChoosing a standard option is often a good choice….
Inlay materialCreamWhite Room, anybody?
Side dotsWhite Side DotsHopefully a good contrast to the color of the roasted neck
String nutR3 + mounting holesI´ll use an FR1000 R3 12”, which is not the standard (see “Homework”). The (backside) mounting holes are the standard way to fasten the locking nut to the neck.
Updated August 2023: I tried several locking nuts (see "Homework") and went with a Schaller Lockmeister 12"
Mounting holesStandard 4-boltChoosing a standard…
Neck heel shapeStrat shapeThe same choice as for the body
FinishNoneThe roasted neck does not require a finish for Warmoth warranty, and I expect it to look good as is. It will be interesting to see how that ”natural finish” feels. Maybe I´ll try some TrueOil or something similar, later? And that finishes the neck part (another pun intended)
 
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4 The Body: Soloist

I also learned that one can order off-menu items from Warmoth like a lighter (or heavier) body. I did not choose any of those for this body. Below the options that I chose, as well as some comments regarding the options, including learnings.

Warmoth optionsMy choiceComments
ConstructionSolidI never considered going with a “chambered” choice for this guitar, even if I was hoping for a lighter guitar
Core woodRoasted Swamp AshI discussed the woods in ”Background”, but I also wanted a potentially lighter body, where roasting helps me reach that goal
Lam top woodQuilt MapleI considered Flame Maple and even no Lam Top, but I went for this (BTW, I learned that a lam top is 1/8” thick).
Unique choiceNoI expect my guitar to look good without this
Right/Left handedRightMaybe Eric Johnson can tell if this was a righteous decision, or not
Control cavityRear rout (standard)I have concluded that a standard option is often a good choice
Neck pickup routNoneNot for this build
Middle pickup routNoneNot for this build
Bridge pickup routHumbucker (wood mount)Just one PU. I contemplated about wood mounting, and then went for it.
Controls”All available”This is where my guitar is somewhat different, as you usually don´t see a one PU guitar with a Blade switch, a Volume and two Tone controls
Volume 1YesThis will (probably) be a normal Volume control, maybe a fast EVH-type, lets´s see
Tone 1YesThis will be a tone control with a “no-load”, so on 10 it is bypassed
Tone 2YesThis will be the “Spin-a-Split” control, where more or less of the 2nd coil of the humbucker will be blended in
Blade switchYesThis will be a 3-way super switch
Jack rout7/8 inch, side jack holeI showed the list to my guitar tech who said “the last one is good” 😊
Bridge rout typeTremoloSee the Floyd Rose discussion under “Homework”
Bridge routFloyd Rose angled pocketI wanted the Floyd (well, Lockmeister) to be attached and work the way it works in my EVH (= non-recessed), and the “Floyd Rose angled pocket” is then what one should choose for the neck (and thus the strings) to be angled correctly.
Apparently my D-Tuna will work only with this option.
Warmoth install studs?Yes, from a bridge I have an orderI purchased the studs (not the bridge) from Warmoth, but this (”… from a bridge I have on order…”) was still the correct option. I chose this so that my guitar tech doesn´t have to break my guitar with his hammer 😊
Mounting holesStandard 4-boltI have concluded that a standard option is often a good choice
Neck pocket shapeStratTo be honest, I did not even read about what a “Tele” pocket means or looks like
Body contours”All available”All other are checked by default on a Soloist, except “contoured heel”, which I selected, myself.
This was very important for me.
Updated August 10th, 2023: The contoured heel means that you need two long and two short screws for the neck plate, which I didn´t realize....
Contoured heelYes
TummyYes (included)Warmoth has verified that I have both a tummy and a forearm :)
ForearmYes (included)
Binding & edge decorationsNoneJust my preference.
Battery boxNoneI actually thought about choosing this option at some stage when I was planning even more electronics for the guitar!
Paint categoryDyeHopefully it is to dye for (pun intended)
Top colorCopperhead DyeI considered Amber, Honey Burst, and others (could’ve been good names for a guitar…), but I went for this. Hopefully it will look good!
Back colorClear (Clean Line)Some alternatives like Amber showed that one could choose the same color for the back, but that option was not available for Copperhead Dye.
Satin or GlossGlossI hope it will not be gross
 
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5 Electronics/hardware and wiring (Updated July 2023)

The (in my opinion) special thing that I have planned for this guitar build is how I want to make the most out of a one-pickup guitar:
  • Blade switch: I had this idea that I could use a blade switch to “switch pickups” (=sounds) – although I only have one pickup
  • “Presets”: I wanted some sort of “preset” that I could choose with the switch, so that I could have a “rhythm/clean” sound in one position, and a “solo” sound in another position – without having to think about changing the Volume or Tone controls.
  • “Spin-a-Split”: I wanted a “Spin-a-Split” mod implemented, controlled by a separate Tone control (I read an article about this mod by Seymour Duncan from 2020). I have tried a “normal” coil split/tap (and parallel/serial), but the Spin-a-Split mod should make that kind of mod sound better.
  • “No-load” tone control. When it comes to tone control mods, I like the “bass contour” mod a lot, especially for a neck pickup (which I will not have in my build). I played a Charvel DK24, and the “no-load” worked extremely well on that guitar, so I wanted it in my build, too.
The entire wiring thread with in-depth details can be found in this separate thread, but these are the three “sounds” that I am planning to get, using a 3-way super switch
  1. ”Solo/Blower Switch": In this position the pickup would not be altered in any way, producing the "full sound"
  2. "Solo/Rhythm": In this position there would be only a fixed 500K resistance (or similar) to "tame the tone" a bit
  3. ”Rhythm/Clean": In this position I would be able to use a Volume knob, a Tone knob, and a "Spin-a-Split" knob
It turns out that 5-way super switches have been around for quite a while, but the earliest article I could find about a 3-way super switch was from 2018, by Premier Guitar.

Below a list of some components that I am planning to order and/or that I have already purchased/received.

HardwareMy choiceComments
TunersLocking tuners? Gotoh?
Locking nutFR1000 R3Received. I also purchased an OFR R3 (see “Homework”)
Tremolo studsFrom WarmothOrdered at the same time as the body+neck, as I wanted Warmoth to install the studs (see “Body”)
Tremolo/bridgeSchaller Lockmeister 6 with 37 mm blockReceived. Chosen instead of the OFR as the Lockmeister is a lot cheaper (in Europe). The 37 mm block was suggested on this forum.
EVH D-TunaI have this on my EVH and I like it.
Saddle etc ShimsAs/when needed. Based on what I’ve read I might have to change the radius on the bridge (16”) to 18”, which would require shims.
Bridge pickupPariah Pasadena WhiteThis was my favorite in the “Pete Thorn EVH pickup shootout“. Not yet ordered
3-way Super Switchgöldo "Double Wafer" 3-Way SwitchGöldo is one alternative, not yet ordered.
Vol/tone/etc componentsHaven´t decided, yet
Vol/tone/etc knobsHaven´t decided, yet
Guitar caseAccording to Warmoth a Strat case would work well. I haven´t decided on the type of case or where to buy it, yet

And this was – finally 😊 – my last “official” post in this thread. I´ll post updates as/when there are some. Thx!

Updated July 2023: I have received all the hardware for the guitar, and I decided to create a new "hardware table", below

HardwareMy choiceComments
TunersGotoh SG381-07C MGTI just ordered something that Warmoth also sells to be sure it will fit
Locking nutSchaller R3 12”I also purchased an OFR R3, as well as a FR 1000 R3 (see “Homework”)
Tremolo studsFrom WarmothOrdered at the same time as the body+neck, as I wanted Warmoth to install the studs (see “Body”)
Tremolo/bridgeSchaller Lockmeister 6 with 37 mm blockChosen instead of the OFR as the Lockmeister is a lot cheaper (in Europe). The 37 mm block was suggested on this forum.
EVH D-TunaFrom Allparts, chromeI have this on my EVH and I like it.
Saddle etc ShimsAllparts Floyd Rose saddle shims set/12As/when needed. Based on what I’ve read I might have to change the radius on the Schaller Lockmeister bridge (16”) to 18”, which would require shims.
Bridge pickupPariah Pasadena WhiteThis was my favorite in the “Pete Thorn EVH pickup shootout“.
3-way Super Switchgöldo "Double Wafer" 3-Way SwitchGöldo was the European alternative
Vol/tone/etc components2 * No-Load 500K Tone Pots
1 * 500K Volume pot
2 * Allparts CTS No-Load 500K Tone Pot
1 * Seymour Duncan Yngwie Speed Pot 500K (The EVH version has a strange knob)
Volume/tone components #2Schatten Thumbwheel Controls (500K Vol + 500K tone) minipotsUpdated September 2023: Decided to scrap the "blower switch" and replace that with a (mini) volume/tone control, hidden in the guitar cavity
Vol/tone/etc knobsMeisteworks Luminlay. Split shaft US-spec pots (CTS)These look cool. I also purchased Allparts EP 0220-008 Brass Pot Sleeves to ensure that the knobs fit the pots
Output jack plateAllparts Retrofit Jackplate T-Style NStandard stuff
Output jackSwitchcraft 1/4" Mono JackAs above
Strap locksSchaller S-Locks M CHI like them
Wall hangerHercules HCGSP-38WBLTAccording to Warmoth a Strat case would work well, but I decided to go for a wall hanger, for now.
Neck plateGotoh NBS-3 plate (chrome) + screwsUpdated Aug 4 2023: I had somehow expected the screws to be part of the neck/body, and when I didn’t order them, I also forgot about the neck plate…. And the contoured neck required two different types of screws... which is actually described here

And a photo of all the hardware:
IMG_0119_v2.jpg
Updated September 2023: The swich positions and tones were slightly altered, here are the final positions:
  1. "Solo/Rhythm": In this position there is only a fixed 500K resistance to "tame the tone" a bit
  2. ”Bluesy Solo": In this position the pickup sounds as if the Volume would be on 10, but the Tone on 5 (in the Schatten Thumbwheel). But just like Pos1, totally independent of the Volume and Tone (or S-a-S) controls (that are dedicated to Pos3).
  3. ”Rhythm/Clean": In this position I can use a Volume knob, a Tone knob (no-load), and a "Spin-a-Split" knob
 
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Very exciting to see you were able to create the plan you wanted. Seems like this is going to turn out very unique, and very useful for the way you approach playing. I’m looking forward to seeing how the roasted swamp ash in gloss contrasts with the roasted maple.
 
Very exciting to see you were able to create the plan you wanted. Seems like this is going to turn out very unique, and very useful for the way you approach playing. I’m looking forward to seeing how the roasted swamp ash in gloss contrasts with the roasted maple.
@bruzanhd Thanks, well if the build turns out to be an ugly, incompatible disaster, maybe it still went according to the plan :cool:
 
I like the naming process... looks great... now build!
@Rick Thanks, oh, I had so many bad (and crazy) ideas for a name during my thought process, but in the end ”Coffee” just resonated well with me. The wait for the body and the neck is long, as apparently the roasting and paint processes are time-consuming. On the bright side, I’ll have plenty of time get all the hardware and wiring that is needed.
 
@VanHeGen thanks for the shout-out and creating this thread. I am quite happy to be blamed for it.

Good to see that göldo offer a switch of the type needed here in Europe. (though the numbering in the manual they have is probably best taken with a pinch of salt as it does not marry up to what we are doing here).
 
@VanHeGen thanks for the shout-out and creating this thread. I am quite happy to be blamed for it.

Good to see that göldo offer a switch of the type needed here in Europe. (though the numbering in the manual they have is probably best taken with a pinch of salt as it does not marry up to what we are doing here).
@stratamania Thank you for checking the details of that göldö switch! Maybe I should still look for some alternatives to it? You proved - once again - that you are more than worth all the shoot-outs!
 
@stratamania Thank you for checking the details of that göldö switch! Maybe I should still look for some alternatives to it? You proved - once again - that you are more than worth all the shoot-outs!

The switch itself looks fine, it is just how they have numbered the terminals in their manual, which could lead to confusion.
 
@VanHeGen you mention earlier liking P90s, this got me to thinking which humbucker do you plan to use in this build?

It also reminded me of the Seymour Duncan P- Rails which can give you a full humbucker, P90 type coil and a Strat type blade coil in the one pickup. With this pickup and a 5 way super switch it would be straightforward to have the 3 wiring positions already discussed but add 2 more that split to P90 or the strat rail with volume and tone (no spin a split on those extra positions). Just an idea if you are interested, or with a normal humbucker you could do the same and split to either coil in each of the extra two positions.
 
@VanHeGen you mention earlier liking P90s, this got me to thinking which humbucker do you plan to use in this build?

It also reminded me of the Seymour Duncan P- Rails which can give you a full humbucker, P90 type coil and a Strat type blade coil in the one pickup. With this pickup and a 5 way super switch it would be straightforward to have the 3 wiring positions already discussed but add 2 more that split to P90 or the strat rail with volume and tone (no spin a split on those extra positions). Just an idea if you are interested, or with a normal humbucker you could do the same and split to either coil in each of the extra two positions.
@stratamania Thanks! When I was still (kind of) considering a neck pickup, the P-rails was actually one that I was thinking of! And that mod you describe would definitely have been great! The humbucker that I will put in this guitar is from Pariah, called Pasadena White. Pete Thorn tested it (among many others) in this video
 
@stratamania Thanks! When I was still (kind of) considering a neck pickup, the P-rails was actually one that I was thinking of! And that mod you describe would definitely have been great! The humbucker that I will put in this guitar is from Pariah, called Pasadena White. Pete Thorn tested it (among many others) in this video

Okay, I watched some of that video a while back. Makes sense if you are going for an EVH vibe.
 
If there ever is a VH tribute put together with Dave, Alex, Michael, and Sammy, Pete Thorn should be playing guitar (not Joe Satriani or anyone else).
@Street Avenger Pete would definitely know how to play the songs more accurately than most AND getting closest to the correct sound (that other YT video). His ”Eruption” lesson on YT is still the best, and his performances with Mitch Malloy and the Classic Roch Show sound so good! But I think finding someone to ”replace” Eddie so that Van Halen fans would approve would be the most difficult thing.
 
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If there ever is a VH tribute put together with Dave, Alex, Michael, and Sammy, Pete Thorn should be playing guitar (not Joe Satriani or anyone else).
So 150% agreed! Satch has been my favorite guitar player of all time for years, but for an actual VH tribute, Pete Thorn would be the man to do it. His ability to nail the EVH sound is beyond amazing, and I think he fits the vibe of the band, too. I would LOVE to see that!
 
As I have now received all the hardware for the guitar, the only things that are missing are the neck and the body :)

I have updated posting #6 in this thread that is named "5 Electronics/hardware and wiring (Updated July 2023)" with the updated HW list and a photo.
 
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