GuiTARDIS Custom Strat Build (Part 1)

Earlier this summer, I had the exquisite pleasure of meeting the Twelfth Doctor himself, Peter Capaldi, and his costar, Jenna Coleman, at D.C.’s AwesomCon.

I spent the entire third day of the convention waiting in various lines for autographs and photo-ops, and it was totally worth it. Not only did I have a chance to rub elbows with two of my favorite TV personalities, I also got to hang out with hundreds upon hundreds of fellow Whovians and pop culture nerds. It was my first time attending a Con, and I’m already looking forward to next year.

In addition to the many welcome nuances Peter Capaldi has brought to his incarnation of the iconic Time Lord, we now know that the titular Doctor is also a RayBan-wearing, axe-wielding badass. This prompted many people to bring their various electric guitars to AwesomeCon for Peter to sign. With these developments in mind, I have resolved to build my very own custom Doctor Who-themed guitar –a guiTARDIS, if you will. And while I’m kicking myself for not thinking of it sooner, I believe it’s never too late to build a guitar, and there’s no such thing as “too many” Doctor Who collectibles. Who Nose? Maybe I’ll catch up with Peter at another Con and he’ll sign it for me, whereupon I will squee like a fifteen-year old girl at a One Direction concert.

So, let’s get started, shall we?

As you doubtless gleaned from the title of this series, this will be a Stratocaster. I’ve only built one strat before this, and while I was pleased overall with the color (dark walnut burst with a black pick guard), I nevertheless made more than a few mistakes with the finish and the hardware. Needless to say, I will not be finishing the guiTARDIS in polyurethane, and I will be ditching all of the kit hardware in favor of Fender and other quality aftermarket upgrades.

Now, if you’re a DIY nutjob like me, you probably already know about resources like Warmoth and StewMac, where you can buy custom matched guitar bodies and necks (and all the trimmings) in practically any combination of woods and states of completion. Quality components can easily drive the price of a DIY build well north of $700, and there are very good reasons to go that route.  All your skills with finishing, and the best hardware on Earth won’t amount to much if the neck is warped, or the fret job is unsalvageable, so if you’re serious about ending up with a potential heirloom, by all means, spend the money. But I’m not quite ready to drop as much on a kit as I would on a good already-built Mexican Strat, so I’m going to squeeze every ounce of quality I can out of a sub-$100 Alston kit. If, at the end of the build, the piece is hopelessly un-playable, at least it will look good hanging on the wall, and I won’t feel like I got punched in the wallet.

$100 or so on ebay gets you the following:

  • Matched Solid Mahogany Body and bolt-on Neck with rosewood fretboard
  • Loaded pickguard (entry-level pots and most likely the crappiest single-coil pickups available)
  • Generic tuning machines and tremolo bridge
  • All the hardware, some crap strings, and an amp cable