From gregz–(at)–otmail.com Sat Mar 13 10:31:55 CST 1999
Article: 352823 of alt.guitar
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From: gregz–(at)–otmail.com
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Subject: Re: Difference between 50’s Strats and 60’s Strats?
Date: Sat, 13 Mar 1999 03:32:00 GMT
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On Tue, 09 Mar 1999 00:04:04 -0600, “W. Russell Nix”
wrote:

> Hi everyone!
>
> I have a quick question. What are the differences between a 57′
>Stratocaster and either a 62′ or 64′ Strat? Fender makes it sound like
>there was a fairly significant overhaul of the 50’s models that resulted
>in the 62′ model. What features were common on the 57′ and what did
>they change to make the 62′? Do you have a personal favorite out of the
>two?
> Thank you very much in advance for any help you can give me!
>
>Russell
>
There were many changes from neck contour and radius to colour
choices to the number of screws in the pickguard that occured from
1957 to 1962.
The type of finish used and the colour scheme on the sunburst
models also changed. I know that by ’62 there were about a dozen
custom colours available and the sunburst was more opaque and had more
red tones in it as opposed to the two colour dark brown to tan with a
lot of wood grain present in the 50’s models
I previously owned a ’57 that had a very pronounced “V” shape to
the neck (which I personally found uncomfortable) . The ’62 that I
currently own has a much wider ( a “C” ) neck about 1 3/4″ at the nut
with a flatter profile.

Neck profiles were one of five types.
1. Early 50’s “U” shaped like on the early Teles
2. Early 50’s soft “V” shape like on the ’54 Strats
3. Mid 50’s “Hard “V” like on the ’56’s and ’57’s Strats
4. The 60’s oval shape
5. The current wide, flat oval shape.
I guess there was also an extreme “boatneck” called the “10-56” made
in October of 1956 which was a very large “V” neck.

The letter designations were the width of the fret board at the nut

A= 1 1/2″
B= 1 5/8″
C= 1 3/4″ and
D= 1 7/8″
and according to Dan Erlewine, the source of this information on
the necks, the current American Standards are in the middle of “B” and
“C” necks with a width of 1 11/16″ .
Until about 1968 Fender either penciled or stamped a date code and
neck code on the end of the neck at the body. In 1969 the stamp didn’t
indicate a date but again in 1970 and through the mid-seventies the
“date” stamp was used from time to time and is still sometimes used
even today.(My 90’s American Standards have date codes) On the
penciled dates (before 1962) the first one or two digits are the month
and the next two are the year. Starting in 1962 they were stamped in
ink. In the case of mine, stamped in blue ink, which reads “2 May 62
C” it means

2 = model number-in this case a Strat (this isn’t a day of the month
stamp)
May = the month the serial number was assigned
62 = the year the neck was made
C = the neck width at the nut- in this case 1 3/4″

The most important change of course was the rosewood fretboard which
was introduced in 1959 , first as an attatched “slab” but by mid 1962
the “slab” had become thinner and more contoured to the neck at its
contact point. The changeover occured in July/August of 1962.

There was recently a discussion of “skunk stripes” here and my
recent conversations with some Fender “experts” cleared up a few
things. The skunk stripes were used to access the truss rod channel on
one piece maple necks originally. When the rosewood boards were
introduced in 1959 the channel was accessed from above before the
“slab” was put on so there was no longer a need for the stripe. In the
60’s they offered a maple fretboard which was a two piece board/neck
as a special order only (in the mid 60’s it became a dealer-ordered
option) and again there wasn’t a need for a stripe because the truss
rod was put in from above. This continued until about 1969 when they
went back to the one piece maple necks. That’s why some maple boarded
Strats don’t have stripes. After 1980 they used a number of different
truss rod systems and depending on which system was used for which
guitar it was sometimes necessary to use a skunk stripe on a rosewood
board guitar. That’s why some people said their rosewood boarded
Strats had skunk stripes and because I had never seen them I wasn’t
aware that they existed.

Alder was used for most of the Strats made after 1956. The only
ash bodied Strats were the transparent blond ones. I could be wrong
about that but I’m quite sure I was told or read that somewhere.
There’s also a difference in the type of lacquer overcoat they used
that caused some of the finishes to yellow. The particular guitar that
I have is very yellowed (very “blond” looking but not transparent)
though it’s supposed to be “Olympic White” (the neck pocket is still
quite white) but there are other “Olympic White” ones from the same
time period that didn’t yellow and it has to do with the finish top
coat they used. I have a ’66 Jazz Bass that was also “Olympic White”
and it has yellowed but not anywhere as much as the Strat . I think
it was common though because two other white Gibson guitars that I
own, one from the same period, have also yellowed a great deal due to
the nitrocellulose lacquer that was used as a top coat.

The type of pickguard also changed from a 8 screw single ply with a
shield over only the controls to an 11 screw three ply laminated guard
with a full sized aluminum shield plate. I also know that the type of
plastic was changed because some turned a very strange green colour
with age but I think this change over happened later about ’65.

As far as electronics I’m certain someone will say there was a
change as far as the 50’s pickups sounding hotter but I thought the
’57 sounded thinner (though it did have slightly more treble bite)
>from the ’62 which has a warmer. punchy, more round sound. Though
there are those that will say that’s a result of the rosewood board.
I’m not certain about any change in the pickup windings or other
electronic modifications so I won’t offer anything more than my
opinion from what “I” hear.

As far as the pickup selector switch all of the older ones had
three position switches. It wasn’t until the 70’s that the five
position switch came along. I didn’t know it then but I changed mine
to a five position switch in the 70’s and when I did I knocked the
vintage value of my guitar down quite a bit. I put the original switch
back in about five years ago but because I broke the original solder
connections it still lost value. Anyone thinking of doing this to a
vintage guitar should know that even if you save the old parts when
you unsolder something it looks like it’s no longer original and it
loses grading points. These vintage appraiser guys are really fussy
about this stuff.

I also have a 80’s Japanese reissue of a ’62 and they were close
down to the “original contour body” decals (no three patent numbers
though) and snot-green pickguard but the feel of the neck is quite
different and IMHO the pickups lacked the punch of the older Strat (I
eventually replaced them with Lindy Fralins and they sound good but
still different from the “vintage” guitars). Side by side the reissue
weighs noticably more.

As far as a favourite between the two or one being better than the
other, I traded the ’57 back to the original owner (actually the son
of the original owner of both guitars) for the ’62. I didn’t care for
the “V” neck and he didn’t like the wide rosewood board so we both
ended up happy so it’s hard to say what the reasons would be for
prefering one over the other in more than a generalised sort of way.
It’s very much a matter of personal taste.

Gregzy

 

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