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Reader Guitar of the Month: Go Big or Go Home

Reader Guitar of the Month: Go Big or Go Home

A Texas engineer made his dream Strat-style guitar from scratch—and he didn’t take the easy route.

Name: BJ Byers

Hometown: Lake Jackson, Texas
Guitar: Amber Shellac Strat

I’m a 27-year-old engineer living in the Houston area. I’ve been playing guitar most of my life and developed an interest in electronics mods, pedal building, etc. a few years ago. I became intrigued by the idea of building my own guitar but never considered myself a woodworker and didn’t believe I had the skills to create one entirely from scratch.

However, I identified several influential resources—including PG—that encouraged me to jump in and just go for it. I was admittedly in over my head and it was a very difficult and long process. But I decided if I was going to build a guitar, I was going to build an awesome guitar. I wasn’t going to start simple. By welcoming these challenges, I continued to expand my skill set and gained a deeper understanding of my instrument.

Starting with a blueprint of a vintage Strat-style body, I built a template and began purchasing the necessary tools to get started. I found some beautiful African black limba for the body

and planned an intricate ziricote fretboard with pearl inlays. I incorporated my electronics knowledge to design the guitar I would personally want to play, including custom wiring with a treble-bleed mod and a push/pull knob for all three Lollar Dirty Blackface pickups. I chose a 25.5" scale, thin C-shape neck, reversed headstock, and finished it with a French polishing technique using an amber-tinted shellac.

I encourage any musicians out there interested in taking on a project—whether it’s a full build, a mod, or an upgrade—simply to research. Find others who’ve done it before and documented their learnings. Just go for it! Despite the mistakes and frustration, it’s well worth it to have an instrument that’s uniquely yours.

I believe my Strat build turned out amazing. I wanted to send a note and thank PG personally for influencing my path this year.

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