Modifying My Strat

Now for something a little different - a photo essay about a recent electronics upgrade I did to my Fender USA Stratocaster this week,

Basically, I think someone slammed another guitar into my volume knob at a gig or something, and the knob got jammed tight.  I actually stripped the knurls on the inside of the volume knob trying to turn it, and the knob just fell off.

While looking for replacement pots online, I came across the Emerson 'drop in' kit for quickly converting your Strat to have a Blender pot instead of a second tone pot.  I thought "Why Not?" and spent the AUD$90 odd dollars to grab one off eBay.

My Strat is just a USA Standard one, with Lollar "Dirty Blonde" pickups that I installed a couple of years ago.  It is also wired in the "Eric Johnson" style, with no tone control on the middle pickup.

For those who don't know - the Blender pot essentially allows you to gradually 'blend' in either the neck or the bridge pickup in with the other pickups.  So, YES, you CAN have all three pickups at once if you like, or just the bridge AND neck if you wanted to.

Basically, the second tone pot is the 'blend' pot.  When you have the bridge or bridge+middle pickup selected, it controls how much of the neck pickup is added to the selection.  Conversely, when you have the neck or neck+middle pickup selected, it controls how much bridge pickup is added in.

Seeing as I am a software guy, not hardware, I thought I would get some hired help to install this kit.

Now it was time to look at the plans, and to think about how we would go about the whole installation process...

Once the pickguard was off, it was time to dismantle the components, such as the pots, input jack, and to desolder some of the old pickup wires before re-soldering the new ones on...

This kit lives up to it's namesake.  It is quite literally a 'drop in' replacement for the original pots.  We only needed to desolder the 3 pickup leads, the input jack leads, and the two ground wires attached to the pickup cavity and trem claw.

Once the new kit was in, it was a simple task to resolder those on again.  At times it was a bit stressful handling hot soldering irons around the guitar finish, but we managed to do it.

I DID manage to forget soldering on the ground lead to the trem claw, but that was easily resolved.

Then it was time to put everything back together again.  Remember the stripped Volume knob issue?  I got Spidey to wrap some plumbers tape around the Volume knob shaft so that the stripped knob could grab on tightly.

Job Is DONE !!!

Job Is DONE !!!

While the strings were off, I decided to give the frets a bit of a dressing and polishing...

I wrote a full review of the kit over at

Ten Months With No Hot Water

Ye Olde Heater...

Ye Olde Heater...

Sometime in June 2013, I was working in my office when I noticed a puddle of water seeping in the doorway and running towards my amp and guitar collection.  After moving the valuable equipment out of the way, I went outside and noticed that our hot water heater, which was in an enclosure outside my office, had sprung a leak.

After shutting off the water and mopping up the mess, we called in two plumbers to assess the damage.  They both said that the heater, which was about 20+ years old, had split and needed complete replacement.  One quoted us $2200 for the replacement, and the other quoted $2500.  We also got a quote to change over to solar hot water, but that was around $7000.

Now, we had about $5000 saved away in a family savings account, but we had already decided that 2013 would be a year of seriously pursuing our artistic goals.  We had already earmarked  that money (1) for a portraiture course in August in Adelaide that my wife wanted to do, and (2) for a guitar building course in Melbourne in September that I was keen on.

We thought long and hard about this, then decided that we would defer replacing the hot water heater until the next dry season, about a year away.

This was despite the fact it was one of the coolest dry seasons we have had, and hot water was pretty much the only thing that could warm us up in the mornings and evenings.

But we gritted our teeth and persevered.  For arts sake.

Here is what we found.


Time wasted in the shower was reduced markedly.  From an average of 10 to 12 minutes each standing under a warm cascade of water daydreaming, the family reverted to short, quick shower in the bracing cold water.  Shower times were down to less than 5 minutes as we got in, soaped and rinsed and got the heck out.

Our sons went from sometimes having 3 showers a day, to only having one a day.

This also resulted in the pleasant after effect that the shower and bathroom needed less cleaning due to less usage.  Towels and bath mats were also less in need of regular washes.



Now here is a funny thing.  I didn't actually realise that dishwashers have a built in water heater  (After all, we never had a dishwasher up until we moved into this house, which had one preinstalled).  For the first few months, we were hand washing everything, but only once or twice a day.

My wife would boil up a large pan of water on the gas hob and use that for the dishes.  Even after we realised we could still use the dishwasher for hot washes, she persevered with the pan heated water, and the dishwasher was reserved for weekend use.

This was probably my least favourite aspect of this experiment.  I HATE having the sink filling up with dirty dishes for a whole day.

The boys did learn to only use one cup/plates etc. during the day though, and wash them up, because they could not keep raiding the dishwasher for clean ones 10 times a day.


This was a challenge for me, because I like my hot shaves, so I used to co-ordinate my morning shaves with those mornings where my wife was heating up a pan for the washing up.  I used to grab a couple of cups of hot water to shave with.

This meant that we had to really time our activities so that we minimised the number of pans of hot water we needed to make.

After a few months of this, I just reverted to cold shaving, which wasn't the most pleasant of experiences, but I managed to do it.


This was a simple remedy.  Our washing machine had a 'cold wash' setting, so we simply bought cold wash soap powder and ran with that.

It seemed to work better.  Things like the elastic on underwear etc. didn't seem to break down as fast as they did with hot washes.


I monitored our electricity usage during this time, and noted and power usage dropped by around 40% during this time, which translated to around $400 on our quarterly electricity bills.

I put this down also to less electricity being used by not using the dishwasher as often, or not needing lights in the bathroom for as long etc.

Water usage was also down by about 30% over normal.


It was an interesting family social experiment, and one that we all participated in with a little bit of reservation.  I am proud of our two boys for running with it and not complaining too much.  At best, they will realise that hot water on tap is a privilege not to be taken for granted.

As the weather cooled down this May 2014, we decided to bite the bullet and replace the hot water system.  We now have wonderful hot water available on demand again, and I won't kid you - it is very welcome.

But I won't forget our little lesson learned, and we still try and prioritise our time in the bathroom and be as efficient as we possibly can.  Hopefully we can keep in mind that this is a luxury that not everyone in the world can experience, and we will savour it a lot more.

FOOTNOTE: The old hot water heater is currently being converted into a 'nuclear tower' in the garden to be used for an upcoming Nerf battle.