Building A Better Stratocaster

The Fender Stratocaster is the best selling guitar in the world!  The choice of many working musicians just like Craftsman Tools.

Working musicians
all have one thing in common, Unless they are famous money is pretty tight.
Fender offers a well made guitar for really good prices,  as long as you don't start paying for such nonsense as relic'd and custom shop guitars.

When I set out to build a better Strat,  I had several problems. These problems were John Suhr, Tom Anderson, Gerard Melancon, Don Grosh, Gary Levinson, Di Temple, Rudy Pensa, Roger Sadowsky and a host of others who are assembling super strats. I say assembling because many of these companies don't actually build their guitars. Many companies simply buy a neck and a body and assemble it and charge ridiculous prices.

These people were already building traditional type guitars that were heads and tails better than anything any one else was doing.

There is one builder who shall go un named. He claims to have a 2 year waiting period for a guitar that he sells for well above $5,000.00 almost $6,000.00 that really should sell for about $1,750.00. 
By his charging  a ridiculous high price he has been successful in duping the ignorant public into believing that his guitars are extremely high quality. There is nothing wrong with his guitar. In fact it is a good guitar possibly even a great guitar but his guitars are ridiculously overpriced. A Fender Eric Johnson, Mark Knopfler or John Mayer would easily be a better guitar for what this guy is charging.

I couldn't just build a better Fender,  I had to build a better guitar than the luthiers listed in the above paragraphs.

I had to use better wood, better pickups, get even closer tolerances, higher stability, offer more options, use better hardware, and do better setups and because I was the new kid on the block I had to do it for less money.

I believe this to be one of the primary reasons that the Pearlcaster Guitar sounds better than most other Fender Clones.

At this time we are no longer the new kid on the block but to my knowledge we are still doing it for less money.

Ed Roman


Ed Roman builds numerous different styles of guitars.





Typical Pearlcaster Body
Royal Blue Quilted Maple

Important Guitar Facts

This page is dedicated to explaining what to look for in total guitar construction. You will notice two USA Stratocasters. The top one is a 1997 American Std. Stratocaster the bottom one is an older 70's Strat. The major difference between these two instruments is the material used in the basic construction of the body.

The older ones pre 1990 are made from either Ash or Alder. the ones made between 1990 and 1997 used Poplar a less costly wood.

The simple way for anyone to spot the differences are the paint techniques employed on the backs of the guitars. You will notice the dark edging on the new one is quite a bit wider than the older model. All the contours are completely blacked out.  This is done to camouflage the fact that the body has a paper thin veneer of Alder or Ash. This veneer is harmful to the overall tonality of the guitar.

The Glue  that sits 1/64th of an inch below the surface of the veneer acts as a tone dampener. Glue doesn't resonate very well. Personally I don't approve of this method of guitar building unless of course the guitar is being sold inexpensively.

This is a stock American Std. Strat. (1992)  It appears to be constructed of  three pieces of  Poplar. There is absolutely nothing wrong with Poplar as a tone wood, It actually resonates very nicely considering it's low cost.  However Poplar is a soft wood and it is porous and it is known to cause many finishing problems.  Fender used to get around this problem by using an unknown to me filler material to the opaque finish models and veneering the translucent models. According to Fenders legal department they are currently no longer using Poplar.

The ones to look out for are made approximately between the years of 1990 and 1998.  Fender has told me that they are not going to continue this practice on their brand new models.


Stock Fender Raw USA Strat Body

Swimming Pool Route

The infamous notorious swimming pool route has been a large detriment to Fender's credibility as a real guitar company. Many young people are becoming disenchanted with the cheaper construction techniques that are being employed today. Fender has made a major turnaround in the recent years. The quality is at an all time high and the Mexican models are a great buy.

There are also people that believe that the magnetic field interference are reduced by the separate cavities. Fender takes the less costly approach and routes out a swimming pool in the middle of the guitar.  This makes construction easier and a lot less expensive.

Some people actually argue that the quality of the wood is not that important on Stratocasters. Because the pickups aren't attached to the wood but actually suspended and spring loaded to a plastic pickguard.

I personally don't believe there is anything wrong with this method of mounting  pickups.  I personally prefer to mount them solidly to wood. But to achieve that Thin, Vintage  Fender signature tonality,  I believe pickups should be hung in cavities.

Below are some bodies that I fabricated in my custom shop. I have decided not to take any chances. So I am using ultra high quality tone wood and I am true to the original Fender 50's design of separate pickup cavities.  So if you already own an American Standard, Deluxe Plus, Deluxe or Ultra Fender Stratocaster I submit to you I can help you improve the tonal quality of your guitar.




I don't just dedicate  my efforts to tonal improvements, I also stress playability.
What good is a great sounding guitar if you can't play it easily.
The Koa model above & below left, is built in the traditional Fender format.
The Korina model in the middle and the Flame Maple model on the right sport all access neck joint.


 These 3 Stratocasters Have Been Improved a Number of Ways
See Below

Tonally: 1995 By using high quality highly resonant tone wood
Tonally: 1995 By adhering to the original pickup cavity configuration.
Tonally: 1995 By total elimination of glues & fillers
Tonally: 1995 By the addition of higher quality better sounding pickups
Tonally: 2005 By offering Brazilian Rosewood or Ebony Fretboards (plus others)
Tonally: 2006 By attaching neck to body with Ed Roman's exclusive brass inserts
Tonally: 2007 By offering titanium Bridge saddles as an option.
Tonally: 2008 By offering Gold Tone Adamantium frets. An Ed Roman exclusive
Tonally: 2008 We are now offering Nitrocellulose paintjobs.
Tonally: 2008 By offering "Stellar Tone" Circuitry, "Bullet" preamps & a host of electronics
Playability: The "All Access Neck Joint" TM
Playability: The original Fender necks are all custom re shaped to the player's hand
Playability: 1500 G modification
Playability: The tremolo system can be replaced with virtually any brand
Playability: We offer the Buzz Feiten System in all of our guitars and conversions
Playability: Frets are all redressed and highly polished
Cosmetically: The finishes are beautiful
Cosmetically: The color choices are limited only by your imagination
Cosmetically: Every single screw is replaced with high quality gold plated ones
Cosmetically: Pick guards are replaced with higher quality Latrinium or Wood
Cosmetically: 2007 Now offering extremely high quality distressing and aging process


Ed Roman's Brass Insert System For Better Stability
We do this on all our guitars
Available retrofit for Fender, Ibanez, PRS, Caparison, ESP, Jackson, BC Rich, & Many Others

It actually costs less to glue in a neck than to bolt one in correctly. Gluing up a neck is pretty basic. You apply glue inside the neck joint, slide the neck in and clamp it down. A bolt in neck requires a lot more work, there is no room for a sloppy fit like on a glue in neck. The cost of stainless bolts and press fittings are far higher than the cost of a little glue. The labor factor requires 4 holes drilled and countersunk. The tolerances are extremely tight on a good bolt on neck where the tolerances are far less important with the application of glue. If you make a mistake and drill incorrectly itís time to throw away the body. On a glued up neck there are no holes to drill and less chances of a mistake.

I know, I know itís been done that way for 60  years! why change now? Why not keep our heads buried in the sand & continue thinking like we did in the 50ís & 60ís ?

Any luthier will tell you that the neck breakage occurs more on set neck guitars than all other guitars combined. The fact is I have repaired less than 15 bolt on necks in 32 years. I have repaired well over 3000 set necks and at any given time there are probably at least 6 of them broken in my shop.

First of all there is absolutely nothing wrong with a bolt on or bolt in neck as long as itís done right. I must stress the part about it being done right !!!!!

The glue between the neck & body of a guitar will prevent 60% to 70% of high end tone transference. For example, try to get a funky nasal ducktone twang on a glued in neck guitar. It wonít happen.

Bolt on necks originally got their bad reputation during the 70ís when companies were making them with ill fitting or loose neck joints. A loose neck joint causes instability and detracts horribly from tone quality. A loose neck joint will also cause tremendous loss of sustain. Some companies in the 70ís were mass producing guitars as fast as they could and were simply not paying attention to the neck joint! The necks were not fitted correctly and in many cases the strings were actually hanging off the edge of the neck.
A lot of criticism is leveled at the 3 screw neck mounting plates of the era. Personally I like the concept of the tilting neck which of course is only available with a three bolt neckplate.


Thanks to modern machinery and woodworking techniques neck joints are a lot better & tighter today. We now know much more about guitar construction than we used to. Guitars in general are a lot better today, even the Mexican ones are better than some of those USA guitars from the 90ís. A tight neck joint equals a good guitar !!!

The neck joint is the heart of the guitar, If the neck joint is set up properly the guitar WILL always sound better.
In my shop we make it a rule to mount each neck so tightly that itís almost a force fit. The technician should be able to physically pick up the guitar by the neck so that the body is suspended and the fit alone should be enough to hold the body to the neck.

My sure fire test is to take a thin guitar pick and try to slide it between the neck and the body. If I can get the pick into the crack then I know the guitar will be lacking in tone & sustain.

Bolt On Vs. Bolt In
Both ways work very well as long as you get a tight neck fit. The bolt in like the Quicksilver is superior because there is no protruding flange to bolt the neck onto. The neck actually bolts in through the back of the guitar. Consequently you get better stability, even more tone & sustain and as an added bonus you can reach higher up the neck. More notes, more better sounding notes !!!!