Spare Parts, Bud

It's no secret that since the 1950's, the guitar market has been dominated by two highly recognizable companies.  I don't mean to downplay the influence of smaller companies or the countless independent luthiers making extremely high quality, beautiful sounding instruments, but many guitarists including myself are proud owners of Fender or Gibson products.  Over the years, a whole range of after market parts meant to improve the stability or tone of these instruments has been developed by small business owners, and in this article I hope to bring to your attention two of my favourite companies for after market Fender or Gibson style guitar parts.  

Callaham Guitars

Callaham Guitars is a small business run by Bill Callaham out of Virginia.  This company is the authority on after market parts for Fender style guitars, especially Stratocasters and Telecasters.  If you own a Stratocaster or Telecaster, some of the parts that Callaham is manufacturing could significantly improve your instrument.  

The vintage style bridge block is an essential for any Strat player.  When Fender introduced the Stratocaster in the 1950's, they spared no expense and put big fat steel bridge blocks in every bridge.  The size and weight of the bridge block is a large contributor to the overall tone and sustain of any Stratocaster, but most production model American Standard Stratocasters are made with much thinner and lighter bridge blocks as a cost saving measure.  You might think that you could just take a vintage bridge block and put it on your modern bridge plate, however the position of the screws don't actually line up.  That's what makes the Callaham model so great!  Not only is it built from rolled steel and big and fat like the vintage blocks, but it is made to fit your modern Stratocaster.  Callaham has also thought ahead and made vintage style bridge blocks for Mexican Stratocasters as well.

The upgraded Tremolo arm that Callaham manufactures is a really cool design.  For anybody like myself who has used the Fender made tremolo arm and learned this the hard way, there is a design flaw.  Because of the way the tremolo arm is built, when you use it you are putting direct pressure on a weak point in the arm and it can snap off depending on how your bridge is set up and how you use the tremolo arm.  The Callaham design is meant to take the pressure off of the weak point of the arm and distribute it differently, resulting in a greatly reduced chance of breaking the arm.  The design is meant to compliment the Callaham bridge block specifically, but will work with blocks built by Fender or other competitors as well.  

Callaham Guitars also manufactures tremolo arms in a variety of lengths, including this very short length, similar to what David Gilmour famously uses on his Stratocasters.  As a side note, I have been using this exact tremolo arm on my Stratocaster for some time now, as well as the Callaham vintage style bridge block and I've gotta say I'm very happy with the improved sustain and tone, as well as the ease of use of the smaller tremolo arm.

One really interesting parts upgrade by Callaham Guitars is this Pickup Base Plate.  Many Stratocaster owners are familiar with the struggle of the bridge pickup.  It can be difficult at times to keep the bridge pickup from sounding thin and shrill.  Interestingly, this problem is not often the case with Telecasters.  I'm sure that there are more variables at play than this, but one of the differences between Stratocaster and Telecaster bridge pickups is this base plate which is routinely placed under Tele bridge pickups, but is not put under bridge pickups in Strats.  Callaham manufactures bridge pickup base plates that are meant to be placed under Stratocaster bridge pickups to increase the bass response and produce more of a Tele style bridge sound on your Strat bridge pickup.  Such an interesting solution, and so much cheaper than shopping for new pickups!

Callaham has some of the best compensated Telecaster saddles on the market.  For anybody like myself who owns a Telecaster with the vintage style 3 saddles, these compensated saddles can help to greatly improve the intonation of your instrument and still retain the vintage aesthetic of the 3 saddle bridge.


MojoAxe is a small business out of Ohio run by Dan (I didn't get his last name).  Dan is making some very sought after parts upgrades for Gibson style guitars, and if you're a Gibson owner some of these products could really improve your instrument.

MojoAxe has quickly become the industry standard for vintage looking upgrades for wrap tail style bridges such as Les Paul Junior models, or certain Les Paul models as well.  This compensated wrap tail bridge has a calculated break point, as opposed to the straight break point of the vintage style models.  This break point greatly improves the intonation of the bridge by compensating for the higher strings.  Unlike other upgraded wrap tail bridges, the MojoAxe model retains the vintage look of the guitar.

Another innovate upgrade designed by MojoAxe is the compensated bridge upgrade for 1952 style Les Pauls that feature the trapeze style bridge that wraps under, making palm muting more or less impossible.  This upgraded bridge not only eliminated the wrap under design flaw, but also compensates for intonation by providing a calculated break point similar to the wrap tail bridge.  This upgrade is meant to fit onto the existing trapeze poles as well.

One final really interesting upgrade I'd like to talk about from MojoAxe is their VibroStop conversion kit.  This bridge tailpiece is meant for sideways vibrato SG guitars.  Many guitarists argue that the sideways Vibrola arm has some inherent tuning and stability issues, and this VibroStop tailpiece essentially seeks to improve the guitar by acting as a stop tail, while retaining the vintage look of the guitar.  This means the vibrato arm itself doesn't function, but the tuning and stability of the guitar is greatly improved.  

Thank you so much for reading my thoughts on parts upgrades for your Fender or Gibson style guitars.  It really means a lot to me to be a very small part of your journey with the guitar, and it's something that I never take for granted.  Please feel free as always to reach out with any comments or concerns about this or any other subject relating to the guitar, I'm always happy to help!

Leave a comment

Please note, comments must be approved before they are published