Mark Mitchell's Workbench - featuring... "The Scalloped Strat Blog"

Welcome to my web page. If you haven't been here in awhile, you should notice that I've changed things around a bit. It was time for a makeover. I have made many more new Strats and my ideas for new ones keep evolving. If you would like to check out any of them, just click on the thumbnail to get a bigger picture along with a list of features. And you'll also have a chance to hear me play it by just clicking on the link provided. I'll be adding more things as time goes by since I'm always building something. If you have any comments or questions, feel free to email me. My email link is at the bottom of the page. Thanx for stopping by...

1988 YJM Strat
w/ Hot Gold Lace Sensors

Bender Scallopcaster #1
w/ Hot Gold Lace Sensors

Bender Scallopcaster #1
w/ Lace AlumiTone Humbuckers

Bender Scallopcaster #2
w/ Harmonic Design Pickups

Bender Scallopcaster #3
w/ Lace AlumiTone Pickups

Bender Scallopcaster #3
w/ Rio Grande Pickups

Bender Scallopcaster #4
w/ Dually Hot Gold Lace Sensors

Bender Scallopcaster #5
w/ Vintage Vibe P90s

Bender Scallopcaster #6
w/ Vintage Vibe P90s

My First Scallopcaster Build
w/ Hot Gold Lace Sensor Prototypes

Bender Scallopcaster
Headstock Decal

1982 Fender Concert
w/ Weber California Speaker

Okay... Someone HAD to do it, so it might just as well be me...


The Scalloped Strat Blog

Many folks have emailed me and askedÖ ďWhy are all your Strats scalloped?Ē Obviously I like my necks scalloped, but there are a few significant reasons for this. Mostly though, it comes down to just one wordÖ Grip. The ability to grab any note, anywhere on the fretboard, and then do whatever you want with it without having it slip away from you. The next significant reason is Vibrato. I love exaggerated vibrato. Whether it be slow or fast, when you have complete control over the strings, vibrato is effortless. And the third most significant reason is just bending, and this goes along with grip. Big bends are also effortless on a scalloped neck. And these are all a big part of my style of playing, as you can probably hear.

Indirectly, a scalloped neck also helps speed. But itís not because of the scallops. The scallops do necessitate a very light touch. Without a light touch, you could press the strings sharp while playing. As a player masters the light touch needed to play a scalloped neck in tune, it also typically (but not always) results in an increase in speed. Chording can be a chore on a scalloped neck. It takes some practice, but itís just as easy to master.

Iíve tried a number of different scalloped necks, I even scalloped one of my own. Some I really liked, some I didnít. I tend to prefer deep, even scallops. Deep enough so that my finger will not touch the fingerboard at all. Some like a more moderate or shallow scallop, such as that found on the Fender Ritchie Blackmore Strat. I donít really like a compromise, and thatís what this is. This neck gives you the ability to ďdig-inĒ somewhat, but also to have a partial flat fingerboard where you would do the most chording. Iíd rather just master the technique needed to do chording on a scalloped neck, and keep all the benefits of the deeper scallop. Those who might continue struggling with playing in tune would probably benefit from the Ritchie Blackmore neck however. There are some that claim that all you need for the scalloped feel are tall frets. Sorry, theyíre wrong. Like I said, I donít like any finger drag on the fingerboard. Tall frets alone canít offer this.

My favorite necks are my Warmoth Radius scalloped necks. But they do vary somewhat because they are a custom shop and make most of their necks to customer specifications. Since I buy most of my equipment used (itís cheaper that way), the specs on my necks tend to be all over the map. But the scallops are all the same, so I am generally happy with all of them. But I do like a few more than others. I had an Allparts scalloped neck, but I wasnít as happy with it. Mostly because the scallops were too shallow, but the profile was a little uncomfortable to me as well, and I donít believe that they make them any other way. This is much unlike the Warmoth necks. The newer Fender Yngwie Malmsteen Signature necks are also very nice. Though I prefer 22 frets and these only have 21.

Warmoth now has four sizes of Stainless Steel fretwire available. I'm a big fan of Stainless Steel frets just because they are super slippery and don't wear down like nickel/silver fretwire does. Two of my Warmoth necks have the SS6115 fretwire, which at the time was their biggest Stainless wire. Now they have SS6100 which is bigger yet, and very close in size to the nickel/silver 6100 fretwire, which is what I have in all my other Warmoth necks. Any more necks I order from Warmoth will have the Stainless Steel fretwire. I highly recommend it.

Recently I had someone ask me why the Strat pictured on my workbench at the top of the page isn't scalloped. Well... When I purchased that Sonic Blue Strat body, my intention was to assemble my own 1964 Reissue Stratocaster. And I bought a very cool neck for it on eBay that really nailed the vibe I was looking for. It might have been my most authentic looking vintage Strat re-make ever. It looked really cool. But then it sat in its guitar stand for almost nine months and was seldom played. I didn't want to play it. It had skinny vintage fretwire and (of course) no scallops, with a rather large boatneck profile, and I just couldn't get excited about playing it. So... I started messing with it again, and that eventually resulted in Bender Scallopcaster #2, which has become my favorite Strat and is the one I'm playing there in the second pic at the top of the page (BIG thanx to Chris d'Aquin for the great live pics of me). So it was ultimately a really good move to abandon my '64 Reissue project. Now it sports my favorite neck of all the scalloped necks I own. Go check it out if you haven't already...

As a bit of good news, Fender USA is re-introducing the Ritchie Blackmore Signature Stratocaster for 2009. The original model was first introduced in the USA in 1997 as an import model from Japan, and then was discontinued shortly after that. Although Fender Japan continued to offer it directly for quite a few years after that. The 2009 model is made in Mexico and seems to have much the same specifications, with the exception of a body wood change. It's interesting to note that the stock pickups are still the Seymour Duncan "Quarter Pound" (the 1997 model had the bridge model in both the neck and bridge positions) yet Ritchie has never used these pickups himself. Ritchie has been using Gold Lace Sensors for over 20 years... How can they call this a signature guitar? Anyway, it does still have the graduated scalloped neck. So Fender, again, offers two scalloped Strat models.

On 4/23/2009 I took delivery of another Warmoth scalloped neck. This one has the SS6115 fretwire and a nice chocolate brown rosewood fingerboard. A couple months ago I sold my 1999 Yngwie Malmsteen neck on eBay, so the body had been sitting here waiting for a new neck, and now it has one. As expected, it plays very well. I bought it off The Gear Page, so being used it does have a few minor issues that I can pretty much ignore. It was well worth the $250 I paid for it. I still have plans to order something exotic directly from Warmoth in the future, but that one will likely run me in excess of $500 for everything I want. So I'll wait a little while longer for that one. I'll post pictures and recordings of the new addition when I get it all set-up.

Iíll add more to this later. Email any questions and Iíll answer them here.

Send email to Mark Mitchell

Live photos of Mark Mitchell courtesy of Chris d'Aquin