Sion has sent me an email detailing the steps he took to get his 2012 Fender La Cabronita set up correctly with the help of one of my aged hipshot style bridges and an Allparts bone nut. Thanks Sion!
I was aware that the 2012 Cabronitas made in Mexico had some slight QC issues, but it didn’t put me off as they seemed to be rectified by many owners fairly easily. So I took the plunge and bought one for a good price on Ebay (£300 with hard case). A big saving for what is more or less in new condition!
I first noticed that the high E string was a little too close to the edge of the fretboard for me. It felt a bit clumsy, even with chords, not to mention when I attempted a bit of vibrato on the string. The reasons seemed quite obvious once I’d had a quick inspection. The nut was cut with the top E nearer the edge of the nut than on any of my other 5 Fenders. The bridge seemed to be slightly off centre and at a slight angle! This was slight, but a luthier has confirmed this to me after inspection. The third reason was that the bridge is the wider (vintage?) Fender bridge. This is well covered on the web forums so I knew that the problem may arise. I can’t understand why this was done though! Mistake? Incidentally the scratchplate fits perfectly around the bridge pick-up but because it does so it is out of line with the outer edge of the guitar body. (see picture) It’s subtle but it’s still something that shouldn’t be present on a £500+ guitar. You can see that the edge of the pick-guard doest run anywhere near parallel with the strings either. (I realise that the strings arch inward toward the middle of the fretboard as they travel upo to the nut of course, but the misalignment to me seems excessive. Or am I suffering OCD or something??I fitted the Hipshot bridge (bought on Axecaster after helpful advice from Gavin the owner) which fits perfectly into the existing fixing screws. The price is good and it’s a better bridge than the Fender bridge. It feels more substantial and comes with an extra set of height adjustment grub screws which are shorter than the default ones so I fitted these with great results. They make the top face of the bridge smooth to the touch and much more comfortable under the side of the hand. No more uncomfortable grub screws ripping into the hand! (surely this is a little issue that Fender should deal with?). I noticed that the strings now run much more in line with the pick-up pole-pieces and the E string is brought further away from the edge of the fretboard. I did notice that the bridge affects the tone slightly in that it makes the bottom end feel a bit tighter or focused somehow. The face plate is thicker than the Fender one so the saddles are mounted higher. This meant that to attain the low action I like the two E saddles are sitting flat on the plate with the grub screws out of sight inside the saddles. This may be good for string vibration transfer to the bridge and body. It may not make much of a perceptible difference though!Finally I got a new bone nut cut and fitted. The nut is an Allparts one bought on Axecaster (curved bottom/43mm) and it fitted nice and tightly with minimum sanding. We used a 1989 US standard Strat nut as a model to copy. The high E on the US nut was a good millimetre and a half further from the edge than the Cabronita’s nut and feels much nicer to play to me.(The low E string on the US nut is nearer the edge to make room for the high E to move inward from the other edge. This is great and doesn’t affect the low E’s playability etc in any way.). So once that was done and a set of 10’s (as opposed to the original 9s) fitted, the guitar felt like a completely different animal. (I also had the shoulders of the neck scraped back a bit and sanded to change the profile slightly. It’s a bit thinner and faster now. I oiled the back of the neck too. So it feels like the relics/roadworn guitars now. Very very comfortable and a great improvement for me to what was a comfortable – if slightly too thick and glossy – standard neck.This is now one hell of a guitar! So comfortable and resonant. It feels as good as a Custom Shop strat I own- and that’s the nicest guitar I’ve ever played in my 30 years of gigging/recording etc. Can’t complain at all now… (I would like a belly and forearm contour like a strat though …!! Maybe one day ..).
So – thanks to the help of Gavin and Axecaster I have a very special Cabronita. Cheers!