1963 Fender Stratocaster Sunburst

John Shults

Posted on August 12 2022

1963 Fender Stratocaster with Sunburst finish, mint green pickguard, clay dots, and veneer Rosewood fretboard


This clean, one family owned 1963 Fender Stratocaster just came through the shop! It's nice example and a great player from one of my favorite years for the model. For guitar players, the 1963 Stratocaster is among the finest solid body electric guitars ever made. The Stratocaster's features were continually updated throughout the 1950s and 1960s as the company was ever refining what would become the most popular electric guitar ever made. 

As a Fender guitar collector, I'm always on the hunt for the nicest examples of Fender Stratocaster guitars, but especially from 1963. If you're looking for help with Fender guitar dating then check out Fender Serial Numbers. If you're curious about the value of your Stratocaster then read this: Stratocaster Values. Or if you're interested finding a buyer for your Stratocaster, you can reach me here: Sell a Fender

1963 Fender Stratocaster headstock and neck

1963 Stratocaster Features

The Stratocaster was in production for nine years by 1963, but the overall shape and design was still exactly the same. The aesthetic features however were vastly different. The Strat's one piece Maple neck and lacquered fretboard now had a unfinished Rosewood overlay. Much has been said about the quality of the thick slab fretboard made from 1959 until 1962, but I've found that the veneer boards in the early 1960s are in no way inferior in tone or construction. The veneer fretboards from late 1962 until 1964 are slightly thicker than the later veneers. You can spot the early style veneer by the straight line making the transition from Rosewood to Maple up at the top of the headstock. What collectors refer to as "clay dots", the brown fretboard position markers made of vulcanized fiber, won't be updated to pearloid until 1965. 

Check out this page for a full account of every part that an expert uses to find the year of a Stratocaster: How to date a Stratocaster.

Also of not, the finish styles on the Strat change slightly in 1963. For Sunburst finishes, the red band is smaller than in 1962 making the yellow center a bit larger. The opaque yellow dip which makes up the undercoat for Sunburst finish won't be in use until 1964. For custom color finishes, the formally desert sand color undercoat is updated to a bright white undercoat. The pickguards remain the attractive "mint green" color and are prone to shrinking. 

1963 Stratocaster neck with spaghetti logo and three patent numbers



On the neck of the 1963, the spaghetti style Fender logo should be present with three patent numbers underneath. Fender would add another patent number to the sticker in 1964, then update the logo to the thicker style transitional logo later in the year. The thin lettering Fender logo commonly referred to as the spaghetti logo had been in use on the Stratocaster in various forms since its introduction in 1954. The headstock shape remains the small variety which was enlarged in late 1965. The Strat's tuners are single line Kluson tuners with hollow posts to accept the end of the string. This keeps the headstock looking clean and avoids the pesky poke by the sharp string ends from other tuners. The double line Kluson style tuner would be introduced a year later. 


1963 Stratocaster wiring, pickups, potentiometers, switch



 Under the pickguard, the Stratocaster's pickups remain largely the same constuction as before with black flatwork top and bottom. The three position switch that the model was introduced with remains until the 1970s. This three position switch neglects the ever popular in-between pickup positions which I've come to love for the wide and flat frequency response and unique tone which excites the listener. I do not personally find the three position switch to be a hinderance to playing, in fact, I've found that it encourages me to listen even closer for the exact tone I'm looking for while hunting for the in-between position. It's one of my favorite parts of pre-CBS Stratocaster guitars. 

1963 Stratocaster Playability

In order for this nicely preserved 1963 Stratocaster to play the way the factory intended, a few maintenance items were required. Chief among the issues I noticed when it arrived were the slight back bow of the neck and the frets filed down flat. I knew that I would need to address these issues before getting to the normal cleaning and set up. 

Vintage Fender guitars often arrive to me with slightly back bowed necks. The reason for the back bow is that Fender guitars in the 1950s and 1960s shipped with heavy gauge 12-58 strings and a tighter truss rod to counteract the string tension. Once thinner strings became popular, many players would install them but neglect to loosen the truss rod for less string tension. The now overtightened truss rod bends the neck into a back bow for the next few decades. Sometimes the necks retain the back bow even after I loosen the nut.

I took the '63 Strat to talented luthier Jason Burns for the repair. Jason heat pressed the neck back into the shape it was before the back bow. We then let the neck sit for a while to be sure it wouldn't spring back. Jason expertly refretted the neck with factory size and shape frets for a perfect factory looking repair. I then cleaned the electrical contacts with contact cleaner, adjusted the jack tension, and hand buffed the finish with a soft cloth.

1963 Stratocaster in case

If you've inherited a Fender Stratocaster and are considering selling then I would love to take a look at it. I'm looking for the nicest examples of all 1950s and 1960s Stratocaster guitars. My primary goal is to collect all colors of Stratocaster guitars on the custom color chart. You can contact me here to sell a Fender.

Check out a few other great pre-CBS Stratocasters I've had here:

1962 Stratocaster Fiesta Red Gold Hardware

1964 Stratocaster Foam Green

I am always on the hunt for custom color Fender guitars so please contact me if you are looking to sell. 

1963 Stratocaster neck ink stamp

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