Fender HM Strat
The Fender HM Strat is a discontinued model of electric guitar produced by Fender Musical Instruments from 1988 until 1992, (although some sources say production started as early as 1986). The HM guitar was Fender's answer to the superstrats, produced by manufacturers such as Ibanez and Jackson Guitars, and marked a relatively radical departure from Leo Fender's classic design.
The Fender HM (Heavy metal) strat was originally produced in Japan and subsequently, in 1990, in the United States. Some evidence indicates that assembly in the U.S. with some components imported from Japan may have begun as early as 1987. The first version appeared with a distinct Strat logo in the headstock, 24 medium jumbo frets (i.e. these are thicker and wider frets), a maple neck with rosewood or maple fingerboard and with one of the four neck "bolts" (screws) off-set at the bottom of the neck to allow a more comfortable "heel" area for playing in the upper registers, a lighter basswood body, or occasionally alder for US made guitars). The scale length is an even 25 inches, rather than the normal 25.5 inches commonly used on Stratocaster and Telecaster guitars. In addition the Fender HM Strat had a Kahler licensed double-locking tremolo system, "Spyder", and Gotoh tuners, one DiMarzio humbucking H* "Super 3" pickup ("H" configuration), and sometimes two single coil pickups (S*, HSS configuration), two humbuckers, or sometimes a single additional Super Distortion, (HH configuration) and a side mounted jack socket. Japanese-assembled guitars have colored polyester on the bodies, and clear polyester on the necks. American-assembled HM Strats have a very hard aircraft grade urethane color and clear coats on the body, while still using polyester finish on the neck. Kahler USA offers a detailed schematic diagram of the Kahler Spyder tremolo and several (but not all) replacement parts are available.
When Fender Musical Instruments was sold to a group of investors in the mid-1980s, the building that contained the equipment was not part of the sale, so the plant was re-located. During this period, when there was little to no production of instruments in the U.S., Fender imported instruments made by Fender Japan, many of which were the "Contemporary" Stratocasters and Telecasters. These were sold in the U.S., along with "vintage" spec models, from 1985 on up almost through the end of the HM Strat era. Thus, it is not unusual that a Fender HM strat may have Japanese-made components (e.g. neck) assembled in the US.
The US HM series stratocasters were produced about three years after the Fender Contemporary Stratocaster Japan series in 1990 (possibly late 1988 with Japanese sourced components) and included the Strat 10-3200 (i.e. cont. strat, HSS), 10-2100 (HSS), 10-2102 (HSS), 10-2200 (1 silver sensor, H 10-2300 (HH) and 10-2400 (H) models. All HM strat US made models had a scale length of 25.15 inches (639mm) and a radius of 17 inches (431.8mm). The Contemporary Stratocaster was eventually supplanted by the HM Strat in ’88, which went through subsequent versions. The first U.S. Fender Superstrat was the adaptation of the Japanese HM Strat, plus the addition of the U.S. Contemporary Stratocaster, in ’89. Later on (~1990), Fender introduced the USA HM Strat Ultra that is considered by many to be superior to the previous HM versions. Fender HM strat ultra differs in that it has 4 Lace Sensor pickups in HSS configuration (these pickups are considered less noisy/aggressive and sometimes less preferred for HM strat than those found in the Fender HM Strat), a smaller 'digitalized' Strat logo (considered to be a more discrete) and an ebony fingerboard with split-triangle inlays. The Fender logo on the headstock is mother of pearl.
- Note: In descriptions of pickup configurations, H refers to humbuckers and S refers to single-coils.
The Superstrat fashion of the ’80s is a fascinating period in guitar history that is yet not fully appreciated. In 1985, a group of musically dedicated people and investors led by William Schultz purchased the Fender company from Columbia Broadcasting System (CBS). Several new models including that of the Fender HM Strat were produced. The Fender HM strat was endorsed by many guitar players including the guitarist Greg Howe. However, this model was also opposed by Fender purists as its features were "off the Fender's beaten track". The use of a humbucker (instead of a single coil), 24 jumbo frets (instead of 21 or 22 regular frets) and occasionally basswood (instead of the typical alder or ash) as well as the overall appearance were not particularly welcomed by most conservative Fender fans. Today, a well-maintained Fender HM strat becomes an increasingly rare to find instrument. As with most discontinued instruments,however, this guitar is also hard to maintain. For instance, although Kahler USA provides product support for the Kahler Spyder tremolo parts, various other components of this guitar are currently unavailable (e.g. knobs).
- Fender instruments homepage
- HeavyMetalStrat.com - Informational website all about the HM Strat guitars
- Website providing specifications on the Japanese Fender HM strat
- Greg Howe improvising live with Fender Hm strat in 1988
- An example of an HM strat enthusiast playing "the sky is crying" on Youtube
- Presentation of a Fender HM strat (in French) on Youtube
- An example of an HM strat enthusiast playing "few notes on Hm Strat" on Youtube
- Lori Linstruth Guitar Solo (Stream Of Passion Lead Guitar)
- The manual of the Japanese HM strats in Pdf
- Sound Test with Fender Hm Strat (in English) on Youtube
Information for Kahler Spyder replacement parts
Most replacement pats for the Kahler Spyder tremolo can be found here: *Kahler Spyder replacements parts homepage. Notice from Kahler's website: "New complete saddles are no longer available from Kahler Parts". However, there is a website where Fender HM strat owners can get mint to average condition Spyder saddles (in black or chrome color). This is done separately from Kahlerparts in the following link: *Replacement parts for Kahler spyder saddles. Notice from WammiWorld: "These saddles may or may not have the "Kahler" script on the lock block depending on current availability". Fortunately, the top string Kahler block can be bought from the Kahlerparts site: *The top string Kahler block. Please also check WammiWorld for NOS Kahler Spyders and some parts that aren't available on KahlerParts.com.
On Fender (and other guitars) equipped with the Kahler Spyder tremolo: The Kahler Spyder may not be suitable for a guitar's fretboard radius. Although the Kahler Spyder's saddle heights are individually adjustable, the nuts are 12" in diameter. The fretboard of the Japanese version is 12" and the U.S. version is 17". This limitation may be compensated for using a Plek machine. This machine can mill the frets to a radius (including compound) that better matches the guitars Nut and Bridge radii. The result is a guitar that plays extremely accurately.
Was my Fender HM strat made in Japan or made in USA?: There is some confusion regarding the origin of Fender HM strats. Useful information on Fender HM Strat Model Descriptions & Serial Numbers is listed in www.HeavyMetalStrat.com site
Media related to Fender HM Strat at Wikimedia Commons