Thursday, May 17, 2012

Making a Telecaster out of parts (also known as a “Tele Partscaster”)

I put this together a while back, but never got around to posting about it. There really wasn’t much to it, to be honest, but I’m going to stick it up here anyway, in the hope that it’s of use to someone.

I really wanted to get a Telecaster and liked this kind of style, but also wanted to spend as little money as possible, while still getting a decent guitar.
I found a guy on ebay selling solid alder “loaded” tele bodies pretty cheap (where “loaded” means, as you might have guessed, that it includes the pickups, pots, pick guard, etc). I really wanted to take this approach this time around because when I made a strat, I was surprised how much I ended up spending on all the bits and pieces. This way I’d be able to build a guitar by simply adding a neck and tuners.

The loaded body:
This is the neck I got. It was a returned neck and sold as a “second”. The only thing I could find wrong with it was a very small nick in one of the frets way up the fretboard (on the 19th fret or something, where I’d hardly ever play anyway). The neck had been sealed, but not finished.
I ordered a set of Wilkinson tuners to put on it. Here’s what arrived. Ten points if you can tell me what the problem is here:
Here, let me give you a clue...

The seller soon sorted out the problem, by the way.

And finally, although I now had enough to make a complete guitar, I really wanted to replace the bridge with a Wilkinson one with compensated brass saddles. They really make the strings ring and improve the sound dramatically, not to mention improved intonation.
Here’s the guitar quickly put together:
As you can see above, there’s quite a colour mis-match between the neck and the guitar, but that’s not really an issue. However, I found after a few weeks of playing that the fretboard and the back of the neck got pretty dirty. I was thinking about making a decal for it anyway, so it seemed like a good time to deal with both.

First I made up a decal in Illustrator and printed it out on laser waterslide decal paper:
I cut that out and dipped it in warm water for a minute:
While I was waiting for that, I quickly gave the surface on the guitar a quick wipe with water:
Then slid the decal onto the guitar:
Gently patted it with a tissue to absorb excess water and also help to work out any bubbles.
And here it is in place:
Then I removed all the parts and hit the whole neck with some clear coat, including the fretboard (had it been a rosewood fretboard, I would have left that part untouched). Once the clear coat cured, I cleaned the tops of the frets themselves using 0000 wire wool, making sure to mask off the fretboard itself.
Here's the peghead once the lacquer cured and the parts were put back on:
And here it is all back together (again):
Making a partscaster, especially based on a Telecaster, is a really good way to start off in guitar building. It’s simple and can be very cheap (all in, this one cost me about £120). And if you decide to upgrade things later, it’s a piece of cake.


Rajah Cheech Beldone said...

So you didn't do any finishing work on the body at all?

stu said...

Nope. It came already finished (another time/money-saver). A little thicker than I would've liked, but I can live with it.

Greg said...

What was the problen with the first set of Wilkinson tuners ?

stu said...

Hi Greg,
The seller originally sent me two thick E string tuners, instead of one for each end. They all work the same, but there was no way to physically attach the second one to the peghead without some modification.