Tuesday, 31 December 2013

Telecaster Style Guitar Build - Part 1

So the next project, which is the first for 2014, is a Telecaster style guitar with very few frills. I mentioned this back in August 2013 (see here).
As per that post I had roughly decided what hardware it was to have so bought the hardware and pickups already, I have a hunk of swamp ash left from a previous project and a nice piece of birds-eye maple.
I found some plans for the body over at TerryDownsMusic.com here  http://terrydownsmusic.com/Archive/tele_body_drawing_revD.pdf and it looks relatively straight forward.

I have planed and jointed the swamp ash and glued the two halves together. I didn't take any pictures of the process but here is one taken from a random picture on the internet (you get the idea by now of how to glue slabs together)
Picture from TundraMans website

I have also cut out my logo from some mother of pearl.

I made a routing template from some 1/4" hardboard. I have a friend who has a Tele and went over to his house to scribe it onto the hardboard. Next I used the bandsaw and oscillating spindle sander to smooth out the profile. I cut out the pickup pockets and drilled a few holes. I cross referenced the drawing to do this.

Template in hardboard.
Once the glue is dried I will scrape off the glue from around the join and run my #4 smoother plane over it.
Next I shall use some double sided tape to stick the template into position. I can then cut close to the template with my bandsaw to get the rough cutout. Then on the router table using a pattern bit I'll rout the edges to the template.
I can even cut out the pickup/control cavities with the router and transfer all the holes through while the template is in place. Using a 3/4" round over bit on the edges will give a nice curved edge to the profile. 
After that I can cut oout the cavity for the neck using one of my pre-existing router template.

This is the beauty of the Leo F's original Telecaster design. Most of the body can be done with the one template, a band saw and a router. As the strings are intended to pass through the body you just have to ensure that you drill the holes square to the faces and a drill press is the best tool for the job. If I was batching these out I would make a drill jig using components for WDS tools over in Leeds (see here).


  • The pickups I've chosen are Seymour Duncan APTL-1, Alnico II Pro for the bridge position and APTR-1 Alnico II Pro for the neck position with a chrome cover.
  • The bridge is a Fender modern 6 saddle Telecaster bridge. I don't like the 3 barrel brass ones as I think they are difficult to intonate even with the angled barrel design. 
  • I've decided to move away from my usual high end Schaller machine heads for this build and have chosen Wilkinson E-Z-LOK Schaller style machine heads. Let's see what these are like.
  • I've not decided to bolt on the neck with standard Fender neck plate and screws or ferrules and screws. Watch this space.
  • The 1/4" jack socket on a Tele is notorious for coming loose so I have opted for one of these from Axecaster. They look pretty cool and less likely to fall apart.


  • The electrics on a Tele are famously low tech and originals used CTS potentiometers (Chicago Telephone Service). I've managed to source these from Axecaster and have opted to use 250k log A pots. 
  • The tone capacitor is to be an orange drop Sprague .047uf
  • The only bit of modern switching is going to be a four way switch. I was interested to see that Seymour Duncan's website shows a wiring diagram utilizing this sort of switch. Essentially you get bridge, bridge/neck in parallel (normal Tele sound), neck AND the fourth position gives bridge/neck in series (higher output and beefier tone).


I've bought a 3 ply white plastic scratchplate and haven't decided whether to use it yet. I have some spalted beech left over from a previous project. There might be just enough to make one from that.I have a black Fender Stratocaster Standard 2007 made in the USA (yes I also own commercial guitars too!) and want this guitar to contrast it. I will be painting it artic white. Hence the reason I'm undecided what to make the scratchplate from.

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