Saturday, April 27, 2013

Telecaster Build

Deciding on what type of guitar to build for my first attempt was daunting.  I don't know if any of you are like me, but I truly love all types of music so picking a guitar style was difficult.  So what was it going to be?  Les Paul?...Strat?...Well after being on a Rolling Stones kick for the better part of a year, it seemed like a clear choice after a while.  

So, Telecaster it was.

First and foremost was the planning stage.  Sourcing parts, wood, and just learning as much as I could about the process.  

This is the parts list I eventually settled on:
  • 2 piece Ash body blank
  • Mighty Mite maple neck (I decided against making a neck for my first build, figured I would spend enough time trying to get the body right.)
  • Grover locking tuners
  • Wilkinson Traditional bridge.
  • Chrome control plate (came preloaded with a shi-ming switch??...)
  • Generic neck plate
  • String ferrules 
  • Black Pickguard
  • Dunlop Strap Locks
  • CTS 250k pots
  • Switch Craft mono jack
  • An "Orange Drop" .47uf capacitor.
  • Fender Noiseless Pickups
  • And I only play D'Addario strings...I live by them!  
I got my stuff from a few different sources, BYOguitar, GuitarFetish, and StewMac.

Once I had all my parts, it was time to get to work.  Routing the body was not as difficult as it might seem.  You do need a template of the shape of your guitar to make it easier on yourself.  There are many great sites out there that will show you how to make a template.  I made mine out of MDF wood, cheap, and easy to work with.  But essentially the idea is.  Make a template to the specs of your guitar and trace it onto the wood.  Then take a metal washer (mine was 1/4 inch in size) and then place a pencil in the washer hole, place it up next to your template and trace another line around the template using the washer.  Essentially what this does is give you a 1/4 inch gap between the true size of the guitar and your router line.  God forbid you mess up or tear up some wood on the actual guitar piece.  This way, you can get a rough cut and then go back with a sander to smooth it out and get rid of any excess.  

I'm definitely use to the contours of my other guitars, I play an EC1000 and EC500 LTD, they have carved tops and have belly cuts and horn cuts, etc.  They fit you're body.  And as much as I like to think about keeping the build traditional...A traditional tele block of wood was not happening, especially since I wanted to possibly play this guitar live.  So I started to plan some contours for my comfort.  There was really no "design" to this per-say, more of a remove wood until it fits my body.

For the Belly Cut.  I took the basic shape from my ECs and extended the lines a little bit.  When I marked the depth I was going to cut, I basically marked half the width of the guitar as the "don't keep going" point.  And then for the length of the cut, I held it up to my waist and where I play and marked either end.  I came up with this.

I took a pencil and just filled the cut away with lines, this way you can see what you're taking off, stop every few minutes or so, remark it and continue.  This will let you know if you're taking the wood off evenly.  

It honestly only took me about an hour before I had this:

I then sanded the area to 320 and this is what I got.

and then it was time to work on the forearm contour.  One of the perks of carved tops, is just that, they're carved so they're not flat.  My arm just doesn't rest naturally on a flat top and it throws off my picking.  So just like the belly cut, I marked about halfway on the side of the guitar as my "low point" for how deep I would cut.  Then rested my arm where I would normally be playing and then took a ruler and marked roughly where I wanted the contour to end.  

From my "low point" I carefully curved a line up to either end points.  You can of course be exact with your points and angle.  But I need a certain feel I had in mind for where my arm would rest, and it wasn't "perfectly" proportional on either side.

And a test fit, just to make sure everything lines up.

So after all the routing and contour work was done, it's onto the fun part...sanding.  The way I went about it was to start with 180 grit sandpaper and then work my way up to 220.  It's just a rough sanding.  Using ash wood, it's very porous and so the pores need to be filled with grain filler.  I got ash grain filler from Amazon for like $20 or so.  

Grain filling is fairly straight forward...I took a paint stick, dipped it into the can, took some out, plopped it on the wood, then used a pallet knife and my fingers (wearing a glove) and worked it into the pores.  Once that was done I let it dry for about 6 hours.  I then sanded with 320 grit paper and then re-applied the grain filler, waited till the next day then sanded it again.  

I applied Sanding Sealer, which does just that...seals the wood, protects from moisture etc.  (I used Behlen spray products for the sealer, clear, and color from byoguitar).   I applied 3 coats of sealer, following the drying times on the can, and wet sanded with 800 grit sand paper in between coats.  Then  It was time for my color, in true stones fashion, butterscotch was the only color in my mind.  So that's what I went with.  

I did a few coats until I was happy with the color, sanding in between each of course.  Then it was time for the lacquer.  I went with traditional nitrocellulose.  I got two cans and good thing too, I needed it.  I sprayed about 9 coats over the course of two days, wet sanding in between coats again.  Once I was done, I hung it up in my closet for a little over two weeks to dry.  

And the final product!

Thanks for following!  More projects to come soon.  Any questions, comments, or concerns?  Please email me, follow me on Google+, or post them in the comment section below.  



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This is our jumping off point in development.  We will be bringing you looks at our own projects as well as new products we design and build.  Stand fast, stay tuned, and keep an eye out.

Jeff Caulfield-