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DIY Tele

Building a Telecaster

James Roy is a Tele-lover and all around talented guy. Recently he decided to build his very own telecaster — and to document the process with photos. Since projects like this are something that many of us dream about we asked Jim if we could include his photos on the TDPRI. If you’re thinking of building your own Telecaster use this information to gauge the process. Remember it won’t always be the same process for every person, this is just how things went for Jim.


Building a Telecaster

by James Roy

This was my last Homebuilt project, a Telecaster using a MusiKraft body and the rest Fender parts. I had initially seen the advertisements in Vintage guitar for Musikraft bodies and wanted to try them as a replacement for former homebuilt guitar. I wound up building this one complete instead.

(click on thumbnail to see larger image)

50's style 2 piece ash body from MusiKraft in Sicklerville, NJ

50’s style 2 piece ash body from MusiKraft in Sicklerville, NJ
I started this project intending to just replace another body for this one.

I started this project intending to just replace another body for this one.
The holes for the string ferruls did not come countersunk

The holes for the string ferrules did not come countersunk
I like the squared off edges and edge radius similar to early Fenders

I like the squared off edges and edge radius similar to early Fenders
This body was considered paint grade and therefore only cost about a $100

This body was considered paint grade and therefore only cost about a $100
The bridge mounting holes were tapped but not drilled (as were the neck)

The bridge mounting holes were tapped but not drilled (as were the neck)
Note my super clean work area.

Note my super clean work area.
To get the proper shade of filler for the ash I mix light with natural

To get the proper shade of filler for the ash I mix light with natural
The filler is applied into the grain and the excess wiped off

The filler is applied into the grain and the excess wiped off
I'll clean the ferrul holes out later

I’ll clean the ferrule holes out later
It will hang to dry overnight

It will hang to dry overnight
At this stage neatness is not a big concern

At this stage neatness is not a big concern
The next day I've taken it outside to sand the excess filler off

The next day I’ve taken it outside to sand the excess filler off
I'll remove the filler from the surface leaving the pores and grain filled

I’ll remove the filler from the surface leaving the pores and grain filled
A sanding block helps keep the surface flat

A sanding block helps keep the surface flat
A vibrating sander speeds things up

A vibrating sander speeds things up
I'm now ready to apply a lacquer sanding sealer.

I’m now ready to apply a lacquer sanding sealer.
Brushed on it will hang to dry overnight

Brushed on it will hang to dry overnight
Back outside again to sand off the sealer from the surface
Back outside again to sand off the sealer from the surface
Nearly messed it up trying to rub on a tint coat (I also added the channel to the neck)

Nearly messed it up trying to rub on a tint coat (I also added the channel to the neck)
The lacquer is strong so will hang in the garage overnight

The lacquer is strong so will hang in the garage overnight
Using a foam brush I was able to tint it a little more consistently

Using a foam brush I was able to tint it a little more consistently
I now begin to spray several coats of clear nitro cellulose lacquer

I now begin to spray several coats of clear nitro cellulose lacquer
It helps doing this in the sunlight lacking a proper booth

It helps doing this in the sunlight lacking a proper booth
a couple of coats, sanding in between and I let it harden overnight

A couple of coats, sanding in between and I let it harden overnight
Back outside for a few more coats

Back outside for a few more coats
A lot of the coats will come off during the wetsanding process

A lot of the coats will come off during the wet sanding process
That's about it for spraying

That’s about it for spraying
I used a Sherwin Williams lacquer and and amber tint

I used a Sherwin Williams lacquer and and amber tint
after drying overnight outside its back in the cellar for a week

After drying overnight outside its back in the cellar for a week
A week or 2 (I forget) to cure and I'm ready for sanding

A week or 2 (I forget) to cure and I’m ready for sanding
Different grades will be used to smooth the finish

Different grades will be used to smooth the finish
The bucket of water is there to keep the paper clean and wet

The bucket of water is there to keep the paper clean and wet
I do the top, back and then the sides

I do the top, back and then the sides
After the sanding comes the rubbing compound

After the sanding comes the rubbing compound
Its pretty much the same as automobile finishing

Its pretty much the same as automobile finishing
Lots of elbow grease

Lots of elbow grease
Well, we got a body.  Might as well finish it.

Well, we got a body. Might as well finish it.
I most of the other parts (Fender) from Smart Parts (the pickguard will go back)

I most of the other parts (Fender) from Smart Parts (the pickguard will go back)
A freind had a tool that allowed us to counter sik the ferrul holes very accurately

A friend had a tool that allowed us to counter sink the ferrule holes very accurately
I had to mod the pickup cavity a litlle to get things to line up

I had to mod the pickup cavity a little to get things to line up
I drill a hole to run a bridge ground before installing the bridge

I drill a hole to run a bridge ground before installing the bridge
I chose a vintage 3 saddle bridge with the Fender Noiseless pickups

I chose a vintage 3 saddle bridge with the Fender Noiseless pickups
I begin to assenble the control plate but am awaiting a 4-way switch

I begin to assemble the control plate but am awaiting a 4-way switch
I got a Fender 50's MIM neck on ebay (this saved a lot of work)

I got a Fender 50’s MIM neck on ebay (this saved a lot of work)
The neck came finished, with a serial number and tuner screw holes drilled

The neck came finished, with a serial number and tuner screw holes drilled
There is even a logo from the factory

There is even a logo from the factory
After drilling neck holes I soap the neck screws for easier installation

After drilling neck holes I soap the neck screws for easier installation
The neck also came with a Fender neck plate and nickel plated screws (not slotted though)

The neck also came with a Fender neck plate and nickel plated screws (not slotted though)
The necks on.  The channel aids in truss rod access

The necks on. The channel aids in truss rod access
Getting there.

Getting there.
I had some strap buttons, the locking kind (but no locks)

I had some strap buttons, the locking kind (but no locks)
They'll do fine

They’ll do fine
The rest of the parts are here

The rest of the parts are here
The drill press comes in handy pressing the tuner bushings in

The drill press comes in handy pressing the tuner bushings in
The Vintage style tuners just screw on (slotted)

The Vintage style tuners just screw on (slotted)
With the VN pickup I found it necessary to dig out the the cavity a bit

With the VN pickup I found it necessary to dig out the the cavity a bit
The ground strap will be removed and a third wire soldered as per 4-way switch spec.

The ground strap will be removed and a third wire soldered as per 4-way switch spec.
The only non fender component is the RS ceramic .047 cap

The only non fender component is the RS ceramic .047 cap
All soldered up and nowhere to go (4 way switch and a No-load tone pot)

All soldered up and nowhere to go (4 way switch and a No-load tone pot)
I've don't want to mount the controls without the pickguard

I’ve don’t want to mount the controls without the pickguard
The guard was on special order, but I cancelled and bought a 52 RI instead

The guard was on special order, but I cancelled and bought a 52 RI instead
As I thought, the control cavity is too far back

As I thought, the control cavity is too far back
I will have to mod the cavity to mount the plate

I will have to mod the cavity to mount the plate
I drill a hole with the press out of the ledge of the cavity

I drill a hole with the press out of the ledge of the cavity
I then glue a piece of dowel in to build up the ledge

I then glue a piece of dowel in to build up the ledge
Using another guitar as a template I've marked the slot positions on the nut

Using another guitar as a template I’ve marked the slot positions on the nut
I start by cutting slots with a razor saw

I start by cutting slots with a razor saw
I use aneedle file set for the thicker string guages

I use a needle file set for the thicker string gauges
I now have rough cut the nut

I now have rough cut the nut
with strings installed I fine cut the nut slot depth

with strings installed I fine cut the nut slot depth
Protecting the finish I intonate it

Protecting the finish I intonate it
From the back its complete

From the back its complete
After finishing it, I loaned it to a studio for a couple of weeks and then 6 months later sold it.

After finishing it, I loaned it to a studio for a couple of weeks and then 6 months later sold it.

Thanks to James V Roy for providing this information and allowing the TDPRI to use it. Visit Jim’s website at: http://www.pbase.com/jroy/root

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Comments

12 Responses to “DIY Tele”
  1. tlboise says:

    Great! I think that i want to build a tele . This would be my first build. Does anyone have a direction that i might take? Start from scratch? or buy a kit? I don’t know what way to go , Would someone who has been through this give me a heads up ? Thanks Tom Boise

  2. Quetzal says:

    Hi, I’m new to the forum. I have built an acoustic guitar from a Stew Mac kit last winter and I wanted to try a telecaster this winter. I was planning on getting everything from Warmoth except 3 items: 1) pickups: I wanted to get Fender Noiseless pickups, and 2 and 3) the bridge and saddles. Does anyone have any comment on whether it is worth the money to get a Glendale or Callham bridge and saddle? Or would a standard Fender bridge suffice and just get the upgraded saddles? My thinking is that the tele was a mass produced guitar and I’m not looking for a showpiece, I just want a good sounding tele. However, the saddles go to intonation and that is a musical issue, not an aesthetic issue. Comments?

  3. Anwar Anwar says:

    Heck might as well make the neck from scratch too. Hardware on the other hand…

  4. Hi I am new to the forum and working on my first build. Can anyone tell me what type of truss rod I should be fitting to my tele? Any advise would be welcome. Sorry if I am on the wrong part of the forum!!!!
    Cheers.

  5. sataandagi sataandagi says:

    I think you should have painted it. From the photos the finish looks really splotchy.

  6. JamesVRoy JamesVRoy says:

    sataandagi says:
    February 8, 2010 at 12:16 am
    “I think you should have painted it. From the photos the finish looks really splotchy.”

    A painted one would have been easier but it was not the look I was interested in achieving. The guitar and finish was an experiment that started out as a “body only” replacement for another guitar I built as a nod to Springsteen’s Esquire. I was less concerned at the time about the consistency of the finish because I had plans to remove a lot of it in the relicing process later.

  7. Good evening one and all tele nuts, my first words on this site . My first build was a tele . A luthier friend sold me the wood and helped me centre join and rout the body. Also sold me a Japanese Profile brand strat neck , amber tint ,low and pretty slick and no matter what other guitar i play i keep coming back to this guitar which has me in it. BUT i also have a Squire tele custom with 2 x P90`s in it , great sounding with big balls . The only thing is i want the neck a little thinner. More like my own hand made one. Or like a classic vibe tele squire . Any one out there have any ideas on thinning down a neck either via a spoke shave or sandpaper. Or should i even fuck with the neck at all , am i courting disaster and stop before i kill it. ??????????
    Your thoughts ( weathers fine in Byron Bay)

    • Gordie says:

      The one and only guitar I ever “screwed together” is my Warmoth Tele. I had a ’72 Tele bridge laying around from the old guitar, so I ordered the cheapest lightest Warmoth body I could find. I had a Korean or Japanese neck from a ??? but with the nice Tele headstock that ended up fitting the cavity perfectly. Just lucky. Too bad it turned out to be a “butcher block” type body made from many small pieces… So now I couldn’t finish it natural, but needed a solid colour. The only colour of Nitro I could get hold of was Silver. Cool, so now it’s a Norton 850 Commando Electric Start model with chequered tape sides and a chrome pickguard with those Texas Special pickups. Maybe I’ll get them rewound cooler one day. The neck doesn’t feel as slick and slim behind the octave fret as the olde ’72, but that’s okay too.

  8. I don’t think it looks splotchy–just natural wood grain pattern, and the coloration that goes with it.

    Nice job, Jim, thanks for sharing it with the forum.

    I wanted to point out also for those interested in builds, there are some really “hardcore” builds in the threads for the 2010 Challenge. Because the guys were limited to a $210 budget, just about everything but the hardware (and even some hardware in some of the builds) was hand-built. Most of the threads I followed looked like experienced woodworkers, if not luthiers, but it’s inspiring to see how it’s done, and to know it can be done without Leo’s factory behind you, IF you have the time, patience, and skill. I have no doubt that for this year’s Challenge, just getting underway, there will also be some build threads worth watching.

    Lots of good ideas there, but personally, I think Jim’s build is damn impressive, and exactly what I hope to try someday soon.

  9. Looks like a great guitar, but to honest, building a guitar to me means more than buying a pre-made body and fender parts and putting it together. I opened this DIY page thinking i would see some raw wood be routed, shaped, sanded ect. ect. Again, dont get me wrong, I think this is a cool guitar and im sure it sounds amazing…good job Jim.

  10. tdelciaz says:

    I have ideas of building my fist tele, I will probably go vintage 50’s or 60’sand keeping it all original. If any one out there has done that or something similiar would love to hear from you. I’m jus startin’ out so I’m open to any ideas or what your experience may have been good and bad. aztele-nut

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