Asher Guitars WD Music Products Amplified Parts Mod Kits DIY Nordstarnd Pickups
Asher Guitars WD Music Products Amplified Parts Mod Kits DIY Nordstarnd Pickups
Asher Guitars WD Music Products Amplified Parts Mod Kits DIY Nordstarnd Pickups

Affinity Telecaster Questions/Advice/Help, etc.

Discussion in 'Squier Tele Forum' started by DrLunchbox, Jan 14, 2019.

  1. DrLunchbox

    DrLunchbox TDPRI Member

    Jan 12, 2019
    Durham, NC
    Hi gang,

    Short-time lurker; first-time poster.

    I’m preparing to purchase a new butterscotch blonde Squier Affinity Telecaster (I assume it's a 2018). I was going to post this after I bought the guitar, but thinking about it more, I realized it'd be better to get some definitive answers on some of these before I did so. I don't want to bite off more than I can chew.

    One of the appeals for this guitar, aside from my desire to have a tele, is that it’s a good base for learning some mods. I’ve always loved woodworking and put together a Carvin bass guitar kit when I was in high school, and always wanted to get into more of this stuff. So, now I'm going to finally take the plunge. I realize some of this stuff may not be necessary, but I’m interested in tackling them for the experience.

    I’d like to avoid drilling on the guitar, seeing that I don’t own a drill press and I’ve got enough experience woodworking to know that using a hand-drill isn’t worth the gamble (IMO).

    So here’s a list of things I’m considering doing, at some point in time with this guitar, and, perhaps a suggested order.

    1. Tuners: This is one thing that I *know* I want to do with the guitar I played at the store (and will likely be picking up). When trying it out in the store I thought the tuners needed to be replaced. I’ve searched this and other forums on the net and I’m having trouble finding a definitive answer. What options are there for drop-in tuners for the Affinity tele (201X)? I’ve seen mention of ‘Ping’ tuners, and one-post vs. two-post (I don’t know what any of that means), but the one thing that I’m aware of is that the Squier guitars have slightly different measurements so stock Fender parts don’t always fit. Is this true across the guitar or just for the tuners? I’ve seen in some places recommendations for the GraphTech Ratio tuners (I’m intrigued by the locking model although they run about $130) as an option, but if there’s a less expensive brand of locking tuner that will drop in to the affinity tele, I’m all ears. I emailed GFS and the response said there was no drop-in option for the Affinity. Is that true? Has anyone here replaced the tuners on a 2018 Affinity tele? (Note: for these if I need to drill a small pilot hole on the back of the headstock to attach the tuner, I’m not opposed to that.)
    2. Filing fret ends: From what I've seen this is one area where the cheap guitars suffer, the fine details. I get the sense it’s a pretty straightforward process or am I delusional? Is there anything specific I need to know about this that I can’t glean from a few youtube videos?
    3. Replace nut: I think it’s just cheap plastic. I’d like to put a bone or something a bit stronger in there. I assume this is just a swappable thing? If not, what specific options exist for this model?
    4. Shielding: I don’t want to get over-zealous and change the pickups just to change them (yet), but it seems prudent to shield the inner cavities of the guitar in anticipation of some other mods. This is a bit of a ‘while you’re in there, it wouldn’t hurt to do this, even if it’s a bit of work’ type of thing. Again, this is kind of a ‘learning how to do it’ mod. Do teles typically NEED shielding?
    5. Output jack plate: I’m not sure if a metal jack plate affects the grounding. I put it here because I thought it might. Is this something I can just swap out in 60 seconds or so? If that’s the case I’ll just go ahead and do it whenever. Also, is the jack plate on this model guitar standard? A drop-in plate is ideal.
    6. 4-way switch: I’ve never done any soldering, wiring, shielding, etc. before (when I put my Carvin kit together I was more focused on the woodworking aspects and had my local luthier do the electronics), but I’d like to at least try. I found this video and it makes it seem pretty doable. This seems like a decent mod for that, and I believe it can be done with the two stock pickups. I saw this kit in another thread and it seemed like a good place to start. It seems that 250k pots are pretty standard for teles. Is there an advantage to switching to a 500k, 1M pot? I want that classic tele sound, so I assume not. Also, is the control plate on the Affinity a standard size? Will the kit linked above (or this one) work with it?
    7. Through-body strings/bridge: This is one where I might actually take it to a luthier to do the actual drilling for the string/ferrule holes. This is the type of thing where I'd love to shadow the process if they'd be ok with it....
    8. Pickups: I’m still not sure about this, as I feel like I'd need some time with the stock ones. I’d want a drop-in* alternative so I won’t have to do any routing. (*I realize there’s wiring to be done so not truly ‘drop-in’.) I’ve seen the Cavalier pickups recommended around here. I assume those would be compatible with the model I have?
    So those are my initial thoughts on what I'd like to try. Numbers 1-6 are probably the priority simply because they seem doable. I’ll see how much of an issue the top-load bridge ends up being. Even going with the really high end tuners it seems like I can get most of this done for under $300, which isn’t much more than the cost of the guitar in the first place. I think (hope?) these mods would make a positive difference, and be a fun/learning process.

    Now a few blocking and tackling type questions:

    I’m generally a pretty handy guy, but I actually don’t have a lot of tools. I know I’ll need to get some for these projects. Here’s a list of things I think may be helpful/necessary:
    • Soldering iron/solder
    • Wire (specific gauge for guitar wiring?)
    • Wire shrink wrap (for securing twisted pairs, etc.)
    • Digital calipers
    • Copper tape
    • Fret wire trimmers/fret end file (?)
    Finally, (I think), in terms of prepping a work space is there a neck stand that folks around here use and like? Or a work mat to put the guitar on so it doesn’t get scratched, etc.? I don’t really have a dedicated work space and I'd probably end up using a folding table in my garage. I need something I can roll up and put away when I’m not using it so as not to incur the wrath of the executive director of my household.

    Lots to unpack and comment on here. Any responses are appreciated. Thanks in advance.
  2. nicod98

    nicod98 Tele-Afflicted

    Jul 7, 2014
    Hi and welcome here...

    You certainly have an impressive list of things to do on your Affinity, and I just wondered if it wouldn't be easier and cheaper, to just buy a better guitar, like a Squier Classic Vibe or a Fender Player. Second hand if price is an issue.

    Buying a more expensive guitar will remove a few actions from your to do list. Of course, if modding is your desire, you could go one step further and buy a real cheapo guitar. Like the kind where you can buy two or three for the price of one Affinity.

    Especially the string through part is something I'd reconsider. I have only seen ONE that was done well, but I've seen many, many, many of these go wrong, even by otherwise pretty good luthiers.

    Pickups, nut (any flat bottom standard nut will do, but Tusq comes to mind), 4-way switch, electronics, fret dressing and a nice setup would certainly raise the Affinity to a higher level.

    If I remember correctly the 2018 Affinity has a black METAL jack plate, where the older ones always had a very brittle black plastic plate. If so, I wouldn't replace it.

    For the pickups and wiring and electronics and stuff. I'd play it for a while and wait on your decision about pickups. That way you'd only have to worry about shielding and rewiring once. A 4-way switch is highly recommended (IMHO).
    DrLunchbox likes this.
  3. 3-Chord-Genius

    3-Chord-Genius Friend of Leo's

    Apr 3, 2015
    Winchester, VA
    Affinity string spacing at the nut is narrower than standard telecasters and most pre-fabricated nuts are wider than the slot in the Affinity. However, I purchased a Tusq nut and simply sanded the ends off. It worked fine.

    Mine had a plastic jack plate, which I replaced with a metal one for very little $$$. A good upgrade.

    Do NOT drill string-thru holes. It's fine the way it is as a top-loader, and it's totally not worth the trouble to make it string-thru. A lot can go wrong, and I have not heard anybody comment that it makes any difference in all with regard to how the guitar sounds.
    Last edited: Jan 14, 2019
    bgmacaw likes this.
  4. CK Dexter Haven

    CK Dexter Haven Friend of Leo's

    Jun 7, 2017
    If you are interested in doing all this I would look for a used Affinity, ones w/ little wear are often available for around $100 (aka 1/2 the price of new). That would go along way to off set the cost of the parts you are listing. Remember a $200 guitar w/ $150 worth of parts is not a $350 guitar, its at best a $150 guitar. A used one/w the same parts is also a $150 guitar...

    If this is something you are looking at going forward, as a hobby (and for most people that is all it ever is) by all mens acquire some decent tools, if it is a one off project. I would second looking for a better guitar out of the gate. A clean used Classic Vibe will be about the same money as a used Affinity + parts, w/ some looking a MIM Standard can some times be found for little more. I have owned many Affinities, going back to early days when they still had covered tuners, I modded one, it was fun, but at the end of the day they are what they are, a serviceable budget guitar, the biggest thing that screams "budget" is the neck, and upgrading that is a expensive proposition..
  5. PC_Hater

    PC_Hater Tele-Meister

    Aug 13, 2013
    It is a cheap guitar - use it as a test-bed. Don't be afraid to drill and file and solder.
    Take your time and it will be fine.

    The 4-way switch mod is well worth it by the way!
  6. JL_LI

    JL_LI Tele-Afflicted

    May 20, 2017
    Long Island, NY
    IMO, an Affinity is a good place to start to learn modding. It’s at least worth upgrading and not so costly that it can’t be stripped for parts if things go badly. That said, I’d try to find one used if learning to mod is the goal. Shielding is pretty easy. You may want to combine aluminum and copper for best RF blocking. Google Bill Lawrence shielding or search this forum to learn more. Buy a 40 watt soldering station and replace the RoHS solder with good old fashioned rosin core lead and tin. Get flux and learn to use it. And don’t just learn to solder. Learn to desolder too using a wick or suction. Practice everything before you touch a guitar. Learn to shield a small tub first. Get some throw away pots, wires, caps and such and learn to join without the dreaded cold joints before you open up your guitar. Be meticulous in your work and have fun. Have at it without knowing what you’re doing and you’ll pull your hair out. And when you’re ready to work on your guitar, remember that TDPRI is a great resource. I’ve gotten help with wiring issues here myself. None of us were born knowing how to do all this.
    Last edited: Jan 14, 2019
    DrLunchbox likes this.
  7. nicod98

    nicod98 Tele-Afflicted

    Jul 7, 2014
    I don't think that's true any more... I've measured another 2018 one this weekend and his was 41.9mm, while mine had a 41.8mm nut. They can be identical if you account for a little measuring margin.
    3-Chord-Genius likes this.
  8. bgmacaw

    bgmacaw Tele-Afflicted

    Feb 11, 2006
    Near Athens GA USA
    The stock tuners work fine as long as the nut is cut correctly and the guitar is strung properly. Almost all tuning issues you will run across in stores are due to nut problems, old, shop worn, strings or bad stringing technique at the factory or store. Locking tuners are an option if you want to string faster.

    I wouldn't bother with the string-thru.
    DrLunchbox and CK Dexter Haven like this.
  9. LunarSlingShot

    LunarSlingShot TDPRI Member

    Jun 14, 2018
    Buy a classic vibe and don’t look back. Incredible guitars, and not “just for the money” in my opinion
    DrLunchbox likes this.
  10. CK Dexter Haven

    CK Dexter Haven Friend of Leo's

    Jun 7, 2017
    Also make sure they are tight, the nuts often work loose and need to be retightend, if they are loose there can be subtle movement in the tuners, this will drive you crazy. If the stock tuners simply don't 'feel' good to you, which is a legitimate concern. I would opine that you will never be happy w/ a Affinty, even after substantial mods as the remainder of the guitar is of similar quality, including the finish and "lumber"
  11. Ricky D.

    Ricky D. Poster Extraordinaire

    Oct 22, 2006
    Raleigh, North Carolina
    Always have an actual problem in view that you expect your mod to cure.
    CK Dexter Haven likes this.
  12. DrLunchbox

    DrLunchbox TDPRI Member

    Jan 12, 2019
    Durham, NC
    First off, many thanks for all the responses. I'm glad that I posted before I went and bought the guitar.

    This seems like sage advice. Upon reading these responses and a bit more reflection it seems that getting a new guitar to mod for the sake of modding might not be the wisest thing. A much cheaper used guitar might make sense for that. I see myself as a hobbyist at most, and I doubt I'd be doing a lot of this type of stuff.

    Perhaps a classic vibe would be a better investment as it would alleviate a number of the list items right out of the gate, and I could still try my hand at the 4-way switch.

    I need to think on this a bit more. I'll post something once I figure out my next move, and/or pick up a new guitar.

    Again, thanks to all respondents, as your perspective is insightful and helpful.
    joealso likes this.
  13. hippychip

    hippychip Tele-Meister

    Dec 7, 2015
    I bought a '09 Affinity in 2014 for $100---I haven't touched it except for changing the strings a few times. the guy I bought it from paid for a pro setup, and quit after a few lessons. It looks brand new, plays like a dream, and stays in tune with no problems. If you want something to experiment with grab a beater from a pawn shop, and have fun! By the way---locking tuners are the biggest waste of money out of all the mods you proposed :(

    preactor and 5ofeight like this.
  14. 3-Chord-Genius

    3-Chord-Genius Friend of Leo's

    Apr 3, 2015
    Winchester, VA
    If so, that's friggin' awesome.
  15. 5ofeight

    5ofeight Tele-Holic Silver Supporter

    Oct 17, 2016
    I've had my Afinity Telecaster for 2 or 3 years now, other than a set up, pickup height adjusted and a metal Jack, it needs nothing else done to It, it's a 2014 which I bought used for £100, buy one, play it and then decide if it needs any mods, I think you will be surprised at just how good these guitars are.
    nicod98 and hippychip like this.
  16. DrLunchbox

    DrLunchbox TDPRI Member

    Jan 12, 2019
    Durham, NC
    It's helpful to hear opinions on this. They seemed like a cool idea but I wasn't sure if they're worth the extra cost. Definitely not a priority, just something I thought might be worth trying out but I'm not set on them.
  17. nicod98

    nicod98 Tele-Afflicted

    Jul 7, 2014
    It IS underrated, I completely agree on that.
    5ofeight likes this.
  18. Ydwen Jones

    Ydwen Jones Tele-Meister

    Jan 2, 2019
    Sounds like a wise decision. An Affinity's a nice guitar (my first Tele was an Affinity), but I just don't think it's what you're looking for. CVs are great!
    DrLunchbox likes this.
  19. LoveHz

    LoveHz Tele-Holic

    Nov 21, 2014
    Kent, UK
    If wholesale modding is something you want to do just for the pleasure of doing it, then get the Affinity and have fun (except for the through-stringing mod which I would avoid). But if you just want it to be a better guitar then I'd follow the advice given in earlier posts here -- just get a better guitar in the first place. I bought a Squier Vintage Modified Tele Custom and it was good to go straight from the box. I planned to swap out the neck humbucker but I've become used to it now so it's staying put. The only thing I've done is fit some Wilkinson compensated brass saddles which I already had in the parts box.

    DrLunchbox likes this.
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