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

First build: Picklecaster, a poplar Telecaster

Discussion in 'Tele Home Depot' started by brandonh, Dec 30, 2018.

  1. brandonh

    brandonh TDPRI Member

    Dec 30, 2018
    I have squandered a few decades of my life not playing guitar, and my little girl is crazy for music at preschool, so I thought I’d better get one in the house. And then I got the bright idea to, hell, make one myself. I’ve always liked the sounds, looks, heritage, and straightforward design of the Telecaster, so here we are.

    The first few posts will be me playing catch-up. I’ll pick up in real time after 2019 rings in.


    I went to the lumberyard on my birthday in mid-November and found a nice piece of poplar and the rosewood. This was a 12-foot piece of poplar that the owner of the yard very kindly cut at 3-feet for me (or maybe 4?). The maple is leftover from other projects. On the way home, I grabbed a sub for me and a pickle for my daughter. She dripped pickle juice all over the poplar, and thus the project name was born.

    I’d like to do as much from scratch as I can, so the first step is template making. I got a few sets of plans printed at the office supply chain and tried a few methods.




    I’m not digging the ragged lines and getting frustrated...
    Last edited: Dec 31, 2018
    eallen likes this.
  2. brandonh

    brandonh TDPRI Member

    Dec 30, 2018
    1-06.jpg I undertook a side quest: Build a router table! (If you’re wondering, the table pops up in pictures down thread.)

    I used my last prints for the third attempt at pattern-making. I made some mistakes, did a few things the hard way, learned how to use a router table, and eventually got to a master template. It was really satisfying to get that one nice one after so many foul-ups!

    I didn’t like the look of the pickup cavities on my first two attempts, so I ordered the StewMac templates. As soon as they arrived, I copied them to MDF. By the time I figured out the router table and got an outer-body template, I realized how I could have easily made them using the right bits and jerry-rigging something up. They are nice templates, though, and I’m glad I have them.
  3. brandonh

    brandonh TDPRI Member

    Dec 30, 2018
    Having blown up enough MDF, I took on some American-by-god-poplar.

    I’ve got a set of Disston cross and rip cut saws from the year my grandpa was born, but the cross cut needs to be re-set and sharpened, and I didn’t want to take the time.

    I love that Stanley No. 6! I replaced the iron with a new Hock blade. Mercy, does that tool sing. Looking at the pictures, I sure went about jointing this in a goofy way. The boards weren’t an equal length or width, so I had to do some finagling to line them up.

    I got it jointed all the same, and it took longer to get the boards in place than it did to actually run the plane across. I like to write little notes in the joints of all my big projects even if there’s nothing inspiring here: just the project name and start. The poplar board was jointed on one face at the lumberyard, so I ran it through the thickness planer enough to get the sides parallel. It’s just about at thickness now, so I’m holding off on doing anything to clean it up until I’ve made my final decisions about edge banding, body cutouts, and that sort of thing.

    Glue up with cauls.

    I didn’t like either of the knotholes, and I didn’t want the glue joint to be down the center (I have no real reason why other than a gut feeling), so this seemed like the best placement. The knot at the bottom misses the crucial bridge screws, through holes, and jack hole. Hopefully it won’t give me too much trouble.
    Last edited: Dec 31, 2018
  4. brandonh

    brandonh TDPRI Member

    Dec 30, 2018
    Let’s take it from a hunk of wood to a guitar blank

    I drilled a few relief holes for the jigsaw (and added a few relief cuts perpendicular to the lines, not pictured)

    ...and went to town. This was my only usable piece of body wood. I kept the jigsaw blade far enough away that it wouldn’t give me grief in the tight spots. There aren’t any fancy sanding appliances in my shop, so I went at it with an orbital and some hand tools. My grandpa used to say “You can’t make anything now with the tools you wish you had, so best get at it with what you’ve got.”

    This was the worst part of the route, so best just to face it down instead of hide it! I was routing pattern down using a cheap 1-inch Craftsman bit, new but dull, rather than buying a shorter bit better suited for the job. I had the bearing about as low as I could go to make the shallowest first pass I could. Unfortunately on the first or second pass, the little allen pin retainer bolt on the bearing collar came loose, and the bit slipped in to the template and the body. I shut the router down immediately, so it didn’t do much damage. Fortunately this is right by a bout, so I was able to sand it out without much detriment. If this was on the neck area I’d have been toast. I’m really glad I made that second working template from the original master!

    2-09.jpg I did 2-3 really sketchy passes with the bad Craftsman pattern down bit. I felt a lot better when I switched to the Bosch and finished it out with pattern-up routing. Even though the Bosch was taking a lot of wood off, it was much sharper and gave me mostly clean cuts. It turns out I kissed a little too close with some of my jigsaw relief cuts, as seen here where the jack hole will be.
    Last edited: Dec 31, 2018
    soggybag likes this.
  5. brandonh

    brandonh TDPRI Member

    Dec 30, 2018
    I learned a lot about routing with the body, which made the neck fairly easy going.

    It took a few tries, but I finally got something I like at the nut and heel widths and shape of headstock. Nothing as bad as the original pattern making for the body!

    I copied my 1/2-inch MDF pattern to a working 3/4 template, then traced it on to the maple board. I was able to JUST squeeze out two necks from this stock.

    This was my first attempt at a neck blank from another piece of wood. I didn’t like the transition from the nut to the headstock, and the heel was just a bit too narrow, so I scrapped them. This illustrates how I cut the blank out at the bench using my jigsaw.

    Back to the “good” necks. I was feeling pretty proud of myself, having had an easy time of routing the necks. Wouldn’t you know it, on the last pass of the last blank, I had a blowout! I actually really like what’s happened here, and my spouse say’s she prefers it to Leo’s design!

    Blueprint to pattern to maple neck-shaped thing.
    Treynor likes this.
  6. brandonh

    brandonh TDPRI Member

    Dec 30, 2018
    I picked up two rough-cut 4/4 boards at the yard marked “QS Rosewood $12”. Each board is long and wide enough for two fingerboards, and if those are then re-sawn, the result is four boards. I’m glad I got both because my trusty Stanley No.6 revealed the prettier of the two actually has some bad checking. Darn.

    After jointing one side with the No.6, I sent it through the thickness planer. I made a fingerboard template (not pictured) that’s a bit longer on the heel and nut ends, and dimensioned that out on the router table. With a fingerboard blank roughly cut out, I took to my Japanese saw and bench to re-saw it.

    It’s just a matter of scribing a center line all the way around and following that line.

    It didn’t take too long to get done, surprisingly. I was through routing and re-sawing two blanks within an hour.

    The bare wood is pretty ugly stuff just sanded down, so I applied some mineral oil on a scrap to see if there’s potential. I don’t want to go to all the trouble of cutting fret slots if it’s going to be a dog.

    And this is a rub down with mineral spirits. I think I hit it with the orbital sander before taking this pic. I’m still not sold on the color, but it’s a lot prettier than the bare wood. I couldn’t find anything nicer at Woodcraft that was in my budget, so that made it look better still.
    Treynor likes this.
  7. brandonh

    brandonh TDPRI Member

    Dec 30, 2018
    I let the wood sit for a few days to see if re-sawing had released any tension. It seemed pretty stable, so I proceeded to gang these out on a sheet of plywood.

    Detail shot of above. The screws are drilled in to act as stops. I put them on all sides for good measure...

    ...and then sent the sled through the thickness planer...

    ...until my combination square said I hit 1/4-inch.

    While I had the planer out, I thicknessed the maple blanks. Right on the money!

    I think there’s some potential here.
  8. brandonh

    brandonh TDPRI Member

    Dec 30, 2018
    And now you’re caught up to where I’m at today. It’s time to take on the truss rod cavity. For lack of experience, and based on reputation, I’m using a Stew-Mac double-action hot rod. They all looked the same to me, so I got the 4mm allen wrench since I’m never to far from one. I also hemmed and hawed about neck vs heel adjustment, and I finally decided I could more easily conceal mistakes on the heel.

    I guess there are lots of ways to skin this cat. What I did was draw a centerline on a board that’s wide enough to get my palm router on. The router base and jig base share a crosscut. Then it was a matter of screwing on some sides and marking out where I wanted to start and stop routing the neck blanks. I drilled the forward screw hole for the router base, lined up the bit to the centerline, and then screwed in the other two screws. I then plunged the router bit through, giving me a dead center hole.

    Double-sided tape to hold the neck down. Did lots of checking to make sure I wasn’t about to have a lefty neck!

    I reckoned this would happen, and sure enough it did. These were the first cuts with this bit (Freud 7/32, from Amazon) and the palm router didn’t blink an eye. The 4th pass got me to final depth. I vacuumed between each pass.

    I marked a crosshair for the adjustment nut before I taped it down. The jig allowed for easy drill access.

    I used the right-sized brad point bit, then put the adjustment rod down as a depth stop. Drill a little further!

    Once I had the access hole drilled, I went back and routed out the last little bit all the way to the end. I routed *just* a hair deeper than the brass nut because I saw someone else do that in a build thread.

    Off center, alas. My first maple block tester was actually closest. I was moving fast and only looked at the centerlines on the jig and neck. It occurs to me now that the critical check should have been the centerline on the router base. Darn.

    Still, it looks close enough, and I don’t have any more maple, so I’m not going to die on this hill trying to make it perfect.
    PingGuo, telestratosonic and Treynor like this.
  9. brandonh

    brandonh TDPRI Member

    Dec 30, 2018
    Here are a few miscellaneous side quests, some good, some for folly.

    Same sanding block jig that everyone seems to make. That palm router is taking on MVP status in this build project.

    Here’s me making my control cavity routing template. I drilled the small hole with a brace and bit, lined that up on a grid I drew on the MDF, and connected the lines with a jointed piece of wood and a pattern bit.

    I re-used the MDF from my first control cavity to make a fret wire bender.

    Oops. It did not go well. I ordered pre-raidused fret wire. Fret bender can be a project for the next build.

    Parts! I’m using Fender bridge, plate, knobs, and ferrules. I ordered the wiring harness from a guy on eBay, liked the specs and the price. The pickups are Bootstrap Pickups Palo Duros.

    I’ve got a sheet of gloss white pick guard material from Stew-Mac and a sparkle flake pearloid sheet coming from eBay.

    Not pictured are Gotoh TK 0880-001 tuners, which just came in.

    I still need to decide about body color and fingerboard inlays. This is a poplar body, so it’s going to get painted. I’m thinking a take on Fender’s Sherwood Green, but my spouse thinks I should go with something darker like racing green. I like the look of double-bound Teles, but I think that’s one extra complication I don’t need on my first build. I’m going to do simple, traditional dots on the fingerboard, probably Stew-Mac’s pearloid.

    Next up will be cutting the fret slots. I’ll be doing this freehand, or perhaps with an angle iron for a saw guide. I’ve got a steady hand and lots of traditional woodworking behind me, so I think this will be fairly straightforward (famous last words). I’m getting a drill press in later this week, so after I get that set up I’ll drill out my tuner holes. I just don’t trust my brace and auger bits on those string through-holes.

    Once I get the neck done, I’ll return to the body to mark my neck pocket and figure out bridge placement. Expect I’ll come calling for help before I shake any power tools at the body blank.

    Thanks for reading along so far. Happy New Year!
  10. RickyRicardo

    RickyRicardo Friend of Leo's

    Mar 27, 2012
    Calgary, Alberta
    Looks great! And Happy New Year!
    brandonh likes this.
  11. DuckDodgers

    DuckDodgers Tele-Meister Silver Supporter

    Nov 5, 2015
    Dee-troit City
    Beautiful! That looks like a Nicholson-style workbench; are you a hand tool fan?
    brandonh likes this.
  12. brandonh

    brandonh TDPRI Member

    Dec 30, 2018
    Thanks. Happy New Year!
    Thanks. I’m way more comfortable with hand tools. Part of the reason I’m taking on a guitar build is to do some more power tool work (just built the table for my router, just ordered a drill press). I built Mike Siemsen’s Nicholson bench plans on the cheap 4-5 years ago. It’s been great for most everything I do.
  13. Milspec

    Milspec Friend of Leo's

    Feb 15, 2016
    I am impressed. I have tackled a couple of bodys using a nice set of MDF templates that I purchased online a few years ago, but have never been confortable attempting a neck. That was my favorite part of your slide show, it was really interesting watching the process.
    brandonh and Bergy like this.
  14. mfguitar

    mfguitar Tele-Holic

    Aug 12, 2008
    I can't wait to see the results, nice job! It looks like you did some research.
    brandonh likes this.
  15. 2blue2

    2blue2 Friend of Leo's Silver Supporter

    Jul 20, 2013
    Island of Oahu
    Welcome aboard and Id like to say, way to go for it and nice job posting lots of pics, for a new guy.

    on your fret bender use some stacked washers of different sizes to make a slotted wheel for the fret tang to ride in
    brandonh likes this.
  16. TRexF16

    TRexF16 Friend of Leo's

    Apr 4, 2011
    Welcome to the Tele Home Depot!
    Looks good! I like your bench too.
    I would consider moving those fretboards forward just a bit before you glue them down, if there is any room left at the heel to do so, particularly the one the furthest away in the picture. If you're using a conventional Tele nut location it looks like you might be a little close on making the transition work right and still have enough fretboard forward of the nut to support it.
    Keep the pics coming and enjoy your build.
    brandonh likes this.
  17. brandonh

    brandonh TDPRI Member

    Dec 30, 2018
    Back to work, so no build time today. Santa, the elves, and some fun money all chipped in for this, and I got it put together over lunch. It's the 12-inch model. Probably could have saved a little more and just bought a nice used Classic Vibe, but where's the fun in that?


    I appreciate the encouragement and kind words. I'm hoping I can get the fret slots cut on my tester this week, and then do the real deal this weekend when I'll have time to take it slow.

    Thanks! I'm having a lot of fun. I think shaping the neck is going to be my favorite part. What's holding you back from a neck build? Go for it!

    Thanks! I feel like I'm just about done with the "woodworking" tasks and about to get into the "guitar building" stuff that all needs to break my way. I'm grateful for all the good info here, that's for sure.

    Thanks for the welcome and advice! Guitar isn't going to build itself, hey? What's the worst that can go wrong? I mess something up, have to start over, and get some more shop time in? I can handle that :)

    Thanks for the welcome and advice. With the neck and fretboard pieces lined up at the heel end, I've got about 1.5-inches of fingerboard past the inner nut line. It seems to go pretty far into the peghead area, so I'm assuming that I should be good when I trim it down before the glue-up.
    2blue2 likes this.
  18. Milspec

    Milspec Friend of Leo's

    Feb 15, 2016
    What hold me back on building my own neck? Pretty much everything. The truss rod and fret installs are something that I feel takes more precision and patience that I have these days. Routing a body is nothing and hanging parts is even less, but it is as far as I go.
  19. Macrogats

    Macrogats Tele-Afflicted

    May 15, 2017
    Auckland, New Zealand
    That sounds like my excuse. :(
    RedHills, Milspec and brandonh like this.
  20. chemobrain

    chemobrain Friend of Leo's Ad Free Member

    Nov 5, 2016
    oakland ca.
    thank you for sharing your impressive project . good on you .
    brandonh likes this.
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