My MJT Telemaster build - assembly process thread

Discussion in 'Other T-Types and Partscasters' started by -Hawk-, Mar 29, 2019.

  1. -Hawk-

    -Hawk- Friend of Leo's Silver Supporter

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    Or should I say Telebomination?

    Completed pics of the guitar are at the bottom. Not for the faint of heart or die-hard purists. You've been warned!

    This will be very long. Sorry.

    Thought I'd make a thread that walked through the process of buying and assembling an MJT guitar. I searched for something like this, but never found one. Hopefully it'll come in handy to some other person down the road. The kit I chose was purchased around Thanksgiving during a 15% off sale on eBay, which saved me some money. I chose the body and pickup configuration because, well - that's what I wanted! I love the way a Tele feels under my hands, but have lusted after an offset body for some time. Now I've got a beautiful blend of it all.

    I recieved an email from MJT shortly after my purchase giving me a list of the many options I had to choose from. I should note that Wendy was very responsive to any questions I had, even after the guitar was delivered to me.

    Guitar Body Specs:
    MJT Telemaster Body
    Alder (4.5lbs)
    Dual Humbucker Route
    Lake Placid Blue (darker) - This is called "LPB 6" in MJT's world. I requested no yellowing.
    Light wear
    Linear Checking

    I'd mentally prepared to buy this kit for a year or more, so it was surprising that when I finally bought it I struggled to settle on a color. I scoured MJT's galleries and finally settled on the LPB. I considered getting a closet classic finish, but then I wondered what the point of that was. MJT specializes in aged finishes, so why spend the money to get something else? That being said, what they call light wear was plenty of wear for me.

    Neck Specs:
    Musikraft MJT branding
    21 frets
    Nut Width - 1-11/16
    Standard Kluson tuners
    Dual acting truss at the headstock
    12" radius
    Maple/Rosewood (I paid $30 for the darker rosewood)
    6150 Med Jumbo frets (stainless steel)
    V-C 88-95 neck profile
    Dark amber finish with checking

    I knew I wanted a dark rosewood fretboard with a 12" radius, but that was about all I knew. After a ton of reading I settled on the specs above. The neck profile is highly regarded among internet people, so I figured I'd go for it. It's a handful, especially up by the nut. Very nice for wrapping the thumb, which I do a lot of.

    Electronics:
    Suhr Thornbuckers (bridge is F spaced)
    500k Emerson pots
    No-name plastic .22 capacitor
    3 way blade

    I knew I wanted humbuckers, but I didn't want this to sound like my Les Paul, which is on the darker side. I researched a million different low-output PAF humbuckers and settled on the Thornbuckers. When I was procurring supplies, I bought a 5-way superswitch and Suhr gave me the diagram for their Alt T Pro, which offers 5 different sounds. In the end, I just went with the 3-way though. I didn't cut the leads on the pickups, so I have the option to change the wiring down the road if I wish.

    Hardware (medium aging):
    White, aged 3-ply pick guard
    Dome knobs
    Top Hat
    Half Bridge - 3 Barrel

    Waiting, and waiting, and more waiting, and recieving!

    Not whining about waiting, by the way. Just a way to express how excited I was to get this thing in my hands. Wildwood made the body and that took about 5-6 weeks to ship to MJT. The neck took a week longer I believe. From there, I started getting emails with pictures of the finish, asking me if I was happy or wanted something more/different. Again, MJT was very responsive to any requests I had. Eventually, after 12 weeks or so I got an email with tracking info.

    Here's are a few attempts at previewing what would eventually become the new guitar.

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    At this point, everything kind of stopped. I went on a week's vacation and didn't want to start the project before I left. I ordered a few things I still needed and was able to get started shortly after coming home.
     
  2. -Hawk-

    -Hawk- Friend of Leo's Silver Supporter

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    Assembly

    A quick note - I'm just a normal, moderately handy guy that works on his own guitars. I do my own setups and have swapped necks, electronics, etc., on many guitars. I'm sure some of what I did here isn't textbook, but it's how I did it.

    One thing I've learned is that you have to be willing to stop and think of workarounds, as it's not just a jigsaw puzzle that goes together perfectly every time.

    This took me about a week to finish. I only have a little free time each day, so I had to work a bit and then stop. Also had to wait on a few last-minute supplies I ordered.

    Tools and supplies used (some I had, some I purchased):
    Power drill, long 1/8" bit, shorter really skinny bit
    Screwdrivers of various sizes
    Wire cutter/stripper
    Soldering iron and solder
    Leveling beam
    Double sided tape
    400, 600, 1000 grit sandpaper
    Scouring pad
    Stewmac Z-File crowning file (HIGHLY RECOMMENDED TOOL for the beginner)

    First, I laid out and organized all the parts.

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    The first actual assembly I did was installing the ferrules. Youtube and TDPRI led me to use my soldering iron to do this. So easy this way. Just stick the iron in the ferrule for a second or two and push.

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    Next I needed to drill a hole because MJT doesn't drill one for the bridge ground wire for some reason. I was understandably worried about this, since 1) it was the first hole I drilled in the body and 2) it was a tricky hole to drill since it's at an angle. I bought a long, skinny drill bit, made a cardboard template of the angle I wanted, and went for it. I've seen some mangled jobs on this step, so I was very happy it turned out like I wanted. From there, I cut a strip of wire and ran it into the control cavity.

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    Next was screwing down the bridge. MJT pre-drills these holes, so it's relatively foolproof. I did place the bridge and make sure the pilot holes were drilled correctly before screwing it down. I waxed up each screw and secured it, with the ground wire trapped underneath.

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    Next was drilling pilot holes for the output jack cover and strap buttons. I just marked the spots with a nail and then made my pilot holes. Again, waxed up the screws and in they went.

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    Then came some indecision. Since I was using a half-bridge, I had to either secure the bridge pickup with a body mount or get a pickup ring. My first plan was a body mount. I cut a rectangle of foam, laid it in the cavity, marked my spots for the pilot holes in the cavity and.... stopped. I found a couple suitable screws, but promptly stripped one going through the pickup's bracket. At this point, I started to reconsider the whole body-mount idea and purchased a black, flat pickup ring on Amazon, which came two days later. These are impossible to find in the finishes I liked (aged metal or aged white), which is why I chose black. In the end, it worked perfectly. I measured it up, drilled pilot holes, waxed up some mounting screws, and secured it down.

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    As I began to test the fit of the pickguard I came to the realization that it wasn't going to accommodate my parts without some cutting and shaping. As you can see, the control plate (which had nowhere else to go) didn't match up and the bridge pickup's mounting-ring was preventing it from fitting correctly there. I've shaped pick guards before with sandpaper, but this was a bigger job than that. I will eventually use a Dremel if I want to put it on, but for the time being I decided to buy another flat pickup ring for the neck. It definitely changes the look of the guitar, but this workaround is easily changeable down the road (should I choose to do it).

    [​IMG]


    From here I finished soldering the electronics and screwing down both the control plate and output jack. I should note that I plugged in the neck-less body first to make sure my wiring was solid. Here's the body with the hardware and electronics installed.

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    On to the neck! Over time I procured some tools for fret leveling, but hadn't bought a crowning file yet. I wanted to make sure I was actually going to have to level the frets before I spent that money. I took my fret rocker to the board and found that it was surprisingly level, minus a handful of spots that barely rocked, which I marked. At this point, I stopped and asked TDPRI if I should even bother with a fret level since this new neck was actually in better shape than my favorite gigging guitar. I got a variety of responses, from "do it right the first time" to "don't bother", but in the end I chose to go ahead with the L&C. I think I was worried I'd screw it up.

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    First things first - tape the neck up. Best advice of the day was from TDPRI - lay a strip lengthwise down the neck, so you can pull off all the little strips at once when you're done." Then I marked them with a Sharpie.

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    The level job was actually very easy. I waffled forever on what sandpaper to buy, because the adhesive rolls Stewmac sells are huge and expensive. I eventually got flat sheets from a local hardware store, cut 400 grit strips, and used double sided tape to stick the strips on to my leveling beam. I did the leveling slowly and stopped to check my work with the fret rocker a few times until I was satisfied. As you can see from the residue on the beam, it didn't take very much to level them out. Then I took 1000 grit to clean up any marks.

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    Next was the crowning. I marked the frets again and went to work on them. I have to say - this Z File is pretty amazing. If you're unsure or inexperienced I couldn't imagine a better tool to have for crowning. It took me 10-15 minutes max and I really didn't do anything except run the file over the frets until there was a tiny sliver of sharpie left. You could tell when there was a spot that needed extra work by listening and looking. Again, I checked and rechecked with the fret rocker and all was good. Lastly, I took the Scotch-Brite pad to the frets to polish them up a bit. No, it's not a mirror finish, but it's good enough for me for now.

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    Next was installing the nut. MJT sends a pre-slotted bone nut with their kits. I have used Tusq XL nuts for years and like them for a number of reasons, so I just saved the bone nut. It took some filing to get it to fit in the slot, as usual. Easy-peasy.
     
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  3. -Hawk-

    -Hawk- Friend of Leo's Silver Supporter

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    Next was final assembly! The neck fit was extremely tight. So tight, in fact, that I had to sand the heel of the neck and a bit inside the body. It's common to see some finish flaking at the neck-join on MJT builds, and I almost avoided it, but did lose a tiny sliver of paint during this process. I could have been a little more patient and avoided it, but I didn't. It's a worn guitar though - what's one more ding? Neck screwed in tightly and it was ready to string!

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    After stringing it up, I installed the string tree adjacent to the A string's tuner post. Somehow, it was reasonably well set up at this point, needing just a slight drop of the low E string's barrel to be playable for a test run. I still need to drop the nut height, check the relief after it's settled in for a few days, intonate, and then do a final setup of the action. Going to give it a little while before I do that so it can adjust to the tension.

    Then, I plugged it in and adjusted the pickup height. Sounded great for the short 20 minutes I had to play it. It'll take a while before I learn the nuances and what I do/don't like about the way it sounds.

    Here's the final photos. Thanks for reading!


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  4. LunarSlingShot

    LunarSlingShot Tele-Meister

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    Wow that is a cool guitar! Love the finish
     
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  5. -Hawk-

    -Hawk- Friend of Leo's Silver Supporter

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    Thanks! Yea, they did a nice job on it. Very interesting in that it looks different depending on the angle. From some angles you can’t see the checking at all.
     
  6. IronSchef

    IronSchef Tele-Holic Platinum Supporter

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    That looks fantastic - great job!!

    MJT is really the way to go for this kind of thing :)
     
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  7. RiversQC

    RiversQC TDPRI Member

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    Looks fantastic! That shade of blue really works, and I quite like the look of it with the black pickup rings.

    Nice photography too. ;)
     
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  8. Chunkocaster

    Chunkocaster Friend of Leo's

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    Looks great and the pickups hardware are all nice choices. Is the f spacing for Floyd bridge or fender? They are slightly wider spaced pole pieces than Gibson aren't they?
     
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  9. -Hawk-

    -Hawk- Friend of Leo's Silver Supporter

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    I’ve always took it to mean Fender spaced, but I recently saw somebody refer to Floyd spacing too. It’s the bridge only of course and it’s 53mm instead of 50mm.

    I went that route with a P90 replacement back in the past and it worked well. These line up perfectly too - not a huge deal if they hadn’t from what I’ve read, but I wouldn’t love seeing the strings offset from the poles.
     
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  10. Chunkocaster

    Chunkocaster Friend of Leo's

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    I've heard both fender and Floyd too which is why I asked. Glad they lined up well for you. I ordered some nickel covers a few years back and got the sizes wrong.
     
  11. Larmo63

    Larmo63 Tele-Afflicted

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    Cool guitar, but I'm not a fan of the pregnant shaped MJT headstock.

    Just my opinion.
     
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  12. -Hawk-

    -Hawk- Friend of Leo's Silver Supporter

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    I can understand that, because I felt the same way when I was looking at pictures during the research process. Must just be familiarity, because I don’t even think about it now.

    The reason I went that route was more mental rationalization than preference. In my mind, it’s not really a replica of anything, so having a Fender headstock didn’t make sense. That’s my own brain at work though.
     
  13. rze99

    rze99 Poster Extraordinaire

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    Great job and process thread!
     
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  14. ifallalot

    ifallalot Tele-Afflicted

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    Awesome!

    This thread helps because I will be doing a build soon myself. Its going to be medium-heavy wear and Fiesta Red

    Here's the pre-finish pics from Doug

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  15. -Hawk-

    -Hawk- Friend of Leo's Silver Supporter

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    Congrats! Nice looking Ash body!

    I do hope it helps you or somebody down the road. YouTube and TDPRI are also very helpful.

    Best advice I can give is to take your time and don’t get “string it up fever”. It’s extremely hard to avoid, but you won’t regret it. I feel like I took my time, but there are still some things I could have been more patient with.
     
  16. -Hawk-

    -Hawk- Friend of Leo's Silver Supporter

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    Just an update after a (short) week playing the new build exclusively, including last night with my 60’s psychedelic band.

    I’m more accustomed to the neck now, which didn’t take long. It’s definitely quite a departure from a standard Fender neck. As a reminder, this is the Musikraft V-to-C profile. It’s is a V shape from approximately frets 1-5 and the flattens to a fat C.

    The neck not only feels big, it feels solid. I didn’t event have to adjust the truss rod.

    It’s a middle of the road weight. I don’t weigh guitars, but based off others I own and know the weight of I’d say 7.5-8lbs. It sits nicely on my body when strapped up. I’d say it sits a little more underneath my right arm than my Tele, putting the middle of the neck more in the middle of my body. No balance issues.

    As for sound - let me just say I was looking for something that bridged the gap from my Tele to my somewhat dark Les Paul and I wanted humbuckers. On paper the Thornbucker is supposed to be pretty much exactly that. In reality, it is exactly that. Not afraid to admit I just got lucky here. Riffing stays tight, highs are there enough to cut, and there’s a nice solid bottom end. I’d worried all my efforts to brighten up the guitar as a whole would make it plinky like I’ve found a PRS SE to be, but it’s not that in any way. FWIW, I have two 500k pots and a .022 capacitor.

    About the only negative I’ve found is I unknowingly turned down both the volume and tone knobs at different times during practice last night. Unsure how it happened, but I’ll be checking more frequently now.

    Glad I did this and would consider doing it again if I get the itch.
     
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  17. ifallalot

    ifallalot Tele-Afflicted

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    @-Hawk- Do you have any pictures of the side jack? I’m m drilling that right now and i want to see how you did yours
     
  18. -Hawk-

    -Hawk- Friend of Leo's Silver Supporter

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    No prob. I just sat it on the body, pushed a nail to mark the spots and drilled small pilot holes.

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  19. ifallalot

    ifallalot Tele-Afflicted

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    Thanks

    It looks like yours was routed already. I don't know if they forgot to do mine or what, so I have to drill and route the main hole as well
     
  20. -Hawk-

    -Hawk- Friend of Leo's Silver Supporter

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    Oh man. I have to think it was just overlooked. Bummer.
     
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