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

THE perfect Tele: buy it or build it?

Discussion in 'Telecaster Discussion Forum' started by Ydwen Jones, Feb 10, 2019.

  1. DHart

    DHart Friend of Leo's

    Oct 12, 2012
    Scottsdale, AZ USA
    Man... what you expressed here is exactly how I feel about Fenders.

    Sometimes you put one together and you don't need to change a thing - it pleases exquisitely and you're likely to leave it just as is, indefinitely.

    Others, you may need to change out the neck a time... or two, perhaps change a pickup or two, or switch out a pot or two and then, suddenly, it all comes together like a fine chorus, it's like a big American V8 engine firing so smoothly and powerfully on all eight cylinders... and it's true music to your ears!

    And, if one that you put together never quite seems to come to that point where it's really special to you, and you know you don't want to change a thing about it... you can re-purpose the components into another instrument that does!
    telemnemonics and Ydwen Jones like this.
  2. Twangsta

    Twangsta TDPRI Member

    Dec 15, 2016
    Seoul, Korea
    Every guitar sounds and plays differently, even with exact same specs and settings. In order to find the “perfect” one, I would have to play as many guitars as possible. I don’t think it would be efficient to build so many guitars until I get the perfect one.
  3. Ydwen Jones

    Ydwen Jones Tele-Meister

    Jan 2, 2019
    Wow, so many things to consider... Maybe, instead of trying to build one from scratch, the way for me would be to just buy a guitar I like and then swap stuff like pups, pots, etc.. That's pretty much what I did with with my Jazz Bass. Still actually building a guitar seems appealing. But I'm not sure if I have the skills it requires and I also learned, from this thread, that the sum of all the "perfect parts" doesn't necessarily equal a perfect guitar...
  4. Fiesta Red

    Fiesta Red Friend of Leo's

    Nov 15, 2010
    I bought (and modded) a Telecaster that I didn’t realize would become my Number One...the only thing I would change at this point is the can guess by my name which color I would want it to be, :p...but obviously I don’t want to change it badly enough, because I haven’t done it.

    Building one carries the risk of “I got every component I want but I still can’t bond with it...” (much like the post above by @marc2211 )...
  5. telemnemonics

    telemnemonics Doctor of Teleocity

    Mar 2, 2010
    Some info on what exactly your goals are in a perfect guitar might help.
    Or maybe you don't have a specs list, more just wanting something better?
    If you tell us what's imperfect about a guitar we are familiar with, it's easier to move away from more of a defined point, than to attain perfect with no point of reference.

    Being in Europe you would have a different set of parts buying problems.
    Allparts bodies and necks are made in Japan and are essentially made by a maker of real Fender parts. They likely have a distributor near you so can be gotten more easily than ordering from the US.
    For that matter you can probably buy new Fender necks from an EU distributor, and the MIM replacement necks are a good value plus say Fender so have good resale if you decide you want some different spec.

    If you can find used parts either from private sellers or from Stratosphere, there will be little skill required to "build" a working guitar.
    An unfinished neck from Allparts requires nut files and some skill, plus holes to drill accurately etc. If those are concerns, maybe buy a super cheap Chinese neck to practice on. Some $50 necks are pretty good it seems.
    Hobby builders typically end up with crooked tuners on learner builds, before getting the methods down. But used name brand parts (that were not drilled by hobby builders learning the ropes) typically bolt together and need little or no modding.
    The new Fender necks will probably need drilling and nut cutting.

    Do you have a drill press or access to one?
    Ydwen Jones likes this.
  6. wblynch

    wblynch Tele-Meister Ad Free Member

    Apr 24, 2017
    California USA
    There's always the Fender Mod Shop... but they don't offer what I want, TV Jones in a La Cabronita body, neck with 7.25" radius, Rosewood fingerboard and stainless frets.
  7. alathIN

    alathIN Tele-Meister

    Oct 25, 2017
    Agree, because no matter what you do, there is another choice that could have worked out equally well.

    F'rinstance, I've got an urge to do one with Brandonwound's wide range pickups (they're actually made like original wide range pickups, not just a regular humbucker underneath a widerange-looking cover). If I did all the rest of that project extremely skillfully (hey, it's a hypothetical!) it could be a awesome Tele - but it wouldn't have the classic Tele single coil sound. So, no matter how great, it still wouldn't be "perfect."

    If I didn't make it obvious, I'd certainly put it together myself.
    To me it is a lot more fun than buying one.
    telemnemonics likes this.
  8. Ex-riverman

    Ex-riverman Tele-Holic

    Jun 17, 2016
    Tulsa, OK
    I wanted a classic fender telecaster and stumbled across a 1964 reissue on deep discount and went for it. I feel I everything I need in the ‘telecaster’ department. I changed the saddles to brass just to see what it was like and never changed them back. I might, though. For me, a perfect telecaster.
  9. alathIN

    alathIN Tele-Meister

    Oct 25, 2017
    Building your own has its pros and cons (I happen to love it) and I agree with the earlier poster who said don't DIY unless you enjoy (or think you will enjoy) the DIY process.

    That said, don't let your newbie skill set dissuade you from trying.
    You can choose what to do yourself and what not to.
    For me, I cannot fathom building a neck from scratch, and I'm really picky about the neck being right - so I'll buy a neck from someone who is really good at making them.
    I really enjoy the finishing - so, equally, I can't imagine buying a neck or body that's already finished.
    If you are intimidated by soldering or wiring diagrams, you can purchase a pre-made wiring harness. I'm not, and wiring mods are one of my favorite areas of experimentation, so that's something I do myself.
    I am not very good at final set up - I can get it to a playable level but not great. But there's a guy about a 45 minute drive from me who is fantastic at it. So that's something I pay someone else for.

    You don't have to be good at all of it, or confident with all of it. Just do the work that appeals to you, and pay someone else for the work that doesn't.

    That said, if in general you don't enjoy making stuff, pay someone else for all of it.
    Just don't let yourself be intimidated out of doing it.
    Ydwen Jones likes this.
  10. oceanblue

    oceanblue Tele-Meister

    Apr 20, 2018
    Building a partscaster doesn't necessarily mean you are literally building the neck and body. Buy the ones you want, with the other parts you want, and put it together, not nearly as hard as you think. I just did my first one (my avatar), thinking I was in over my head, but it's very straight forward, and I absolutely love the way it looks plays and sounds. Also, pretty sure it would be impossible to have gotten this guitar the same way from Fender.

    Buying a Fender tele off the shelf, and swapping out parts really isn't any different in the long run, you essentially bought a partscaster built by Fender, and then changed some of the parts.
  11. Ydwen Jones

    Ydwen Jones Tele-Meister

    Jan 2, 2019
    Thanks! Those are some excellent points and questions!

    I haven’t really thought about it too much. But so far I haven’t been able to find any imperfections in my current guitar, which is a Performer Series Tele. And it’s more like I’m curious: could I build a guitar that is at least as good or maybe even better than the one I have right now? A perfect (for me) Tele. You know, as a back-up guitar or just because one Tele’s just one Tele. : )

    I guess some of the specs would be:

    - one piece maple neck;
    - not a big fan of super fat necks, so maybe a MIM Std neck;
    - want a good twangy sound, so maybe Fender Original Vintage pups;
    - 3 saddle bridge;
    - vintage blonde or BSB body, with a nice grain;
    - not too heavy;
    - 18:1 vintage/Kluson style tuners;

    That’s about all I can come up with, for now.

    But as far as I’m concerned this topic isn't just about MY perfect next Tele. It will also (hopefully) serve as an inspiration thread for other TDPRI members.
    Last edited: Feb 12, 2019 at 7:29 AM
  12. DHart

    DHart Friend of Leo's

    Oct 12, 2012
    Scottsdale, AZ USA
    I would say that if you are unsure of what specs would really appeal to you most... the best place to start would be to spend some time with a vintage-based MIM Tele and with a modern-based MIM Tele. Those two guitars will give you a good idea of some of the available options, how they feel, how they sound.

    You may prefer one, the other, or perhaps prefer a blend of something old and something new?

    Personally, I have no attachment to any particular "concept" of vintage, nor modern... but I find myself liking the modern bridge and contemporary neck specs.

    As for pickups... you can go low-wind/vintage for clean, clear sparkly bright tones... or go "hot" for high output, more easily distorted tones suited for blues and heavier rock. And ultimately, how they will sound depends a lot on the specific body that they are in. Sometimes, you just have to try out some different options and be willing to swap around a little until you find the "sweet spot" for your taste. Many of us really enjoy this process... and are thrilled with the final result!

    I'd say if you are inclined to give it a go.. the easiest way to go is to consider buying a Fender-branded MIM or MIA body that looks great to you. Then buy a Fender-branded MIM or MIA neck that appeals. They are quite likely to go together effortlessly and flawlessly. And if the neck is a "take-off" (as most are, from Stratosphere) you won't need to tend to finishing requirements, nor tuner hole drilling, and won't even need to fuss with the nut slots!

    Fender-branded take-off necks will be more costly at initial purchase than the partially-finished third-party necks, but that gives you a much quicker-finished guitar, with much less work required from you, and is a more 'marketable' and 'known-quantity' neck IF the time should ever come to re-sell the neck. The Fender-branded take-off necks are basically just screw-on, string up, PLAY and ENJOY! You pay extra for that up-front, but it's a very nice way to go - especially for your first build.

    I've built more than 10 Fender guitars... mostly Teles, and still, I lean toward buying Fender-branded take-off necks because they are great necks, so quick and easy to get up and running, and retain resale value and marketability exceptionally well. (I haven't wanted to re-sell any of them, anyway.)

    Study up on pickups and bridges, then make a decision on which ones to buy. Do the same with potentiometer specs. It IS a very engaging process! And, is a lot of fun, very educational, and ultimately highly rewarding. But be aware that once you have this process fairly worked out... you are extremely likely to do it again! :eek: And AGAIN!
    Last edited: Feb 13, 2019 at 12:43 AM
    Ydwen Jones likes this.
  13. Tim S

    Tim S Tele-Holic

    Oct 27, 2008
    Upstate NY
    OP, you forgot the option: "Crab and whine because someone else already owns the perfect Tele and now you have to settle for less-than-perfect".
  14. Bob M

    Bob M Tele-Afflicted Ad Free Member

    May 11, 2011
    North of Boston
    It's a funny thing-My Tele is a partscaster and constantly changing as I see different possibilities. My other guitars seem to remain stock. I'll set them up, but rarely modify anything but my Tele. In the time since I put the Tele together (25 years ago) I have owned at least 5 factory Teles-MIM, MIA, MIJ-and none of them were as good as the parts guitar. If you are looking for a player, building it can be the way to go. Just don't expect to get your money back.
  15. Telecentric

    Telecentric Tele-Meister

    Nov 23, 2016
    Boulder Creek, Ca
    Not sure if it will be perfect, but I am creating the Tele I think I want. Who knows if it will check all the boxes for me when it is done? I do know that I can't walk into any shop and pull it off the wall, so the only way to get it is to make it myself.
    wblynch likes this.
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