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Building a tele that I want to age nicely - advice!

Discussion in 'Other T-Types and Partscasters' started by ChrisLarcombe, Aug 16, 2020.

  1. ChrisLarcombe

    ChrisLarcombe TDPRI Member

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    Hello everyone -

    I'm looking to put together a parts-caster and want to use a body and neck that will age nicely. I play a LOT, so I'm sure it will get lots of road wear, and plenty of hours of general use. My tele atm is my dearest love, but I am aware that the finishes that fender use nowadays are titanium-like, and hardly age at all, regardless of hours. I am fully left handed, so it's not like I can't just splash out for a 60's tele at very easily, and as a young student, I have to be smart about prices.

    I figure warmoth is surely my best option, but I want to know - do warmoth do bodies that will age like early fenders will?

    The tele will eventually be a B-Bender, so will be routed out, if that makes any difference as what wood/finishes to use.
     
  2. Lowerleftcoast

    Lowerleftcoast Friend of Leo's

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    The older Fenders were painted with lacquer. It ages differently than modern finishes. Today you can still get lacquer.

    Body wood. Generally Alder, Pine, or Ash are common. Ash is harder than Alder, or Pine so it will not dent as easily. If you don't mind natural wood for a guitar body, an oiled wood can look very nice as it ages like old furniture. Any of the woods can be routed for a B-Bender.

    You must be careful with lacquer. It will react with chemicals causing it to melt. Guitar hangers or stands with rubber cushions will mess up the finish.
     
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  3. 2manyteles

    2manyteles TDPRI Member Silver Supporter

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    I've built lots of partscaters and fint the MJT bodies to be a decent value. They run auctions on ebay and on a daily basis add about 5 new ones or more. Sometimes they sell for a lot sometimes you get a screaming good deal. They are always nitro lacquer. Add a allparts neck of your choice and you have the basis for a pretty decent guitar that will age well. You can get some allparts necks that are finished in nitro as well. You can also just buy a can of tinted lacquer and try it yourself.
    I just built and sold a lefty black double bound tele with an allparts neck. Had Fralin pickups and a Rutters bridge. Looked fantastic and sounded and played beautifully.
    They great thing about the MJT stuff is that the pocket is vintage correct and any aftermarket neck that is Fender licensed and vintage spec will fit perfectly.
     
  4. Marn99

    Marn99 Tele-Holic

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    Studying the chemical compositions of finishes from the 50s and 60s is actually a bit of a pet project of mine, and the lacquers of today are different in chemical composition compared to the lacquers of the 50s and 60s. For starters, the nitrocellulose and acrylic lacquers of today have much more plasticizers in them compared to the old formulations. It is an often repeated myth by "vintage correct" refinishers that the old formulae did not have any plasticizers in it, however this is untrue. If a nitrocellulose lacquer formulation had zero plasticizers, than it would check and crack if you just looked at it funny. The plasticizers used in old formulations were a pthalate plasticizer, most commonly dibutyl or diisobutyl pthalate. Since the 50s, we've now learned that pthalates are carcinogenic and polluting, and are used much more infrequently in consumer products, most commonly plastics that come into contact with food or have the potential to be ingested, like plates, cups, tupperware, water bottles, and childrens toys, but paint as well. The combination of more plasticizer along with different plasticizers means that modern nitrocellulose is much more stretchy, wear resistant, and much more unlikely to check and yellow with age. Colors are also less likely to fade as well. Pigments such as toludine red and lead molybdate that were often used in the 50s and 60s are seldom used today, and others like cadmium red are being phased out because it's a heavy metal. There is also the drying behavior of old vs new lacquers. Nitro is a solvent borne finish, meaning that the resins, pigments, and other ingredients are dissolved in solvents such as toluene and xylene, and then sprayed. Those volatile solvents quickly evaporate, leaving behind the resins and pigments as a layer of paint. These solvents used are also pretty bad for the environment, and modern formulae have much less volatile solvents (or VOC's) in them. Simply put, they dry slower and not as hard. In summary, the lacquers of today don't really behave like the old ones, so while you still can put wear, checking, and overall aging over time, it takes a heck of a lot more playing and abuse to get it to that point. That being said, there are some things that can make it easier for you. I'd recommend using Sherwin Williams Low VOC lacquer, I've been told by old timer automotive refinishers that it behaves the most like the old Dupont Duco and PPG Ditz-lac that Fender usually used. I would also recommend that you aim for a thin finish.
     
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  5. hemingway

    hemingway Poster Extraordinaire

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    Don't finish the neck and screw up the paint job. It'll age really quickly. Well, mine did anyway.
     
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  6. warrent

    warrent Friend of Leo's

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    No they use urethane and poly like modern fender's.
    You're looking for some type of nitro finish as described above.
     
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  7. ChrisLarcombe

    ChrisLarcombe TDPRI Member

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    Thanks for the responses everyone.

    Okay, so I'm looking for a nitro laquer finishes. Is this for the neck as well as the body? Nothing different going on there ?
     
  8. Peegoo

    Peegoo Poster Extraordinaire

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    Yes, nitro on the body as well as the neck.

    One thing many players don't consider about thin finishes is they tend to show play wear a lot faster to achieve that aged look. That's good, right? The problem is they continue to wear at an accelerated rate as they are played, and can start to look pretty beat up and not 'realistic' at all. Remember too that Fender used Fullerplast on their bare wood bodies in order to reduce waste of lacquer finish; it was cheaper than the lacquer and prevented it from soaking into the wood. Those older finishes really are not as thin as some people would like you to believe.

    Real-deal old guitars have an aged look that tends to be fairly stable and wears slowly. This is achieved through many years of use and is difficult to fake in a convincing manner.
     
    Last edited: Aug 17, 2020
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  9. Old Deaf Roadie

    Old Deaf Roadie Friend of Leo's Silver Supporter

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    My experience is that the fast track to natural wear starts with applying a thin, almost inadequate, lacquer finish and then playing it and playing it and playing it. To put it in context, fast track could be defined as less than 7-10 years.
     
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  10. Marn99

    Marn99 Tele-Holic

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    Something else you should know is that not all fender finishes were purely nitrocellulose. The color coat of all the metallic colors except for sherwood green were acrylic lacquer, followed up with a nitro clear coat. Olympic white was also an acrylic color coat followed by a nitro clear coat, though you can find any solid color without a clear coat; they were only 100% necessary on metallic colors and fender would sometimes skip them on solid custom colors if it was a "rush job", for example if they were behind on orders or they had a big order of guitars from a large instrument dealer. You can spray nitro over acrylic, but not vise versa. Leo specified DuPont Lucite acrylic lacquer for acrylic and DuPont Duco for nitro in his notes and spreadsheets, and they most often used those, but they would also occasionally use brands such as PPG Ditzler (Ditz-lac for nitro, Duracryl for acrylic), or Sherwin Williams, among others, if the DuPont products weren't as available at the time they put in the order, or if a different brand was on sale, or cheaper in bulk, etc etc.
     
    Last edited: Aug 17, 2020
  11. Fender-guy

    Fender-guy Tele-Meister

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    Another vote for a MJT tele body. There are a few ending soon that are a decent deal. I’ve never been let down by the quality of their bodies. Pair that with a nitro finished fat Allparts neck, some fender hardware and you have a quality inexpensive partscaster
     
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  12. ChrisLarcombe

    ChrisLarcombe TDPRI Member

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    Awesome, thanks for the help guys. Just sent an email off to MJT!

    Marn99, I salute your dedication to this subject. You've got some fantastic knowledge that I'm sure not all that many people know. You should immortalise it somehow! write a book! Thanks again.

    I'll keep you guys updated on this journey. It's hopefully going to be one heck of a tele.
     
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  13. Freeman Keller

    Freeman Keller Friend of Leo's

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    I'll just repeat what several others have said - both nitrocellulose lacquer and the wood under a transparent finish will turn a lovely golden amber color as they age. Wood from exposure to UV light, I don't know the mechanism for lacquer. Lacquer will also form little checks and cracks as it ages and expands and contracts - we expect to see that with old finishes.

    People feel they can hurry these processes and to a certain extent they can - adding a little amber to the lacquer, subjecting the finish to cold cycles to get it to check. At some point, however it starts to look phony.

    The dyes in colored finishes are often not color fast - they change with time, often dramatically. The dilemma here is whether you try to duplicate the color as it is now or go back to the original and let it do its thing. As Marn said, Fender made a lot of changes over the years and used a lot of different products.

    Taken to extremes are the folks that feel they have to create something that their guitar is not - a well played road worn totally loved instrument that has just seen a hard life. Let me just say that I have never seen a "relic'd" guitar that I would want to own.

    My last comment is the golden rule of finishing - practice everything on scraps of the same wood you are building with using the same products you will use on your guitar. Do not experiment on the guitar.
     
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  14. Marn99

    Marn99 Tele-Holic

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    Thanks! My knowledge of vintage finishes comes from my project/perhaps overly ambitious dream of fully reverse engineering vintage guitars inside and out. As for a book? I've actually thought about it when (if) I ever complete it. My only concern would be that if I made it too detailed I would basically be publishing a manual for counterfeiting, right down to chemical composition of lacquer, plastic, etc. But perhaps I could make it detailed without revealing too much like Nacho Banos' Blackguard Book.

    As for your B bender tele, do you know what color you're going for?
     
  15. ChrisLarcombe

    ChrisLarcombe TDPRI Member

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    I guess that could be a problem. Yeah, you'd just have to try and find a good balance I guess ..!:lol:

    Just a two-tone sunburst...keep it simple. The first time I looked at a tele and thought 'yep, I like that' was watching that 1977 live version of Hotel California - it was Joe Walsh's tele. Maybe that is 3-tone, but I also love all the various incarnations of Clarence White's tele, and I'd love to end up with a finish resembling the state that tele (or eqsuire, hah) is in now, when I'm old and decrepit!
     
  16. ChrisLarcombe

    ChrisLarcombe TDPRI Member

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    MJT have been paid. This quest is-a-rollin guys!

    Yahoooooooo
     
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  17. ChrisLarcombe

    ChrisLarcombe TDPRI Member

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    Hey guys.

    I've received pics of the body now, pre-aging and etching.

    Now I'm gonna start the process of getting a neck. At the minute, I play a standard Fender Player Series neck, and really like it, so I know I want those specs. Ideally though, apart from that, I want the specs to match a 54' tele (woods and finish, etc), that of Clarence White's Tele (I believe he actually used two that he would swap between occasionally, but his Tele is either an esquire or a 54' I think.)

    What advice does anyone have for me on this, based off the options Warmoth let you choose from on their website:

    Also - do MJT tele bodies only fit vintage warmoth necks? Or do they fit vintage/modern and/or modern as well?







    IMG_4980.jpg IMG_4981.jpg IMG_7881.jpg IMG_7882.jpg
     
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  18. ejphotos

    ejphotos Tele-Meister

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    Body looks great! MJT does amazing work, you will enjoy it. Any Fender/licensed by Fender Tele neck will fit the MJT body, so any Tele neck from Warmoth will fit.
    My MJT tele also has a neck finished by MJT (the actual neck was built by USA Custom Guitars), that's a C shape with a 12" radius that is very comfortable.
     
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  19. ChrisLarcombe

    ChrisLarcombe TDPRI Member

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    Awesome, thanks for the info!
     
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  20. Marn99

    Marn99 Tele-Holic

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    Lovely two tone sunburst there!
     
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