vintage telecaster build quality

Discussion in 'Telecaster Discussion Forum' started by horax, Mar 26, 2020 at 1:14 PM.

  1. horax

    horax Tele-Afflicted Silver Supporter

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    I was lying in bed last night, thinking about teles like I usually do, and a thought came to mind.

    technology has increased through the years to where things can be manufactured more accurately and precisley than ever before.

    For those who have played vintage instruments (50's teles, etc)., how would you rate the build quality against today's more modern offerings?

    Are the AVRI's and AO's the quality you could expect out of the vintage guitar, or were the older guitars more like american or mexican standards or other flavors?

    Point is, how do we know the vintage stuff wasn't hte same quality as today's lower end offerings, and today's higher end offerings surpass the vintage, most sought after guitars?
     
  2. 8barlouie

    8barlouie Friend of Leo's Silver Supporter

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    Oh boy! I think I might need a big bag of popcorn! Actually it’s a fair question and I’m truly interested in knowing.
     
  3. Telekarster

    Telekarster Tele-Meister

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    Ha! Glad to know I'm not the only one who does this ;) Actually, I posted something about this on another message, but - In my understanding, USA made classic Fender's Gibson's etc. AVRI for example, are about as close as one could get to the golden era's in terms of what these MFG's are making today. I have a 57 AVRI strat that I compared to an orginal, mint, 57 strat and honestly I could not tell hardly any differences. Even the weight was virtually identical. My AVRI is all stock, and I love it dearly! Anyway, this has been my experience. I think after all the years, the MFG's are finally starting to pay attention to the details, and what made their instruments great/legendary to begin with vs. cost cutting BS that they've done in prior years.

    On a side note, I must say that I am particularly impressed with the MIM vintage 50's-60's Strats and tele's! The price point vs. build quality really is pretty amazing. Couple this with the FACT that most of the employees at Fender in the 50's were from Mexico or otherwise SA decent, it could be argued that these MIM's are actually closer to the "real deal" than anything else. But... I digress ;)
     
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  4. DHart

    DHart Friend of Leo's

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    I'm looking forward to the replies.

    I don't have a LOT of experience with vintage guitars, but my hunch is that some are great, a lot of them are over-rated/over-priced, and some of them are just crap.

    New production definitely benefits from the precision of modern technology/CNC.
     
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  5. horax

    horax Tele-Afflicted Silver Supporter

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    It's hard to fathom that hand made, not computer controlled machinery could build something as consistently good as it does today...but is that what makes vintage guitars so good?
     
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  6. AndyPanda

    AndyPanda Tele-Holic

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    Since so many people these days think 70's fenders are "vintage" -- then those particular "vintage" guitars aren't built as well as the cheap stuff today. But the instruments built before 1965 were built very well.
     
  7. Chief101

    Chief101 Tele-Meister

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    There’s a great deal of nostalgia, “magic”, “handmade”, “tone chasing”, “nitro”, and unobtanium that drives the vintage market. There are certainly some fantastic vintage guitars but all my guitars will be vintage in about 30-40 years, so ....

    Today’s guitars are almost certainly made to consistently tighter tolerances and repeatability than vintage guitars were. It’s the advantage of CAD and digitally operated machines. This, in and of itself, doesn’t guarantee quality but it’s a good start. I’d say that manufacturing improvements combined with human attention to detail is the secret to “quality” in guitar production. No doubt there are great guitars from all eras, but perhaps greater odds of mass quality in today’s manufacturing environment.

    I not opposed to vintage, I’m just not a fool for vintage.
     
  8. Telekarster

    Telekarster Tele-Meister

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    There are others out here with a lot more exp than me playing vintage, but I have played a few to include a 1955 mint strat, a 52 worn out tele, and a 57 strat. All of these instruments inspired me to aquire USA made, or build my own replicas of these instruments. All of them were/are incredible instruments. There are nuances in sound between them IMO, but to justify 1500 vs. 15000+ prices? Hmmm.... I think really it has more to do with the mystique of the early instruments - and there is a mystique to be sure. IF I could afford the vintage stuff would I buy them? Perhaps. But, IMO the newly made stuff is extremely good and quite comparible. In no way would I let any of my AVRI's or builds go, however, if that says anything :)
     
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  9. Preacher

    Preacher Friend of Leo's

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    OK I will bite....

    My FIL has a '56 Whiteguard Tele. I played it for a while until I realized how expensive it was to replace. So I took his guitar, made some templates and tried to replicate it.

    I did have a large wood shop to work in, a lot of the machines the same as what Leo used in his plant.

    Here are my findings.

    The body:
    Wood, is well wood. There are characteristics to wood, some are heavier, more dense, and some are lighter and less dense. I have played heavy guitars and light guitars and found nice sounding guitars in both options. I will say that the '56 is southern grade ash with a whitewashed finish in nitro. That ash was a dry as could be and it did not move as much as my new guitar did for the first few years. I was having to set up my new guitar each winter and summer for the first two years, now it is 15 years old it is as stable as can be. I can pull it out of the case right now which is has resided in for the last two weeks and it will be within a cent of in tune. Oh and for a disclaimer, my body wood was good old Poplar.

    So lets move onto the neck:
    Original '56 has a big old chunky neck, one piece with a walnut plug and stripe, vintage tuners and standard frets. My FIL does not do a lot of bends so I would be shocked if it had a refret. I tried to replicate that neck, but I messed up the fretboard so I went old school Leo not letting anything go to waste, I added a maple cap to the maple neck I had, buried the truss rod in the middle and called it good. My shaping was a little less chunky at the nut than the original but I preferred it that way. The tuners are PING vintage tuners, good old vintage single string tree and medium frets all shaped on a 9" radius (I think the original was a little under that 9").

    The finish:
    The original has a white washed nitro finish. I tried to replicate it but my finish came out a little more brown, like butter scotch after it aged the first year and it has continued to get darker. I also used a stain and then a tinted clear nitro finish.

    Hardware:
    I used a Fender bridge, 250K pots with a Grigsby three way switch and an orange drop cap. Pups were pickups pulled from a mid 90's Fender tele I bought from a friend who was parting out a guitar that was being modded with noiseless pups :)

    The verdict:
    The first day I unveiled my build and played it in church my FIL was there. He kept looking at the guitar with a weird look on his face. After service I saw him up on stage looking at it and I asked what he thought. He replied that apparently I had broken his neck as the headstock did not say Fender Telecaster. I tried to explain that it was not his guitar and he should pick it up and play it. He played it for a while and then told me it was the same guitar as his, but I must have sanded the logo off.
    Later that day I brought both guitars to him (I was pretty sure he was mad so I wanted to put his mind at ease) and showed him the replica and the original. We played a little through the '56 Deluxe, he in one channel and me in the other. We traded back and forth a few times to just feel the difference.

    I noticed the chunky neck more than my FIL did, he actually said my replica was easier to play with the action set low. I agreed on chords up the neck. His original has a little more bottom end bass than the replica through the amp, but the chords sounded more "chimey" on the replica than on the original. Sustain was better on the original but the notes tended to go a little sharp further up the neck than on the replica but that could be in the set up and the fact that I had compensated saddles and he was using the original brass saddles. Also all three of his saddles were brass where I had brass saddles on the DGBE strings and a steel saddle on the EA strings (I had read of someone doing that once and thought it was cool so that is what I did).

    So there is my opinion.

    Are today's guitars better? Well some actually probably are better than the old originals in terms of detail, precision and such. But there is something to be said about wood as it ages, it does change and mature and you can't get that without letting the guitar go vintage.

    57 and Relicaster.jpg 57telecaster2.jpg IMG_1836.jpg
     
  10. boris bubbanov

    boris bubbanov Tele Axpert Ad Free Member

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    I have people I know, with vintage guitars for investment purposes as well as playing, and I have gotten to play a lot of these Investment Grade Esquires and Teles from the 50s, early 60s.

    I think they were variable in quality when new, and since then a number have remained as good as they started, some better, and a whole lot are worse for the passing time. Some of them, it is a wonder they weren't tossed in the dumpster in the 1960s before they gained value. I think they were kept around because Harmony, Kay, Stella, etc. guitars, even the best of them, were so hideous. But by today's standards, these old bum guitars are simply not playable or capable of being made potential. And I am not talking about "if we could only replace this" and no we cannot because value is lost. I'm talking about guitars that could not be made into a Classic Vibe quality guitar, no expense spared. Just dreck.
     
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  11. Stefanovich

    Stefanovich Tele-Holic

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    "Better" is such a subjective term. I will gladly assert that today's guitars are more consistent. I have played vintage guitars that were dogs and others that were amazing. It has been a long time since I played a new guitar that was terrible. Squiers feel low end compared to American made Fenders, but they intonate properly, stay in tune, gave decent setup (or can be set up well) and sound fine. The same could not be said for low end instruments of the 50s and 60s.

    I think a big part of the vintage mystique comes from a decline in quality in the 70s. Soon, many players realized a 63 strat was better than a 73 strat (or a 63 D-28 was better than a 73 D-28) and this began the notion of vintage as superior.
     
  12. WisconsinStrings

    WisconsinStrings Tele-Afflicted

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    I've heard people say that one of the reason the Vintage tend to be nice is because only the good ones have lasted through the years. Sounds like a good theory to me.
     
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  13. Telekarster

    Telekarster Tele-Meister

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    I've had the privilage to play on 2 original, mint condition, Strats. One was a 55, the other a 57. Both survived in their condition because they were bought new and basically never played. They simply lived in a closet for 50+ years, in their cases. The cases were also near mint, and yes... both had all their case candy of course. This was over 25 years ago, when things like this were possible to find. Today, probably not so much. Nonetheless, both survived due to where they "lived" more than anything.
     
  14. RodeoTex

    RodeoTex Poster Extraordinaire

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    Wow, great post!
    Thanks for taking the time to share this story.
     
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  15. Corvus

    Corvus Tele-Meister

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    Been playing for fifty years - had loads of guitars including "golden era" when they weren't vintage or valuable. Let's be honest - modern manufacturing means you can get wonderfully playing instruments with excellent build quality at incredible prices today - and they are consistent. I think we shouldn't over-romanticise the past and pretend that everything made by hand was somehow better. Sure there were some fantastic instruments made with care and great woods by craftsmen in an era of limited production but when how many you could get out the door became the aim quality fell off big time. I've seen some real shockers from both of the big names including teles that weighed a ton, the dots didn't go down the centre of the neck and the neck shapes were so poorly done as to be almost square, not to mention heavy thick plastic finishes that even lapped the frets on the fingerboard! And just because they are now "vintage" now they command a totally disproportionate price to their actual worth as playing instruments. That's not to say there weren't some real gems produced in all eras but often not.

    So! Today, whether it's a Bullet, and Affinity, a Classic Vibe or Mexican/US production you get a decent, well made, playable instrument at a far more affordable price than the very high cost of hand building such as Custom Shop etc. We are really spoiled for choice, quality and value these days; modern production methods have brought quality at all price levels today.
     
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  16. Censport

    Censport Tele-Holic

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    Sounds like a good theory to me, too.

    I liken it to old cars and motorcycles. I remember the '70s cars my parents bought new and used, and the quality/reliability issues they had (until they started buying Japanese cars like everybody else did at the time). But I've had a few '70s (and '60s) cars of my own, including a '73 Cadillac sedan and a '74 Dodge Dart. And they were/are quite good. Probably because they were cared for, maintained properly, stored properly, etc. Plus, parts may have been improved over the original designs over time. Ask any Corvair owner if they run the original rubber o-rings on the pushrod tubes instead of the Vitons, for example.

    Maybe it's the same way for guitars too. How many times has that '58 Strat been set up, and by whom? If an instrument has been cared for, it shows as times passes.
     
  17. roycaster

    roycaster Tele-Meister

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    You’re concerned with fit and finish, and the original guitars can’t stand up to todays. Period. The whole point of vintage instruments is sound and feel. That is something modern production is close to, but is not there yet…
     
  18. K-Line

    K-Line Tele-Holic Vendor Member

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    I have played countless vintage guitars. Some were great but many more less than stellar. I am sure it was not the build quality as much as their need to fill orders like any other production line items. As compared to new stuff, I feel the new stuff is better than the vintage stuff. From a builders prospective so I am biased of course.
     
  19. Piggy Stu

    Piggy Stu Friend of Leo's

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    Much of what I think is already said here, but to summarise my own opinions:

    Lots of old rubbish has not made it to today to do a cross sample

    Old growth timber

    Some things settle in

    Those things from the 50s were produced at a price that would be a LOT of money today so you should compare it to custom shop, where a man could spend his whole career perfecting a skill

    Today's entry level is def better than 50s entry level
     
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  20. teleplayr

    teleplayr Tele-Afflicted

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    Vintage instruments like modern ones all have "good & bad ones".
     
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