Wednesday, February 10, 2010

The "Finished" Telecaster

The absolutely horrid weather of late (more than 3 ft. of snow ) has kept me pretty distracted, but I have had a chance to finish the guitar project for my daughter.  It has been a great project, not without its challenges, and I'm very happy with the result -- so much so that I'm watching an eBay auction for a swamp ash telecaster body for myself.

I won't go through the Grizzly details, (yes, I will stoop for this low pun) instead I'll just mention a few things that can apply to any similar project.

1.  When it comes to these high-gloss, exceedingly fussy finishes, every step counts.  The places that were glass smooth after the grain filling stage, and after the sealer, and again after the primer tended to be the places that took the final color and lacquer best.

2.  While the color coat seemed on the verge of sagging, the lacquer coats could be applied in a heavier fashion.  These heavy coats gave it the french polished type of finish.  That being said . . .

3.  Applying the finish to a horizontal surface worked best and helped to stop sags and runs.

4.  Give the final lacquer coat at least three weeks before polishing.  I found that the finish stayed plastic and evened out over the first week or so.

5.  If you are using typical abrasives (silicon carbide) for polishing, wet sanding is the only way to go.  The paper loads almost immediately when dry and creates little globs that scratch the surface.

6.  When polishing, use only the pressure of the weight of your fingers -- if you feel that is not enough, get a coarser abrasive.

7.  My backside was saved by the fact that we were creating a "relic" guitar with a slightly distressed finish.  If I needed perfection I would have failed.  I had hoped to make it perfect as a dry run for the next (non-relic) version but that wasn't the case.  But, I really like the way it looks -- used but not abused.

8.  Read all Grizzly instructions start to finish several times.  The instructions said "now secure the neck of the guitar to the body" at least three times before they really meant it.  If I had really bore down on the screws the first time I could have risked losing some grip by the last time.

9.  With a couple of caveats, this Grizzly kit is good value for money.  The specs were not dead on, but it got the job done.  Here you can see that even with the bridge back as far as possible, you really had to back off the string saddles to get the necessary 25 1/2" from nut to saddle.  If this isn't right, the intonation will be off.

And although it looks like the action is high, it is not.  The neck is not at all bowed, but I'm not sure that the neck pocket was routed (at the factory) dead plumb.  It gives it a bit of character.

The best surprise came after set-up.  If you'll pardon my Anglo-Saxon, this guitar kicks ass.  It growls more than my strat and the sustain is really good.  Even with the bargain basement pups it has that jangly Tele sound -- and all for less than 200 bucks.  I'm not sure I've been more excited about a project in a while.  And I think I know why.

Several years ago, after a long day over a hot stove, I was stumbling down the steps of the Piccadilly Circus tube station.  At the bottom was a guy wailing on "Voodoo Chile" with a similar guitar, and for that moment, I knew he was the coolest cat on the planet.  So while my musical ambitions have all but vanished, I still dream of busking, with a homemade guitar for anyone who will listen.


  1. I am jealous. I have always wanted to learn guitar (both of my brothers play and my daughter is taking it up). I would love to have a classic Les Paul or Telecaster and even more a home made version. Nice color and finish.

  2. looks sweet Chris,
    nice job-
    reminds me of an early model you'd see Jeff Beck playing!

  3. Thanks guys. I must say that it is a bit addictive. I think I'll buy a component each month and build another tele from parts -- this time butterscotch blonde.


  4. Chris, I stumbled upon your blog as I was researching more into building a similar piece from Tom's book. I noticed we are neighbors as well. I live in New London, PA. It's good to know there are other locals who are doing what we do. Keep it up!


  5. Hey Chris,

    I was just returning to visit your blog - I see it's been awhile, but I thoroughly enjoyed reading about your Telecaster!


  6. thanks for your aticle , your post very nice