My 1st Tele and 1st assembly – Part 2, ready

BlueX

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I have assembled the cheapest ($160) Tele kit from StewMac. Since this is my first kit assembly, I thought I’d share my impressions, also to other beginners who might be interested. Pictures, and link to Part 1, at the end of this post.

So, I successfully put together this kit to a playable guitar and I like it a lot: sounds good, easy and fun to play, solid quality feeling, and well balanced without neck dive. I like the 14” radius fretboard: easy to play and bend strings. Medium neck and medium frets fit me well.

The components in a $160 kit are of course cheap, but I am positively surprised. The tone of the neck pick-up fits well for blues rhythm, and the bridge pick-up is quite good for Page riffs from LZ1. With the switch in the middle position the pickups are wired for hum cancelation. Unfortunately, that kills most of the tone as well. With the tone control on max the bridge pickup is terribly bright (mounted directly onto the metal bridge). However, that can easily be tamed by turning down the tone control to get a good sound. The mahogany body in this guitar might be a good platform for P-90 or humbucker. My idea is to use this inexpensive kit to practice modifications.

My failure in this project was with the grain filler (for the porous mahogany wood). The body looks like there is no filler at all, with all the grain and pores visible on the finish. The neck is smooth, though, and it’s the same type of wood. I need to practice this more, to find out what I did wrong. Besides the grainy surface, this mahogany wood doesn’t look that good through the translucent paint. I will probably re-paint this body, with a solid colour instead.

Being my first Tele, I must say I like the guitar model. Snappy sound (the bolt-on neck?), but still strong and resonant (the thick body?). I also like the design: On one hand it looks like a prototype, on the other hand it’s a design that is still going strong after more than 70 years. Can’t be wrong.

Pros:
  • All parts included, and everything works and fits together
  • Wooden parts well made
  • Pre-installed 2-way truss rod
  • Easy to assemble
  • Excellent step-by-step instructions in printed booklet with colour pictures
  • Easy to do a proper setup (neck relief, string action, and intonation), and the guitar holds tuning well
  • Electronics mostly pre-wired, so you only need to connect the assemblies (soldering)
  • Switch and controls feel solid
  • Clear and strong sound already from the unplugged guitar
  • For $160, plus paint, you get a good guitar: easy and fun to play, and it sounds good

Cons:
  • The oversized headstock (to cut your own shape) is still not big enough to copy a normal Fender Tele head (copyright?). This, together with the mahogany body, means that you cannot make a copy of a traditional Fender Tele.
  • The neck has pre-drilled holes for the neck-fastening bolts. However, the enclosed instructions say you should mark and drill those holes after you have properly positioned the neck. I ended up with one oval hole (which I might have to repair). I also increased the diameter of the clearance holes in the body, just for the screws to pass through without gripping. I did both these operations with a drill press, to drill perpendicular.
  • No pre-drilled holes in the body for “string through” (although the bridge has holes for both top-loading and string-through). I think you need equipment for precision drilling to have proper line up of the ferrules on the back.
  • The pickguard does not fit perfectly in relation to neck (or neck pocket), bridge, and control plate. I had to make a compromise to cover the routed cavity for the controls.

Facts (for my kit):
  • Mahogany body and neck, and Indian Laurel fretboard
  • Weight (ready and stringed): 3,40 kg (7 lbs 8 oz)
  • Body thickness: 45 mm (1 49/64”)
  • Frets: 22, medium size
  • Scale length: 2 x 12 ¾” (25 ½”)
  • Fretboard radius: 14”
  • Fretboard width (nut / 22nd fret): 42,6 / 55,7 mm (1 11/16” / 2 3/16”)
  • Neck thickness (1st / 12th fret): 20,7 / 23,2 mm (13/16” / 29/32”)
  • Single coil pickups (neck / bridge): 6,1 / 6,5 kOhm
  • 3-way switch, and volume and tone controls (prewired, haven’t measured the pot’s)
  • Tone control capacitor: 47 nF (2A473)
  • Finish (body / neck): Butterscotch Blonde / Clear Satin, both nitrocellulose aerosols from Northwest Guitars in the UK (bought separately)

Recommendations, from a beginner to other beginners:
  • Get as much info as you can
  • Use proper PPE
  • Take your time
  • Fret work, and filing nut slots, can be a bit tricky. If you do too much, you need to start all over with new parts. You could get a really cheap worn out or damaged guitar for practicing.
  • Sanding and spray painting can be a problem if you do not have access to proper workspace or can do it outdoors. A kit with finished parts can be an alternative.
  • Building or assembling a guitar kit is a great way to learn more about how a guitar works and functions, and how to do maintenance, setup, repairs, and modifications
  • Keep the packaging material to store parts during the build process

Specific tools I used (besides normal hand tools):
  • Jigsaw (to shape the headstock)
  • Power drill, and drill press
  • Sanding block with 14” radius (same as the fretboard radius, for fret work)
  • Fret crowning file, medium size
  • Fret rocker
  • Nut slot files (I used .013”, .020”, and .035”)
  • Soldering station and alligator clips

For anyone still reading, here is the link to Part 1: My first Tele, and my first guitar assembly

Tele1-2a.JPG Tele1-2c.JPG Tele1-2f.JPG Tele1-2g.JPG Tele1-2i.JPG Tele1-2j.JPG Tele1-2k.JPG Tele1-2l.JPG Tele1-2m.JPG Tele1-2o.JPG
 

GregM

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Wow, great job, alot harder than my diy Strat build ( neck was all assembled bar the tunas)
Looks killer, great work!
 

speyfly

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Looks like you were well prepared with a good shop to do the work. I was a woodworker in my youth and I do appreciate a good shop with good tools to get the job done.

It looks like it's gona turn out great!
Thx for sharing!!!
 

South Park

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I’m building part caster trying to get the pant right . You can use primer filler to fill the grain and wet sand to fill the grain you can use linseed oil to swell the grain to it is what cabinet makers do. If you put a silver base coat down and mix some red with clear coat you can get a candy apple red . You can get some great colors from finger nail polish you just have to thin it out to spray it this stuff looks easy
 

BlueX

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do appreciate a good shop with good tools to get the job done

It looks like it's gona turn out great!

Thanks! Yes, good tools make half the job. I inherited a lot of woodworking tools from my grandfather, but has mainly done things like "home improvements" myself. Nothing furniture-like, yet.
 

BlueX

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You can use primer filler to fill the grain and wet sand to fill the grain you can use linseed oil to swell the grain to it is what cabinet makers do. If you put a silver base coat down and mix some red with clear coat you can get a candy apple red . You can get some great colors from finger nail polish you just have to thin it out to spray it this stuff looks easy

Thanks for the tips! Candy apple red is one colour I've been thinking about (like a Tele that Muddy Waters played)
 

South Park

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The hard part is mixing the right shade of red with the clear coat so it will look red not purple that is what I get . You need to paint some samples until you get it right
 

BlueX

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The hard part is mixing the right shade of red with the clear coat so it will look red not purple that is what I get . You need to paint some samples until you get it right

Do you have proper spray paint equipment to spray this paint you're mixing?
So far, I've been using aerosol cans with ready paint. According to reviews, people are happy with the different shadses of colours available from well-known suppliers.
 
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Sapient

 
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Very nice! Lot's of work for sure, but tell me ..what was more work, the guitar or post #1 here? Lol. That looks like an all-nighter.

:dude::shred2:
 

South Park

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Any cheap touch up spray gun will work for this and a nail gun compressor will do . Some auto parts stores have the paint and clear coat you can get house of color premix paint on eBay . Yes I do have the stuff for this you just have to know how to use it
Do you have proper spray paint equipment to spray this paint you're mixing?
So far, I've been using aerosol cans with ready paint. According to reviews, people are happy with the different shadses of colours available from well-known suppliers.
 

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