Building a Fender Telecaster Guitar – Part 15 – Soldering

Testing which wire goes where

I did get a wiring diagram with the pickups, but I chose to run with the chinese 3 way switch for now, since it’s already soldered up on the control plate.

Using my smokey amp, I had already connected the jack plate to the jack connector and just tested the pickups touching the wires to the tabs on the switch.

There was already a wire soldered to the pot (ground) so I figured this saved me a soldering nightmare, so I decided to solder both ground wires of the pickups to this ground wire (white /red to left pot). The solid white and yellow wires are the hot wires from the pickups to the switch.

Everything set up in place

I then recalled I bought some heat shrink tubing which is best to put on the wires before soldering, so you can finish them neatly afterwards. I chose to solder the three ground wires together, using some white pvc tape to bind them together, once soldered I put heat shrink tubing over the bare soldered wires and heated it so it’s all insulated.

The hot wires (white and yellow) of the pickups came tinned, so I just needed to bend them in little hooks so they would hang from the tab holes. Heating the tab I soldered them in place.

All soldered up with shrink tubing

So here’s the finished result: everything soldered neatly with bits of black heat shrink tubing to protect the connections.

The rest is a bit fiddly; without breaking your fresh connections, gently fork everything back into the routing in the body, so no wires will short or break or anything.

Now only the bridge remains

Everything in place! The bridge pickup is now yet to be screwed to the bridge plate, which is still to arrive. So the only thing I need to do now is mount the bridge, put strings on it and set it up and intonate it.

Stay tuned for the final chapter!

Building a Fender Telecaster Guitar – Part 14 – Waterslide Decal

Decal on!

I found this website where they sell all sorts of Fender decals, also for Telecaster models. Sticking to my ’73 theme, I chose this period correct “custom” decal, because I’m building somewhat of a custom thingie here.

These are called waterslide decals. You can order laser- or inkjet decal paper from eBay, but that won’t give you the opportunity to print gold or silver. This decal has gold flake paint in it and looks the part.

I cleaned the headstock with alcohol, took off the high E tuner to have more room, put some water on the headstock and soaked the cut out (cut it around it’s image with like 1.5 mm to spare) decal in water.

Within 2 minutes it’s ready to come off the backing paper and I found it very easy to slide off into position. I used googled images to pinpoint the exact position of the decal and I think it looks great! Now all I have to do is take all the hardware off (again) and spray it with some satin finish lacquer in order to fixate the decal in place, then some light wet sanding and that should do the trick.

Satin finish and wet sanding

Bought a can of satin finish lacquer at the DIY store and sprayed the headstock a couple times during the day; many thin layers.

After drying I wet sanded it using an eraser and some 1200 grit automotive waterproof sandpaper. I didn’t know how much I had to sand off without ruining the decal so I quit while it was still intact and the headstock felt smooth and flat.

After that remount the tuners and the string tree back in place. Almost done!

Building a Fender Telecaster Guitar – Part 13 – Knobs On

Found correct “flat” control knobs at local store.

This is a relief, because I already ordered all parts and don’t want to pay any additional shipping and or import tax charges. These are obviously not genuine Fender, but they have the correct “knurling” grip pattern and are fastened with a flat screw, which is also “factory” correct.

This might seem trivial, but the knobs on the complete control plate I bought are too round on top; proper Fender knobs are much more flat and slightly smaller than the ones that came with the control plate and screws instead of hex nuts.

Looks great, this will definitely add to the overall look of the guitar, although it’s a small detail.

What remains to be done is mounting the (yet to arrive) bridge and saddles and some soldering. In this regard I’m also planning to change the “Chinese” 3-way toggle switch to an “American” model.

Building a Fender Telecaster Guitar – Part 11 – Strap Buttons

Strap buttons installed. This was very straight forward; merely measuring the thickness of the body using the digital caliper (beware this thing is quite sharp and can easily damage the finish) and marking the top strap button near the neck using googled images as a reference, basically you want it 3 fingers width from the neck, about where the curve of the side becomes a bit flat. I chose to mount it slightly towards the neck so it will “grab” a strap better.

The bottom strap button is very easy, specifically because the bookmatched maple top has it’s parting in the center line of the guitar. My body is 46mm thick, so both strap buttons are mounted dead center at 23mm from either surface.

For gigging guitars I usually use the Schaller strap lock system, but they were all sold out and for the time being I’m sticking to the “factory” look.

Felt washers and screws come with the strap button kit.

Update: meanwhile I replaced them for Schaller straplock buttons in black.

Building a Fender Telecaster Guitar – Part 12 – 3-way Switch

Spot the 10.000 differences! Well this is what I was talking about earlier; the 3-way switch is used to toggle from the neck pickup to both pickups to the bridge pickup.

Unfortunately, the pre-wired control plate (pictured partly on the right) came with a cheap chinese 3-way switch (right). But I want the guitar to be as “genuine” as possible, so Custom World Guitar Parts was so kind to give me a

 USA switch (left) for free.

Some of the leads need to be soldered together; these connections are called “jumpers”, some are left on their own and some have (pickup) wires soldered to them. As you can see, the switches are quite different; the chinese one has all the leads together in one row but on the american model they’re fanned out, four on either size of the switch body.

I bench tested the control plate, connecting the pickups by hand and connected the jack to a miniature (smokey) amp to test the pickups, volume, tone and (chinese) switch; it all works fine. Now I have to figure out which lead corresponds to which on the other switch. Note that the screws on the USA model are much longer than the chinese one.

Satan’s little soldering helper.

Saving the best for last; I’m not much of a solderer or electronic wiz, and since the bridge has yet to arrive I’m gathering knowledge and tools to tackle the big job at hand; soldering the pickup wires to the switch and pots.

To help me do this I purchased this “3rd hand” helper device in which you can clamp components and or wires to assist in the soldering pro

cess. As you can see it has a magnifying glass on it which might come in handy.

I own a 20 watt soldering iron with a “accelerator” button with which you can boost it’s power to 130 watts for 30 seconds at a time; I’m wondering if it is capable of heating the pots to proper temperature since most forums mention 40 watt soldering irons. I guess I will find out, if it doesn’t get hot enough I’ll probably borrow a soldering iron or buy another one.

Soldering practise

I don’t solder much, so I thought I should do some test runs before I ruin all my nice hardware.

Using a 20 watt soldering iron with an accelarator button with which you can boost it to 130 watts for 30 seconds a time to speed it up.

Some youtube guy said; you need to heat up the bigger mass (coin) and let the tin / solder move towards the heat.

So I clamped both items in the “third hand” soldering clamp pictured earlier, so that they already touch each other. I held the soldering iron toward the contact point with the wire on the coin for 2 minutes, then I started to also touch the wire to heat it up. In my other hand the rosin core tin dispenser and I managed to get a tiny drop on it.

When I had the impression of a solid droplet that melted itself entirely over the connection, I raised up both tin and soldering iron immediately and let it set.

Guess my old soldering mistake was getting a drop of solder on the iron and try to “smear” it on something, this doesn’t work. When pulled now that it’s set, the connection is so good that I can’t pull it apart at all.

Building a Fender Telecaster Guitar – Part 10 – String Tree

Ball bearing string retainer installed. Normally this would be a flat disk model (vintage) or those flat steel pressed “butterfly” models you see regularly, but both of those can have quite sharp edges.

These on the other hand, have smooth round gliding surface and are therefor less likely to cause string breakage.

It is held in place with the screw and a little “plug” type protrusion on the bottom. I used official documentation as well as googled images to find out it’s location. The main thing is that you want it exactly between the B- and high E-strings obviously, generally they’re mounted near the A-string post. The internet says around this position is fine and I eyeballed it a little bit.

The “plug” type protrusion prevents it from swiveling around once fastened, however, it is necessary to drill and extra hole next to the screw hole in order for it to sink in the wood properly. Drill both holes carefully and make sure you don’t drill too deep, as you will then wind up drilling through the headstock.

The screw became a bit marred due to screwing, I solved this by filing it a bit with a diamond coated file. You can also screw it in and out a couple times or lube the screw with some candle wax.

One might argue to mount it the other way round. I kind of thought this looked alright.

Building a Fender Telecaster Guitar – Part 9 – Pickguard

Pickguard installed. Note the change under the bridge; this time the super sticky green anti slip mat. Funny is, the “normal” bridge is held in place by 4 screws, this bridge is just held down by the string tension and the friction of the anti slip mat.

I have now adjusted the “lipstick” neck pickup (chrome) to about the proper height; it was sitting too low, but I added home made plastic bushing

s to add height under the pickup so it would stick out far enough. Purists might find this non-orthodox, but hey; it’s my guitar, and these bushings will not rot or decay as the rubber surgical tubing will provided by Fender. Note the cloth wires sticking out the control plate routing.

Traditionally, the neck pickup is mounted directly to the body with wood screws. You can also mount it to the pickguard which will result in two screws next to either end of it. I chose this more original and cleaner look. The effect on the sound is supposedly negligable but the purists tend towards this method.

However, I digress. I test fitted the pickguard extensively and found that this after market model didn’t quite fit first try. The cavity for the neck pickup was not to my liking, pushing the pickup towards the bridge, giving it an “angle”, while it should just sit up straight. So I used an exacto knife to scrape off small slices until it fit snugly.

The other problem area was the half circle opening where the chrome control plate (not pictured) will go (routing near the bottom in this picture) they just didn’t line up. Same here; scraped and sanded the pickguard until the control plate fit nicely.

Again I used a drill bit to drill pilot holes prior to screwing; use a bit which has the size of the screw minus it’s threads and drill slightly less deep than the screw will go, so it will “bite” correctly. Do drill though, otherwise you might wind up splitting the wood or breaking screws, both hard to repair.

Go easy and steady, because you can easily damage the finish- or the screw heads with a drill bit or screwdriver, so take your time! Make sure the sawdust is blown or pulled out of the holes and the bottom of the pickguard (and the top of the guitar) are squeeky clean!

Oh yeah, you might notice the added B-string in this picture. I put it on to help locate the position of the “string retainer” which is mounted on the headstock. I used just googled pictures to eyeball the position of it on the headstock, more pictures will follow.

Building a Fender Telecaster Guitar – Part 8 – String Ferrules

String-through ferrules in place. This is the bottom of the guitar, the strings go through it to meet the bridge on the other side. As you may notice, the holes are not exactly aligned, but I guess that doesn’t matter a whole lot.

These “cups” are commonly pressed in using a drill press, vise or just hammered in. I’ve read that some people press them in using a soldering iron while heating them u

p so they “stick” to the finish, which is slightly melting and “glueing” the ferrules in place.

I found them fitting quite snugly, so I used a piece of wood (protecting the finish) to bang them home with a hammer, I can always use a little drop of superglue to adhere them if they ever loosen. 99% of the time they’re held in place by the string tension itself.

Note that you can see the high E-string grommet in the bottom ferrule.

Building a Fender Telecaster Guitar – Part 7 – Neck Mounted

Sigh of relief! Neck screwed in place.

I’m very happy that I took about two days studying the neck and the forum and technical drawings. Also don’t be afraid to just use common sense, as is with ordered parts from different vendors; there will always be small differences which you have to conquer.

Glad I chose to order high quality woods and genuine Fender hardware, I think this helps.

The action is already very low and good, no string buzz (the reason I returned the store bought telecaster) and tons of sustain! The low E-string rings for THREE MINUTES, amazing. Of course, using that old Gibson bridge as temporary part means the intonation and string length are not quite good, but this is to be expected since it’s not meant to be on this guitar.

In about 1 or 2 weeks I will be receiving the genuine ’52 style “ashtray” bridge with brass saddles.

Building a Fender Telecaster Guitar – Part 6 – Setting Neck

Scary!! Test fitting the neck. At first I was just eyeballing it, and it seemed crooked.

In this picture I’m using an old tune-o-matic bridge that came off of my ’69 Gibson Les Paul because I just couldn’t help myself to wait another 2 weeks with assembly. It’s sitting on a strip of packing styrofoam, later I discovered that the green antislip material worked better.

Using the low and high E-strings to string it up in order to tell if the neck was lined up straight while clamped with anti slip mat for protection.

I was confused, because when I marked the holes in the neck (the body came with holes, not visible in this picture) they did form a nice square shape on the neck butt, although not parallel to the neck, a bit askew. But studying pdf plans I found through I noticed that the neck is somewhat asymmetrical in shape, so I figured it was supposed to be like that.

Having figured that out, I turned the clamped rig up side down and drilled very shallow pilot holes using a drill bit which is about the same size as the pre drilled holes in the body. I then used a smaller drill bit (otherwise the screws won’t have enough bite) to drill the neck holes. Make sure not to drill too deep, check how deep you have to go test fitting the screws. If necessary tape your drill bit so you have a visual reference.

This was very nerve wrecking!!! Once I had this done, I screwed the F-logo neck plate on the back with the 4 screws. DEAD STRAIGHT!!