Finished it on 1st April 2010 (the picture above shows the finished body being fitted and wired), and spent the next two evenings setting it up properly. I decided to build a thinline because I like Telecasters and I don’t have one in this style. I also wanted to try out some Bare Knuckles pickups without mucking up another guitar.
This is another partscaster – made from parts which were manufactured by someone else. I buy bodies which have been pre-cut and routed but left otherwise unfinished. This just saves me some time (and expenditure on machine tools), while leaving it entirely up to me what the finished guitar looks like. I also buy pre-built necks, but drill out the machine head holes and finish setup of the necks myself.
On this guitar, the wood was rather nice. It was a slightly more up-market body than I have bought in the past, so I decided not to bother staining it. It didn’t need any grain filler either, just a light sanding and rub down with wire wool. I then used about ten or twelve coats of french polish to finish it off. The body came from chguitars who sell stuff on eBay, and I think the neck came from axesrus.co.uk. The machine heads and bridge are Wilkinson and also came from axesrus along with most of the other hardware.
The angle of the neck pocket was not quite right for the neck, so I had to shim it a bit. You can’t tell from any of the photos, but I had to put a shim under the heel of the neck (nearest the edge of the guitar) rather than the end of the neck pocket, as the neck needed to be raised slightly to allow proper setup. I cut the shim from an old credit card instead of snippingout brass sheet, as I didn’t have any brass sheet the right thickness. It works fine…
For this guitar I chose to mix a stratocaster neck with a Telecaster body, simply because I prefer the look of the Strat head.
The electronics are about as simple as you can make them. I hardly ever use the tone controls on the guitar when I play, though I do use the volume control a lot to vary the amount of signal hitting the front end of the amplifier or pedal. JJ005 therefore has two pickups, one switch and one volume control. The switch gives you neck, both or bridge pickup, just as a standard telecaster switch would. The volume just varies the output level of whatever is switched in. Because the elcetronics are so simple, I put the output jack on the front panel and left the side of the guitar unmolested by a drill or router.
As I said earlier, the pickups are from Bare Knuckles, a Devon-based company who make pickups by hand and have a very good reputation. I can vouch for the fact that the reputation is well-deserved. These pickups are beautifully made, and sound wonderful. I chose the Brown Sugar matched set, which are a bit ‘hotter’ than standard Telecaster pickups. They sound fantastic. Tim Mills at Bare Knuckles was very helpful when I was deciding which pickups to select. His pickups come with a free set of strings (.10 E Rotosound, which I quite like) and a lifetime warranty.
This is the neck pickup, set into a simple metal mounting plate rather than a large scratchplate. Below is the bridge pickup mounted into a Wilkinson standard Tele bridge with compensating saddles (this is an excellent bridge by the way). The last picture shows the control panel which is extremely simple indeed.
The setup took me quite a while, as I had to unship the neck five times before I was satisfied that the shim was correct. I adjusted the truss rod slightly, and got the intonation correct quite quickly – one advantage of these very simple Telecaster bridges. The string height adjustment needed quite a bit of fine tuning, and there is still a bit of ‘sitaring’ on the higher register strings (E B and G). This is caused by secondary sympathetic vibrations of some sort. It is often solved by increasing the breakover angle at one or other end othe string. On this Tele, the breakover at the bridge is fine, so I experimented a bit and found that the breakover at the nut needed to be increased a bit. For this I will need a couple of string trees which have now been ordered. The nut is a single piece of brass which was filed to be an exact fit in the neck. The string slots are a nice fit for the strings, so that’s not likely to be the cause of the sitaring – sometimes a too wide slot can be problematical.
I’m pretty happy with this guitar – each one I make seems to be a tad better than the previous one, which rather proves the old saying that practice makes perfect.