Monday, February 28, 2011

Building a Custom Guitar

Blues Machine
The guitar has been a big part of my life. Some of my earliest memories were my Dad strumming a beat up six string on our ugly green couch on Saturday mornings along with the likes of Jimmy Buffet and Jackson Browne. The instrument captured my imagination and it has been a big part of my life ever since. Last year I traded a Les Paul for a Fender AVRI '52 Telecaster. I had always wanted a tele and the LP I had just never played right. It was a beautiful guitar; it just didn't speak to me. Along with the trade the gentleman has swapped out all the electronics for "boutique parts". I decided that I wanted a Tele that sounded like a '52 Tele so I swapped all the parts back. I was planning on selling the parts on Craiglist. Then my father came over. He picked up the '52 and gave it a strum and said, "oh, this feels so good and sounds so nice" all while a big grin developed on his mug. I decided then and there to give him the guitar. I had several electric guitars and this man of 61 years had never owned an electric guitar.

It's now his, but I still wanted a Telecaster. I decided I would build one with the left over electronics. I bought a used Fender Highway One Telecaster Body in flat black off eBay. I bought some sonic blue paint off ReRanch and painted that body a nice 50s color in my shed. I really wanted this to be a family project so I asked if my brother (who's an artist that goes by the name of Mateo)to custom paint me the body. We settled on a price and I happened to take the freshly painted body up to Pullman, WA when I went up to attend opening night his first solo exhibit last May at WSU. While there we talked about ideas, concepts, etc. I really wanted to have him experiment with it. Then he showed me a sketch of a kid on a bicycle riding through an old 50s neighborhood with cap guns 'a blarin'. I said, "That's how I feel". We agreed this was to be the theme.

Meanwhile I bought a Warmoth Jazzmaster neck with a modern radius (thanks Spike, I love it). I refinished the neck with the advice coming from a great woodworker, named Dennis. I learned a lot about not buying stains and lacquers from Home Depot. Then I waited. And waited. Art takes time and my brother is an artist. When I finally received the body, it blew away expectations.

Assembling the guitar was achieved all the while holding my breath. I am not great at soldering electronics. I did have to take it apart a few times for pickup adjustment and to knock out a hum it had. Once that badboy was grounded it sang great. I believe it just slide into the number one position in my collection.

Here is how it sounds: is parts:
Body purchased on eBay

Neck after applying stain and finish
Also, note the package of tuners on the couch. While mounting those on the neck I did smash my left index finger with a mallet. I do not recommend doing this. It hurt like hell.

Body painted Sonic Blue. The flash really weirded out the color.

Finished Product
Custom Tele guitar
Custom Tele Guitar Headstock
Custom Tele Guitar

Here is Dad on the Green Couch Strumming a Guitar
Dad on Green Couch Strumming Guitar

Here is Dad on someone else's couch strumming a guitar. I am the kid on the couch and my brother is on the floor
Dad Playing Guitar on Other Couch

Here is my Brother on the Green Couch. Look how ugly it is! Note: Guitar really close to the Green Couch
Brother on Green Couch with Guitar in Background

And one comical one of Ronnie Bahama just for laughs. Never shy to ham it up for the camera!
Dad playing a Kid Guitar

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