So you’ve decided on a Telecaster style guitar build. One of the first things you will need is to start collecting all the parts and materials. Telecaster, being one of the most popular and iconic guitar and the first to spring Fender into guitar greatness, will give you plenty of choices for parts, colors, styles and alternatives. This will also you give a wide range of standards and a wide price range.
To make things a bit easier I have compiled a shopping list with concrete parts you can actually go and buy. Well actually these are two lists to give you an option to fit your own budget. We’ll also sum it up at the end, so you can see how it may compare.
Both the Budget and the Premium lists will need to include:
- Bridge and Pickups
- Pickguard, Pots, Caps, Switch, Knobs and Panel
- A Fingerboard, Frets, a Truss-rod, Dots, a Nut, String Trees and Machine heads
· The Shopping list
I will be following a 60s style configuration and Specs and giving you the Budget and the premium option for each one. I tried looking for comparable items, at least as far as looks. For the Premium option Fender® original parts are always the preferred choice.
** Tone-wood, or in other words, the timber for both the body and the neck are not included in this list, and should be sourced as locally as possible.
This is the classic vintage ashtray three saddles Bridge
You can get the one on the left for under 13$ at Amazon. Also Comes in black and with a 6 Saddle Version. The Right one is a Fender® American Professional Tele® 3-Saddle Bridge Assembly and will set you back about 80$. They do have a Fender® Mexican Assembly which will include the bridge pickup and cost 70$
These have many variations as well, and have been copied and improved. Two single pickups. The bridge pickup will sit slanted in the bridge plate with the neck sporting a silver lipstick cover.
At the lower price range you can find at 16$. They are generic, but you can find all the technical specs (if you are so inclined) on the product page
On the right you will find the Fender® Vintera ’60s Vintage Telecaster Pickup Set at close to 90$. These are as original as it gets.
When it comes to the plate and wiring, there are some very economic options such as this fully loaded pre-wired plate. You can replace the pots with better ones (just make sure that your routed cavity will fit larger ones.) This will take care of most of your wiring as well as the plate itself. All that is left is to connect the Pickups and add the output jack and socket, you can find for 12.5$
For a premium set up, we will start with an original Vintage Telecaster® Control Plate, 2-Hole at 17$. The Golden version will be an extra 10$. To that you can add two Pure Vintage 250K Split Shaft Potentiometers for 8$ each, (with a capacitor for the tone),
A 3-Position Vintage-Style Stratocaster®/Telecaster® Pickup Selector Switch for 14$ more, a traditional and awkward Fender® Telecaster® Jack Ferrule, and an original 1/4″ 2-Conductor Guitar Output Jack. Another option is to spring for quality Emerson Custom 3-Way Telecaster 250K Prewired Kit and Just connect it to the pickups and plate. These are high quality, after market harnesses. If you want to avoid soldering and/ or want excellent components, this is a good choice for about a 100$e
Emerson Custom 3-Way Telecaster Kit
Either way you will also need a couple of knobs to complete the controls, (The switch will have its own) and you can find generic ones for 8$
or the slick Pure Vintage ’60s Telecaster® Knurled Knobs for 17$
The machine heads are also one of the visually distinctive features of any guitar. They may also be quite expensive although they are easily replaced or upgraded, even with factory guitars. In this case, even the Fender® Vintage-Style Locking Guitar Tuning Machine Heads will cost 70$ and the equivalent , non- locking about 60$ (if you wan to be more period correct). You can get a set of similar looking tuners for as low as under 20$
A Tele will not be a Tele without the familiar Pickguard. The original Fender® 8-Hole Mount Multi-Ply Telecaster® Pickguards fits most models and will cost 27$. There are some more specific and more expensive models’ but for the majority of Telecasters, this is it. A budget alternative can be found for as low as 8$, with many color options as well.
Don’t forget to add a set of Fender® American Vintage ’52 Telecaster® Pickguard Control Plate Screws for a proper look and fit.
Neck Plate and Ferrules
On the back, we shouldn’t forget the Ferrules and the Neck Plate. The original Fender® 4-Bolt Vintage-Style Neck Plate can be yours for 15$ and a replacement without the logo, can be found for about 6$.
Most Telecasters have a string through body design, although some bridges do allow for front mounted strings, and there was a period when they were marketed this way. Holding the strings in the back is a set of little ferrules. The American Standard Telecaster® String Ferrules will cost 10$, and if you want the even cheaper ones you can find them for 7$
Fender® Vintage Neck Plate
Last part on the body are the strap buttons and staying true to the vintage look we will not use any fancy locking mechanisms. Considering the Fender® Pure Vintage Strap Buttons are 6$ alternatives are not really necessary.
Neck and Fretting Parts
Getting to the neck and fretboard, there are a few choices to be made. Fender does not actually sell (or license) parts such as, truss-rods, frets, nuts. So the alternatives are between either known reputable stores and brands, to more generic ones. Most of the parts are not very expensive anyway so the tolerance and potential for saving on the budget option is also not as significant.
Fingerboards are the one wooden part you may not be able to source locally and Fender does not sell. There is a wide range of exotic woods marketed for fretboards, including some engineered ones. I’ll stick to Rosewood and you can get a 3A grade rosewood blank for 17$. For a wider variety of woods and slotted fingerboards Stew- mac has lots to offer.
Putting price aside for a minute, there is a difference in the way most hobbyist, and many professionals use and install truss rods. The original single action truss rods used by fender are similar to Traditional Truss Rod Kit at about 13$, which you can upgrade to a KTS Titanium Truss Rods at around 60$. With either option, you will want to add the Fender® Vintage-Style Truss Rod Adjustment Nut for an extra 8$.
A lot of builders would prefer the easier installation and practicality of a Dual Action Truss Rod at 18$ which you can also fit with the same Fender® Vintage-Style Truss Rod Adjustment Nut, to get a correct looking adjustment at the heel side of the neck. You can always decide on the less Vintage look and do a nut side adjustment with a slightly cheaper standard Dual Action Truss Rod at 12$ that comes with a hex style adjustment nut
Dual Truss Rod and Fender® Vintage-Style Truss Rod Adjustment Nut
There are a many options and sizes for fret wire and you can get pre cut and pre-bent generic ones for as low as 8$ a set. Here too there is no real need to compromise and you can get original Fender® Vintage, or Fender® Jumbo frets for under 19$
Dots Nut and String Trees
These will not make a big difference budget wise, but you have to have them.
Front Acryilic Dot Markers will add to about 3$ and Side Dot Marker Stick another 1$.
There are many types of nuts, including Plastic and Graph Tech but the choice is fairly simple (and they are mostly in the same price range) you can have a Fender® Shaped & Slotted Bone Electric Guitar Nut for 11$
As far as string trees, you shouldn’t look any further than an original Vintage-Style Stratocaster® String Guides set for 8.5$
Fender® Vintage-Style Guitar Fret Wire
Fender® Vintage-Style Strat® String Guides
To sum it all up
Ones you have all the parts added
together you can see what the actual budget is going to be.
Using original parts (as much as possible)
and Premium alternatives where possible the parts will get you close to 500$.
This will give you a guitar that is almost Identical to a Fender Telecaster as
far as parts and Hardware.
If you are not aiming for a replica and/ or have a
tighter budget, you can manage all the parts from more generic makers for close
to 170$. Of course, even with the budget option, you may decide you want to go
with the original Pickups to really get the sound as close as possible, or
maybe it’s the tuners you want to upgrade. The possibilities are endless and
that’s the beauty of building it yourself.
Other ways to make the build little easier
You can buy bundles of both parts and other materials and
tools you will probably need. A soldering kit, guitar set up tools, Fret
leveling tools and more.
A Tele- Style Hardware Pack can be a practical and economical option.
Personally, I am a big fan of building your own templates
and you can do it yourself with the ‘Electric Guitar Templates – The complete
guide’. (or see the video below) But if you can’t be bothered you can get a full set of Telecaster Templates.
So if you have already decided you want to build a Telecaster
Style guitar, you now have your shopping list at hand. Have fun and good luck.
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