So I've been shopping around for Teles for a while. In the process of doing so, I bought a G&L Tribute Strat, but have failed to find a Tele that spoke to me. I also used to have an Epiphone Explorer that I really liked, but eventually got rid of because the neck became a ski jump right around the area where the fingerboard met the body. After that I had a Dean Black Gold Z that looked and felt great, but I didn't get on with tonally. So, I've always had a weak spot for Explorers, and found them to be pretty comfy in terms of where the neck sits and how your arm is locked into the right place over the bridge.
Then, on this forum, I discovered KnE Guitars. (I think it was who mentioned them). KnE Guitars offers Fender-compatible Explorer bodies that actually have the correct outline (unlike Warmoth's old, and now-discontinued, Explorer bodies). So, in the spirit of combining two guitars I really wanted (and with some inspiration from the RS Guitarworks TeeVee and TeeByrd) I decided to jump in and build a '52 Tele-style partscaster, but with a Strat headstock since I prefer that look.
I want to preface this by saying that, without my dad, this would probably not have happened (or would have looked like utter shit). He spent hours upon hours teaching me and helping me with sanding, drilling, routing, cutting, sanding, staining, spraying finish, Dremel-ing, sanding, fabricating, wet sanding, respraying, wet sanding, polishing, sanding, and more sanding. So, this guitar really is as much his baby as mine, and it was a great way to spend a whole bunch of hours with him (as I don't get to see him quite so much these days). So, thanks Dad!
The body, as it came from KnE. I requested no control route, as I wasn't sure where and how to place it, and whether to have it follow the contours of the body. I played with a few different options, but settled on a more traditional position after mocking it up:
Next, we used a Forstner bit to hog out the control cavity, and a chisel to remove the rest of the stuff in between.
Then, we sanded it for a really long time to get rid of sanding marks and flatten everything out. Ended up at I think 400 grit before applying finish.
After the washcoat and stain, waiting to dry:
Then we started spraying the lacquer. Learned a lot at this stage, including that we needed to set up a rig to spin the guitar as it was being finished so that we could put it on relatively thickly without getting drips. Unfortunately, the body was pretty unbalanced, so it was tough to spin for long periods.
(See the "orange peel" texture under the flash).
Fast forward after a shitload (and I mean a shitload) of wet sanding (and respraying, to cover spots where we sanded through on the edges, then resanding) to bring the body to 2000 grit.
At this point, the neck arrived from Warmoth, finally:
So we made sure everything fit. Even at 2000 grit, the body looks pretty 'satiny' despite how flat the finish is.
Also fabricated the pickguard from a big sheet of black plastic. Lots of time with the Dremel and a spindle sander here. Unfortunately, we didn't realize that there was a side with protective plastic on it until after we had cut it most of the way out, so the top side is a bit dirty and scuffed (though we did our best to clean and polish it somewhat).
We then tried some hand polishing, and the finish started to look shiny:
After we got a polishing sponge that went on the random orbital sander, things got shiny very quickly (although it took a few hours of polishing, and really could have used some more but I didn't really have time as vacation was ending). We also cut the hole in the pickguard for the neck pickup and drilled and countersunk the screw holes, applied shielding tape to the cavities, and grounded everything.
All wired up and strung up for the first time:
The final project:
It's still settling into being a guitar, so the setup needs a fair bit of work, but it sounds like a Tele should, minus a lot of string buzz from dialing in string height, neck relief, and saddle adjustments.
The electronics pretty much worked on the first try, too. Well, except for the fourth position on the 4-way switch (the "both pickups in series" setting), which for some reason is making no noise. I'll have to look into that when I'm not playing it.
One little annoyance I may correct in the future: the side adjuster for the truss rod is blocked by the edge of the neck pocket, making truss rod adjustments a bit annoying.
Electrosocket jack. Works pretty well, although I will have to remember not to use right-angled plugs with this guitar. Will be adding cloth washers under the straplocks as well, which I affixed to the body with extra-long (1 3/4") coarse-threaded drywall screws to prevent them from pulling out. Had to grind the heads on those screws to get them to fit in the straplocks, but it's worth it for the extra peace of mind.
All that sanding paid off for a shiny and pretty professional-looking finish!
So, all in all, I'm pretty happy. It certainly looks and sounds like how I wanted, and it's just a matter of dialing in the neck relief and setting up the bridge with the right saddle height, intonation, and radius (and fixing the damn "series" position). I think I will be over the moon with it once I get it dialed in and where I like it in terms of setup.
The Suhr bridge pickup has a lot of clarity and sparkle, but it holds up really well under high gain. The Twisted Tele has more clarity and clang than your typical Tele neck pickup (it's closer to a Strat design) but still has the sort of warmth you'd expect from a Tele neck pickup, and you can roll off the tone knob to get the more "traditional" sound back.
The parts list:
-KnE Alder XPL Body
-Warmoth Pro maple neck, 6150 Stainless Frets, Tusq nut
-Suhr Classic T bridge pickup
-Fender Twisted Tele neck pickup
-Wilkinson bridge with three brass compensated barrel saddles
-Hipshot Grip-Lok Closed-Back Locking Tuners
-Fender 4-way Tele switch and control plate
-Sheet of black pickguard plastic
-Chrome dome knobs
-TransTint Honey Amber, diluted in a mixture of 50/50 lacquer thinner and denatured alcohol and wiped on as a stain
-MinWax wipe-on washcoat (to prevent splotching, as alder is notorious for splotching with stains)
-Valspar rattlecan clear nitrocellulose lacquer
-~30ish hours (most of it fabricating and sanding)
Nice guit dude.