The Rocket: a little bit vintage, a little bit modern…
The Telecaster always strikes me as the ’32 Ford of the guitar world: versatile, simple, easy to work on, and almost infinitely modifiable. A hot rod waiting to happen! And who doesn’t love a candy apple red hot rod?
The main inspirations for this project were several Fender Custom Shop models in CAR that had great classic 60’s looks. I also wanted to update some aspects to make it a little better match for a gigging player doing covers in small bars (my usual venue when I do play out). Pickup choice was key here, along with some hardware changes here and there. A very satisfying personal project that confirms what many of you already know; once you start building it’s hard to stop! Photos & graphics are just extra fun!
Body – Pine, a little thinner than a standard Telecaster. Tone seems a bit mellower than ash although I haven’t done a true side-by-side comparison. This was my first experiment with a lacquer finish and I went with Duplicolor Metal Specks Retro Red over B-I-N primer and Duplicolor Clear Lacquer clear coat. All rattle cans and done outside during a pretty mild winter for Maine but well below the manufacturer recommended temperatures. I’m much more confident with brush-on & wipe-on furniture finishing techniques and I’m not sure I’m quite onboard with the automotive-type routine yet. A learning experience to say the least!
Neck – Soft “V” maple neck & fingerboard with heel truss rod adjustment, medium tall frets, and 7.25″ radius. Finished with Tru-Oil over amber shellac. Tusq nut, which I like a lot and found very easy to work with. Back of the neck was scraped almost bare and polished with #0000 steel wool – smooth! A really nice playable neck. Secured with stainless bolts going into threaded steel inserts for a nice tight fit while allowing easy removal for adjustments or travel.
Tuners – In keeping with the overall vintage style of this instrument I used nickel Gotoh vintage-style tuners. They feel a little better than the Klusons I’ve used before.
Pickups – My biggest divergence from vintage – Dimarzio Area Hot T bridge and Minibucker neck. First time using these pickups and I’m really impressed with the great tones and wide versatility. From Tele twang to jazz box mellow with sweet funk, blues, and rock along the way. Very quiet even in close proximity to fluorescents and other noise sources.Very happy with this combo.
Controls – Standard CRL 3-way switching. CTS pots: 250K volume, 250k tone with Greasebucket tone circuit. Some people prefer a standard tone circuit but I like how the Greasebucket preserve mids which helps if you favor high gain or use dirt pedals. Switchcraft output jack. Les Paul-style square jack plate – rock solid and any type of straight, angled, fat or skinny plug will fit solidly.
Bridge – Vintage-style stamped steel bridge plate in nickel with Wilkinson-type compensated saddles. Brass on the E-B, G-D strings and steel for the E-A to give the bass a little extra bite.
Knobs – Medium domed chrome plated brass with medium knurling.
Pickguard – Three-ply parchment; warms things up a little compared to stark white.
Hardware – Chrome and nickel throughout except for the stainless neck plate & neck bolts.