Telecaster Tele’Tron Transformation

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Stock Squier Telecaster Thinline
Stock Squier Telecaster Thinline guitar. It’s pretty but we’re going to make it sound better.

Recently I discovered that I owned a Squier Telecaster Thinline.

That may seem like a ridiculous statement but I vaguely remember getting it about a year ago in a trade and I put it in a case before I went away on tour and then forgot about it.1Truth be told, I have 30-40 guitars – this was bound to happen at some point This year when I was moving out of my studio space I was taking down cases and low and behold – guitar.

Just the stock Squier Telecaster Thinline which is pretty cool, and it was in pretty much brand new condition with the plastic from the pickguard still wrapped around the volume and tone pots. I’ve always liked the look of the thinline but when I played it – it clearly needed some work to make it…playable.

Wide Range Humbucker
Fender/Squier Wide Range Humbucker. It looks the same as the old ones but it don’t sound the same.

Pickups

The Fender Wide Range Humbucker is a pretty famous pickup, having been designed by the guy that invented THE humbucker for Gibson back in the 50’s. Fender hired Seth Lover to design something for them and it’s really unique from the magnet stock they used to the split pole pieces to the 1 meg pots they used. That said, the new Wide Range Humbuckers don’t share any of the qualities that made them great, they just look the same. These humbuckers were some seriously generic sounding pickups that sounded like a lot of mud. They weren’t bad if you were playing with loads of distortion but then they just sounded like generic blah.

I opened up the guitar to find that not only were they wired to really crappy tiny little pots – they were also 250K pots! 2Humbuckers, generally speaking, should be wired to a 500K pot and single coils wired to 250K. It opens up the humbuckers and tames the high end of single coils So the first thing to go was the pots and I wired up some 500K and it made a vast difference. Way better, usable, almost, dare I say “good” sounding.  (I did this video about the pots) But it wasn’t enough.

Neck

I’ve never been a huge fan of maple/maple necks 3Maple neck with a maple fingerboard. I prefer a maple neck with a rosewood fingerboard. Personal preference thing. and the m/m neck on the Squier would need to have some nut work done as it was so far off the first fret that I couldn’t play the guitar in tune. Open strings were in tune but anything fretted was pretty sharp. Fortunately I had a maple/rosewood AllParts neck 4The AllParts Vintage TRF neck is hands down my favorite guitar neck, I think I have 3 or 4 of them.waiting for a body. Four screws later and the guitar is coming together.

Now I have a Gretsch Tennessee Rose that I love, the Filter’tron pickups do something really unique and as I’m starting to gear up for a European tour so I thought about making a telecaster/gretsch hybrid. 5I’m not going to put my $2K Gretsch on a plane – but a $300 telecaster? Yeah, I’ll do that! Having had four guitars stolen on tour last time we were in Europe also scares us a bit.

TVJones pickups in thinline body
TV Jones Filter’Tron pickups. You can see that the cutout for the Wide Range Humbuckers is quite large – no additional body cutting was required by me! Woo-Hoo!

To get that sound, there was only one way to go – TVJones English Mount TV’trons! I got a Classic for the neck and a Classic Plus for the bridge, ordered a blank pickguard so I could cut it out myself 6Terrible idea, next time I will use Pickguardian.com, it took me forever to cut out the pickguard by hand – it works but up close it looks like shit and wired it all together.

Blue tape over the pickguard with traced out pickups shapes for cutting.
I covered the blank pickguard with blue painters tape so I could trace out where I needed to cut out for the pickups. Effective? Yes. More effective – ordering from someplace that will cut this out for you. My holes weren’t completely straight.

 

 

Does it still do that Tele thing? Yeah, it kind of does. Does it do the Gretsch thing? Yeah, it kind of does. But it’s really it’s own thing. They have the fullness of Filter’trons but still feels like a Telecaster. I have played some of the solid body Tele’s with Filter’trons and wasn’t a huge fan but the fact that this is a thinline Tele is much closer to what I was hoping for.

Bridge

Now there’s a number of things I’m not very good at – one of them is setting the radius on the bridge to match the neck. My necks are pretty round at 7.25” and so I bought these little metal things that help you set the radius thinking it would help but I got so frustrated trying to do it myself that I decided to bring it to my friend Danny at Danny Ott Guitar Repair in Westminster, CA and it took him less than 5 minutes to dial it in. It took him longer to find replacement threaded screws to put in the bridge saddles.7The screws were sticking up pretty high and cutting up my hand, he dug around to find shorter screws.

7.25" radius tool.
7.25″ radius guide for the bridge. These are super helpful little tools. I still suck at this adjustment.

I do a lot of guitar stuff, experiments and what-not and Danny is my safety net. When I go too far or can’t do something – I bring it to him. I keep him on his toes for sure, he’s never sure what kind of disaster I’m about to bring him!

 

 

 

full size pic of the guitar
Full size picture of the new Bobbocaster Tele’Tron

Started out with a Squier Telecaster Thinline. I changed:

The neck.
The pickups.
The pots and switches.
The pickguard.
The strap buttons.

I kept:
The body.
The bridge.
The tuners.
The string ferrules, string retainer, neckplate, screws and knobs
The output jack (for the time being)

So why didn’t I just buy a thinline body and build it from scratch?

Squier Thinline Telecaster: used on Craigslist $300-400.

Thinline Telecaster Body from Warmoth: $487 (just the body)

Thinline Telecaster Body on eBay: $250

Totals:

Squier Thinline with almost all new parts: <$700

Thinline built from scratch with parts from Warmoth: $1400

Now I will turn around and sell the old pickguard and pickups on eBay for $100 and the old neck for another $120 and the cost of my souped up Telecaster just went down to under $500.

 

UPDATE:

I had asked my buddy Danny Ott if he could help me put a blend knob in this guitar so when I’m using the middle position on the pickup selector I could favor either the bridge or the neck pickup.  He kind of scoffed at me and asked “then what’s the point of the 3 way selector?”  And he mostly had a point except I still wanted that blend option.

Fast forward to a few days later, Danny had to have some kidney stones blasted and was hopped up on pain killers and he called me to say that in his medicated state he realized how to wire my guitar.  Seriously, you can’t make this shit up.

I brought the tele back to him and he removed the tone knob and swapped it out for a blend like he typically does on a stratocaster so when you are in position 1 or 5 you can roll in how much of the neck or bridge pickup you want.  Perfect!  So now when I’m in position 1 on the bridge pickup I can roll what was the tone knob in to about 7 and get a really nice blend of the two pickups!

If anyone is interested in this mod, please message me and I will get the schematic for you.

Notes:   [ + ]

1. Truth be told, I have 30-40 guitars – this was bound to happen at some point
2. Humbuckers, generally speaking, should be wired to a 500K pot and single coils wired to 250K. It opens up the humbuckers and tames the high end of single coils
3. Maple neck with a maple fingerboard. I prefer a maple neck with a rosewood fingerboard. Personal preference thing.
4. The AllParts Vintage TRF neck is hands down my favorite guitar neck, I think I have 3 or 4 of them.
5. I’m not going to put my $2K Gretsch on a plane – but a $300 telecaster? Yeah, I’ll do that!
6. Terrible idea, next time I will use Pickguardian.com, it took me forever to cut out the pickguard by hand – it works but up close it looks like shit
7. The screws were sticking up pretty high and cutting up my hand, he dug around to find shorter screws.