Like all Telecaster lovers I have dreamed of playing a Blackguard from the 1950s – Broadcaster, Nocaster or Telecaster. The real thing is unobtainable for most of us that cannot pay today’s price tag. The reissues are nice and some of them are pretty close to owning the real thing.
My love for a Blackguard was only intensified by getting a copy of Nacho Banos fantastic Blackguard Book and spending many hours studying. I decided it would be a blast to assemble my own using the many great vintage style parts that are available. First stop Mark Jenny. I won an auction for this aged butterscotch body with “vintage nitro” aged finish on his eBay store.
I once owned a 2009 Fender Telecaster American Reissue ’52, but sold it as it lacked the mojo. I love my 2006 Fender G.E. Smith Telecaster, it is one of my favorite guitars in my collection. The newer guitars have different finishes and features. One of my first guitars was a 1971 Fender Telecaster which I sold to a cousin that still has it. I recently bought another 1971 Fender Telecaster that is awesome. None of these are a Blackguard. So I decided to try and put together the best one I could for myself.
I am not after a exact clone, but most of what I am hoping for is the Blackguard Broadcaster or Nocaster sound and mojo. I want some modern things like modern 3-way wiring, electrotosocket jack and 9.5 radius fat neck as this will be a “player” as are all of the guitars in my collection. I did not want an over-sized neck pocket or router hump that were part of authentic Blackguards. Blackguard body with these features can be purchased from Musikraft if this is what you are looking for. I was okay with not having this kind of authenticity in my build. The mojo of a 50s style Blackguard is what I am after with this project. Which is the exact opposite of my other recent Walnut Carved Telecaster project.
I received this light/medium relic swamp ash body today and am quite happy with the aging. It weights 4.0 lbs and is 100% nitro finished like the vintage ones. This body was build from 1 piece of swamp ash which is hard to find these days. I already had some relic string ferrules so I inserted them.
Next call is to Callaham Vintage Guitar Parts to buy some distressed parts. I ordered the distressed version with all slotted screws of the Callaham Vintage T Model Tele Hardware Kit and Callaham Special Wind Fralin Tele Pickups with Broadcaster magnet stagger minus some parts I already had. I was going to use Lindy Fralin pickups anyway on this build so I just ordered the ones Callaham had on their website. Hope to see these parts by end of week.
Next a neck and tuners…. back to ebay? I want a fat neck profile.
Ordered a neck today, vendor says it will take a couple weeks to build.
My aged Telecaster parts and special Fralin wind pickups have arrived from Callaham. They look great.
All the parts are aged by Callaham’s process and I ordered all aged slotted screws. The Callaham Telecaster Bridge is fitted with their enhanced vintage compensated saddles so you can get intonation correct and maintain the vintage look with the brass saddles still vertical.
It was cool seeing that Callaham’s relic Blackguard looks so much like a real vintage one that it even includes the 5 inch diameter circle on the back! They make them out of bakelite also.
Out with the soldering iron.
According to Callaham: the Special Wind Fralin Tele Pickups with Broadcaster magnet stagger.
This wind is a classic Broadcaster/Tele wind that is very full and wide. There is nothing harsh or brittle about their sound. If you dig in, they will respond. I can’t imagine wanting anything more.
The cryogenic treatment we do makes Fralins bought through us just a bit better. It removes harsh overtones under distortions and gives an increase in singing sustain. There is also better note separation for chord work.
These pickups will cover everything from classic country (Don Rich, Vince Gill), to jazz (Jimmy Bryant) to early Led Zeppelin. All you need is the hands.
(cryogenically treated) (set of 2)
I was going to use Lindy Fralin’s on this project anyway, so I decided to try the Fralin Broadcaster special wind from Callaham. Can’t wait to finish this project and try them out.
All wired and working, all hardware installed waiting for a neck.
Relic “fat” neck with aged vintage style tuners on order hopefully it will be here in a few weeks.
Ordered a nice Fender Broadcaster waterslide headstock decal today to add to the vintage vibe for this project. Should add a nice finishing touch.
I now have all the parts, except the neck which is being made including a nice vintage style guitar strap.
OK, I received the neck I ordered from a vendor I found online. The two weeks he quoted that it would take ended up taking almost nine weeks. Neck arrived with relic finish and distressed vintage tuners. He used an All Parts fat neck. I have mounted it on the guitar and did setup.
After playing it for awhile I decided the neck was OK, but not great. I was not too happy with fret work or feel. So I ordered a vintage style neck from Musikraft. Musikraft has a Blackguard series that allows me to order exactly what I wanted. This neck has a Boat V .95 X .95 profile like many early 1950’s Broadcasters had, but with a 9.5 radius and slightly larger 6105 frets that I like. I had them do “heavy rolled” fretboard edges like an old well played guitar neck would have. I up-ordered the neck paying the premium for quarter-sawn Maple.
I ordered the neck with these specs paying the premiums:
- Orientation: Right
- Number Frets: 21 Fret (Standard)
- Scale Length: 25.5 Standard Fender
- Shaft Wood: Quartersawn Maple
- Nut Width: 1.650 (41.91mm)
- Heel Width: Standard Fender 2-3/16 (55.56mm)
- Truss Rod: Vintage Single Acting Adjust @ Heel
- FB Radius: 9-1/2
- Fret Wire: Medium 6105 Nickel Silver
- Tuner Holes: Vintage Kluson Style 11/32
- Top Dots: Black Synthetic Dots
- 12th Dots: Wide Pre ’64
- Custom Inlay: None Use Dot Inlay as Selected Above
- Side Dots: Black 2mm
- Back Profile: Boat V .95 X .95
- Nut Style: Fender Flat Bottom
- FB Edges: Heavy Rolled
- Finish: Raw
- Mount Holes: Drill Neck Mounting Holes
- Nut: Slotted Bone Nut
I had the neck drop shipped to Matt and Mark Jenny at MJT to have the relic finishing done. Musikraft does not do finishing, but gives discounts if you ship to several different vendors they work with.
MJT is the same vendor where I bought the body. They provide any level of authentic looking relic finishing making it easy to choose by sending you “mug shots” of various levels to choose from by number. I choose a medium to light relic to match the body. The neck will arrive with distressed vintage tuners and a round string tree.
The new neck is finished and has been shipped by MJT and it should arrive next week. The cost of this is higher than what I paid for the other neck, but in my opinion worth it as I will get exactly what I want. If you are building a custom project it is not worth compromising on an inferior part. Especially the neck which is the heart of a Blackguard guitar. Joke this took way less time than what the first vendor. The first vendor took a stock All Parts neck and applying relic finish and tuners. This new one was build from scratch and finished to my specs.
UPDATE: New Musikraft neck with MJT Relic finish has arrived. I replaced the neck and set it up. Much improved over first neck. As usual you get what you pay for. Only wish I ordered this one first.
Guitar came out great and was about $35K less than a real 1950 Fender Broadcaster. Just the right mix of vintage style with a few more modern improvements that I was after.
Did final setup on the Blackguard project and it is playing great. I have only nice things to say about the Musikraft Blackguard neck. Very nice – great work, no sharp edges like the All Parts one and the back profile is exactly what I wanted for this old school Broadcaster.
Pretty happy with the Special Wind Fralin pickups as well. The guitar is nice and light as well coming in a little under at 6 lbs 15 oz. I think it sounds great. This guitar is very resonant and sounds good without even plugging it in.
I ordered a thermometer style case similar what they had in 1950.
UPDATE: My Blackguard Tele is finished and I finally got the time to take some pictures and post them. The guitar is a great playing and sounding guitar. Glad I swapped out the neck for the Musikraft and got the finishing done at MJT as it turned out way better then the first relic neck I bought.
None of the parts on this guitar are actually made by Fender. The decal was added ONLY for the vibe and to be a tribute to the Fender Blackguard.
I was not going for a clone of a Broadcaster with this project so it is not totally period accurate. Old Blackguards had serial numbers on the bridge plate and the neck plates were blank. Fender changed this around late 1954 and started putting the serial numbers on the neck plates instead.
UPDATE: I have swapped out the neck plate with a vintage looking one with no serial number.
Many of the relics I have seen are over done and there fore look fake. I wanted just light to medium wear like an old well cared for Telecaster.
The Callaham bridge with straight compensated saddles I used allows for more modern style intonation while keeping a vintage look. If this was a more accurate 1950 build the bridge plate would be stamped with Fender Pat Pending and a serial number. I also used a electro-socket jack cup and slightly larger 6105 frets as well to add more modern playing feel.
The domed knobs the used on the early Blackguards were a bit taller than the ones after 1953. The Callaham knobs look pretty close to me.
This guitar does not spend to much time in a case. I have been playing it a lot and the nice part of a relic is you do not worry about small nicks and scratches so it is usually on a guitar stand in my house.
This was my first relic build and it was a lot of fun. It will not be the last one as I ready started a ’53 Fender Telecaster Roy Buchanan “Nancy” build that I am planning to much closer to the actual guitar.
This Blackguard build came out exactly as I had hoped as it is blast to play – resonates and sounds great. Quality parts and good setup make a world of difference. I could have built this way cheaper by using cheaper parts, but I did not compromise. Probably the reason this quickly became one of my favorite guitars.
The cost to build this was way cheaper than any Custom Shop guitar and was well worth it.
George Gruhn on Fender Broadcaster
Fender 1951 NoCaster at Norman’s Rare Guitars
Nice Demo on Mark Jenny Broadcaster
Seymour Duncan with a 1950’s Fender Broadcaster
Vintage ’53 Tele- Original 1953 Fender Telecaster
Fender Custom Shop 1951 Nocaster®
Rumble Seat Music – 1951 Fender Nocaster
Phil X with 1952 Fender Telecaster