Like all Telecaster lovers I have dreamed of playing a 1950s Blackguard 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. See the entire build process here.
No other guitar is as important to history and music as the Fender Telecaster. Sixty-plus years later it is still going strong. It is absolutely amazing to me just how many things Leo Fender got right in his FIRST attempt at a solid body spanish electric guitar even though he himself was a non-player.
In 1950 first came the Fender Esquire which was the single pickup version of this same basic design. Then came the Broadcaster (most likely chosen to reflect the new age of Television). This is the one I based my guitar build. Mr. Fender had to stop using the Broadcaster name very shortly after he received a letter from Gretsch located in NYC complaining that “Broadcaster” violated the trademark for its “Broadkaster” line of drums and banjos. Being a new company Leo quickly stop using the name. Fender simply started trimming off the Broadcaster name off the headstock decals leaving just Fender. Collectors gave these Fender guitars the moniker “Nocaster.”
Soon after Fender re-named their solid body electric the “Telecaster.” Probably the most copied and influential guitar ever made. In 1951 Fender brought the FIRST solid body electric Bass guitar calling it the Precision Bass. Fender was feeling the pressure from other guitar makers like Gibson. So in 1954 they unveiled the Stratocaster. Leo Fender was quite surprised that the Stratocaster did not totally replace the Telecaster and that players were still demanding both models.
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. The reproduction waterslide was ordered from Croxguitar in the UK. The decals they make look exactly like the ones Fender used in the 50s. These decals are made for restorations and should never be used on anything that Fender did not make. But this project required the decal to get the vibe correct. No one that knows vintage guitars would be fooled. Vintage guitars should always be authenticated by a professional using the pot codes, neck and body markings that always will reveal the story and history.
Musikraft Blackguard neck was used. The specs are:
- Number Frets: 21 Fret (Standard for Blackguards)
- 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 (many Broadcasters have this radius)
- Fret Wire: Medium 6105 Nickel Silver (bit taller than vintage)
- Tuner Holes: Vintage Kluson Style 11/32
- Top Dots: Black Synthetic Dots
- 12th Dots: Wide Pre ’64
- Side Dots: Black 2mm
- Back Profile: Boat V .95 X .95 (large like an old Blackguard)
- FB Edges: Heavy Rolled (makes it feel like a well played guitar)
- Relic Finish: by MJT
- Nut Install: Slotted Bone Nut (Leo did not use plastic in those days)
Old Broadcasters, No Casters and Telecasters usually have big fat necks and this added to the sound and vibe. The fat neck and the old style nitro finish on this project makes a huge difference on how the guitar sounds.
Most all the aged hardware was purchased as distressed from Callaham including all slot screws (early Blackguards did not start using any phillips screws until 1953)
I was not going for a total clone of a Broadcaster with this project so it is not 100% 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. I have recently swapped out the neck plate shown in the pictures just to an aged blank plate with no serial number which is more period correct, but I am using a non Fender bridge on this guitar. The serial number would be stamped on the bridge plate in the early 1950s (see picture example).
The string ferrules were not in a straight line in 1950 as they probably drilled them by hand and were finally straightened on sometime on the ’51 models.
Musikraft actually makes more-period correct Blackguard bodies that have the same over-sized neck pocket and tell tail “router hump” seem on the original Blackguards. But I opted for a more modern body and a bit tighter neck pocket which I feel improves sound.
I used an electro-socket jack instead of the old style “milled jack cup” Fender used in this era. Fender used milled cups in the early years that sometimes had a tendency to get pulled out. The switched to the thinner metal stamped style a fews years later. The stamped style is still being used today at Fender, but require a special tool to install or uninstall with frustration. The electro-socket style uses to small screws to install and are pretty nice.
The 6105 frets are a bit taller and the bridge saddles are compensated for a more modern intonation. Also the bridge pickup is a flat pole like the Broadcaster era. However ’59 to ’63 Telecaster era used white cotton string like the pickups I installed instead of the period correct black. Fender moved to pickups with staggered poles around 1955.
Special to 1950 Broadcasters and very early Teles, Fender used closed-shell Kluson Deluxe tuners (no protruding shafts on the side). Fender switched to all open-shell tuners by 1952. Pretty impossible to find Kluson style closed-shell tuners. No one seems to make re-issues that I was able to locate. So I used the aged tuners that MJT sells when they finish and relic necks.
Guitar is nice and light coming in a little under at 6 lbs 15 oz. The body was build from 1 piece of swamp ash and is awesome and very resonant.
Body and neck relic aged finish was done my Matt Jenny at MJT. They used the old style nitro finishes similar to what Fender used in the early years. Today most guitars are finished in poly or some acrylic. The finish with not wear as fast, but in some people’s opinions (including mine) this sort of finish can dampen the sound of the guitar.
Old guitars have this natural relic or wear mostly due to finish checking (small cracks due to temperature changes) because of the old finishes. Poly or acrylic does not wear the same way.
Also note, Fender Broadcasters used a maple headstock plug (all were walnut by ’52).
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 allows for more modern style intonation while still 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 and straight brass saddles.
The domed knobs the used on the very early Blackguards were a bit taller than the ones after 1953. The Callaham knobs look pretty darn close to me.
The 1950 wiring used a pickup Blend control (this became a Tone control by ’52). I opted for modern style wiring.
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.
My next blackguard project is based on one of the most famous 1953 Fender Telecasters, Roy Buchanan’s Nancy. With this build I am striving for a closer replica that is more period correct.
Which era was best? My answer is always they are all great!
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