This project is a tribute to the 1963 Fender Telecaster Custom. Fender debuted the Telecaster Custom in 1959 in an effort to build a higher-end Telecaster. They added body binding, sunburst finishes and rosewood slab necks. I picked the 1963/64 style as I always admired this model and are pre-CBS when Leo Fender still was running the company. The originals are pretty hard to afford these days. Even the Fender Custom Shop Reissues run way over $3.5K. I love building these vintage vibe tribute models as I can add whatever features I like and spec out the neck shape to my liking. These are so much fun to build. Certainly, not the real thing, but close enough to get the vibe from these classic guitars. More Fender history.
Project starts out with a great relic sunburst double bound body from MJT Custom Aged Finishes. Aged 3-ply pickguard is also from MJT. I ordered a custom built-to-order “2 piece (Maple/Rosewood)” neck from Musikraft that will be finished at MJT as well. The body and neck are licensed Fender parts. Most of the hardware I will age myself from genuine Fender parts.
Using a 3-ply Mint Green pickguard that is aged to look like the original ones Fender used in the early 1960s.
Fender used Alder for many of the Telecaster Customs starting in 1959. This was the main wood they were using for the Stratocaster that was introduced in 1954. This did change the tone a bit for the Alder Telecasters. Fender made this switch in body wood for a few reasons, mostly due to availability and finding it harder to acquire Ash that was light in weight. Some of the rarer Fender Telecaster Customs were made with Ash which shows a nice grain under the finish. This body I am using is a light 3-lbs 12-ozs Ash body as I like the sound of Ash on a Tele and love the look of the grain.
Musikraft neck specs:
- ORIENTATION: Right Handed
- HEAD SHAPE: Standard Vintage Tele
- SCALE LENGTH: 25.5 Standard Fender
- NUMBER OF FRETS: 21 Fret
- NUT WIDTH: 1.650
- HEEL WIDTH: 2-3/16 Standard Fender
- TUNER HOLE SIZE: 11/32 Vintage Kluson
- TRUSS ROD TYPE: Dual Acting with Vintage Double Slotted Adjustment Nut at the Heel
- FB RADIUS: 9-1/2
- 12TH DOT SPACING: Wide (Vintage Pre 64)
- NUT SLOT STYLE: 1/8 Standard Fender Flat Bottom
- SHAFT WOOD: Quarter Sawn Maple
- FINGER BOARD WOOD: Indian Rosewood
- FB STYLE: Slab Standard Fender
- TOP DOTS: Real Aged Clay
- SIDE DOTS: White 2 mm
- SIDE DOC LOC: 50/50 Split (Middle of Finger Board Glue Joint) Slab and Veneer
- FRET WIRE SIZE: 6105 Medium Nickel Silver
- FINGER BOARD EDGES: Heavy Rolled
- BACK PROFILE: V-C 88 95
- MOUNTING HOLES: Drill Holes Standard Fender Pattern
- NUT INSTALLATION: Install Slotted Bone Nut
This project will have a few improvements over a vintage 60s Fender Telecaster Custom. I am installing noiseless pickups and Callaham Vintage Compensated Brass saddles for better intonation.
I am going with Kinman noiseless zero-hum 60’s Custom set Telecaster pickups for this build. The are dead quiet with no hum and capture the sound of a classic Fender Telecaster Custom from the 60s. I will be using a 4-way switch to allow for a bit more choice of sounds. I also am adding a treble bleed circuit so when you lower the volume you do not lose tone.
Position 1 – Bridge pickup
Position 2 – Bridge + Neck in parallel
Position 3 – Neck Pickup
Position 4 – Bridge + Neck in series (bit like a humbucker)
Nice demo for Kinman 60’s Custom Telecaster Zero-hum pickups into a Blackface Deluxe and a JTM-45:
The Kinman pickups are taller than standard Telecaster pickups and th pickup cavities will need to be routed a bit for them to fit. Not a big deal for my Dremel tool and router bit. Can use a full size router, but a bit overkill.
I applied a Fender Custom Telecaster restoration waterslide decal to headstock. The neck and body are licensed Fender parts, but this is not a Fender built guitar. It is a tribute to the amazing Telecaster Custom Fender made staring in 1959. So I am adding the decal for the “vibe.”
Once the decal was applied. I allowed it to dry for 24 hours and than sprayed some clear satin Nitro guitar lacquer over the decal to protect it. I used Colortone product that StewMac sells. I usually do three coats allowing 12 hours for it to dry in-between coats.
Next it is time to install the vintage style aged Kluson tuners. The first thing needed is to use a scissors to clean out the lacquer from the finish and spray over from decal out of the tuner holes. This makes the installation easier. Use my rubberized hammer to install the front side of the tuners.
Next using a small ruler as a straight edge to align the tuners perfectly straight. Just tape the ruler in place with low tack tape.
Tape off the drill bit so when drilling the holes for the screws I can make sure not to drill too deep.
Neck is now complete and ready to be mounted on body.
Using a small rubber tipped hammer, I installed the string ferrules that are genuine Fender parts that have been aged to match this build.
The pickup cavities needed to be routed a bit deeper as the Kinman 60’s Custom Telecaster Zero-hum pickups are a bit deeper than a standard Telecaster pickup due to the second coil. Standard depth for Telecaster pickup cavities are usually 5/8-inch deep for vintage and 3/4-inch for more contemporary bodies. My body is vintage style. So a little bit of routing with a Dremel tool did the trick.
Mounted bridge pickup and installed bridge on guitar. I had ran a ground wire soldered to the cooper foil tape in the bridge cavity into the control cavity. This is to ground the bridge and strings.
Mounted the neck to body.
Next, installed the neck pickup and do the control plate wiring. Installed aged pickguard and put the strings on. Added the single butterfly style string tree. Did set up with fairly low action and radius to match fretboard and pickup choice. No string buzz anywhere. Plays great, sounds great, especially nice to have a single coil Telecaster tone with no hum. Guitar’s weight is a nice light 6-lbs 14.5-ozs.
This project is finished. Using a 1963 Fender Telecaster Custom as a baseline for this build. This was a fun build using all quality parts.
A few features that would not be found on an original 1960’s Fender Telecaster Custom:
- Radius is 9.5 as I like a flatter fretboard (many Telecasters from this era have 7.25 radius)
- Kinman Zero-Hum 60’s pickups – Having no single coil hum is very nice
- Cooper sheilding in the pickup cavities for even less noise
- 4-way switch adding a Neck and Bridge pickup in series position for a fatter sound
- Volume bleed circuit for no change in tone when turning down the guitar’s volume control
- Compensated saddles for better intonation – still looks and sounds like a vintage Telecaster
I picked up a very nice Blond Fender Custom Shop Limited Edition G&G case to give this guitar a nice home. Although, I may be playing it a lot and it may not be in the case too often.
Great tribute to an awesome classic Fender. Here is a picture with some of my other tribute Telecasters.