Actually, I have to say “Tele-style” so that Fender doesn’t get mad at me. This is the first in a series of posts about my summer project: assembling two Tele-style guitars. I had wanted to do this for years, but a couple of things always stopped me. Those things are that (1), I really didn’t need more guitars, and (2), that buying quality parts is expensive, especially considering that it’s impossible to get your money out of a guitar that’s made this way. They are known in Fender guitar circles as ‘partscasters”, and it’s best to assemble them for fun and/or because you can’t get the features you want in a stock Fender model. When they are sold, often the owners have to part them out to recover much of their initial cost.
What pushed me over the edge was meeting a vendor at the Philly Guitar Show in late June. The guy calls his business Clearfork Designs, and he had stacks of great-looking Tele- and Strat-style bodies in several types of wood. He doesn’t have a website, but he does have an eBay store. This was his first Philly show, and he brought along a lot of wood! The kicker? He had several white pine bodies he described as “paint-grade” because of some cosmetic flaw. The one on the top of the stack had some slightly odd grain and a dark streak on the lower right side, but I actually liked the way it looked. It was really lightweight. He wanted $35 for it, and I was hooked.
So I talked to him a bit about what he did, and how he did it. The short version is that he has suppliers for the lumber, but still has to look at a lot of wood to find the stuff he thinks will work. He planes and glues up blanks, dries them, and uses a CNC router to rout them to 1952 specs. While we were talking I spotted a pretty swamp ash body that weighed only four pounds (more about the weight thing later). That got me up to about $120. I paid him for both bodies and got out of there before I got in any deeper.
Here are the bodies. Click on the thumbnails to see the full images:
The first two photos show the ash body, back and front. Leo actually made a number of early Teles from pine, and the only pine-bodied Tele I’d actually had a chance to play was a recent import that didn’t tell me much. Swamp ash is more standard, and is maybe the classic wood for a Tele body. So now I have two lightweight, resonant, beautifully cut and routed bodies to turn into guitars. Time to gather parts!