First of all, I must apologize and explain... I've always been a Strat guy (have a couple, very happy with them), and was never a big
fan of the "classic" Tele sound (sorry to all the fans of Danny Gatton, Roy Buchanan, Albert Lee, etc.). My few Tele inspirations were more in the vein of Andy Summers,
Joe Strummer, and Steve Morse (now there's a modded Tele!). But I finally decided that my style warranted a hardtail guitar of some sort, and being left-handed, my
choices were limited. So I decided to try building a guitar for the first time. That decision led me more-or-less directly to the Tele!
I found a VERY reasonably priced lefty Tele body on eBay, make unknown, perhaps mahogany. Someone had painted it with gold
nitro (a so-so job), but neglected to clearcoat it. A very flat, unreflective finish, but the color was even all over, and there was something cool about it, so I left it
alone (a decision I've come to appreciate even more). I ordered a tortoise pickguard from Warmoth, and it looks perfect on the gold body.
I've always questioned the Tele headstock, and thought it was too small... on the other hand, I've always liked the big CBS headstock on the old Strats. Turns out that a right-handed
big-headstock neck is WAY easier to find than a left-handed one (big surprise), so I secured a right-handed rosewood Mexi-Strat neck (eBay again) and mounted it Jimi-style to my
body. The local repair guy did a left-handed nut for me. I was very worried about the difference in the neck heel shapes, and I do indeed have gaps at the corners, but it mounted perfectly
with no modifications, right into the existing screw holes on the neck, and it's SOLID! I wish everyone that kind of luck! A custom neckplate engraved with my wife's initials holds the neck
in place (I know, I know...).
Tone-wise, my two loves are
crispy single-coil bridge tones and thick PAF neck tones, so those are exactly the two pickups I ordered, both overwound, both from GFS. The neck humbucker is un-tapped, and a standard
three-way switch controls them. I was very surprised at how good the center position sounded (never thought i'd use it). I chose a TBX tone
circuit for the master tone control, a standard 250k pot for the volume, and installed a "Black Ice" circuit (passive distortion)
from StewMac in the third knob space of my slightly-modified control plate. Three very not-Fender gold speed knobs help to complicate the look of this guitar even further.
Since completing it, I have been playing this guitar CONSTANTLY, and I've already used it on some home recording projects with great results. I've played it so much, in fact, that the unsealed gold paint is already
starting to come off in the usual places, making it look even cooler. At this rate, I expect it will appear completely "reliced" within a couple of years. The GFS pickups were
VERY inexpensive, and sound fantastic! The Black Ice was a bit of a gamble, never having heard one before, but what it does to the bridge pickup particularly is quite
impressive, making it sound very "tweed-y". So my first guitar-building project was successful, and something tells me that it won't be my last. And
who would have thought that a confirmed "Strat guy" could love a Tele so much!!!