Fandango's! or "Coiled up and Ready!"

 Lust Pickup Company.

I love these guy's so much I acquired the pickups and then went looking for a guitar!

1977 Fender Telecaster

1977 Fender Telecaster

       The Telecaster. Leo Fender's first design and one that has become an icon whenever you mention the guitar. Not just because it was one of the earliest guitar designs but for so many other reasons. The first is it's simplicity. Two pickups. One Volume. One Tone. One Switch. Done. The controls located where they are convenient but out of the way when you start to rock and roll it out. Single coil pickup tone that has a sound all of it's own. Well now that really isn't true or I wouldn't be writing this now would I? Let us just say like so many other general designs that they hold a common recognizable tonality. Very familiar to Country fans as that "Chicken-Picken" sound. To rock and rollers, unknown to many, as the lead guitar tone in the studio recording of "Stairway to Heaven" by "Led Zeppelin". You have heard Telecasters played in so many songs it would make your head spin. The James Bond tune. Bonanza theme. "Peter Gunn". "Hot Rod Lincoln" I'll stop there because it's making my head hurt. 

        So what about this blog and it's own particular story. To begin with I had in my hand a set of "Fandangos". A Telecaster style set of boutique wound pickups from the minds and hands of the nutty folks over at "Lust". Nutty? Ohh yes. No, not in a business way by any means. They are trustworthy and as professional as my Airedales and folks, that's saying a lot. Good peoples. Just, well, a little "off the beaten path" personally. That is why I am PROUD to be called "Week#1" by my friends at Lust. You will have to prowl their website HERE to find the information related to that particular comment.

I had the "Magic Box-O-Fandangos" staring at me on my desk but low and behold no guitar to put them in! Sad right? A little tear rolling down your cheek? Don't get that upset. I did have 2 Telecasters but I didn't want to mess with them at this point. Where did I go? What did I do? I went shopping. That's what I did alright. I had in mind to find a Mexican made Telecaster. I have found them to be well made within reason and very reasonable in cost. While looking at the new gear site, that has become very popular, called "Reverb" I found a Mexican Tele with a story. Legend had it that it had been won in a radio station auction by someone who didn't play guitar so into the closet it went for, well... a long time....15 years long time. Not only had it been won in an auction, for a worthwhile charity I am assuming, it had the signatures of all the members of....MATCHBOX 20 INCLUDING ROB THOMAS!!!!! No, I am not making this up. How could I? The price, while very sensible with the amazing addition of the signatures, was to me a little high at $450.00. I know...really...a bargain....well...not really...but I am low on dough. Then I get an alert that the price had been lowered to...get this....$300.00! A price guaranteed to "sell today"! Well of course you know at this point in a convoluted story like this that I jumped at the chance and waited for my guy "Smitty" to show up driving the big brown truck. I opened the box. Saw the original gig bag and goodies inside and then...then...I saw it:

        Incredible! Right? Now it's time to get down to business. What business you ask? How about we strip every piece of this guitar off to be examined, changed and repaired as needed? Wow, thats almost a vintage guitar, 15 years old, with famous peoples autographs and your going to what? Explode it? Yep. I think that the description "explode it" fits nicely. Let's proceed, shall we?

String Ferrules

String Ferrules

    I removed the strings and the string ferrules (These are the things on the back of the guitar that you put the strings through and the ball end of the strings sits in so the string won't pull through the wood.) These are usually press fit. In other words the holes drilled into the back of the guitar are slightly smaller then the ferrules and then you "Press fit" them into the wood. Simple. Not here. As you can see I ended up with what appears to be a collection of bells. Not only were they not "press fit" they were "fall outta da hole fit". Not good. We will fix this.

        Next comes the pickguard. This is the back side. The 2 little orange things are surgical tube that acts like a spring for the adjustment of the neck pickup. What is missing from this photo? Shielding. Of any kind. We will get into this deeper but there should be some type of metal on the back of this pickguard. Usually like a piece of tin foil that was been glued over some of the guard. Any part. What do we have? None. Nada. Ziltch. We will repair this. What's next?

       COOL! A sticker with lucky number "13" under the pickguard. We also see that the neck pickup cavity is routed big enough for a full sized humbucker. There is also 3 holes of indeterminate nature. We also begin to see large amounts of left over polishing compound dust inside all of the cavities. Don't be afraid of your air compressor! It is your friend. I use it all of the time that I work on guitars to blow off metal shavings and dust. Can I trust you to use some common sense? I will. You are on your own. Come to think of it your on your own with anything I say I expect you to use common sense. Anyway, we will fix this. Next!

         Off comes the bridge and what do we find? A cheap plastic pickup with a bridge ground lead cut into the pickup lead about 2 inches from the pickup. Nah. We'll fix this.

     The control plate. Super cheap ceramic disk resistor, poor plastic wire and a cheap switch. CTS potentiometers that were ok when I tested them. These we will keep. The rest? We can fix it.

     Here are the parts that make up a Telecaster. Metal parts, electronics, the body, the neck, the nut, the frets, the tuners. Everything is going to be repaired, replaced, added to and set up so that what showed up out of the box will become a monster machine, powered by the Fandangos!

     So where do we start? I'm going to start with the neck. First of all I need to make sure that it is straight by using a notched straightedge made just to do this individual task. The notches allow the straightedge to touch only the wood so that I can adjust the truss rod and make sure that the wood is a straight as can be. After a little tweaking I get a great neck that is straight all across the neck. Next it's time for a straightedge to check how uniform the frets are all the way down the neck. I discover that from the 14th fret to the end of the neck the frets are just a little high. We can fix that. Using a diamond fret file I took off a uniform amount of the frets so that when I went back to the straightedge the frets are uniform from one end to the other. Wait. Look at the photo in the gallery above and examine the condition of the frets. Dirty and oxidized they need to be polished. That way playing and bending the strings will be a joy. Here is what we ended up with after some polishing compound and a Dremel tool.

       The nut is plastic but for now I'm going to leave it alone. The upgrade would be to make and install a fossilized bone nut. The tuners are of "good" quality. Use your common sense to understand that description. The only action I took, and you should check them if you have these types of tuners, is to tighten the nuts that hold the tuner tight to the headstock. Some of which I found I could twist freely due to the wood shrinking over the last 15 years or so. This is important to the tone and reliability and function of the tuners. Not so tight as to crush the wood but tight enough to make sure nothing is going to move. This is something I check every time I change strings. So, that's the neck. Ready to go. We fixed that.

          Now I know I'm going to get some nasty emails about this but I think I can handle it. "Matchbox 20" and "Rob Thomas" are more famous and richer and idolized more then I ever will be. (Wait, let's hold the determination concerning "Idolized" for now.) It is just a simple fact that guitars with signatures just aren't worth more then plain guitars unless it truly something special. This guitar and these signatures just aren't. They just make this axe ugly. What am I gonna do? Strip 'em right off! I used a general guitar cleaner and all of the ones made with a silver sharpie came right off. Somebody thought that they were more special or something because they used a different type of marker. One that was impervious to simple cleaning. Now what? Friends, don't try this at home...or go ahead, it won't affect me...on the other hand don't try this on the 1957 Gibson Les Paul Goldtop your Uncle just handed down to you....I would cry just for the loss. What did I go to? I started with Mineral Spirits. Nothing. Then I saw the big can of lacquer thinner. Hey man, this is a poly guitar not lacquer. I'm a gambler. It still took some elbow grease but off came whomever laid their moniker in permanent marker. Some wax, heck I used some good old "Turtle Wax". Why not? That's right. No reason not to in a case like this. How did it turn out? Beautiful! We fixed that!

      A guitar that generates electricity (That is correct my friends. A pickup is a generator. Please examine the theory of magnetic induction introduced by "Mr. Electricity" Michael Faraday.) using single coil pickups are susceptible to what is called "60 cycle hum".  If you get near a transformer, (they are all around you, your tube amp may have as many as 4.) the pickup will react and generate more electricity but the tone will be very unpleasant. What can a poor guitar player do to help himself out form this unique issue? It is called "Shielding". We surround the electronics with metal and connect the product we use to the ground side of the guitars circuit. This will also take away the snap you get when you touch your pickguard or strings or bridge if they are not grounded and/or shielded. All guitars should be shielded. Even humbuckers. Some manufactures spray the inside of their guitar cavities with conductive paint to achieve this and many place some type of foil on the back of their pickguards if they are single coil and lay flat to the guitar. Usually not an elevated pickguard like you would find on a Les Paul. Off we go! We will use a product from "Stewart McDonald" that is a copper foil that has conductive glue so that as we lay each piece in it will form a single continuous piece of copper. 

      As you can see above the entire back of the pickguard was covered and trimmed. Next the front pickup cavity, the rear and it has an extension under the bridge and will touch the mounting screws when they are installed, the control cavity and finally a strip that goes onto the top of the body so the pickguard can make a proper connection. Well, we fixed that. What's next?

     What have we here? Every bridge on every guitar is connected to the ground side of the guitars electrical circuit. Why? The reason I stated above. If it were not then every time that you would lift you hand away from the strings and then touched them again then there would be an audible snap as the difference of potential equaled to the ground side of the world. In simple language it would be floating free in the sea of electricity we live in and it has to adjust itself to make everything right in the world. If there is anything metal that is not connected to the "hot" signal side of our generators (pickups) then we want to make sure that they are all connected together to make one big happy family. Exception? The the backplate that holds the neck to the body. Everything else applies. What you see above is how Fender achieves this. A ring connector that goes under the bridge, held by one of the bridge anchor screws and then the wire goes to the ground side of the circuit. The difference here is that Fender connects this to the ground side of the bridge pickup lead. We are going to leave the pickup leads alone and run a separate wire into the control cavity to make the connection. In addition to the copper tape to make darn sure this gets done. 

  Now it's time to install the "Fandangos"  and the pickguard. Along with a little tribute to the company that's going to make this axe a tonefull handful of beautiful "Telefull"

  Warning! To those who are underage or easily offended close your eyes! Understand that "Hey, it's their motto!"

Just roll with it.

   The next part is to wire things up, add a little solder and close up the control cavity This photo does not represent the final wiring as ...well...I crossed up a wire or two. As long as I got it right in the end, alls well that ends well. Or so they say.

    Now it's time to re-neck the old girl, adjust the action and intonation, give the strings a good stretch and then find out what we have brought onto the face of this here earth. Tone-wise that is!

 
 

      In my last post concerning the pickups from Lust I made it more of a comparison thing with a strict protocol on everything past the guitar to be equal. That's not the case here. Every guitar has it's own voice, and like voices, some sound better through one type of amplification system to another. So I am going to be experimenting within the studio and will be using the Kemper as I did last time but I am also going to be using any combination of gear I see fit in an attempt to allow you to hear just how good these can sound. So sit back for a while as I go about making up some sound. OK? It might take a while so please, step on out to the lobby, relax and come back another day. I am almost done but these things can't be rushed! Trust me. I'm a teacher!

Rob