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Custom Frankenstein Telecaster

I got my hands on this Telecaster copy from the early 90’s. It was a gift from a fan who hoped, “It would got to a good home where someone might play it once in a while.”.

There was no doubt that this guitar had seen a few owners and that it had been a starter model once upon a time. With a fairly straight neck and no initial investment I decided that this guitar would become a personal project.

I began by removing all the hardware and electronics, sanding down through seven layers of hell, and shopping for higher quality replacement parts.

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Finding the original sunburst on the back, I left some of the finish for cosmetic and sentimental purposes. I used deck stain (left over from a home renovation project), Hanging the body off a guitar stand with a coat hanger hooked through a hole for the neck bolts.

I used a block of wood and some wood filler to close-up the hole in the front face where the tremolo had been. Using the original pick-guard and jack/control plate as templates, I cut out aluminum from old ductwork to use as the replacements. Painting the pick-guard black and sanding it for color and texture was more challenging than I can describe. There are more than a dozen coats of paint, which ends up adding character as well as contrast compared to the jack/control plate that I left simple as sanded aluminum.

Before

After

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Here was my eBay shopping list:

  • Stock Stratocaster Boat-Jack
  • Two heavy chrome knobs
  • Gibson Les Paul style bridge-saddles & hard tailpiece
  • Grover mini-locking tuners
  • Wilkinson Vintage single coil bridge pickup
  • Oversized strap buttons & screws
  • Fender tweed guitar strap
  • Frankenstein pin
  • Frankenstein coin

While waiting on everything to come in the mail I stopped in at the local hardware store and picked up a five inch bolt since the guitar was originally a zero-nut style of headstock.

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When the hardware arrived from eBay I was ready. I had already drawn up the schematics and wiring diagrams, so that was my first chore. I began by retrofitting the boat-jack onto the face of the guitar and sanding the heck out of the knobs. To make things even more challenging, I decided I wanted the boat-jack to be slightly recessed.

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Once that was done, it was time to cut & place the pickups. I decided on One Volume / One Tone too keep it simple; the Wilkinson Vintage up front and a stock Ibanez INFS1 middle pickup (from a friend) in the bridge position. A three-way switch wired neck / both / bridge and the boat-jack complete the circuit.

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Once the bridge and tailpiece were added it began to look like a guitar again. For adventures sake, I scalloped the last few frets and made the neck plate recessed.

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With the Grover’s already installed, there were only a few cosmetic additions to the guitar and it’s case before it was complete.

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Review

Now dubbed Frankenstein, this guitar performs great considering. I keep it in open G tuning and use it a lot for slide work. Keeping the intonation set correctly is a constant battle. Generally I give it a good work out and simply compensate as best I can – much easier when playing slide.

The tones I get from Frank are pretty basic: weak & twangy or strong & dirty. What this guitar lacks in versatility it makes up for with character and clarity. Even through the thickest fuzz or distortion, the Wilkinson Vintage provides a crisp attack, which again works great for slide.

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Posted by on May 3, 2011 in Chamberlain Gear

 

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