On Gear-Review we’ve tackled two different guitar builds
over the years, early on in the site’s history we put together
a modular guitar system and most recently built one made from
custom parts. Due to the positive comments from many of our
readers, who found these articles useful as reference in their
own projects, we decided to pursue a slightly different project
the upgrading or modification of an existing guitar.
guitar chosen for the upgrade is a Squier Classic Vibe
Custom Telecaster, an instrument which we have previously
reviewed, and is good value for money. This gives us a standard
platform from which to build upon.
of the Trade
I have found out during previous projects, it is very important
to have the correct tools, I know it may sound like a bit
of a cliché but until you get stuck in you won’t realise what
is really required in this department.
is a short list of tools that you may find useful or even
indispensable for such a project.
A large flat, clean work surface – protect
this with an old towel or bubble wrap to avoid damage to the
Drill and assorted small wood drill bits –
if possible cordless with variable speed.
A bench based drill is even better but maybe less accessible
Assorted screwdrivers. Make sure these are
good quality and have a decent gripping area, will be especially
important for the small screws the tuners use.
Candle wax – to ease screws into the hardwood.
Soldering iron (25/40/50 watt or variable)
Small Wrench set.
where the fun starts! There are hundreds of different parts
to choose from, better tuners, different pickups, improved
bridges, and so on.
you need to decide in which sonic direction your instrument
needs to go. Sometimes it’s as obvious as needing an improvement
to an existing component, or you just may just want to change
the look or sound of your instrument.
our project we decided to keep the basic look of the Tele
but go a bit wild and upgrade just about every aspect of the
are the parts used.
Kent Armstrong Humbucker Sized P90.
New Pickguard for above.
Kent Armstrong Hot Single Coil Bridge.
Kluson Deluxe Tuners.
Complete rewire with CTS components.
Bigbsy Tremolo * (Will be reviewed separately.)
I think it’s important to note that upgrades such as these
can be done separately and over a period of time so you can
access the improvements to your instrument as each section
of the project is completed.
To order these parts and more please visit
WD Music - www.wdmusic.com
first thing that I always tend to do before starting any project
is to take account of all the parts involved and ensure these
fit. I always have a trial run and just go over the processes
for each separate job that needs doing and play out the installation
to see if any issues come up.
first task I decided to tackle was the wiring and electronics.
On Telecaster type guitars , some of this work can be done
away from the instruments, but unlike with a Stratocaster’s
completely self-contained electronics, the final assembly
is to be done in place.
of all I assembled the volume and tone potentiometers (pots)
onto the control plate and next added the 3 – way switch.
Then I proceeded to solder in the capacitors and wires that
have no link the body cavity and can be done away from the
Tip: Use scissors to cut the cloth covering on the
wire, sometimes it’s even easier to push the wire out, cut
the whole length of cloth for both ends and then push the
wire back in.
Removal and Installation
I decided to work on the tuners. This involves removing the
strings, taking out the old tuners and bushings and then installing
the new ones.
important for this task ensure you have a good quality
screwdriver that has a good gripping surface. The screw heads
for the tuners are usually quite small and can be stripped
Tip: use a little candle wax to ease the screws into
the hardwood, avoid soap as this introduces moisture into
first task is to remove the strings, do this as usual (use
a string winder) and set them to one side if you wish to reuse
unscrew the tuners taking care not to strip the screws. Once
the tuners are removed, then tap out the bushings, for the
ones that where hard to push out I used a small socket driver
to apply some pressure.
install the new tuners, the bushings where installed by simply
pressing them in. These were a bit loose due the slightly
different hole size (this is quite common in import guitars)
so I used some Teflon tape to keep them in place.
the tuners were installed one a time. This quite didn’t work
out however as the screw holes were not lining up by a few
millimetres on some of the tuners. So as the famous saying
states “If Mohamed cannot go to the mountain, the mountain
will come to Mohamed”. I reversed the situation, I removed
the bushings, installed the tuners and then added the bushings
once the tuners where lined up. I suspect the Teflon tape
might have been pushing the bushings out of centre and misaligning
the screw holes.
done reinstall strings and tune to concert pitch to test the
tuners which seemed fine.
a Telecaster type guitar the bridge pickup is normally mounted
directly onto the bridge hardware. Although we do envisage
upgrading the bridge within this project this is something
I will look into at a later stage. After removing the bridge,
the stock pickup was removed and the new one installed in
place. The wires where then threaded into the control cavity
and the whole bridge assembly installed again.
Cutting the Screws
next task I decided to complete was that of installing the
jack socket. The type chosen is the electrosocket variety
which is very simple to install when compared to the regular
Telecaster one. The jackplate was presented in place and then
pilot holes were drilled and fitted with the screws provided.
this was done I took it all apart and soldered the two lead
wires onto the input jack, leaving some slack to be cut to
pickup chosen for the neck is a humbucker sized Kent Armstrong
p90, which I thought would give some extra warmth to the sound
and a bit more grit than the standard single coil when using
overdrive. For easy adjustments the pickup was mounted on
to a new pickguard with pre-drilled screw holes.
In my case the instrument already has a humbucker
sized cavity routed in the body, please take this into consideration
when choosing a new pickup. If your route is different to
the pickup size some carpentry skills will be required!
Tip:If changing the size of pickup I would advise
getting a new pickguard with a pre-cut slot for the pickup
and pre-drilled holes if you decide to mount it on the pickguard.
thing to do was to disconnect the old pickup from the wiring
and remove the pickguard. Then the new pickup was mounted
onto the new guard with the provided mounting screws and springs.
Upon doing this I noticed the guard was not sitting well into
the control cavity. To solve this issue I worked out the desired
pickup height and then cut the excess on the screws using
a dremmel tool. I also burred the end of the threads to avoid
the screw coming off the pickup housing.
this was done I strung up the two outer E’s to check the pole
pieces where aligned and then restrung the guitar.
that the pickguard was in place the control plate was fitted,
aligned and also then screwed into place permanently.
Tip: Be sure to check that the control plate lines
up squarely with bridge and that it fits well into the pickguard
Now that all the major components are in place
the final step is to wire everything into place.
this you will need a good quality soldering iron, I would
recommend a 25 watt for general wiring, and a 45-50 watt for
soldering items requiring more heat like control pots. You
could also purchase a variable wattage iron but these tend
to be expensive.
Soldering Tips Please Click Here:
the wiring diagram provided I carefully soldered the points
keeping a close eye on which wires are live or go to ground,
I made sure to leave enough excess to be able to remove the
control plate for any further work but on the other hand,
not leaving so much as not to be able to fit the same.
Tip: Make sure you protected the guitars surface with
some bubble wrap or a thick cloth, to aovid any damage should
any hot solder fall onto the guitar body.
I had envisaged adding a Bigsby Tremolo to the instrument
but after completing all the other modifications I will be
deferring this to a more detailed article by itself.
is quite possible however to easily swap the current bridge
for a better quality one such as the Wilkinson with compensated
that I was done, the moment of truth arrived! I plugged the
Telecaster into my trusty Blues Junior amp and in sprung into
life. The p90 providing warm rich tones and the hot rails
with that classic Tele sparkle. I did however need to adjust
the height of the pickups to balance out the volume differences
between both. The guitar keeps tune well much better than
with the original tuners, and the electronics are quiet and
and Switch Tip
lastly the final touch the switch tip was added, and the two
chrome knurled knobs where installed by simply tightening
the grub screw.
great project, which brought a lot of insight into guitar
& Photos By Ernest H Slade - 10th October 2012