Joe Strummer Telecaster. The basics. Neck and body.

I’ve been looking around for a suitable sunburst, Telecaster shape body. I’m not purist enough to try and replicate the entire history of this guitar, and try to knock up a proper sunburst lacquer job, myself. Especially if I have to spray black car paint over most of it. I’ve been looking out for cheap Squier, or similar, copy on eBay – but any that are available are too pricy. I figure they’re pretty sought after by people who are intent on doing their own, wanton acts of vandalism on them, to create their own Strummer tributes.

In fact – getting hold of a pre-finished, sunburst, Telecaster blank proves pretty difficult. I don’t want to have to shell out on an authentic Fender, or even a Warmoth custom job. I don’t seem to able to track a suitable candidate down anywhere in the UK. For a while, I even consider trying to buy a brand new, budget Squier guitar. Then, I discover Custom World Guitar Parts in Amsterdam has some Telecaster blanks in stock. What’s more – they have some pre-finished in a “vintage” sunburst. I may have found a candidate. There’s a cheaper option available in Pawlonia wood, (whatever that is), but there’s also a two-piece body available in Alder. The original ’66 tele would probably have been Alder. It’s a nice wood to work with and it won’t need too much sealing or anything, if I dig back into the bare wood. Checking through the shop, I also find a few bits for my Jaguar project too. Might as well save on postage…

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The body arrives a few days later. Great service. What I get isn’t too bad for the price either. It’s a two-piece – sure, you can see where the join is, and the finish has sunk a little along the crease, but you won’t see that by the time I’m finished. There’s some nice figuring in the alder here and there. The colour is probably a little too pink/purple at the contrast transition – but again, that’s not exactly going to be the most noticeable thing about the eventual finish. The body is covered in a polyurethane varnish, and most of that will be coming off, one way or another. It’s a pain removing polyurethane – but I can afford to be a bit brutal here and there. Where the poly finish stays on – it should be easy enough to make it keyable, and to accept other finishes as I go.

Shape-wise, the body looks the part. the routs are basic – without the old-fashioned, diagonal cable route between the neck pickup and the control rout – but it will work for the standard two pickup Tele setup – the only thing that’s different is that there are no pre-drilled holes for through-stringing, and no pilot holes to indicate the location of the bridge position. I’ll be doing all that myself then. I knew there would be lessons to learn on this project.

I look around for a decent priced, rosewood fingerboard neck to work with the body. Northwest Guitars are doing a reasonable looking neck in Canadian maple, for a pretty good price. It’s a 22 fret neck, wheras the original would have been a straightforward 21 fret neck – but I don’t want to get too fussy about it. The neck comes with 10mm peg holes pre-drilled, an authentic looking skunk stripe down the back of the neck, and the maple is pre-finished with a vintage looking, amber nitro, which will save me a bit of a finishing job. Perhaps most importantly – the neck fits the neck pocket like a glove, with only a slight bit of encouragement needed, and with a few light passes of grit paper to the neck heel.

I source a headstock decal, (although they seem to be generally quite difficult to find at the moment, for some reason or other). I can’t find any pictures anywhere, but apparently, on the original guitar – the headstock decal has worn away, or isindistinct under the aged and darkened, nitro finish. I find a nondescript, mid-60’s-ish decal in black which is, almost certainly, entirely the wrong thing – but I’m going to scrub it back and scratch it out anyway. If anything, it’ll be a nod to the pedigree of the original – nothing more. So, with the nitro finish on the headstock already nice and smooth, I rub it down with naptha to clean it off, and apply the waterslide decal.

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Time to let the decal dry off, and then I can start rubbing it off again.

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