- Body: 1959-1966 Telecaster replica, by guitarbuild.co.uk
- Body Tonewood: Swamp Ash – 2 piece, Offset join
- Body Finish: Hand painted copy of original design, using Casein paint. Gloss, nitrocellulose lacquer clearcoat
- Neck: HOSCO Telecaster neck
- Neck Material: 1 piece maple, with Rosewood fingerboard
- Fretboard: Rosewood
- Fretboard Radius: 7.25″
- Neck Finish: Gloss nitrocellulose lacquer, with light amber tint
- Number of Frets: 21, Vintage style fretwire
- Position Inlays: White dot
- Nut Width: 1.650” (42 mm)
- Scale Length: 25.5″ (64.8 cm)
- Neck Relief: <0.012″ (0.28mm)
- Strings – D’Addario, Nickel Wound – EXL110 – .010 .013 .017 .026 .036 .046
- String Action at 17th Fret: Treble Side – 4/64″ (1.6mm), Bass side – 4/64″ (1.6mm)
- Neck Plate: Callaham, 4 Bolt, Stainless steel, Stamped – Serial #37201
- Pickup Configuration: S/S
- Body Shielding: Heavy grade, copper sheet, with conductive adhesive backing
- Bridge Pickup: Don Mare, “ZepOTone” (Live), Staggered Alnico 5 Poles, 6.6K
- Neck Pickup: Don Mare, “ZepOTone” (Live), Alnico 5 Poles, Ni/Ag cover, 6.3K
- Pickup Switching: CRL, Sprung 3-Position Blade – Position 1. Bridge Pickup, Position 2. Neck pickup, (with tone control) Position 3. Neck pickup (with tone preset). (Fender, 1950’s/60’s “Dark Circuit”)
- Controls: Master Volume, Tone (Positions 1 and 2 only
- Pots: Volume – 1 x CTS TVT (“True Vintage Taper”) 250k, Tone – 1 x CTS TVT (“True Vintage Taper”) 250k
- Tone preset Capacitor: Luxe, 1958-1961 replica, Wax impregnated paper & foil capacitor. (1 x 0.1uF “Phone Book” Capacitor)
- Tone Capacitor: Luxe, 1958-1961 replica, Wax impregnated paper & foil capacitor.
(1 x 0.05uF Tubular Capacitor)
- Wiring: Cloth covered, 22 gauge
- Hardware: Stainless steel screw set,
- Tuners: Fender, Vintage Kluson style tuners
- Bridge: Fender “Pat. Pend.” vintage style Telecaster bridge, modified to accept “top” stringing.
- Saddles: 3 x Fender, “Pure Vintage ’64”, Nickel plated
- Jack Plate: Fender, Vintage style electrosocket
- String Nut: Bone
- Controls: Chrome plated control plate. 2 x Fender “Pure Vintage” chrome plated, knurled, brass control knobs
- Switch Tip: Fender, “barrel” type. Black plastic
- Scratchplate: Custom made replica, single ply, clear polycarbonate with silver holographic wrap applied to reverse side
- Strap Buttons: Genuine Fender Vintage style, with black felt washers
- Guitar Strap – Souldier, “Stained Glass” Blue / White – Recycled seatbelt with Vintage fabric – White leather ends – Silver hardware
- Reconditioned, G&G “Fender” badged Stratocaster case – Black Tolex
This project really has been a joy to build and, although it’s taken a long time to put together, I’ve learned a lot. I suppose the Telecaster is just about as basic an electric guitar as you can get, and I can’t exactly claim kudos for having carved the neck, cut and shaped the body, or hand-wound those pickups. It is what it is – a kit build. But it’s my kit build – put together to my specification, and by my own hands.
Of course – the design approach and inspiration is down to Jimmy Page’s legendary, original “Dragon” Telecaster. In putting together my version, I took the approach of borrowing heavily from the original guitar’s heritage – whilst not getting bogged down in the specifics of reproducing an exact replica. I wanted to concentrate on the look and possible feel of the original – aiming for a sort of “new, old stock” approach. New, but vintage correct parts where possible – and with a “just built” look rather than a heavy “roadworn” patina.
The project first came about when I decided I wanted to build something which needed a special, custom body finish. I’d looked at things like Hendrix’s, hand decorated “Monterey” Strat – even George Harrison’s “Rocky”, but there were challenges aplenty with the Dragon design and, furthermore, I wouldn’t have to build up a fake “undercoat”. I could begin with a brand new, bare timber body to be my equivalent of the original stripped 50’s Telecaster body, to which Page added his iconic decoration.
Reproducing and applying the design relied on various skills I’ve picked up in various jobs along the way – but some of it still came down to specific bits of ad-hoc problem solving. I took a hunch on what was the best paint to use, and the best method of sealing the finished design. Certainly – I made a few mistakes along the way, and probably ended up with a much thicker clearcoat than I might have done – but I found ways to fix things as I went along, and the finished, polished up body, looks and feels fantastic. I made a few, subtle, modifications to the design in certain areas – so although the original design is Jimmy’s – there are a couple of bits with which I can recognise the job as my own physical work.
Of course – the scratchplate probably provided the greatest single challenge. Both in terms of finding suitable materials, but also “tooling up” for a single, custom creation. The shape, (adapted from an original Fender plate, which I managed to completely ruin in the process), had to be modified to match Page’s original, but also had to be somewhat reshaped to fit the guitar body and components. It’s a complex inter-relationship and the geometry has to be just right. My scratchplate template took a fair bit of evolution, and even then – the finished plate had to be scribed to fit.
There were more challenges with the scratchplate finish. I’m pretty sure Jimmy originally used a diffraction grating type of foil – but documentary photographs show that this aged really badly with constant use. Whilst my version is, perhaps, a little more subtle in its’ effect – it is probably far more durable and yet still captures the essence of what he was originally intending. I think it works well, especially in combination with the painted design. I know my colours are, perhaps, a little bit off from the original – but the overall effect still has some of the psychedelic, Sixties character, with colour and light emanating from it – and with which Jimmy originally conceived and put together his Dragoncaster.
If there’s a weak point in the build – it’s probably the neck. I’m afraid an original ’58 rosewood “slab board” neck is well beyond my pocket. I think I’ve over-tinted the HOSCO reproduction a bit – but on the other hand, it’s straight and reasonably well finished. It’ll do the job for now. I’ve learned along the way that most of my builds tend to “evolve” a little more after completion. Eventually, you start running out of room to accommodate an ever-growing collection of variants. Sometimes, you can learn just as much from a simple modification. I’d like to add a real quality neck to this build – so it’s on the list of possible things “to do”. In time – this neck will likely get recycled onto something entirely different.
The pickups, however, are the real stars of the show. Real Tele tone. Now I see what all the fuss with Don Mare pickups is about. The way he gets his pickups to sound so authentically like that classic Telecaster sound of the 50’s and 60’s is astonishing. There’s real power here, and yet a whole lot of subtle character too. Once again – a “hot” pickup means I probably need to hone my string-muting skills just as much as my playing ability. Once again, a new guitar means I’ll probably have to deal with my own playing limitations all over again. Sometimes – a guitar comes along which demands a total refocus on the way you play. In some ways – this one almost feels like it’s putting me all the way back to square one again.
That’s not a bad thing.