This month we’re detailing some practical upgrades for a gigging guitar. This ‘bitsa’ was assembled from various Squier parts. The body is fairly lightweight and the slim neck has a maple fingerboard, diecast tuners and medium jumbo frets. It sounds pretty lively unplugged, and the stock pickups are decent enough. So what’s the problem?
Owner Lyndon Williams gigs this guitar regularly and really enjoys the feel and looks, but he finds the tone too thin and underpowered for the classic rock repertoire of his band Highway Jones. So he requested through-body stringing to aim for more sustain, a beefier bridge pickup, and finally a pearl pickguard to perk up the looks.
Lyndon likes the Seymour Duncan JB Jr SJBJ-1 humbucker on his backup Stratocaster and he wanted something similar for his main squeeze. The closest Tele equivalent we could find in the Seymour Duncan catalogue was the Little ’59, so after checking out some online demos we decided to fit one. Lyndon also asked for a coil tap so he’d have the option to switch to single coil tones whenever he needed to.
Drill, various sized bits, homemade drill guide
Matchsticks, glue, masking tape, Stanley blade
Allparts (guard, switch, ferrules)
1-SOURCING THE PARTS
For this project we decided wherever possible to go for secondhand parts to keep the costs down. Lyndon’s main priority was replacing the stock top-loader bridge with one that allowed for through-body stringing. In an ideal world we might have gone for a traditional Tele bridge with compensated brass saddles; these are easy to source, but there’s a complicating factor: Lyndon has a preference for modern, open-sided Tele bridges. Some specialist guitar hardware manufacturers do supply open-sided bridges with three brass saddles, but they tend to be fairly expensive.
We decided to compromise and found an unused Squier bridge with through-body holes at Manson Guitar Shop in Exeter (www.mansons.co.uk). We hoped it would be a suitable replacement – and it also had the extra screw holes at the front of the bridgeplate, just like the one we were replacing.
Research had also indicated that while Little ’59 pickups are too large for Mexican Tele bridges, they will fit into Squier bridges without much difficulty.
After trying the push/push switch on one of our guitars, Lyndon decided he’d prefer one to a push/pull. If you like to make quick changes while you’re playing, push/push switches are ideal because you only need to tap the top of the control knob, and you’re far less likely to drop your plectrum. We bought this item, along with the three-ply pearl pickguard and string ferrules, from Allparts UK (www.allparts.uk.com).
The pickup was the final piece of the jigsaw, and Lyndon located a secondhand example on eBay. Before he bought it we checked that there was plenty of cable length to work with, because some installers cut them quite short.
2 - STRIP DOWN
The first job was to strip everything down.
We removed the strings and separated the neck from the body. The pickguard was taken off then we stripped out all the electrics after making a wiring diagram (see right). Before removing the bridge we used masking tape to mark out the original location, and then we removed the screws and lifted off the bridge.
When you’re stripping a guitar it’s advisable to keep all the parts well organised. Chinese takeaway cartons are ideal for the hardware, and we placed all the screws, springs and nuts into a smaller receptacle. If you do lose a screw or spring, nine times out of 10 it will be stuck to one of the pickups – so it’s a good idea to separate the pickups for storage.
When you strip out the electronics from a guitar, it’s advisable to make notes and diagrams before you start. It really helps when you’re trying to put things back together
It’s surprising just how many little parts are used to put a guitar together. Get organised with one receptacle for the main hardware components and another for all the screws, springs and nuts
1. Guitar DIY Workshop: Squier Telecaster Upgrades