Steviecaster 1964 Guitar Project

The story that follows is a story of redemption, renewal and glorification. The story of a guitar!
At the tender age of 16 (in 1980) I bought my first electric guitar.
It was the cheapest guitar you could buy with a Fender logo on the headstock.

Yes, I know I was a callow youth, but £160 of my first student grant went on a cream Fender Bullet Deluxe.
And it was awful!
The neck was ok but the body was made of blockboard, had zero tone.
The stock pickups were weedy, dreadful things.

I kept it as stock for 3 years and then I could stand it no longer!
I sanded the body down to the wood and sprayed it black.
I took the plastic pickup covers off the single coils.
This meant I could wind them up closer to the strings to try and get some crunch.
Finally I gave up decided to fit a Dimarzio PAF Pro pickup.
This was Joe Satriani's pickup of choice at the time.

I had to special order this from a music shop in Glasgow,
this was before the online shoppping phenomenon hit!
Sadly when the pickup arrrived I discovered that the Bullet's string spacing was very wide.
This meant the strings didn't align with the pole pieces,
which gave different volume levels for the strings.
Research showed that there was an F Spaced version which had wider string spacing,
so I would have to reorder.

I went back to the guitar shop...
Rather nastily I felt, the swines at McCormacs charged me almost half the cost of the pickup,
just to take it back and do a reorder!
My only consolation was seeing it still for sale in a dusty display cabinet some years later!
Which was justice of a sort.

Fitting a double humbucker meant some woodwork to dig out space.
But it was easy enough and I soon had it installed in the bridge position.
The PAF Pro is a genuinely brilliant pickup and brought the best out of the limited tonal range of the guitar.
You can see a picture of the black humbucked guitar later on.
Incidentally, I still have that pickup, now ftted to an Aria Pro II guitar.
It still sounds fantastic!

Things stayed this way for many years - about 25 actually!
hen one day I realised that the neck seemed very close to a Telecaster neck.
I started to wonder if I couldn't do something with it...

Some internet research showed that the neck was indeed exact Telecaster dimensions.
I then discovered that there was a pickup set called the Fender '64 Telecaster set in the Pure Vintage series.
As I was born in 1964 it seemed an apt choice.
So a plan was hatched. I went and bought a set for £80.

The first job was to source a body.
Ebay research pointed me towards a guy who makes pre-drilled, pre-routed Telecaster bodies as a retirement sideline.
I contacted him with some questions and he seemed a genuine bloke so I decided to go with him.
All his bodies are comprehensively described in the listings, so you can choose exacty what you want.
I finally chose an poplar body for reasons of tone, and I was able to select a heavier one for tone and sustain.

The body I chose weighed 2.2 Kg, was a 3 piece Poplar construction with a contoured front for ease of playing.
I recommend jamesguitarparts on Ebay it was perfectly prepared.
It cost me £41 + £15 p&p (the postage was high as I was living in France at the time).
The difference between the bodies sizes of the Bullet Deluxe and the Telecaster can be seen in the following picture.

I improvised a paint shop in my garage.

I decided to stain the wood red wood which would show the grain and than I was going to do a nitrocellulose lacquer.

Then I started with the water-based wood stain.

Many, Many coats later.

I then started on the nitrocellulose lacquer.

Again many, many thin coats were applied.

I then left the guitar for several weeks for the lacquer to harden.

At this point you have the normal orangepeel paint finish that aerosols give.
So I got out my 600 to 3000 grade wet and dry sanding papers and began to polish.
Then disaster struck!

It appeared that the woodstain had reacted with the lacquer and it all just came off.
This left a roughened wood surface. Time to start all over again! Pass the sandpaper...

This time I decided to just use red nitrocellulose paint and then polish the paint surface, rather than lacquer.
I started with a red primer coat.

Again many thin coats were applied rapidly.

Once dry I started to sand using T-Cut and elbow grease.
The problem you face is that the paint is not a unifrom thickness. Corners and sides tend to be a lot thinner than flat surfaces.
Knowing how far you can go before you polish through it is a real judgement call.

The above image shows the shine coming through on the top corner.
Just as I was becoming happy with the finish a section near the top strap button showed the first signs of wearing through.
Fortunately it is not a visible part when the strap is fitted.
So after two hours and two sore arms the shine was there.
Just a final few polishes with a standard guitar treatment.

The headstock decals had been done with waterslide transfer paper that I printed on my laserjet printer.

These then just had to be protected with a few coats of nitrocellulose lacquer.
Then came the fun part, starting to lay out the components on the completed body.

Everything looked like it would fit.
But with guitars the difference of a millimetre or so can make a guitar unplayable.
So a scary moment.
I chose a trick bridge with brass saddles.
A Vintage/Modern Advanced Telecaster Bridge with Swiveling Saddles.
This cost me £27.41

I chose a 4-way wiring scheme.
This is non-standard Tele wiring but allows the possibility of the following options:

Neck and Bridge in series (Higher output and Beefier tone )
Neck Only
Neck and Bridge in parallel (Standard Telecaster sound)
Bridge Only

To be able to do this series/parallel option you have to mod the neck pickup.
The chrome cover has to be separated from the pickup ground.
The cover then has to be connected to ground independently. But this was an easy mod to do.
I didn't skimp on switchgear buying 250k audiotaper CTS pots costing £4.50 + £0.99 p&p.

I also sourced some heavy chrome knobs that are brilliant from northwestguitars, £5.98 each.

I needed a 4 Way Tele Switch - £10.12 + £0.95 p&p

The jack sockets for Telecasters are unique.
I found one that looked right described as 'Screw in Round Jack Cup & Socket for Telecaster in Chrome' £5.25.

I needed the chrome control plate with larger holes for CTS Pots, £5.95

A Scratchplate / Pickguard for '62 Telecaster Tele was sourced (in Tortoise shell, dark) - £8.99

Laying out the assembled components and it started to look good!

Then it was out with the soldering iron and screwdriver.
I had worried that the body dimensions might be slightly off but everything went together perfectly.
I just had to drill pilot holes for the fixing screws.

The headstock with the retained Fender logo and a new 'Steviecaster 1964' model name.
I found a fender font on the internet that approximates the right look.

If you want to hear the guitar in action then you can see a clip of me in action.