GW Basses & Luthiery

  Custom Shop "Tele" - Senior Project Guitar

Sam was a senior at a high school here in Indiana that requires every senior to have a "senior project" that is supposed to take them the entire senior year to complete. They have to submit their plan for a project for approval before starting it. Sam decided he wanted to build his own guitar, but had no experience working on guitars nor did he have any wood working experience either. He was referred to me to help him out and I was more than happy to help.

So we met, discussed the specs for wood, hardware, colors, etc. My goal was to have Sam do as many things by hand as possible, even things like radiusing the fingerboard. I have a jig to do it but doing it by hand is the only way to appreciate what is required. I also assured his parents that my goals were to get Sam to the end of the project with a great looking, sounding and playing guitar, knowledge of woodworking and shop safety, and with both eyes, 8 fingers and 2 thumbs all intact and in working order!

So we finalized the specs, ordered up some wood, and went over shop safety before getting into cutting the wood to begin his Tele.

Here are the specs:

  • Birdseye Maple with birdseye maple fingerboard
  • Amber tint gloss lacquer finish
  • Abalone dot inlays, custom inlay at 12th fret of Sam's initials

  • Body:
  • Lighweight swamp ash with blue-green dyed maple burl topset

  • Hardware and Electronics:
  • Seymour Duncan pickups
  • Chrome vintage style bridge and tuners

  • The Build Process

    Once we had covered shop safety, we started building Sam's Tele. Here are some various pics of the build process over his Senior year.

    All of the templates laid out on the wood blanks

    Cutting the fret slots in the fingerboard

    Shaping the neck blank on the router table

    Routing the pickup cavities and electronics cavity

    The roughed out neck and body

    Hand radiusing the fingerboard

    Originally Sam wanted a Mary Kay White finish, but then he saw a blue-green dyed maple burl topset I had and decided at this point to go with it. So, through the planer to take 1/4" off the top of the body, and here is Sam cutting out the topset

    ...and getting ready to glue down the new topset...

    ... and clamping it all down

    Touching up the fret slots by hand

    Carving the neck profile

    Sanding the neck, getting ready for the amber dye and finish

    Putting in the frets, by hand with a hammer and a fret press so he'd see how to do it both ways

    Dressing the ends of the frets

    Clear gloss lacquer going on... sooo many coats!

    Final levelling and dressing of the frets

    And finally putting all the parts in!

    Sam and his Dad with the finished Tele!

    And here is the finished guitar. Sam did a great job and is very happy with and proud of this guitar, as he should be.

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