WD Music Telecaster Build Project
- Sponsored by WD Music

t4.jpg For many years guitar players have been modifying their instruments, even to the point where many mainstream manufacturers now offer pre-modified guitars with the most popular “player” features.

However if you want a truly custom one of a kind instrument there are two options. Option one, have a manufacturer’s custom shop build one for you for,for this you will need to dig very deep into your pockets or option two, build an instrument out of custom parts.

WD Music has long been providing this service in fact one of the first reviews carried out on this site back in 2003 was the building of a Strat-style Modular Guitar System (MSG) for WD Music. However, although an excellent introduction to building a guitar, with several options to choose from, that instrument was not a true custom guitar build, which is what we are going to tackle in this article.

The ability to choose from a large selection of quality parts is what this article will focus on, this way you can tailor the instrument to your own needs, with your own personal selection of body, neck, electronics, hardware and other components. This will enable you to build highly customised instrument unique to yourself, with a very reasonable investment.

That said, I think that it is also important to mention, that I am by no means a skilled luthier. Just an online magazine editor and weekend warrior musician with a passion for musical equipment and some experience in the different skills that will be needed to build this instrument.

I hope therefore that the process that I will follow as a “Regular Joe” will encourage others to build their own instruments and that this article will serve as a guideline for your own builds.

Choosing the Parts

This is undoubtedly the most important part of your project. There many choices to be made and these carry options within themselves. It is essential to think carefully about all the options available and how these are dependant on each other.

For this project the following parts where chosen.

·         Telecaster Tobacco Sunburst Swamp Ash Body

·         Rosewood neck with extended fretboard with 22 frets.

·         Genuine Kluson Tuners (With adapter bushings)

·         Wilkinson compensated bridge

·         Electrosocket Jackplate

·         Gold Anodized T Style Pickguard.

·         TUSQ Nut.

·         Kent Armstrong Hot Alnico Telecaster Pickups

·         CTS Potentiometers and Switchcraft Jack with 10% Taper

·         0.047 and 0.001 Sprague Orange Drop Capacitors

·         OAK Three way switch

·         Black and white vintage cloth wire.


01 arrival.JPG It must be said that it is quite exiting and unnerving all at once to receive a guitar in a large box full of packing peanuts and different components, but armed with my previous experience with the Strat-Style MSG, ongoing repairs to my gigging guitars and a whole load of research on the internet I decided to roll up my sleeves and get started.

Before getting started I would recommend that you do a bit of research on the internet. There are many resources available on various websites and dedicated forums. YouTube is also a very handy resource where you can see many clips of the different components to be installed, this way you can visualise the process before actually committing.

Step 1: Unpacking and Dry Run.

02 ferrules.jpg The first step undertaken was to unpack all the materials and carry out a dry run and test fit of all the components. This way you can ensure everything is compatible and nothing has been left out. I actually noticed I had forgotten to order gold screws for the bridge pickup for example so noted this down so as to order these. The other thing which I am doing is keeping a build diary on my PC as well as taking photos of the whole process, not only for the purpose of the article but to document the process and steps taken should I have any issues I wish to check up on.

Step 2: Installing the Tuners.

03 tuners.jpg The first task I decided to undertake was the installation of tuners. Firstly the bushings (adapter ones were used for the vintage sized tuning keys) where installed by simply pressing them in.

Next I proceeded to align the tuners using a straight edge as a guide. The screw holes where then carefully marked. Using a battery powered drill with a piece of tape as a depth guide I then drilled the first few holes and proceeded to install the tuners. I decide to check the alignment as I was going along to avoid any issues.

Tip: Please note maple is very hard; be sure to use a good quality screwdriver with a correct fit and if necessary use a bit of candle wax to ease in the screws in. This will avoid stripping the screws.

 Step 3: Installing the Jack Plate, Input Socket and String Ferrules

04 jack.JPG The next task I decided to complete was that of installing the jack socket. The type chosen is the electrosocket variety which is much easier to install the regular telecaster one. The jackplate was presented in place and then pilot holes were drilled and fitted with the screws provided.

Once this was done I took it all apart and soldered the two lead wires onto the input leaving plenty of slack to be cut to size later.

Tip:  For soldering help click here

Once this was completed the string ferrules where installed and held in place with white glue.

Step 4: Bridge Pickup

06 present bridge.jpg Moving on I then proceeded to mount the bridge pickup on to the bridge plate, using the springs and screws provided. (As mentioned before the screws where chrome not gold but these can be changed later). Once this is done the cables where threaded through to the control cavity as was the ground wire which will be wedged under the bridge. (I later learned this was not required as the bridge pickup baseplate grounds to the bridge via the 3 height adjuster screws.)


Step 5: Fitting the Neck

08 mock up.JPG Things are now starting to shape up and the next step is to mount the neck. For this I carefully aligned the neck with the top edge of the neck pocket, then presented the neck plate and marked the holes with a drill bit. Then using a piece of tape as a depth guide I proceeded to carefully drill the holes. Once this is done I proceeded to attach the neck screws one at a time in rotation as you would with a car tyre to apply the pressure evenly.

After this I laid down the bridge plate, control plate and pickguard just to be sure that everything fitted correctly, and had enough clearance.

Step 6: Installing the Nut

09 nut.jpg At this point we definitely have what resembles a full sized instrument, but importantly don’t let visual treat rush your job. Keep working at a steady pace and think each step through carefully before drilling or cutting. With that in mind I set about to install the TUSQ Nut. These nuts are preslotted but need final sanding to fit into your neck slot. This was achieved by carefully sanding down the bottom and sides with 200 grit sand paper, and then checking for correct fit at short intervals. The nut should fit tightly but without excess pressure or force required to get it into place.

Step 7:Fit Neck Pickup

In reality the neck pickup was fitted at a later stage, but it should really go here to keep the sequence and make things easier. Initially I was going to fit the pickup directly to the wood but, due to the fact the neck has a fretboard extension this would mean taking the neck off each time an adjustment needs to be made.

I therefore used the pickup itself as a template and drilled small holes to mount the pickup onto the pickguard.

Unfortunately the tolerances for this are very high and the adjustment screws are very tight. I contacted the helpful people at WD Music who sent over a new pickguard with predrilled holes. Please take this into account when ordering the pickguard.

Step 8: Test Fit Bridge.

Now we are ready to start installing the bridge. The recommended way to this is by presenting the bridge in place, stringing up the two outer Es, aligning the bridge plate with the string through holes and then checking the position of the; Pickguard, Control Plate, and Bridge Plate.

Most importantly check that the outer E’s align with the pickups pole pieces and do not “fall off” the neck especially on the higher frets.

Tip: On the neck pickup you can use a bit of tape to mark where the outer pole pieces go on the chrome cover.

Once I was satisfied everything was aligned properly I marked the holes for the bridge plate and proceeded to drill pilot holes.

Tip: Make sure these pilot holes are dead centre. The tolerance on this particular bridge is quite tight as counter sunk screws are used forcing the screws and bridge to align to the centre of the hole. Mine where slightly out which caused problems when aligning the bridge plate.

Once the pilot holes where ready these where followed up with a bigger drill bit and the bridge plate was then screwed down.

Once the bridge was on I strung up the guitar to pitch and let it settle for a few hours before checking intonation.

Step 9: String Retainer

10 tee.jpg The retainer was placed just behind the third tuner as on all Telecasters and is used for the 1st and 2nd string, the round 50s style variety was used. Again use a depth guide and a little candle wax to ease in the screw if required.

Always remember measure twice, drill once!

Step 10: Pickguard and Control Plate

11 guard.jpg  Now that the bridge is in place, that will dictate the position of the pickguard and control plate. In order to install these first the neck was removed as not to interference from the fingerboard extension.

Next I lined up the pickguard and control plate, taking care that there be enough play for the neck to fit properly and that the control plate is on the same plane as the bottom edge of the bridge plate. Once in place hold down with low tack tape and drill the corresponding holes then screw the items into place.

Step 11: Electronics and Knobs

14 wiring complete.JPG Finally now that all the components are in place the last job is to wire up the controls, jack and switch.

Tip:  For soldering help click here

We previously soldered up the input jack so that has been taken care of. I then found that the best way to proceed was to use the wiring diagram included with the pickups which details the correct colour codes and work through this methodically.  Also take note of which is the hot and ground wire colours on the pickups and keep to the colour scheme throughout it will make things easier.

Tip: Make note of the position of the switch in relation to the diagram as this will give you the orientation for all the components.

I decided to pre-cut all the jumper wires (the ones than go from connector to connector on the switch) and install these first and neatly tuck them under the connectors on the switch. Then I worked on the connections for each pickup methodically.

Tip: When soldering near a guitar use a cloth or any other material to protect the finish should any blobs of solder accidentally fall on the finish.

Step 12: Setup

The final step in our project is to tune up and intonate the guitar in the usual way and then she’s ready to play.



The first time I plugged in the Telecaster I was quite anxious to be quite honest. But then she came to life and all the pickup positions worked. I then started to adjust the pickup height for the bridge (the neck pickup is awaiting the new pickguard) and she certainly sounds like a true vintage Telecaster, although a little bit hotter with plenty of bite.

A truly worthwhile project.

Items Pending.

As with all projects and as mentioned some items where left pending parts.

A week later the new pickguard with the predrilled holes arrived and this was swapped over to allow the neck pickup to adjust freely. The 3-way switch screws where changed for gold items as where the ones for the bridge pickups.

I also swapped the stock bridge plate screws for ones with slightly smaller heads which allowed some extra leeway in order the align the bridge plate properly.

By Ernest H Slade

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