More Like Tele Custom III Now!
This is part review and part modification story. If you have read other posts at The Fender Blog, you will no doubt know that I’m an incurable tweaker, although I try to make my tweaks with a sense of purpose rather than just for the hell of it. Here is the story of my Tele Custom II (the one with P90 pickups).
I recently acquired this Squier Vintage Modified Tele Custom II from a friend. He got it new last year, although it’s a 2012 model (from the date stamp on the butt of the neck). I borrowed it this time last year and used it on a few recordings for the FAWM 2015 challenge (February Album Writing Month), which I also did this year and used it again, as my own guitar! – here’s my FAWM profile if songwriting floats your boat!
I remember really liking the way it played and it sounded good too. Much brighter sounding than I expected it to for a guitar with P90s in it though. So after about a year, my friend thought about selling it, so I took the opportunity to offer to buy it before he changed his mind! This guitar gets good reviews on the forums and I believe is no longer in production.
It is a very good guitar. Squier hit a winning formula with this particular mix of specs and features. The neck is very, very comfortable to play. The slight issue I have with the neck is that the truss rod on this one doesn’t seem to be working. When I turn it, it doesn’t do anything. For now the neck is ok (although I normally prefer a little more relief), but I just hope it doesn’t become an issue in the future. If anyone knows if there’s a fix for this kind of issue, please contact me!
So, I already knew it was a great guitar to play, provided some good sounds with the stock pickups (Duncan Designed P90s) and was light weight (it is ridiculously light weight). For someone like me it’s a modding platform from heaven!
So guess what I did with it? Yep, I modded the living daylights out of it and it is now a serious performance machine – made for the stage and studio alike. If I had some extra money I’d be tempted to buy another one or the model that is identical except with humbuckers instead of P90s.
So once I’d completed this year’s FAWM challenge I set about completing the modification program I had started a few weeks before.
Here are the mods I made in chronological order:
Replaced Black Plastic Parts with White
First of all, the guitar was a bit too dark looking overall, so I got hold of off-white P90 covers (described as Ivory). Most of the options I found initially were cream coloured and looked too yellowish or even this kind of pinkish hue, but these ones are more like the Fender parchment parts, which is basically white, except if you hold it up against a pure white part you can see it is less stark. A softer, altogether nicer white in my opinion.
I also found some “witch-hat” knobs, like the stock knobs (a bit like Fender amp knobs), but in the same soft white. It’s a cool look, but four white knobs looked a bit over the top to me. However I had some wiring ideas, so I had a way of addressing that issue (more on that in a minute).
Installed a Tronical Tune+ System
I wanted a Tronical Tune system on one of my Strats for ages, but it was a bit expensive and never got to the top of my list of priorities. Also in the back of my mind was the Strat bridge possibly adding problems to the sensitivity of the system, so I forgot about it.
Now having this Tele and trying it out in open G tuning for some killer Keith Richard licks I checked out the Tronical again. This time I discovered an improved version now exists (the ‘+’ version) and a price reduction of about 30%. A fixed bridge (like a hardtail Strat) on the Tele was the clincher. This would surely be a great mod to make – and it is!
It takes a little getting used to, but it will be perfect on stage for changing tunings and now I’ll be able to add some more Stones songs into the set! (never a bad thing).
It made hardly any difference to the weight/balance of the guitar and zero impact on the way it plays and feels.
Significant Rewiring Job
I kept the wiring to the switch intact because I felt the switch was fine as it was and didn’t need replacing. I decided to totally reconfigure the controls. I did away with two of the knobs, so it’s now got one master volume and one master tone. I used two new CTS 500k pots. I didn’t want to be left with two holes where the other controls were, so I thought about how I could make use of the two holes.
In the end I decided to install two push-button, latching switches. One of them is a blower switch, bypassing the pots when pushed and the other overrides the pickup selector and outputs both pickups in series. I had to make the holes a bit bigger in the pickguard for the new pots and the switches and I also had to engineer a way to get the small switches to remain fixed in position on the pickguard, but it was straightforward. I was very happy when the wiring went fault-free and worked first time. I didn’t have to go back and troubleshoot at all, which means I’m getting better at doing this!
Now I have an absolute beast of a guitar in my hands. It is extremely versatile in terms of easy access to different tones and tunings, looks cool (and fairly unique), weighs nothing and plays beautifully.
I love the stock pickups and now, along with my black Strat I have two high-performance, versatile, gigging guitars that are both a little bit different to the norm, whilst remaining relatively traditional.
I shall make a video demo with a decent-quality recording to demonstrate the guitar soon.
This one is a real winner!