Tele Hardware Update

Over the past several years I’ve made several upgrades on my tele and I never took the time to write about it. I recently switched my saddles again and I figured now would be a good time to document this.

My tele started with a standard Gotoh tele bridge with modern “strat” style saddles. These bridges are excellent and it served me well for ~10 years. …until I played a Suhr tele w/ the Wilkinson (by Gotoh) WT3 bridge and it spoiled me. …a lot.

There’s a really neat vibe that’s unique to the ash tray bridge with brass saddles. I also really liked how the saddles can be adjusted for intonation purposes. The Suhr I played, known as the Classic T Antique, also had aged/distressed hardware. I don’t dislike the bright shiny chrome plates, but it does annoy me how it looks when it gets finger prints & smudges on it.

Since I have never attempted any relic’ing in the past, I turned to the canonical source for all information: YouTube. This video had a nice process that yielded a nice result and didn’t look to difficult. The muriatic acid seemed to dull the metal a bit, but it didn’t look near as nice as the Suhr, which almost had a “brushed” metal look. I thought I might be able to achieve something similar with sandpaper. I tested the underside of the control plate by moving it two different directions on 220 paper and then with 400 grit. Below is the before shot:


and the after:

This is exactly what I had pictured in my head and I’m glad it worked out. I later tried to repeat this process on another control plate and it turned out terrible. Maybe this was beginners luck.

Now, this guitar started it’s life with two pickups and a 3-way switch. I then went to a 4-way w/ the added serial option, which I didn’t like at all. Then I had the middle pickup slot routed. The tech I hired to do that work ordered a different pickguard that already had the middle slot cut. While there wasn’t anything structurally wrong with the new one, the pearloid was a very bright white, and I prefer a softer slightly yellowed pearloid. What’s shown in these pictures is a genuine Fender pickguard that I originally bought for an old Mexican tele and I cut a hole for the middle pickup. I think it turned out great and looks much nicer than the other one.

A pair of Dimarzio Twang Kings mixed with a Van Zandt Blues give this guitar a 50’s style sound, but with a really cool 2 & 4 strat quack sounds. I really like how the hotter Van Zandt blends with the Twang Kings; no other guitar sounds like this. Originally the tone pot had an add-bridge push/pull (and push/push at one point) potentiometer. This is a great configuration, but I found I wasn’t using the neck+bridge sound much, if at all, because it’s inconvenient compared to the other positions on the switch. Since I never use the middle pickup by itself, I decided to move to a N,N+M,N+B,M+B,B setup. Later I learned this is common for Nashville style teles.

It’s not possible to wire a regular 5-way switch like this. Schaller makes several switches that are designed with altered wirings in mind called Megaswitches. They make one that does exactly what I needed. The unit has a PCB board and the switch was crazy stiff. ….like it hurt my hand to move it. I went ahead and installed it thinking it would loosen up and be fine, after all, it’s a high-end switch right?! What a piece of crap this is! After a day it went in the trash. I do not recommend using these. Honestly, I’ve never had good luck with recent Schaller hardware, and this did nothing to change my opinion of them. (I’m a Gotoh guy)

Worst switch in the history of guitars

Unfortunately, a nice super switch is too wide to fit in the control cavity on a tele. While looking for online, I discovered that a 2-pole 5-way switch exists. It’s basically half of a super switch, which are 4-pole. I picked one up an Oak-Grigsby one from ToneShapers for a very reasonable price.  I also sprung for some new CTS 250K, solid shaft pots.

At one point I drilled a hole in the plate to add a mini toggle switch which I later removed. I covered it up w/ an old clayton pick.

Complete with wiring

The results of this work turned out really nice. The new bridge improved the traditional feel and sound, but I didn’t like how the saddles felt on my palm. These have an hex nut at the top that protrudes from the saddle and it’s just not comfortable for me.

Now that is a good looking tele!

I keep up with Tom Anderson Guitarworks on Facebook and a few weeks ago they launched their tele Icon. I immediately noticed they were using different saddles and the ash tray is notched. Looking at this post it’s easy to see these are the Gotoh compensated saddles. I avoided these initially because I didn’t think the fixed offset would intonate perfectly …..but if Anderson is using them ……I’d be an idiot not to try them, and I’m glad I did. Stewmac sells them here.

After the install
These are sooooooo comfy on top. ….except for the long screws :(

The screws ended up being a bit too long for this guitar. In truth, I could probably live with the included screws, but they make me nervous so I’m going to change them. I found a thread on tdpri.com where someone else ran into the same problem. He ordered ones that are 5mm shorter; specifically a M3 x 25mm. He had to buy a qty of 100 and offered to ship them to others if needed. He was kind enough to send me some and I hope they arrive soon.

My parting thought is these Gotoh saddles are definitely the best I’ve used. I fell back in love with this tele over the weekend and it’s nice to feel excited about an old friend again!

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