ES-Tele Black & Titanium Guitar Build – Design

This is a build blog that will follow along with our entry in TDPRI’s 2015 Build Challenge. I’ll take all my posts and pics from the main build threads and try to assemble them into easy to read blog ‘chapters’. If you’ve never checked out Telecaster Discussion Page ReIssue forum, then I’d highly recommend that you do so. It’s full of very helpful information about all kinds of guitars (especially Telecasters!) and also is full of some very helpful and knowledgable folks, too! If you want to read the build thread in its entirety, then you can click here- RockRabbit’s Black & Titanium ES-Tele 2015 Build So, let’s get rockin’…

I’ve been really impressed with not just everyone’s creativity with their 2015 Builds, but even more so their courage to push their own construction/luthier skills. So, I figured what the heck? I’ll give it a go and join the fun/stress/excitement!

My challenge to myself is to build a semi-hollowbody guitar, similar to a Gibson ES in construction. I’ve never made anything hollow before (I don’t count hollowing out a solidbody and then capping with a solid top), so I’ll be learning as I go. In my mind I’m picturing a black nitro body, black binding, about size of an ES-335, but shaped with a strong Telecaster influence. Maple bolt-on neck and maple fingerboard and will consider using an Ebony peghead veneer, depending on the vibe I get. Of course, I’ll be making all the titanium components- Tele bridge plate and saddles, Tele control plate, and neck plate.

So, for the body: Maple centerblock, maple sides, carved maple back, carved spruce top and some spruce to make the kerfing. Instead of tackling laminating a top & back arch, I’m going to carve them, more like a Byrdland. Here’s my drawing showing an ES-335 outline in brown and the ES-Tele in blueish-purple color. As you can see, it is slightly shorter in length but I’ve blown up the Tele butt to 120% to match more closely with the 335’s mass. There are a couple of tight side bends here and not sure yet how’ll those will be solved, except I better plan on LOTS of extra maple for practice bending!

ES-Tele Design Outline

The Neck: Not sure yet if I want to make a flat or angled headstock, and I have some raw titanium sheet on the way to make neck strengthers if I do go for an angle. I’m also thinking that the headstock shape needs to be a little larger than Tele size to balance the larger body. Here’s one idea with my inspiration, but this shape will probably change as often as our Indiana weather.

Inline Headstock Inspiration

Only other thing that’s set is the pickups- Lollar’s Special T in the bridge and a Firebird in the neck position. Hoping that with some experimentation, I’ll be able to get a wide breadth of useable tones through a five-way switch and some creative wiring.

I’ll get pics of raw lumber when it arrives and hope to have some template pics soon.

Here’s how I’ve layed things out-

First, I took that basic outline and mocked up an 1-3/4″ thick body out of scrap fiberboard pieces, just to see if the idea needs any major shape changes before moving forward. Cut a scrap of cedar 1/2″ thick, guessing that would be the maximum curvature height I could go without it looking funny. Don’t have a regular titanium tele bridge on hand, so used this titanium half-bridge plate and saddles. Sitting on my desk, they were the ones easiest to grab. Not sure what configuration I’ll cut for the controls, but I have a stack of this style waiting for finish polishing, so try one. Using a MIJ strat neck (oh, say it ain’t so!) that was laying around my office, just to get check the angles. Here’s what we’ve got:

ES-Tele Mockup

Sitting on my lap, it does feel like a really FAT Tele, but that little bit off the butt does make it feel smaller than an ES-335. And I have a feeling that it’s gonna balance, too. The control plate does look in proportion here, but the controls are definately further back than I’m used to. So, thinking that the Volume might go in the front. But, that’s a decision for much later.

Different shot showing the height of the bridge and the string angle. Thinking that I might go ahead and carve the spruce top with a max amount of curvature height and then perhaps carve the peak down until it feels good?

ES-Tele Bridge Height

I know that will alter my neck angle, but might try and keep the design as flexible as possible. Speaking of neck angle, we’ve got about 4 degrees here:

ES-Tele Neck Angle

Headstock angle: Fender flat? Gibson angle? Something else? Was debating about the headstock angle for a couple of days before I decided that putting an 11 or 17 degree angle might change the tone too much from the Tele-feel that I’m going for. But, I was thinking that I could try and lose the string trees since I’m going to use a three-piece neck. So, I was looking at the break angle of the high E and wondering where it might sit to keep that Fender flavor without the trees:

Treeless Headstock

Then I drew out the change in headstock angle to drop the high E tuner about 7/32″, which turned out to be 2.5 degrees:

2.5 Degree Headstock

OK, so my body shape is cool and I’ve not tried a shallow angled headstock like this before, so I figure Let’s Rock. Here’s my final master shape template and the neck profile:

ES-Tele Templates

Hey guys, that’s all for now. Hope to have some raw materials pics tomorrow, so stay tuned!

Hey, got a delivery and can now finally post up my raw materials.

Here’s the maple fingerboard and the spruce for the top-

ES-Tele Raw Materials 1

The maple centerblock on the left and the maple for the back next to it-

ES-Tele Raw Materials 2

3 piece birdeye for the neck, maple to be ripped for sides, spruce for kerfing and bit of 1/8″ thick ebony for the peghead-

ES-Tele Raw Materials 3

And finally, some 1/8″ 6Al4V Titanium for the neck and a bit of .071″ 6Al4V Titanium to make the bridge plate, neck plate and control plate. I’ll get a pic of the raw Titanium rod for the saddles later, when I get that far-

ES-Tele Raw Titanium Sheet

I see how fast some of you people work and I’m thinking that I need to grab another gear! Spent a weekend making jigs, templates and a mold. Not a ton of fun, but figure if I can get these things sorted out then the rest might fall into place? I’m sure they won’t…

Anyhoo, after too many hours contemplating the meaning of headstocks and their shapes and not coming up with anything revolutionary (or even a bit new) I thought about how the impression the body gives me is of a FAT Tele. Not a bad FAT, but like a Tele who found himself a wife that makes those porkchops that just melt in your mouth, FAT. The shape through the shoulders is about the standard width and then the butt flares out to the ES-335 width. Too much good eatin’ and not enough cardio, Tele!

So, I thought to just do the same idea with the headstock shape and make it Tele, but FAT. The ball-end is about Strat size, so it’s not huge, and I just gave it a sorta Tele contour across the bottom. Drew it out and then cut into the template-

ES-Tele Neck Shape

Not exactly sure how I’ll joint this thing up at the nose area of the neck, but I made quick body mold to help me assemble this thing and figure it out as I go. Have one idea of how to joint it up with the centerblock, leaving the centerblock exposed at the very end. But, that’s something that I can lose sleep over later.

ES-Tele Body Mold

I best be making some sawdust, clock is ticking!


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