First DIY guitar kit – BYOguitar custom shop ’72 Fender Telecaster Thinline

To go along with my DIY guitar amp, I ‘needed’ a DIY guitar. There are a lot of kits out there of varying quality and price. I wanted something I would be able to put together without too much rework but I also didn’t want to spend an arm and a leg.

On the cheap side, there are ebay kits and a number of other vendors where the raw material and craftsmanship isn’t that great. As a result, you get a lot of aggravation and need to fix basic things like hole location and neck fit. On the other end is someone like Precision Guitar that has great reviews. Apparently, they do real high quality work. Of course, good work doesn’t come cheap.

My kit:
I ended up in the middle with a Custom Shop BYOguitar kit. Their custom shop products are made in the USA in their own CNC machines and so they can control quality more closely than the overseas kits they also sell. I knew I wanted a slightly unique ’72 Telecaster Thinline and they had an upgrade to black walnut for a reasonable $30. The rest of the options I kept standard knowing I could upgrade later. Also, I already had a set of grover mini-rotomatic tuners I got for cheap from Rondo that I planned to use. (I can’t stand it when my instruments go out of tune when you look at them funny.)

The ordering process was easy enough and within a few days I had a picture of the actual body they had machined for me. Unfortunately, the bridge for the hole pattern they drilled for became obsolete so they had to make me a new body for a more standard telecaster hard tail bridge. Not a big deal.

New toy arrives:
Fast forward a week and Mr. UPS delivers my new toy!
It was packed well enough and upon initial inspection most everything was perfect.
– The neck fit really well in the pocket. It was tight enough that I had to squeeze it in but not force it. I was most concerned about this but it’s pretty spot on.
– The CNC work for the pickups and most everything was great.
– The quality of the Mighty Mite neck is quite high. The wood, frets, finish, etc. is perfect.
– The black walnut itself is nice. The top is book matched and there are some unique features in the grain. No bad knots or anything.
– The hardware is fine. About what you would expect at the price point.

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Almost perfect:
I had a few complaints though.
Small nick on the back near the neck bolt holes:
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Medium nick on top of the guitar near the bass side of the neck:
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Sloppy finishing work inside the f-hole and control cavity:
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Also, when I was positioning the pick guard and components, I noticed that the pick guard was slightly proud of the body at the top. This was with the pick guard in position in order to center up the pickups and make sure the bridge didn’t interfere. I just took a circular file to it followed by sand paper and massaged the shape a bit so it worked out.

I emailed byoguitar about the above and they quickly offered to make me a new body as the defects above are not up to their standards. They explained that perhaps in their rush to get me a second body after the first one didn’t work out, they didn’t do as thorough a final sanding and inspection. I won’t go into the details, but they made it right with me. +1 for good customer service.

Initial Assembly:
The included instructions are pretty clear and comprehensive. I followed them mostly. As a matter of fact, I got all of the following done in a couple hours that night:
– Drilled all the holes for tuners, pick guard, strap locks, bridge, neck
– Waterslide logo on headstock

I got the logo from old-fret. It was actually pretty easy to put on. I was worried I was going to tear it or get bubbles but it was quite manageable.
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I think it looks quite good, especially when compared with the naked look:
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In any case, I just have to do some finish sanding and hand rub on the satin polyurethane before final assembly. Should be rocking out by the weekend!

10/11 Update
Got it pretty much done the next day!

I finish sanded with a sanding block with 320 grit and the 600 grit.
Then I applied two coats of satin hand rubbed polyurethane.
Then it was just a matter of final assembly and stringing her up!

And this is where I ended up:
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The only remaining issue is with the input jack. The traditional cup and retainer clip are not easy to use. I did manage to cludge my own tool with a long bolt, some nuts, and washers to get the clip in. But the cup doesn’t sit flush and the plug only works if it’s 90% inserted for some reason.

All in all, it went together pretty easily and only required very minor tweaks. The neck fit was my biggest worry but worked out great. The pick guard positioning was a little hairy to make sure the pickups were in the right place (i.e., centered under the strings), and as mentioned above, the pickguard itself needed a little massaging. But all in all, I can’t complain.

Also, now that I got it strung up and mostly setup, it plays nicely and the pickups sounds pretty darn good too! I’ll post some more impressions once I get some more time with it and dial in the setup.

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