I decided it is time to build a guitar, to finish it using our uv curing lamps. This only time I have even attempted to refinish a guitar was an Ibanez Iceman II, back in the late 1980s. I still have that guitar, and it is still unfinished, in pieces, in a bag. Maybe someday…. The last time I actually put finish on ANY wood project was a spice rack I made for my mom in the late 1970s. I’m handy with a soldering iron and voltmeter, and have swapped out necks, pickups, pots and other parts before. I can even frame a wall, do a little drywalling, some drafting and engineering, and not to brag, but I’m actually a pretty respectable guitarist. I spent decades gigging in some of the finest dive bars and VFWs in America. But I’m no luthier, so I’m approaching this with a bit of apprehension and realistic expecations. I’m going to keep it simple.
For this project, I have chosen to do my interpretation of Leo Fender’s first guitar (shown right), a “Prototype #1” Fender Esquire (Telecaster), but with my own twist. The main goal here isn’t to prove I’m a splendid guitar builder nor built the ultimate ax. It is to put my new UV curing lamps to use in a real world test, from the eyes of a novice. Well, that and build a fun guitar. You professional guitar builders are free to giggle along the way as I make mistakes, I won’t take it personal. An Esquire is a perfect platform for this because it is a simple, cheap slab of pine with one pickup, and it shows off a lot of wood. In the interest of full disclosure, I’m a total Telecaster freak, I post at Telecaster.com, I own four Fender Telecasters, Strat/Telecaster hybrid call the Fender Pawnshop ’51, etc. While choosing a Tele/Esquite is the most practical choice, it is also an emotional choice, and in my own small way, own a tiny piece of history. The first Telecaster was built around 1949, and while I have no intention of trying to duplicate this exact guitar, the goal is to recreate something in the same spirit; something Leo might have build had he made some minor changes.
Another reason I chose this project is because it is pine, which is softer and easier to work with. It is also cheap, there are plenty on eBay to choose from. I managed to steal one off eBay on a slow bid day, $40 including shipping, and it has all the holes drilled, the pickup route, a pickguard made from an acutal vinyl record, and the two hole plate for pots, much like the original. I already have a couple of unencombered Telecaster necks, some pots and some pickups, but I haven’t decided how I will dress it out just yet, the main focus is on the wood. I’m contemplating doing a “weathered wood” looking UV lamps to darken it up, to give it some age, giving the lamps double duty and demonstrating two uses. I will probably do a very thin finish, just a few coats, so it will wear more natural like the original nitrocellulose finishes, and likely sound better. I’m not a fan of vintage bridges, but I will compromise and use one, modified with compensating brass saddles, and maybe some trimming. Found a Fender brand blank plate on eBay for $12, free shipping, so that was a another great score. I will use Solarez UV cure resin, which is most commonly used for surf boards, but I already have it, and it is good stuff, and I think fits the goal here. Leo used what was available, including car paint, so I think he would approve. I don’t want to build a show piece, I want a workhorse that is worth playing, and it will get dings and dents from use. It won’t be just like Leo’s first guitar, but hopefully it will be a respectable ode to it.
The image at the top is the exact photo from eBay, and the maker clearly states the body isn’t going to be perfect due to handling, and may not be perfectly to Fender standards in the cut. This makes it perfect, as I’m sure Leo’s was also hand cut with a ban saw, drawn out by hand, with no desire to make it “perfect”. After all, it is a prototype; a proof of concept. This lines up well with the objective as it is our first attempt to personally finish a guitar and test some prototype lamps, and it was Leo’s first attempt to create what has now become a legend. This exercise will not show the full potential of Solacure curing lamps. To be honest, there are many guitar and violin builders out there using our lamps. It will only show that any idiot can buy a cheap pine body off of eBay, and turn it into a worthwhile guitar using our Solacure lamps, and give us a better understanding of our customers. And maybe inspire some future luthier, for if I can do it, any serious hobbyist can do it better.