The 1968 Fender Telecaster Un-wrapped.
I took a flyer on a 1968 maple necked Telecaster that was on ebay. It’s “all there” (including the original case) … nice vibe… pretty worn. Just a REAL relic in spades! There’s 50s-like neck wear on the nitro fingerboard. A very cool nicotine orange to yellow to white to blonde body. This was a somewhat unexpected purchase… I threw in a low $4500 offer and it was accepted! I received the guitar a couple of days ago, and I must say that this seller should have been a little more careful in his description. There were a few undisclosed issues. The neck pickup was wired out of phase and had a 2.5k DC resistance – indicating a potentially broken/shorted out pickup. The frets didn’t seem like the stated “original frets”…but that’s OK, the slightly larger than stock size wire and perfect condition just saved me a re-fret! I plugged in my “Bri approved” Weller WESD51 soldering station, reheated the neck pickup wires at the pickup… and low and behold, the pickup was fixed!
This guitar, despite my initial disappointment, turned out to be a great Tele! Plugged in, the 7.2k bridge pickup really rocks! Lots of metallic clang and twang, with plenty of output… just fabulous! A winner. The neck plays smoothly due to 45 years of love. The guitar weighs 7.3 lbs – nice and light. The 5.5k neck pickup sounds musical, but it doesn’t seem like the best match for the bridge pickup – a little weak. And it therefore doesn’t give us the best middle position sound either. I’m not opposed to reversible mods – so I took note of the this issue.
It’s interesting how after a while playing around with guitars you sometimes get an intuition about what changes might work, and I immediately thought of the Fralin wound Jim Weider “Big T” neck pickup. It’s got bigger magnets and a moderately low wind for a nice clear, but robust, punchy, and slightly dark tone (at least darker than all those other “tall” neck pickups like the Twisted Tele pickup that Fender makes). So the Big T went in the guitar and it’s “the magic”, the “Shiznitz”! I also replaced the severely corroded switch while I was at it.
The ceramic .05mF disk cap was really “on / off”… no taper at all… so given the fact that I’d already done some (reversible) mods to the guitar, I threw in a paper and oil cap of the same value – one of those big, fat gold cylinders. I think they call it a “guitar cap” or something. Wow! Don’t let anyone tell you that all caps of the same value sound the same. The new cap had a very gradual tone roll off with numerous very musical tones built in – a whole rainbow of sounds!
So there you have it! I put ‘er all back together and I’ve been playing this great ‘ole Tele for the last day or so non-stop! Don’t let anyone tell you that great Fender guitars stopped in 1965 when Leo sold the company! This is one GREAT Tele! Compared to my favorite Tele (and I’ve compared my favorite, “keeper” to many others) – a lightweight knockoff Top Loader with a fatty neck – this ‘68 is at least it’s equal… maybe better. Mission accomplished.