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The Guinea Pig

So here it is. This is a “Johnson” Telecaster of indeterminate age that I obtained through a Craigslist trade. For those of you reading this who aren’t guitar people, a “Johnson” Telecaster guitar is akin to saying a “Generic” Telecaster guitar. Or, to put it in better terms, it would be like comparing 100% real beef Ballpark Hotdogs to “beef like product” hotdogs. From now on, I will simply refer to this as the “Telecaster”, understanding that you realize it is not a genuine model…

Below is a full picture of the actual Telecaster that I will be using as my guinea pig.

Any well designed project begins with a project plan, and this is no different. This project will encompass not only installing a Korg KAOSS Pad beneath the bridge of this guitar, but will involve many other individual items to essentially transform this guitar into something very different.

First and foremost, I will need to strip the lacquer from the body of this guitar, as I plan on refinishing it completely. The goal is to paint the guitar black, and overlay medium grain black glitter, before re-finishing. I will keep the white pickguard to give it the Eric Clapton “Blackie” type contrast.

The next photo shows a zoomed view of the front guitar body. The area beneath the bridge is the part of the body that will be routed out to make room for the Korg KAOSS Pad. It was important to get a guitar that had enough space beneath the bridge, as the unit measures approximately 3″x3″, which is rather large. Most guitars with a floating tremolo just wouldn’t have enough space. In this view, the long oval switch plate on the right will be replaced with a black chrome unit, as will the bridge.

If you look very carefully, you will see an angled, black, pickup hiding behind the strings. While the unit is black, it is still a cheap Chinese made pickup that doesn’t sound very good. This will be replaced by a Seymour Duncan Hot Rail humbucking pickup that was designed specially to fit the Telecaster single coil cutout.

The top chrome pickup in the picture below will be replaced by one with a black chrome face, as well. It was here that I had my first hiccup, though. I’ve been buying most of the parts needed for this project on eBay over the course of the last two days, and this one was the first to arrive. Unfortunately, this item arrived as being chrome covered, with no black face. This serves me right for buying the parts too quickly. The seller was prompt to respond and provided excellent customer support, but I decided to just paint it black. I would recommend this eBay store to anyone. This actually worked out better in the end as the pickup is a much higher quality than most other black covered ones currently offered on eBay.

Ahhh, the “Johnson” logo, proudly displayed on the headstock. While I plan on keeping the natural wood finish of the headstock, this has to go. I may look into cutting a custom stencil logo, and then re-lacquering, but I’m not sure yet. We’ll have to see how it goes down as this project progresses.

This is the back of the headstock. As with the other chrome parts on the current guitar, these will be replaced by higher quality black chrome “machine head” tuners. Machine head tuners are machined lubricated and sealed units that allow a guitar to hold its tuning much better than the cheap units currently installed.

Next is the rear of the guitar body. Besides refinishing the body the goal here is not to have to cut through the back of this body. Ideally, you want to have as much wood as possible to add to the natural sustain of the instrument, and my goal is to preserve this. If I need to create more accessibility, I may resign to having to cut straight through, but wouldn’t make that decision lightly.

Last but not least, you will see a quick Photoshop below of what I envision a before and after of this guitar to resemble. Keep in mind this was built on a stock photo that I grabbed from some random place, so some of the details (like the black pickguard, instead of white, and the standard chrome hardware, instead of black chrome) will be different. Ultimately, I am a visual person so I know it would help me to understand this project by seeing something like this…

Thanks for sticking around. Next up will be the disassembly of the guitar, and the removal of the finish. See you soon!

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