The FenderTelecaster Lover's Modification Site!
Tips & Tricks

Brian Mikami's Holy Crap! Control PanelOK, all you 'Modders and DIYS people, Brian will start the ball rolling here. This section will have things we can share with you that make doing stuff a little easier, better, and faster. It can be useful for stuff other than guitar moddin', too, so feel free to send us anything you like!

[Brian Mikami's (butnut) Tips]:

  • Plastic cutting boards. Don't know why I only started using these 5 years ago...used to throw away the old funky blackened ones. You know, the opaque white plastic ones...we now have kool blue and green ones (green for cutting veggies and fruits only!) This stuff is great for drilling, punching holes and of course, cutting with X-acto or utility knifes. Never go hunting for a scrap piece of wood to drill on. It has a permanent place on my tool shelf. I used it to make my control plates. I drilled the 2 small mounting holes on the ends of the blank plates and screwed the plate to the board. Center punch and drill the bigger holes for the LP switch and know how the bit likes to bite just before it breaks through the way if it's screwed down. Also screwed my Tele guard to it when I cut out the pup hole for the HB neck. Lots of uses for this board...throw it out when it's Swiss cheese, hopefully you'll have another board going bad...
  • Sanding blocks. Get the 4" wide belt sander belts, slide 'em over a 3/4" plywood block that's cut to fit snugly inside. I've used these forever and it's great for leveling, smoothing...anything. At times it's better and faster than a file. I have 80, 100 & 120 grits, they last a real long time. Used 'em to shape and smooth the control plates as well as take 1/8" off the bottom of my Tele-Gib pup rings...just rub the bottom of the rings on 'em. I love these 'hand sanders'. Cheap, too!
  • Rubber grip mats. You'll find in at Costco in small rolls. Wood workers started using this as a 'no-clamp' skid pad to route, trim stuff while the pad holds the piece from moving. I think Costco calls it 'shelf liner'...guess it's good for that, too. I always have a piece under the guitar/body I'm working on. Good stuff. I cut some round ones for my sons cymbals...crashing cymbals in the living room goes right through my brain cells! This stuff reduces the crash to a plink... haha!
  • Bronze wool. I learned this from doing Schwinn resto. Never use steel wool on chrome! Chrome is 'softer' than 'steel' soooo, it's gonna matter how double-ott fine it is. Bronze wool (fine) will remove those pepper rust spots from chrome without scratching. You need to use Windex as a lube, so spray some on, and rub with the bronze wool. I found some at the Marine (boat) shop...sometimes Lowes has it.
  • Magnfying head visor. My dad used this all the time working on electronics repair. I bought one for my touch-up biz...about 40 bucks for the good one. I'm getting old..glasses aren't enough. Use 'em for soldering, lettering 'donut's', dressing fresh drilled/reamed holes with a utility knife. Makes things look real big so I can be more precise...and safer.
  • new found reverse-resto...Kiwi brown shoe polish. Mandy told me about this, Rev. Donzo (Lace) screamed about it's glory. I tell ya, it works. Here's my experience with it. When I read about relic'ing, it made sense to dull the paint before you put dents and ding in...shiny dents look wierd and too fresh. So I steel wooled the body (Tele-Gib). When I did the Kiwi, it got real dark, I guess the paint was raw and 'open', being deglossed. I had to use a varnish remover to take the color off...I waited too long. Hint: if you don't like what you see, you have seconds to wipe off with alcohol..keep a lot of clean rags ready. I was able to tone down areas with the alcohol and gave it real looking shading. Some plastic parts, knobs and pickup covers may not take...I used lacquer thinner to remove any wax and mold release from the plastic (be careful around painted fast) and the color took...just had to do that for the Les Paul Standard truss plate...looks old now. It darkened a rich tone on my Strats (poly?) JV neck...I have a semi-bare baby butt whiteish neck for my Goldie...shoe shine tan for that one...soon.
  • Ferrous Chloride. The relic-guru who did Roy's Nancy Tele clone used this stuff. Depending how long you soak or rub this stuff on, you can go from old, dull chrome to rusty POS! Be careful, wear gloves and eye gear. Water rinse stops the process...have a small container or wet rags handy. About 5 bucks for a bottle of instant age from Radio Shack.
  • Small Ding Repair. Do you you have a ding shaped like a slotted driver head in your wood? I hate slotted screws for that reason. If the wood is 'raw', here's what you can do: Heat up your soldering iron (flat blade is best) or a regular clothes iron. Get a piece of cotton ball or cloth about the size of your ding and wet it. When the iron is hot, place the wet piece on the ding and hit it with the tip of the iron. It will sizzle; hold it a few seconds while it steams the ding...this will swell the wood...if done right, the ding will 'lift'...too wet or too much steam, and you'll have a bump. Let it dry overnight and sand lightly.


[ Scott Bittner's (Wattage) Tips]:

  • If you use Windex on chrome, make sure you put some wax on it when you are done. Ammonia will eventually break the chrome down, and that can be a real issue on stuff that has very light plating, especially if has already started to break down a bit. I like Mother's Pure Carnuba Wax, great stuff. Works great over pinstripes, by the way.
  • White Teflon powder works as well as graphite for lubing nut slots and whatnot and it is seems to make less of a mess, but put a piece of masking tape down over the first position if the guitar has a dark fretboard.
  • Use a small piece of sandpaper to rough up the lugs and back of new pots before soldering them, so the solder gets a good bite.
  • 3M Long Mask tape, both the blue and the green versions, are great; they stick well and release easily. Use the green version if you will leave the tape on for a while. 3M uses acrylic adhesive that can cure and bite into the finish if left on the surface for an extended period of time, so be careful, the green has a much longer working time than the blue. For real delicate stuff try 3M Drafting Tape, super low tack and easy release. I've used the white version, but I think I saw another color recently. Pricey tape, I know, but so is a re-fin, especially on a kustom or an oldie. Other brands (i.e. Anchor) of blue and green tape are not as good; I know the 3M's mean much more money, but it is well worth it. Quality is a rare commodity these days and besides, unless you are really cranking the jobs out, how much tape can you really be using?
  • If you need real good razor blades for working on a project, go to a good paint and wallpaper shop and ask if they have blue blades for cutting wallpaper. They don't get rusty and they hold the edge longer, a pack of 50 cost about $1, more than a standard 50 pack.
  • Brian reminded me of another good tip I learned for pressing the string ferrules into the body of a Tele: put the ferrule on the tip of a hot soldering gun and gently push them into the hole. The heat makes it easier to slide in and helps it get some "stick" without glue.

[Mandy Thompson 's (MandyMarie) Tips]:

  • If you want to lightly relic the BACK of a nitro finished neck, grab yourself a large-flame butane lighter and some fresh dark potting soil. Quickly run the flame up and down the back of the neck (quickly...that's the key word there or else it WILL catch if you hold it in one place too long!) and then immediately take a small handful of the potting soil and lightly rub it into the wood. Take a dry paper towel and rub down the neck afterwards. The heat holds some of the grit, giving it a slightly used appearance and the unevenness of the burn makes it look very natural. It looks much more natural (IMO) and lasts, unlike pencil lead.

[Charles Pacheco's (chuckocaster) Tips]:

  • I use sperzel locking tuners, but get annoyed with the staggered height, because the G string never has enough break angle, and some of the others seemed a little off. so I did a little experimenting, and this is what I came up with:

    The tuners come in three heights: tall, medium, and short, and they're supposed to be put on in that order. What I do, however is put them in this way; tall, medium, short, short, medium, tall, that is, from low E to high E, and for the E and B, I use a roller string T. i know a lot of people hate string T's, but I like the roller. This set up has worked remarkably for me; my tuning agonies are over, and the guitar actually feels better. I am such a stickler about string break angles, and with the "correct" set up using these tuners, the G string is practically parallel to the headstock.

[Jeff Levenson's (FabGear) Tips]:

Ok, I'll share some of my tips and tricks that I've collected or discovered over the years:

  • With the surgence of dollar stores and "odd lot" stores, these can be your best friend! You can find SO many little things that are useful in either relic'ing or modifying guitars. You just have to be creative. I've gotten small long tweezers, little needle files, all sorts of odd and unusual tools that have been a great help.
  • Wanna remove some rust or age to metal parts? or.. do you need to sand a small little area but can't get that piece of sandpaper to stay stiff and be able to manipulate it? Use emery boards for filing nails! I buy a bunch of these when I go to the dollar store, they're simple and cheap to use. You can also cut them to shape when you need a special size and you just toss them when done. For polishing small metal parts they're great, especially if you get the 4 in one type, usually used to polish nails. Also great for drop filling laquuer and polishing it, or removing fine scratches.
  • Wanna get that dust out of the little areas of your guitars that have been hanging around for a while, but you don't want to use the force of a can of compressed air? Take a fine artist's paint brush. Soft enough to not damage anything and will get into those small areas.
  • Need to use a template, but don't want it to shift off your work while you're using it? Get some double sided tape used with those window film kits. It's thin, sticks well, but it removes cleanly with no damage to the surfaces. It's also great for sticking down those "floating bridges" on archtop guitars.

Hope those help! I can't give all my secrets away, I'll put myself out of business!

That's it for now...We'll add more if we can think of any...your turn, c'mon, 'show and tell' your mod tips!

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