TAKE ONE GUITAR.... THE STAGG TELE-ALIKE UPGRADE STORY:


100 was enough to win me the rather nice looking Stagg 'Tele' copy from Aire Guitars via their eBay auction. The first thing that struck me when it arrived was that the Stagg had almost the exact size, shape & weight as my Fender US Standard Tele (note! Stagg have since - rather disappointingly - changed the shape of their headstock, no doubt under pressure from FMIC!).

The maple neck was straight, and excellent quality; the solid body was beautifully finished with a tight fit at the neck, and cleanly routed control/pickup cavities. Whilst the pickups and hardware were perfectly suitable for a 'first timer', they did not quite do justice to the body & neck. Suddenly, I felt a "bit of a project" coming on......

Photo 1 - The neck is detached, and the dreadful Stagg neckplate discarded for ever.
Photo 2 - Off with the pick guard and the bridge - note the clean routing of the cavities. You can now see that the original bridge is a 'standard' 3 saddle chrome job, and that the body is a "bridge anchor" type (normally typical of a lower end copy) rather than a string-thru. The body therefore provides little resonance.
Photo 3 - A new "vintage" style, 3 brass saddle 'string-thru' bridge is fitted in place, with some tape underneath for marking out the position of the 6 holes which need to be drilled through the body.
Photo 4 - With the holes carefully marked out, the bridge is removed and the whole body wrapped with protective tape prior to commencing the drilling of the holes.

Photo 5 - The through-body holes are drilled. Do not try this at home! The man carrying out this work is Steve Cooke, a friend who is also a wonderful Engineer. This needs to be very accurate and is NOT a job for your Black & Decker....
Photo 6 - Now Steve flips the guitar over and drills out the larger holes to accommodate the ferrules. You can probably see why you need to protect your guitar body!
Photo 7 - Now its time for that last bit of countersinking that needs to be done for the ferrule tops - this has to be JUST right. Too deep and you've ruined the body..... Like I said, don't try this at home!
Photo 8 - This is what it SHOULD look like - one sharp tap with a mallet and the ferrules will fit tightly in place, absolutely flush with the surface. No glue required.

Photo 9 - Finishing touches - Stagg tuners removed and replaced with genuine Fender stamped Schaller-type tuners (I really wanted to use split post vintage Gotoh style tuners, but they didn't arrive in time!). Maybe later...
Photo 9a - * UPGRADE! * Headstock re-machined (thanks Scotch Jimmy) to correct Fender shape, and split post vintage Kluson tuners fitted for that authentic vintage vibe.
Photo 10 - Nut removed, ground to correct height, and re-set; 2 No. Fender string trees installed; horrid red embossed oval "Stagg" badge removed and replaced with a Fender 52 Re-issue decal (pity the correct tuners hadn't arrived....).
Photo 10a - * UPGRADE! * Headstock re-finished in vintage amber, correct 52 Re-issue decal fitted. Now she REALLY looks the part!

Photo 11 - White pickguard changed for a black one, new Fender Mexican Classic "Vintage" bridge pickup installed, along with a '70s US neck pickup (a gift from another friend - thanks, Alan), control plate etc. removed and replaced with CTS pots, 3 way switch and control plate from a US Standard Tele, and Hey Presto! - one superb player, looks just like Keef's.

THE END RESULT?

Well, yes, you are correct - the ONLY original bits remaining are the body & the neck! How much did it cost? Don't even ask. It was, shall we say, a "labour of love". I could have bought a brand new Mexican Standard Tele (or even better) with what I've spent, and still had change - but I've learned a hell of a lot and had a whole lot of fun. This Tele is played every day - it's my main practice guitar and I would never part with it. Thanks to everyone - too numerous to mention - who helped me along the way!

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