Project Telecaster: Would a Partscaster make sense?

I’ve built up a bit of a backlog of things I want to blog about. I’ve been too busy working, being a Dad and a husband, and playing my Ibanez jazz box.

So there’s a couple of things I want to dash off. The first one is about the possibility of putting together a decent Telecaster out of parts. A Partscaster. I’ve thought about this before, but started thinking about it seriously again two weeks ago when I spotted an ad on Craiglist: a guy advertising Strat and Tele bodies, unfinished, supposedly returned by Fender to a supplier due to cosmetic defects. They were “solid one piece swamp ash” and “made in the US”. I pinged guitar guru Loren Hunt at The Guitar Podcast for his opinion. Based on the photos he said that they looked like swamp ash and that the $60 asking price was fair enough. But he also cautioned that I should probably take a neck to check fit, which of course I don’t have.

But this led me to thinking. Could such an unfinished swamp ash body be part of a good route to a really high quality guitar at low cost?

So I tried to price out what such a guitar could cost. I tried to pick components that would not require any really special tools or equipment. The Wudtone finishing kit requires no spraying gear, is inexpensive, thin (for good tone) and non-toxic. I’ve also tried to choose components that should on paper at least give a really great guitar.

– Unfinished Swamp Ash per Craiglist ad $60
– Body finish: Wudtone $30
– String ferrules: Amazon $9
– Bridge assembly: Amazon (Chrome American Standard) $36
– Pickguard: eBay $20

– Neck (with frets, truss rod and nut): eBay Mighty Mite $90
– Tuners: Amazon $30
– Neck plate and bolts: eBay $15

– Pickups Amazon Fender Noiseless Tele $93
– Switch-plate, electronics + jack: eBay Sigler $50

Total = $433

This price would put the Partscaster on the same price level as a new Fender MIM Telecaster. So that begs the question, if I built this Frankenstein guitar, would it be better than a MIM Telecaster? If it would only be on par then, I think I’d rather look for a used MIM  (and save some money) or even buy a new one.

I’m going to pose that question on the TDPRI forums and see what the experts think.


4 thoughts on “Project Telecaster: Would a Partscaster make sense?

  1. The reason for building your own guitar is the feelings you have towards it after all the effort you’ve put into. It won’t be cheaper than buying factory produced one unless you build a lot of them thus becoming better at it and being able to buy materials in bulk. Good luck!

    • Hi Alex, thanks for stopping by! You’re right of course. In the end I decided not to go the partscaster route and picked up a nice Mexican Tele new. But I reckon there is a partscaster in my future, when the kids are a bit older and I have more time.


  2. Hi Niall,

    Same here, I wanted to build my own partscaster, but decided to buy one Squier Telecaster for now. Anyway, after the decision was made I found a cheap Pine tele body on e-bay and bought it! It’ll be my long term Esquire project… my wife does not know yet, so let’s see how it ends – my excuse is that this guitar will be a present to my brother who will get married next year, but honestly I made build another one later! 🙂


    • Ivan — thanks for the reply. Pine is the material the Squier Classic Vibe Teles are made out of too (as well as being the wood for Leo’s Esquire proto, right?)


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