Tele build/upgrade... what would you do?


The right answer to all these questions is what is right to me, just wondering what YOU would do.

I bought a MIM tele for $250 on ebay, it plays aaight I guess. I keep comparing it to my am dlx strat and its getting pwnd of course.

So now I'm debating.
A.) Replace P/U and hardware.

Info needed:

Am I just putting a dress on this pig?

Will the tone still be vastly inferior to a "real" tele?

Generally I'm not one who finds the inner beauty in cheap guitars. The more expensive, the better it sounds. I even expect that all Fender products will sound 15% better to me this month. I'm that shallow.
B.) Shell out another $400 to upgrade to a used Am Std, still replace bridge, P/U, tuners, nut. I figure this option will hold it's value the best. I have tried the Hwy 1 tele, don't like the jumbo frets.

Is an Am Std neck/body significantly better (tone wise) than a MIM (your opinion) or is it the same wood with better hardware?

Do they reserve the good necks and bodies for the Am Dlx and customs?
C.) Sell the MIM and start from scratch with a custom build. Can I build something really great for around 1K? Do I need to be a decent luthier with special tools? Concerned about investment vs resale value.

What would you recomend for a neck/body? So far I have only looked at Warmoth.
I already ordered some Don Mare SS PU's and a bridge with Brass Saddle.

Thanks for reading!


Replace the bridge first. Based on your logic, I'd go Glendale. I went with Wilkinson and it's made a huge difference in my tone.

Get it set up by a professional.

If you're not happy with it by now, I'd consider selling it. If you don't want to do that because you feel you're "almost there", get a good set of pickups and put them in.

Good luck!



You are going to be fine with that MIM once the Don Mare pickups are installed. Just hold on until you get the pickups put in. Go with a Glendale bridge and you should be in tele heaven.


Senior Member
Low budget mods:

1. Seymour Duncan STL-1b in bridge and STR-1 in neck. Best value and bang for the buck. I really like these pickups.

2. Quality CTS pots, switchcraft switch and jack, shielding

3. A good set of tuners and a bone or tusq nut.

You should be able to do all of these things yourself. Be careful about switching hardware such as a bridge on a MIM Fender because sometimes the dimensions aren't the same.


Ya I got a Wilkinson... If Glendales make $125 difference I'll upgrade later.

Thanks for the feedback!
The Wilkinson's nice, got one in my MIM Tele. Replace the tuners and electronics (I put a treble bleed circuit in mine and really liked what it did), and definitely have it professionally set up.

If it works for you after that, next step would be pickups, you can eventually replace the nut.

I think if you're looking at replacing the neck, you might be looking at another guitar or a "from scratch" build.


MIM Teles are great with the upgrades suggested. I think you will dig it with a decent set of pups in it.
If you are considering resale, I would not spend a dime on it.
No matter how much money you sink into it, it will still be a MIM or at best, a partscaster. You will not be able get past that in today's market.


Interesting...people are suggesting pickups and bridges to buy when you've said you already ordered them.

CTS pots and a new cap will help too and aren't expensive. After replacing all that your Tele won't sound the same at all. Don Mare makes some of the best pickups on the market and the brass saddles will be an improvement too.

Good luck with the changes and let us know how you like it when it's done.

Oh, I probably would have done what you did. I have done what you did.


Silver Supporting Member
Those do come stock with CTS pots and a switchcraft switch. So, those do not need replacing. You can, however, always change the cap value for a different flavor. I've had 3 MIM Tele's and the most dramatic change was a good bridge with brass saddles. Made more of an improvment than pickups typically. A vintage bridge/saddle combo totally transforms the guitar imo.

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