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Very Special NGD - Tele Customaster

Deed_Poll

Member
Messages
3,088
So here it is! Got it back from my luthier yesterday.

A little about the guitar - I designed it myself and made the pickguard, Kevin Peel from OEJ Custom Guitars made the body, neck was from USACG, pickups are Novak WRHB in the neck and Novak Tele HC (hum cancelling) in the bridge. All Callaham hardware except the tuners (Gotoh) and the string trees (Fender).

Body finish was by Phil McAllister at Spectrum. Amazing job he did too.

I will be honest - this guitar has cost a lot of money and taken a really long time to complete. You guys know the story - life gets in the way. I had the finished body and neck sitting in the case with nearly all the bits I needed for the best part of a year, umm-ing and ah-ing over what to do about the tuners and a little bit scared to cut the pickguard (Stew Mac is the only place I know that sells sheets large enough for this guard)!

So - the Customaster. Where do I start.

The first thing I noticed is how big the neck feels with the strings on it. I think this is mostly because of 3 things

1) I literally spent months touching it up and air guitar-ing with it whilst watching TV before it was completed.
2) I have gone for slightly taller fretwire on this guitar (6105) than usual (6230).
3) I like to play with medium / high action.

It's certainly not too big for my tastes. I think I specified 0.930" at the nut tapering to a full 1". The profile is a hand carved soft V - C profile, and having that little bit more room in the shoulder makes it more manageable than my R4 neck, for instance, which is a big rounded baseball bat. If I had to make a comparison, I'd say it feels like a Fender CS Nocaster neck.

The feel and balance is lovely, blowing my own horn here but I am in love with the way the shape looks and functions. Aside from the full depth Fender heel (which I am used to), the fret access is as good as it gets - and the taller frets & 12" radius come into their own up high. It rings out clear and true, in the high frets, and still has that Tele twang in the low frets. Despite the big neck and smaller body (than a Jazzmaster) it doesn't neck dive at all and the forearm contour is at the perfect angle to position the guitar at any angle with my forearm when playing seated. The extra length I added to the bass horn has also contributed to excellent balance when it's on a strap, and the extra tone controls and thicker bridge plate probably contribute to a bit more weight in the butt end, compensating for all the length I removed from the standard Jazzmaster shape. The deep back contour works great, you can barely feel the guitar, and combined with the fret access this thing will be a breeze to use onstage.

The controls are all easily accessible, Gibson guys will have no problem here. The strings are rather stiff feeling, as a fan of larger strings I like it and I think it adds a bit of clarity and presence to the sound of the guitar. The sound is incredibly hi-fi. My luthier believes the stiffness of the fat, quarter sawn neck is a large factor, it's certainly a position I'm familiar with online, but there are so many mitigating factors I can't make generalisations.

On to the sound. Very clear, very bright. unlike any other guitar I own, in that the tone controls are actually extremely useful. There is a big discrepancy in the signal strength of the two pickups (Novak WRHB and Novak Tele HC), I wired them out of phase on the middle position (I don't usually use combined sounds) but because of the generally bright nature of the guitar I might change that. It is however useful to measure the relative pickup signals, if you put the guitar in the middle position and turn down the louder pickup until the signal is at its minimum, you know that the pickups are roughly balanced in that setting. I have to turn down the neck pickup to about 6 or 7 to get the minimal signal, which is quite extreme. I could probably raise the bridge pickup a little further or lower the neck down a bit, but I like the way they sound individually so I will probably leave it.

I have wired treble bleeds to both volume controls, and am very happy with the way the guitar responds to volume adjustments. Especially the WRHB - just by taking a little off the volume, with the treble staying strong Strat pickup sounds are completely achievable. The neck pickup is wired '50s style and the bridge is wired modern style. This gives the bridge pickup a bit of a sharper midrange sweep as you turn the tone control down, which is useful when heavier humbucker type sounds are needed in the bridge position.

The WRHB is a fantastic pickup. It's very sensitive to picking dynamics in a way I haven't experienced from a neck pickup before, even the underwound set in my Strat. It has that dry breakup sound for rhythm playing that is just classic Fender, and this works great particularly for frenetic Hendrix stuff like Killing Floor and Rock Me Baby. When you dial up the gain, I can only compare it to one thing - and SG with Maestro. If you've ever played a Maestro Vibrola, you will know what I'm talking about - it has that fusion / jazz punchy bass sound. I think another reason it sounds like an SG is that I moved the pickup about 1/2" away from the traditional neck position, so it is actually located quite close to where it would be on an SG. It's a great clear and woody sound that will hit the amp hard on cleans, plenty of controlled bass and sparkle in the high mids. Can you say "The Meters"?

A amazing thing about the WRHB is what a great impression of a bridge pickup it can do if you pick the string near the saddles. palm muting also works great on this pickup for surfy sounds you would otherwise find on a Jag bridge pickup.

The guitar is utterly noiseless in all positions, thanks to the hum cancelling bridge pickup and excellent shielding job. The bridge pickup does the Tele thing with class, and sounds almost Nels Cline-esque when playing up in the high frets with a little tone attenuation and mid-heavy amp setting. It makes me want to play with classical vibrato, such is its detail and articulation. I haven't tried it with an overdrive pedal, but I feel it would be the ideal partner to that kind of setup - the sound is so hifi that I can imagine it will keep its clarity up to ear splitting levels of gain. I have no nails to speak of, so bridge pickups are usually not at all useful to me for fingerstyle playing. Not so with this pickup in this guitar - the softer attack and focused midrange make it one of the best sounds the guitar has to offer.

Enough of that, let's see the pics!

Ooh, what's this sitting on a newly re-covered 1958 Robin Day for Hille Daybed?



Looks like a Jazzmaster case! Let's take a peek inside!



















 

Deed_Poll

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Messages
3,088
D'oh! Bandwidth problems... Maybe if you click on them it will take you there. Time to pay for an account :(
 

Deed_Poll

Member
Messages
3,088
Like.

Black is beautiful. Epitomizes elegance in simplicity. Is that a glossy fretboard?

There is something about the SC/HB design in a tele/JM body that catches my eye all the time.

HGND:)
Thanks!

Yes the fretboard is gloss. I like gloss necks, the finish on the neck is gloss poly in a light tint on the neck & fretboard and a dark tint on the headstock face. A lot of the original '70s Teles aged this way because a second coat of lacquer was sprayed over the decal. The finish was done in-house by USACG and it looks and feels superb.
 

Stratburst70

Member
Messages
6,103
Damn, that's a gorgeous guitar. Your photographs really sell the instrument. I hope you and your guitar have many long and happy years together. :)
 

Deed_Poll

Member
Messages
3,088
Thanks for the kind words guys!

It's no Strat but damn that is nice.
Nice work mate. I'd love to hear it.
It actually does a pretty good impression of a Strat neck pickup - I wired the WRHB '50s style with a treble bleed, so if you put the volume down to about 7 it takes it all out of the bass and the treble stays where it is.
 




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