Posts Tagged ‘guitar mods’


Christmas Telecaster Nocaster’51 project

January 2, 2014

Over the holidays I took the opportunity to upgrade the pickups on my 2003 Mexican built Fender Telecaster.

The original electrics had been becoming noisy over the last couple of years, pots were noisy, the jack plug un-sure.  The sound rather thin and anaemic.

Things had to change or the Tele had to go…

I got myself a set of Fender Custom Shop Nocaster’51 pickups at a bargin from Thomann, and found a great wee Guitar builder seller on ebay that supplied all the wiring, pots, caps etc…

IMG_9753On taking the old electrics out what amazed me was the really poor quality of the cabling used… it was really not surprising the sound was poor… even if everything else was perfect the cable was really sub-standard.

The replacement cable was AWESOME – wound and tinned it’s whole length, enclosed in two layers of woven shielding… a joy to use!

So the pickup cavities were stripped…


I started with the neck pickup… attached to the pickguard…

then the bridge pickup… note I added an ground wire from the bridge to the control cavity… in the old electrics the signal ground wire from the bridge pickup was grounded here an a then extended back to the control cavity… I didn’t like that arrangement… as I was planning to use a 4 position switch to allow the pickups to be wired in parallel and series…

followed by the jack plug…


I assembled the pots, and switch mechanism..

and wired the pickups in the following configuration…


There are a huge number of options for wiring a telecaster – it is such a simple guitar… I was really tempted to drop the tone control to use it as a blend between neck and bridge pickups – but I am extremely glad I didn’t.

Creating spaghetti…


Reassembled control area..

Fitted a new set of Elixer lights .010’s

and we have tone!

Volume control and tone control are unbelievably better…

The general sound is thicker, has more body to it… it’s great.

having the option of the pickups in parallel & series gives another ‘feel’ in the sound (which I am enjoying immensely)

Lessons learned:

I wish I had done this earlier – my poor Tele has been languishing over the last few years… I’ve been disappointed in the sound… NOT NOW!

I am amazed at just how poor the quality of the wiring was from the original manufactured guitar…

Single coil pickups are noisy… they are susceptible to electrical interference… when my fingers are on the strings, or my palm resting on the bridge – the guitar is pretty quiet… but when not in contact with either of these – it can be a bit noisy.

I should have spent some time shielding the cavities, and especially adding shielding to the rear of the pickguard.

But I don’t know if I would quite go the length of this article…

Noise reduction for SC pickups

which seems the ultimate in noise reduction.

In summary

If you have a stock Mexican Fender Telecaster – replace the the pickups… it’s easy and well worth the couple of hours it takes to do.


Thomann – Nocaster’51 set is unfortunately no longer stocked!

Guitar builders on-line – Fender USA Wiring kit (four way switch)