Musical Instrument Kits

It Came from the Sea

Building brand new guitars that look 500 years old and dragged off the bottom of the ocean

DIY Telecaster Guitar Kit

Made in March 2018- Telecaster DIY Guitar Kit with a Serious Relic.

This is a typical telecaster DIY guitar kit that now looks like it was dragged out of the ocean. It’s a uber relic (intentionally- you could do this and be much more realistic).  My goal wasn’t just to make it look old, but make it look as if it’d been dragged out of a wrecked ship. To achieve this I used a combination of muriatic acid, steel wool and vinegar and some good old fashioned ice pickin’ and charring.  The pickguard isn’t stock to the kit but I’ll show you how to get one like this (yes that’s real rust).  That’s a maple neck left unscathed and is, of course, a bolt on neck.  The whole body and neck has a really like teak oil finish to preserve the overall ‘raw’ feel of the instrument.

Despite its appearance it has a very modern sound as I installed the EMG active Telecaster set in it.  This sounds incredible and has a very usable tele sound to it.  I highly recommend considering active pickups in heavily relic’d or otherwise mangled builds as they are less reliant on the wood for their timbre.   All in in all this took a little over two months to finish (it could have been done faster but I was busy).  The longest part was honestly just waiting for the acid to work its magic on the metal.  The kit went together pretty easily and I didn’t to shim the neck or make any major modifications. It plays fairly well and the kit itself had very level frets so there wasn’t any buzz.

Want to pursue a telecaster DIY Guitar with a kit like this? Here’s what you’ll need

  • EMG T SYSTEM Prewired Tele Pickup Plus Control Plate System – You CAN fit the battery in most kit’s body cavity.  The EMG wiring system is incredibly easy to use. No sodering required! The pre-wired control plate makes it an incredibly easy install.
  • Tele Electric Guitar Kit – You’ll find these for less on the bay every so often but I recommend buying from a reputable supplier to get the best DIY guitar kit (I’ll be blogging about what can go wrong with a bad kit).  If you’re going to relic the pieces, the bridge here will work fine, but the tuning pegs will be another story.
  • Some proper metal volume and tone knobs – If you’re going to relic the knobs you’ll need these. Tele kits mostly come with cheap plaster knobs which are no good for these purposes (your jack plate will be fine though– you can also use the ones that come with the EMG system but they are more modern looking so…appearances and all).
  • Pre-Relic’d Tuning machines (strongly recommended) – Unless you’ve taken these machines apart before, I STRONGLY recommend starting out buying pre-relic’d tuners. The surface corrosion on these can essentially render the tuners useless (or just plain not fun to tune). Fortunately, these look cool to boot. It’s what I used here.
  • Muriatic Acid – This will last you a lifetime, unless you want to take up washing concrete once your guitar is done. I’m kind of surprised you can get this online- any hardware store will have it too but if you want to just do it all in one fell swoop here ya go. I’ll be posting a detailed overview of how age parts correctly but DEFINITELY DO NOT USE THIS INDOORS! Like don’t even open it. I’m serious!
  • Rubbermaid Container to let your relic parts sit in – You’ll need this for both your vinegar/steel wool solution and the muriatic acid.
  • Some no-bullshit heavy thick rubber gloves The muriatic acid is nasty stuff and you’re going to be picking screws and what not up. If you don’t have a pair of these, I’d recommend getting them for this work.
  • Respirator Mask – Honestly these are just good to have in general if you’re going to be dealing with lacquer on other projects. Full disclosure: I tried just doing this in the open air in my garage but that acid is pretty thick. I’d highly recommend going ahead and dropping a few bucks on a mask. Your lungs will thank you.
  • Steel Wool – grit doesn’t really matter for this project. You’re going to use it to create an aging solution.
  • Some plain old white vinegar – Post coming soon on how to create a stain out of steel wool and vinegar. Plus you can use the white vinegar to clean your Cpap machine after you cough and hack into it because you didn’t buy that respirator I told you you should get! Twofer up in here!
  • Distressed Pickguards– The kit above is pretty generic so these should all work. Purchase to taste!

That’s pretty much it for the ingredients for this recipe. You can mix and match your pickups to your taste. Much of these materials can be re-used for other projects. I’ll be covering detail the work that goes into making an axe like this that somebody with little to no carpentry skills could build.