The Esquire Project

I’ve decided to build a Fender Esquire. For no good reason other than that I really like the simplicity of the Telecaster… and then I realized that the Esquire has an even greater degree of simplicity. It was a logical choice.

In my youth I played Stratocasters. Not real, genuine Fender Strats. I owned an Ibanez Strat copy first, candy apple red–a real nice guitar. I didn’t know anything then about the history of guitars, but I knew I wanted to be like Steve Vai (although I never was). As soon as I had saved some money, I traded that Strat copy in for something approaching an Ibanez Steve Vai guitar: Not the fabled Gem777 (with the fabled Monkey Grip), viz:

… which I couldn’t afford, but a hotrodded sort-of Strat like creature called the RG 550 Roadstar from 1987. It was an almost dayglo red/pink (remember this beast? Mine had a black headstock, I think):


I don’t know what happened in the 1980s, but no one seemed to have any taste. It’s as if we all lived in some plastic toy world. Still the RG550 was ugly and beautiful at the same time, and played so easily it almost played itself. I wish I’d kept it since there’s one being traded on ebay for more than $1000. But in my general disgust with life after graduating from college, I got rid of it. It was the mid 1990s and such guitars were way out of style–and there was nothing simple about this guitar. I traded it for a Vantage acoustic-electric that I still have.

So time passed and last year LFA got back together–virtually. Needing an electric guitar fast, but still having no dough, I went this time for a Telecaster. No, not a genuine Fender Telecaster. I bought a Squier (times are tough–it’s a recession guitar). But having the taste acquired through age, I bought a inky black vintage-style rock machine: the Vintage modified Telecaster Custom:


In almost every mechanical way this guitar is inferior to the Ibanez–it’s a low-end instrument: the design is good, aesthetically it is very pleasing, and it plays just fine, but it’s not as high quality as that ridiculous dayglo Ibanez. The design may be ok, but the craftmanship is wanting. Still, I haven’t modded it, other than to replace the neck with a standard Fender tele neck, which honestly doesn’t play any better–and may even play a little worse!–but you can’t beat the improved sustain provided by the bone nut on the standard neck.

But I love this guitar: the shape, the black and chrome.

Once I’d replaced the neck, I had an extra neck just lying around, however. What to do with it? After a couple weeks of thinking about it, I decided to build an Esquire, buying each part one at a time. A Partesquire, if you will. I began seriously acquiring parts just a few weeks ago. All came from an excellent ebay store called The Stratosphere. Here’s what I have thus far (excepting the Squier neck, which I have to admit I modded a little for aesthetics: I sanded off the Squier logo and added a Fender logo, leaving however the Squier serial number and info on the back of the headstock so no serious appraiser will ever be fooled):

Official American Fender Telecaster Body- American Fender USA Highway 1 Telecaster- Select Alder- Thin Nitrocellulose Lacquer Finish- 5 lbs, 0 oz.
OK, a truly vintage Esquire would have an Ash body, but I was unable to find a good deal on one, and this Highway 1 Alder body is beautiful, so I went for it.


Official 2008 Fender American HOT Alnico 3 Telecaster Pickup
Again, not entirely vintage-style, but I do want to make my Partesquire unique…


Pots and Switch:
Official Fender 50’s Reissue Esquire Complete 250K CTS Pots, Blade, and 3-Position Switch Assembly
The pots and switch assembly is, indeed, as vintage as I can get without buying original hardware. I needed the Esquire circuit because I don’t know how to wire one myself.


Official 2008 USA Fender Tele Bridge Assembly- Fender American Telecaster (3 Saddle Vintage Style). I suppose I’ll have my woes trying to intonate this thing, but the 3 saddle vintage style bridge was an absolute must.

I also have an official Fender Tele neck plate and 50s reissue control knobs, not pictured. Still to obtain are the control pate, pickguard, and output jack, and that should be about it. The complete guitar will look more or less like this:


I’ll add pictures here as I work on the build, such as: Gecko burning himself while trying to solder the wiring; Gecko electrocuting himself because he didn’t solder the ground wire properly, etc.


55 Responses to “The Esquire Project”

  1. Who wants to lay down bets on when Matt becomes so frustrated with the project that he smashes it on the floor then jumps up and down on the wreckage?

  2. choppernewt Says:

    @The Ibanez – “It looks like a pink nightmare!”

  3. Like a deranged Easter Bunny?

  4. Naw, I’m not really like that anymore. Really.

    Re: the Roadstar. Get a load of that two octave neck.

  5. And re: the Vicodin you re on FB. I just can’t send it. I may need it to blunt the edge when I decide to off myself at last. he he.

  6. Just acquired the 50s reissue control pate and output jack for $3.74 and $4.24 respectively. Cool deals.

  7. You need to post the pics up top.

  8. And completely unrelated…got some more dots on the map today. Cool.
    Still can’t figure why we can’t seem to get any Canadian love?

  9. Yeah, but these aren’t very exciting. I figure I’ll post actual pictures that I take when I return to NYC at the end of the month. At least I’ll be working there again this semester…. After that, who the hell knows! Godz, I hate to give up NYC, however.

    I don’t know who is finding us now. We haven’t even been on podcasts lately. I still want to record something acoustic, but can’t seem to find the time.

  10. I really want to work on Horse. Maybe I’ll try to carve out some time this weekend. (Although the wife is already packing her schedule full of activity.)

  11. Oh, don’t even speak thus mockingly to one who will soon have two little kids running around taking up all possible leisure time! And this coming semester in NYC will be madness: I’m only there three full days this semester, but packing in four courses to teach. Damnation and hellfire, I say.

    Actually, this eve while the wife graded papers and the daughter played with dollhouse, I started to work out some damned good acoustic music to a lyric I’m working on. Yes, I might write a lyric! Ye, godz!

    I also want to do music to your lyric “My Collection,” which Newtski called dibs on lo these many months ago. Since he hasn’t taken it on yet, I may just go ahead and trump him. But who will sing it anyway? Chopper, where art thou?

    • choppernewt Says:

      I am here. I started re-listening to the BD songs a couple days ago, to see how they held up after ignoring them for a long time.

      I have the music basically done for PC, it needs a vocal and I’m still struggling with how to do it. Also, having set it aside for a while, I now have some changes I’m going to make to my mix, whenever I sit back down to it.

      Go ahead and do music for any track that inspires you, whatever I had in mind for the collection song I’m sure has flown. I’m still of a mind that there ought to be a real live break between the old and new material to allow our creativity to recharge, and maybe more importantly to have time to judge the BD songs more critically so that we can improve for the second set.

  12. Well I AM the excuse king:
    – intense pain
    – very little time (work, family, commute)
    – not wanting to record/play my shitty drums anymore. Want new drums.

    I say go ahead and do the music for it. If he doesn’t like it he can suck it.

  13. You deserve new drums. Then again, most things we deserve we don’t get and many things we don’t deserve we do get. Then there are the things we deserve but don’t want, and somehow always manage to get.

    Damn life, eh? Too bad those drums are so damned expensive. If we could find a way to make money off our music, first thing we’d do is get you a super new kit. Then we’d get me a Marshall stack, of course.

  14. I forgot to mention the endless snow shoveling.

    I still intend to get those drums…if Chopper comes back into the fold…

  15. It’s a good thing you have a steady job.

  16. Chopper Newt!

    What do you mean “real live break?” You mean long break (which we are having) or something “live?”

    I have bad feelings about time this coming semester. Last semester was idyllic for recording music, really: I was in NYC four days a week with little to do. This semester I’m going to be there three days with far more to do. But I’ll at least squeeze in one night to record, write, whatever.

    I also started re-listening to some BD stuff: Especially rediscovered Four H, which I really like again after having over-listened to it a while back. Block Party still holds up, too, but it’s pretty new. Almost all the songs are quite catchy.

    Poster Child is a hard one for vocals. When I did the music, I had the vocals in mind, but much later I couldn’t quite remember how they worked, or at least I couldn’t reproduce them.

  17. Why don’t we set some goals and milestones for ourselves:
    1 – Finish BD by end of January
    > Poster Child finish
    > New drums in KFL
    > I have a quick edit that I would like in Powder Keg
    > Done…announce to the world it is complete

    2 – We go on hiatus for 2 months
    > No new LIZARD music
    > I will focus on getting BD back into podcasts

    3 – Early April we have our first Skype band meeting
    > discuss directions
    > discuss lyric ideas
    > discuss music ideas

  18. Why a 2 month hiatus? Haven’t we already been on hiatus for a month? Is this to give you time to get the new kit, Pent? We can also look for labels that will accept submissions of BD material in this time, I suppose. I was reading about Will Oldham this week and he just submitted to a bunch of labels, and one liked his stuff and agreed to produce two songs to see how they’d sell. Now he has a permanent relationship with them.

    I’m ok with a skype meeting. Maybe by April I can figure out how to use skype. Can I use my microphone to talk with you guys? So far as I know, my computer doesn’t have a built-in mic.

  19. Quiet you. I’m trying to get this BD album in the can. The rest is just smoke and mirrors.

  20. Oh, right. Mums the word, man.

    re: the Partesquire, I forgot to mention that I’m also installing a vintage bridge cover so I can really, really get the vintage styling down on this project, as seen in this vintage Esquire:

  21. A local guy from Normal just became a fan on our RN site. I’ve been working at the computer all day, so I saw it and reciprocated by having LFA become his fan. It’s not bad indie rock. Kind of mellow.

  22. If I ever had a guitar, I would want a monkey grip.

  23. Yeah. Maybe I can carve one into my tele custom.

  24. Steve Vai was a badass. Whatever happened to him?

  25. He’s still around:

  26. Bob, “Can you make your guitar talk like Steve Vai?”
    Matt, “No.”
    Bon, “C’mon…try.”
    Matt, “No.”

    Better than the conversation was the look of utter disdain you gave me.

  27. Matt: (replies while watching Steve Vai videos on YouTube) “I do seem to remember that exchange.”

    Watching these videos, I suddenly realized I don’t like Steve Vai’s music at all. It’s interesting for all of about five minutes, then I feel I’ve heard it all before. Over and over and over. How many screaming arpeggios can one listen to?

    Sure, he went to the Berklee school of music and all, but that’s no excuse.

  28. And he played with Zappa…who’s music is both incredible and silly at the same time.

  29. Vai needs a frontman to take the light off him so he’ll just play guitar. He was great with Zappa and also with David Lee Roth. They were perfect for him, taming his virtuosity, I suppose. Whitesnake was, of course, an absolute joke. I suppose he did it for money.

  30. I have no problem with him doing it for the money. Jerry (the Freep bass player) was a big Zappa fan and used to play me Zappa tunes all the time. The guy had like 50 albums of original material!! While I thought a great deal of it was self-indulgent, it was obvious that he also understood pop and how to write a great hook.

  31. Zappa was great, indeed, although I never really got into his music (I suppose I never _really_ got into any music), but I recognize good stuff when I hear it. I want to like Steve Vai’s work, and I know he’s a great guitarist, but I just get bored listening to it. When I’m listening to just guitar, it tends to be classical players, like Segovia.

    I did once own a tape of Vai’s first solo album, Flexible, which was good because it was funny. The more recent stuff is too damned sincere.

  32. Sincerity…it’s the lingering musical curse of the 1990s.

  33. No, I’m ok with sincerity, just so long as one can still be satiric and ironic.

  34. “What good is all the violence in the world,
    Unless it is tempered with limitless sex?”
    – GWAR

  35. OK, here’s a Partesquire question:

    Which do you think would be better with the Sunburst body, a white or black pickguard?

  36. I say the white.

  37. According to Reverbnation, we’re the #9 band in Illinois!

  38. Yeah, white it is, I think.

    You mean “rock band” I assume, and of course it’s #9 among Reverbnation groups. Still, that’s awesome!

  39. This morning we were the #5 rock band…#9 overall in Illinois. (Which they consider our “area” I guess.)
    The #1 band has the fanbase/daily plays that exceed the rest of the top 20 put together.

  40. When I made the RN account, I named our locale as Bloomington, IL.

  41. Damn, I wish I could let you guys hear what I’ve composed thus far this evening for Pent’s lyric “Armor,” but it’s just not ready yet. It’s a ballad, but it’s got a heavily overdriven organ, a la Smoke On the Water. Cool.

  42. Send out what you have. I might have suggestions before you get it to a “completed” state.

  43. I can do that, but I want to finish the organ part first, which isn’t going to happen today–have to take the daughter to the doctor, then we’re watching the inauguration. Then tomorrow I have to get my driver’s license renewed. Bummer.

  44. I might have something ready to go by tomorrow–providing my daughter goes to bed soon…. It’ll just be the acoustic guitar, organ, and a very quick drum loop, cuz I don’t feel like working out the drums in detail. I’ll do a vocal track next week, if I can.

    No news on the Partesquire: I had the stuff shipped to Brooklyn. I wonder if it has arrived.

  45. Excited to hear it = Armor
    Excited to see it = Partesquire

  46. The real question is when will you be capable of recording a drum track for Horse….

  47. That’s not a real question.

  48. Esquire stuff has arrived, I learned today. I’m still short the pickguard, and I think I need wiring to connect the controls to the output jack.

    Have to get my hands on a soldering iron, too. I wonder what kind of solder to use in a guitar.

  49. Esquire news: Think I’ll get the pickguard, screws, and bridge cover from this souce, which has great deals:

    Aftermarket pickguard is the direction I’m going. The Fender ones are quite expensive. I’m just worried about the screw locations.

  50. You can putty in the old holes and drill new ones that match the pickguard, right?

  51. Yeah, but I’d rather not, of course.

  52. First Esquire check: everything fits properly, _except_ the neck to the body. Of the four screws, two are pretty much spaced properly, the other two are about a millimeter off. The question is whether to 1) push the screws in anyway; 2) putty the holes and redrill; 3) take the MIM Fender neck off my black tele to see if it fits correctly–since the neck I’m using for the Esquire came off that tele originally it should fit back on it properly. Of course, since I’ve already installed the MIM neck on the other tele, I might have “retapped” the screw holes already simply by screwing it on. Hmm….

    I know: Duct tape.

  53. Nope…superglue.

    Time for a new pic of the progress.

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