Finally, I finished the second Telecaster-style guitar with Dream Machine brass hardware. You might remember my first build report about a Dream Machine Telecaster clone. Even back then when I started that first project, I already got the body and neck to start a similar project with these but never found the time to complete it. The idea behind the project was to assemble an affordable guitar that looks great, and – most important – sounds great and gives you the ‘Walk of Life’ Schecter Tele sound of the tapped F520T / F521T pickups and the brass bridge, in other words a guitar with high-quality brass hardware and electronics but without any parts so cheap that they might ruin the sound of the guitar. It turned out to be a really great guitar, great look, great feel & great sound. As I already have more guitars than I have room for, I put it for sale into my online shop.
The body is a really nice looking, extremely light sunburst Tele body. I have no idea how old it is exactly (I guess you can call it ‘vintage’), or who made it. It is not 100% accurate compared to the Fender specs, e.g. it is only about 90% (ca. 40 mm) of the Fender body depth (44 mm) but still it seems to be a great piece of wood without anything indicating inferior quality. The grain looks great, the tap tone is nice, and, given its age, it is completely dry tone wood. There are some dings & dongs, e.g. at the edges of the body, so it looks a bit ‘naturally relic’ed’.
I got the neck together with the body. It has a rosewood fingerboard without center dots (like Mark’s ‘Walk of Life’ Tele, although this one has little dots on one side of the fingerboard, between the two lowest bass strings). So the look is similar to a dotless Schecter but you still have something that helps to orientate. The neck even has a slight flame on the peghead.
I used a set of brass hardware that I produce myself, even the control plate is brass like on vintage Schecter Dream Machines. The pickups are two ‘Walk of Life’ pickups, clones of the original Dream Machine pickups of the early 80ies.
It is a while ago that I started my Tele Dream Machine project. The project advanced and got to a stage where I had a playable fine instrument some months ago (which can be seen e.g. here when I was demoing the Walk of Life pickups with this guitar). However, various parts were not finished yet, mainly as I was missing some of the required brass parts. Meanwhile I have (almost) all I need to finish the project.
Let’s start with the control plate. The one you can see in the demo video was a gold-plated one, bought rather cheap on ebay. Unfortunately it did not fit properly into the contour of the pickguard but even overlapped the pickguard (see picture).
Was my brass Tele pickguard wrong or the plate too wide? Of course it was the plate, what shows us that you can never trust no-name products to be compatible to the standard specs. Besides, the gold-plated steel looks a bit different than the polished brass on Van Nuy era Schecter Dream Machines. Well, if I can produce brass pickguards I should be able to produce brass control plates I thought, and this is what I did. I made a few more, and chrome-plated some of them to go along with my white aluminium Tele pickguards for a real “Walk of Life red Tele clone” set (with pickups, pickguard and wired controls, coming very soon, I basically only have to take some pictures to put it into the online shop). By the way, it is not that you cannot get chrome-plated ones everywhere, but try to find one of chrome-plated brass instead of steel … – and it has to be brass for an “authentic” Dream Machine clone!
So here is the picture with my brass control plate. I also added the switch tip button (which was missing on the video): Schecter had these round black Tele buttons, but occasionally also Strat-style tips of brass.
While doing the brass plates, I also made the serial number plates, of chrome-plated brass and – brandnew – polished brass, vintage-correct clear laquer coated, with the S8001 serial number. I replaced the gold-plated steel plate I had on the guitar (without any number) with this one for the vintage-correct look, with an S serial number of the correct size, font, and at the correct position.
Please note that I only made these with three serial numbers of Mark’s most famous Dream Machines (red Strat, red Tele, sunburst Strat, plus the two red Dire Straits Fender Strats ), no other numbers are available, or will be. The idea here is to have the right-looking part without a danger of misuse, not providing the possibility to fake a Dream Machine and sell it as original. I mean faking one and insstalling one of the most famous serial numbers is like faking a pre-CBS Strat and give it the 0001 serial number of David Gilmour’s famous blonde Strat – cannot fool anyone.
The next thing I did was to replace the original vintage NOS Schecter bridge that I bought for a fortune a while ago with one of “my” new Dream Machine style bridges. As I copied all important Dream Machine specs and made sure to have it milled from best quality solid brass (nothing die cast), the sound will be identical but the look fits better to the other parts – the Schecter bridge has darkened with age, being about 35 years old (see one of the pictures above).
Last not least a few words on the three (!) strap buttons of the Dream Machines (most of them had three but there were also some with two, even in the 1980 Schecter catalogue). My mahogany body already had two holes at the usual positions, so I had to drill two new holes. I used a piece of tape and drilled through it to avoid crackling of wood or finish, something very important when drilling into a laquered body! The distance of these is about 9.5 cm (3 3/4 “) on my guitar. Only thing left to do: filling the unused hole. I used normal gold-plated strap buttons for now. Unfortunately these look rather different to the original ones which were made of raw brass, without laquer and rather dull looking for this reason. Thinking about it, it should not be impossible to make these from raw brass myself … Well, let’s leave something for the future 🙂
Watch out for the the next blog post in this Building a Telecaster Dream Machine series with the full photo album of the final guitar.
This blog post is about the next step in my Tele Dream Machine project – the wiring of all controls. The main difference to a standard Fender Telecaster wiring is due to the tapped Walk of Life pickups (or Schecter F521T / F520T in the original)
Unfortunately the original Omni Pots, those square conductive-plastic potis with the push-pull switch that Schecter used in the Van Nuys era, are no longer available. These were made by Allen Bradley – who are out of business for a long time – or by Bourns who also dropped these from their product range. The only alternative are standard push-pull potis. You can get these here in my online shop, also from Bourns by the way.
Generally, the original Schecter wiring is like the standard Tele wiring – with exception of some different component values and the Omni Pots that were required to switch the tapped pickups between their normal and the fatter sound. The potis had a 500k value, something that seems a bit unusual for a Tele (Fender first had 250k and later 1 M). 500k seems to be a good compromise for both the normal and the full coil of the tapped pickups.
The tone cap was a 0.02 uF ( sometimes also 0.025 uF or 0.01uF) ceramic disk cap. This value is much smaller than the Fender standard (0.05 uF). Schecter used a 680 pF treble bleed cap with a 150k resistor in parallel on the volume poti (Fender standard: 0.001 uF = 1000 pF and no resistor). The resistor changes the taper of the poti.
One problem is that normally all ground wires of a Fender Telecaster are soldered on the back of the potis. This was not possible with the Omni Pots as these had a plastic case, and is neither ideal with a standard push-pull poti. Schecters solution was to use a small brass soldering plate that was hold by the two potis. All ground wires were soldered to one point on this plate then. As an alternative to cutting such a plate from a metal foil, you can use two washers with ground lugs, and connect all ground wires to these instead (see photo below).
8 different pickup combinations on a Tele
Operation is like on any Tele, with exception of the push-pull potis. Pulling out the VOL poti enables a beefier sound on the neck pickup, while pulling out the TONE poti does the same trick for the bridge pickup. This way you can get 8 different sounds of the two pickups instead of 3 sounds on Fenders (n, b, n+b, N, B, N+B, N+b, n+B, with small letters for the normal and capitals for the fatter sound).
Here is a schematic:
Alternatively, the 3-way switch can be connected like this (Fender style), the result isthe same:
The wiring on the two push-pull potis is shown in a separate drawing here:
The following picture shows how you can use two washers with soldering lugs (included with my push-pull potis) instead of the brass ground plate that Schecter used.