Tuesday, 27 December 2011

Telecaster hybridized with Rickenbacker lapsteel pickup - a real ugly duckling for sure

guitarz.blogspot.com:

I'm going to be really lazy today (hey, it IS the holidays) and copy extensively from the eBay listing for this Tele/Rickenbacker hybrid:
This is a guitar which was constructed using:

Fender MIM neck Serial Number MZ4013361 (hard rock maple)
Non-Fender Tele style Mahogany body
Rickenbacker horseshoe pickup from a Rickenbacker (old spelling is Rickenbacher) Model 100 lap steel
Lipstick pickup (4.9K) GFS from Guitar Fetish
Brass nut

Other misc parts from Guitar Fetish, staggered tuners and string tree, 3 way switch, tele jack cup, Tele dome knobs, cloth wiring.

This guitar was born in a Hamtramck second hand store where I found the Rickenbacker lap steel. At the time I could not even tell what brand it was because there were no tags, markings, or serial numbers on it. Also the body had been crudely modified, some wood cut away, strap buttons put on so it could be played slung around your neck more like a regular guitar. The store owner told me it had been owned by a friend of hers that had passed away. who was from the coal mining fields of Tennessee. He had also painted numbers on the metal fretboard. That genesis gave me the idea of putting this pickup on a telecaster style body.

Since the Rickenbacker is an old pickup with usage marks, I bought a Fender neck which showed a little natural wear. I then yellowed the face of the neck over the logo to make the neck looka little further aged. It is a very subtle effect. (I used gunstock oil infused with a little walnut dye.)

I picked up a mahogany body and modified it so the Rickenbacker pickup fit on it. At first I used a Gibson style wraparound bridge behind the rickbacker pickup. But it seems like some of that lap steel singing quality was missing. So I filled those holes, cut a little more wood and used the bridge integrated into the pickup. I also more tightly attached the neck to the body by using threaded steel neck inserts instead of the standard wood screws. You can search on ebay to see what inserts are are like.

The end result is that this thing sings like a woman! I took the guitar to my sister's house in Michigan's UP and played with her old-timey, bluegrass band. With the bluegrass band, I had to use the lipstick pickup because the Rickenbacker was too powerful, too bluesy. We were just playing an instrumental, but after the end of one song, someone asked "Who is singing?" No one was singing. It was the TeleRick. I was playing on the next song, and I thought I heard a woman singing vowels, I looked up from the fretboard and no, my sister (the only female musician present) was not singing. It WAS the guitar.

I had configured the guitar with a brass nut at first. It sounded great. I then switched to a solid plastic nut, and the open notes sounded more muffled than the notes held with the slide did. So, I put the brass nut back on. Also, when you play I think the brass affects the tone even more than just the open notes. I mean, the string does vibrate from the slide back to the nut unless you dampen it. The lipstick pickup loves the brass nut. I think the singing woman tone is a combination of the brass nut, lipstick pickup, mahogany body, threaded steel inserts, and the very solid Rickenbacker bridge. As I mentioned, the bluegrass people were not into the powerful Rickenbacker sound.

I put a 3 way switch on the guitar so you get the raw lipstick pickup, lipstick and Rickenbacker combined, and Rickbenbacker by itself. The tone and volume knobs only affect the Rickenbacker pickup. I did it this way for a couple reasons. If you wanted you could physically move the Rickenbacker pickup from the tele body to the Rickenbacker body, by only by snipping two wires. If I had integrated the tone and volume with the lipstick pickup, then more wires would have to be cut. Tonewise, the guitar rocks this way. The lipstick is a kind of a hollowed out singing acoustic sort of sound, you can play 4 strings together and they blend like a gospel choir. The Rickenbacker pickup has twice the output of the lipstick and is more raucous so you would only want to play 2 notes together (unless you are going for the heavy distortion). So you can do this multiple string sliding with the lipstick, and then flip the switch and go into a real heavier tone on the Rickenbacker pickup. You can tone down the Rickenbacker pickup with its controls to more closely match the lipstick if you want. The one pickup sounds like a logical extension of the other.

This guitar sounds so good, it could be the basis for a whole new unique style of playing. You can get lost flipping back and forth between them for hours..

The string height (action) is such that you can play the classic boogie woogie on the low strings from open to the 7th fret, and if you are sliding at the 5th fret, you can press down the strings behind the slide to get the missing notes in the scale, but when you are at the 12th fret you will be all slide all the time. Now, the action could be lowered a little. The bottom of the brass nut could be filed, maybe the neck truss rod could be used, but the Rickenbacker bridge is a little higher than the tele bridge, so the action will always favor the slide player. But that is not a loss on this guitar, because this is a slide players guitar.

In my heart of hearts, I believe that is a guitar born for slide and it will need a slide guitarist to properly appreciate it. That is why I am putting it on a month long listing. This special guitar requires a special person...
Likely this guitar is as amazing as the seller claims, but it's sure not going to win any beauty contests. Personally I think the placement of the volume and tone controls is a mistake - and I appreciate this was dicatated by the plate used from the Rickenbacker lapsteel. Nevertheless, I think he should have put the controls in the usual position for a Tele, and maybe plugged the holes in the lapsteel plate - else not used the plate at all if it is detachable from the pickup. I'm not just talking aesthetics here, those controls would get in the way where they are.

Currently listed on eBay with a Buy It Now price of $1,000.

Thanks to Andrew who saw this listed on eBay.

G L Wilson

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