Reader Guitar of the Month: Tel-Xploder

An experienced builder teamed with a luthier friend to build a unique Tele-Explorer, yielding this magical rock machine.

Name: Jeff Tatreau

Hometown: West Allis, Wisconsin
Guitar: Tel-Xploder

One day I was talking with Tommy Rosamond of USA Custom Guitars on the phone, and he was telling me about his Tele/Flying V that he bought for giggles. I said, “We should make a Tele-Explorer!”

Tommy had an Explorer-style, bolt-on tool path from an old project. He doesn’t sell this kind of thing but was intrigued about doing a one-off for me. So, I worked with some known dimensions and drew up a tool path for it, locating the neck pocket, bridge, and control routs. Tommy used his tool path knowing it was all going to fit correctly.

The neck is rosewood with a prototype phenolic board, and the body is swamp ash. Originally, I wanted to do a Gibson Voodoo-style finish. I did the red-grain fill and brown/black stain, but it just screamed “Lita Ford,” so I went back to the drawing board. (That’s not a bad thing, but I would’ve needed to wear spandex and eyeliner to complete the ensemble.) I sanded everything off and started over. I decided to make it look like the beautifully striped rosewood neck. I used various shades of yellow, orange, and brown auto paint to do the grain fill, and a W.D. Lockwood water-based dye in rosewood color with Birchwood Casey Tru-Oil as a top coat. I’m very pleased with the stunning appearance of this guitar.

The humbucker Tele bridge is a Gotoh unit, as are the vintage F-style tuners. The bridge pickup is a Bare Knuckle Nailbomb and the neck is a Seymour Duncan Hot for Strat single-coil enhanced with a steel reflector plate on the back, a technique I learned about in Premier Guitar!

This guitar is the most amazing rock machine—it’s so fat and sustains forever. It has that magic that makes you kick in the Tube Screamer and solo for days. It has the wider Charvel heel and neck pocket. Even the clean tone is unique—fat and punchy, unlike anything else I’ve ever played.

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