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So, here we go again with build number three of the iconic Francis Rossi Live Aid Telecaster! This will be the third build of ‘old green’ exactly as configured around the time of Live Aid back in 1985. Click Home on the main menu to find out more on the background and history of this guitar and how Status Quo opened Live Aid at precisely 12:00 noon on July 13, 1985.
The first Francis Rossi Live Aid Telecaster (No. 1) was built a few years ago, it’s owned by me and is still played every day. But, after completion of the first replica I thought it might be fun to build another one (No. 2), but this time to record each and every stage in detail… and that is quite simply how this blog was born. The idea to was to provide enough information to allow anyone to build their own version of this guitar. The guitar featured in the blog was s/n RR150002 (which was sold last year) and you can read the full story of its creation by selecting Parts used for this build from the main menu and following the build from there through to completion. I will be referring to various stages of the No. 2 build to provide context and to link in to more detailed descriptions, background and technical info, pics and contextual video clips to show the relevant details in action.
In addition to the build stages recorded here, I will also be tweeting the progress of s/n RR160003 on @RootsReplicas
The new build – s/n RR160003
This time, we will be using a new 3-piece Telecaster solid swamp ash body, the perfect candidate for another build of the iconic green Telecaster. Francis’ original guitar (OG) is a 3-piece swamp ash, so having acquired this body is going to make the finished guitar just that little bit more authentic.
There will be plenty of sanding, drilling, painting, relic’ing and ageing to do before this body starts to resemble the OG and all of this will take time, so please check back here regularly to see how things are going.
The neck we are using here is a standard 1-piece (21-fret) maple neck salvaged from a used guitar. We’ve sanded off the modern factory-applied polyurethane finish back to bare wood and we are going to use a vintage amber nitrocellulose treatment to provide that authentic 1970s look before relic’ing the entire neck. Nitro will not adhere properly to modern polyurethane finishes, waxes or other varnishes so it is really important to remove all traces of existing finishes first.
You can find out more about the neck on Francis’ original guitar by selecting Neck from the main menu where you will find some background information on neck colour, fretboard wear, hardware and serial numbers. I have also written a short piece on 1-piece and 2-piece necks, truss rods and ‘skunk stripes’ (see Parts used for this build)
As you can see from the two pics above, the neck has now had a series of vintage amber nitrocellulose treatments and is looking really good. The next job will be to give the neck another rub down, but this time with some ultra-fine 0000 grade wire wool. This will smooth everything down in readiness for the Roots Replicas decals to be applied, followed by the final coasts of clear gloss nitrocellulose to give that rich honey-coloured 1970s look to the neck.
The decals have now been added and the top coats of clear nitro applied. Following that, the neck has been relic’ed and buffed up slightly, although not too much as it’s meant to look old and well-worn. You can also see a slight outline of the decal through the nitro top coat, just like on the OG (the decal was factory-fitted on top of the nitro finish). As you can see below, the fretboard has also been relic’d to replicate all of the same marks as present on the fretboard of Francis’ guitar at the 1985–86 period (see Neck for more info).
This neck can be stored away now until it’s time to join it with the body. We will still have to fit a string tree to the headstock and of course fit the genuine Kluson nickel finish tuners and the neck will be good to go. As the neck is played over time, the wear marks will dull down and get dirtier and more worn. The nitro finish will start to craze in time and any dings and dents it gets along the way will make it look even better.
The tuning peg holes on modern Tele necks are around 10mm diameter and are larger than the holes on vintage models. For our build we are going to fit a set of genuine Kluson Deluxe semi-enclosed tuning machines in a nickel finish and with the words ‘Kluson’ and ‘Deluxe’ cast vertically into the backs, either side of a set of vertical lines, (exactly the same as Rick and Francis use on their guitars) and there is further info and detailed pics of these tuners on the Neck page of this blog.
The Kluson Deluxe hardware is intended as a direct replacement for tuners on vintage guitars and so the ferrules (or bushes) supplied with them are designed to fit into an 8.7 mm diameter hole. However, the holes on the modern neck that we are using are just slightly over 10 mm so we will be using a set of adaptor ferrules, which are specifically designed for the job of fitting vintage size tuners to modern necks, problem solved!
As you can see from the two pics above, we have now fitted the adaptor ferrules (or bushes) along with a string tree complete with 3 mm spacer. Now that these little jobs are done we can proceed with fitting those vintage Klusons.
We are now going to fit the vintage nickel Klusons. When fitting these tuning machines to a standard modern neck you will have to add adapter ferrules as mentioned above, but it is also necessary to drill a set of pilot holes for the fixing screws. To do this, you need to finger-fit all of the tuners in place to mark the holes. When you finger-fit all of the tuners onto the headstock they should snap together to form a tight line. Then once you are happy with them you can straighten the along a straight edge or ruler to ensure that they are all in line.
When lining up the tuners you are restricted by where the factory drilled holes are and these can vary a great deal, but there should be some play within the adapters, so you should be able to make some tiny adjustments to even things up. There are 7 pilot holes to drill as shown below. All of the existing and unwanted holes which are there to accommodate modern tuner fixings will be covered up by the Klusons.
Once the holes are drilled it’s safe to start fitting the Klusons to the headstock with the supplied screws. The tuners should all be lined up as before so that they snap together in a nice straight line. Then the screws should be added one-by-one before carefully tightening each one evenly.
This neck will now be stored away, ready to be bolted onto the body at a later stage in the build. As you can see from the two pics below the nice amber colour of the nitrocellulose really sets off the tuners for a classic 1970s feel.
Today we are going to drill out all of the necessary conduits for wiring as well as a hole for the jack socket, and of course the iconic ‘mystery hole’ through the body. As you can see from the first of the two pics below, the body has been sanded and is ready for drilling. In the second pic you can see that we are drilling the ‘mystery hole’ using a standard 20mm bit.
The drilling doesn’t have to be too precise. However, the position of the hole is the most important thing. The position of the hole we are drilling is calculated using lots of careful scale measurements taken from pictures of the OG. If the hole is in the wrong position the whole thing will look wrong and there will be no second chances to drill it again! I have written a short piece on the mystery hole on the Home page of this blog and see also the Drilling page for additional info.
Jack socket hole
Next, we are drilling out the hole to accommodate the jack socket. The hole will be covered with a square jack plate just like the ones that both Francis and Rick use on their guitars, rather than the traditional push-fit circular type. The jack hole is drilled using the same 20mm bit as the ‘mystery hole’.
There are two ways to drill out the wiring conduits to connect the various cavities in the body. One way is to drill directly in a straight line from the neck pickup cavity to the main control switch cavity as I did on the previous build (see Drilling complete with diagrams), but this does require a steady hand and a very long drill! Instead, we are going to use the other method which is to drill out the conduits by gradually conecting the various cavities with a regular sized drillbit.
Neck pickup cavity
As you can see below, the first conduit is drilled from the neck pickup cavity through to the wiring channel (not always present on some Tele bodies). This hole is only about 1cm long and enables us to push the two neck pickup wires through to the wiring channel.
The next job is to join that wiring channel to the main control switch cavity. This involves drilling from the far end of the wiring channel through to the control cavity at a slight downhill angle (see pics below). Watch carefully that your drill chuck does not foul the wood as you drill, it’s probably best to lay something thin on the body between the drill chuck and the bare wood. If you do slip up and foul the wood, there’s a good chance that the damage will be covered by the pickguard anyway, but take it slowly and carefully. No that this is done, the two neck pickup wires can continue their route through to the main control cavity.
If you take a look at the two pics below you’ll see that we’re now drilling the final conduit from the bridge pickup cavity through to the main control switch cavity using the same method. It’s worth taking the same precautions as above (placing something on top of the wood as a guard) if you’re worried about fouling the wood with the chuck of your drill.
The ‘attempted’ mystery hole
The last part of this stage of the build is to add the ‘attempted mystery hole’. I wrote a short piece on this hole (see Drilling) for the last build (s/n RR150002). The hole isn’t really a hole at all, but rather the beginnings of a hole that Francis started to drill but then thought better of it before drilling the final hole that we all know in the now familiar position.
What we are trying to achieve, is to make a small slightly egg-shaped indentation in the body. The indentation is not very deep, but just deep enough to be seen. As you can see from the two pics below we have carefully marked the position with a pencil before drilling and shaping with a countersinking bit. The second pic shows the finished indentation.
Now that all of the drilling is complete, we have a Francis Rossi Telecaster body ready to go the next stages of painting, and relic’ing. By the time we have finished with it, this body will look 25 years older than it does now!
Bridge pickup assembly
Today we’re going to start work on adapting a standard Telecaster bridge plate as Francis did back in the day. For this job it’s best to use a genuine Fender bridge plate as any kind of pattern part won’t look right and probably won’t fit anyway. It’s really important to have that iconic ‘FENDER PAT PEND.’ text stamped onto the plate for a truly authentic look.
We’re taking a brand new shiny Fender Telecaster bridge plate and we are actually going to saw it in two! It’s important to take some careful measurements from close-up pics of the OG before doing this in order to get the cut in the right place. As you can see from the second of the two pics below, we have made the cut before smoothing and polishing the cut edges. To finish off we’ve rounded off the corners slightly.
The bridge plate is very shiny and new and so we’ve done some very light relic’ing to make it look older. It’s important to remember that at the time of Live Aid the guitar was only about 25 years old. The hardware on the guitar would not have been anywhere near as heavily relic’d as it looks now after 50 years hard use. So, we’ve just applied some very light relic’ing to the bridge plate which is consistent with 25 years use and it’s semi-protected position behind the strings.
As you can see from the first of the two pics below, the whole bridge pickup assembly has been put together and can now be stored away until needed. However, before we wrap the assembly up and store it away we should just check how it fits onto the guitar body for position and proximity to the pickguard. You can also see that we have drilled two new holes for fixing the whole assembly to the guitar body at a later stage.
In the second of the pics above, you can see that we have placed the assembly onto the body along with a vintage pickguard to check fit. The result is that we can just see a small section of the bridge pickup cavity peeking out from underneath the bridge plate just like on the OG from the period.
Back in the early 1990s when Francis switched to the three lace sensor pickups, the bridge pickup cavity had to be routed out some more to accommodate them and so the cavity is now visible on both sides of the bridge plate.
The tailpiece is the single most difficult part to replicate on a Francis Rossi replica guitar of this era. When Francis carried out all of his original mods to the guitar (see Home>A quick history) he decided not to route the strings, in the conventional way, through the body but instead opted to run the strings directly from a surface-mounted tailpiece which was simply screwed into the body through two drilled holes.
All we know is that the original tailpiece was taken from an old semi-acoustic guitar (make and model unknown) and subsequently adapted. My own opinion is that the donor part actually started life as a trapeze tailpiece and was adapted, so that’s how we are going to approach the task on this build. For much more on this detail (see Home>Tailpiece) on the main blog where there is lots more info and pictures of the tailpiece.
We are using a genuine 1960s trapeze from a semi-acoustic guitar to fabricate our tailpiece. I think that this is the way that Francis would have done it at the time, and if you take a look at the two pics below you will see that the main part of the tailpiece with its slanted edges bears a very close resemblance to the one Francis used on the original (see Home>Tailpiece for close-up pics). These vintage trapeze tailpieces are extremely hard to come by, so some very careful and precise work is needed.
Making the tailpiece for this guitar is one of the most tricky parts of the build as there is only one chance to get it right. One slip of a drill or a saw and the whole thing can be ruined and another very expensive tailpiece will have to be sought. It’s best to take everything slowly and to make very precise measurements before doing any drilling. It’s also worth covering the surface of the tailpiece with masking tape over the areas which will be drilled to stop the drill slipping.
If you look at the two pics above you’ll see that the tailpiece is designed to be under tension from the strings and should ‘float’. On the guitar that this tailpiece came from, the strings would have been threaded through the set of holes at the rear of the main section and would have emerged from underneath the front (as the main section would have been floating above the guitar body). However, we are going to eventually screw this tailpiece down tightly to the body, which means that it will be necessary to drill six holes in the front so that our strings can emerge to continue their journey up to the tuners. But first, we need to saw off and discard the rear section of the trapeze as it is only the front section that we need for our tailpiece.
Now that we have carefully separated the important part from the rest of the trapeze we can get on with the job of drilling those six holes for the strings. Drilling the six holes to the front of the tailpiece is fairly tricky with lots of margin for error and we need to be very precise with spacing and alignment. It’s worth making some sort of template to test on a piece of scrap metal before carrying out the actual drilling.
As you can see above we have drilled the set of six holes. We now need to drill two further holes which will be used to screw the finished tailpiece to the body of the guitar at a later stage. If you take a look at Francis’ guitar (see Home>Tailpiece) you’ll notice that these holes are not very precisely drilled. In fact they are quite asymmetrical, so we don’t need to be too precise. The holes will look better if they are slightly out of alignment.
After drilling the two fixing holes we have just countersunk them slightly so that the screws will bed in nicely when we eventually fit the tailpiece to the guitar.
Green and black paint
We’ve now added the first treatment of green paint to the body of the guitar. As you can see we have not painted the general areas which will be bare wood. These areas will be defined (and refined) further later on in the process. The paint and the wood both look very light and new right now and there is still a lot of sanding, ageing and relic’ing to be done before it looks like an old guitar. We’ll leave this paint for a week or so before we do anything with it.
As you can see from the second pic above we have applied the black paint to the edge of the guitar body. We have also added the basic layout of forearm wear and various other wear areas identified by doing plenty of research on the OG from the Live Aid period. Once the paint has dried and hardened we will be able to refine and develop the wear patterns further. After that we will be able to move on to some general ageing to give the guitar that patina of a vintage instrument.
When carrying out the painting, please don’t be too worried about achieving a perfect finish as this is (as was the finish on the original guitar) a DIY paint job. Both paints (black and green) should be applied freely with a normal paintbrush. If these finishes are applied with a spray gun or paint pad they will just simply look too good! We’re not aiming for perfection here, in fact we’re aiming for imperfections! It’s also important not to apply too much green as we need to see the grain of the body through the paint. Seeing the swamp ash grain is an important part of the overall look, and is why we are using a swamp ash body just like the OG.
Body (almost) finished
The body is now relic’ed and aged. The green paint has had a varnish treatment to give it that antiqued look and the bare wood parts are aged, but still bare wood. The only bare wood which will be treated will be the back of the guitar body which will have a light coat of wax to emulate the natural shine of wear and also to protect it. All of the other areas of bare wood will continue to wear as time goes on.
If you take a look at the two pics below you will see that we have placed the some of the hardware onto the body just to give an idea of the final look. Our next item for attention (and one small modification) will be the pickguard.
The pickguard, as you may notice, is the correct period plate with no screw holes on either side of the neck pickup hole, the correct white-black-white 3-ply construction and the correct number of fixing screw holes. However, it’s not perfect yet. We will need to make a small modification to it, and that is to cut out a small notch in the pickguard where it meets the neck.
The notch would have originally been to allow access for truss rod adjustment at this end of the neck. Our neck of course has the adjustment at the other end, but this is a small cosmetic detail that helps with overall authenticity. I have covered the ‘notch’ in much more detail in the main blog (see Home>Pickguard) together with some background detail and some pics of Francis’ guitar for reference.
As mentioned above, we need to make a slight modification to the pickguard by cutting out a small truss rod adjustment access notch. Francis’ has changed his pickguard a few times over the years and some pickguards have this notch and others don’t. So, it doesn’t really matter if you don’t want to add this detail, but I like to include it on my builds. I have written a lot more on the subject of the pickguard in the main blog, so please take a look there (see Home>Pickguard) for more info.
As you can see in the first of the two pics above, we are using a period-correct 8-hole vintage white pickguard. The guard is of 3-ply construction (white-black-white) and does not have screw holes for the neck pickup. The reason for the lack of screw holes is that old-style Telecasters had the neck pickup mounted directly onto the body rather than onto the pickguard (which makes removing and/or changing the pickguard very easy). In the second (close-up) pic you can see how we have made a semi-circular mark on the surface of the pickguard to use as a guide for cutting out.
After carefully cutting out the notch we now have a pretty unique-looking period pickguard for the build. I think that cutting out this the notch really adds something and is a nice little detail to include on this Francis Rossi Live Aid replica. However, as I mentioned above, making this modification is not critical as the guitar will look just as authentic without it, so it’s entirely up to you if you want to include it.
We need to make the assorted bits of metal hardware on the guitar look as though they have been gigged for a decade or so, and to do that we will have to age and relic them. The first of the two pics below shows the shiny new hardware that we need to relic. The second pic shows the hardware after a series of ageing treatments.
All that’s necessary to age these various metal items is a fairly light relic’ing. They need to look ‘used’ but not ‘abused’. When relic’ing metal parts it’s best to exercise caution and not to overdo it, as over-ageing of guitar hardware never looks quite right.
Neck and hardware fitting
We won’t be able to fit any of the guitar body hardware until the pickguard is fitted and the pickguard cannot be fitted until the neck and body are joined. So as you can see from the two pics below, we have finally joined the neck and body. The first (and most important) thing to do immediately after joining the neck and body is to screw the pickguard into position, as everything that is fitted from this point onward relates, connects or aligns with the pickguard in some way.
We have now completed most of the routine hardware-fitting jobs on the guitar and the last two parts to be fitted are the ToM-style bridge and the bridge pickup assembly that we put together earlier in the build. However, before we fit these parts we will need to make an earth connection between the bridge and bridge pickup assembly. This wouldn’t normally be necessary on a regular Tele, as the bridge, pickup and plate are all one piece. However, on this build the bridge is in an isolated position. To make this connection (and not have any unsightly wires show on the surface) we will need to drill a conduit from the pickup cavity through to one of the bridge stud holes.
The first of the two pics below shows the path of the (almost horizontal) hole that we have drilled. The hole should intersect with the vertical hole that we have drilled for the treble-side bridge stud (second pic).
It’s important to remove the pickguard when drilling this hole for two reasons. First, you will need as flat an angle as possible for drilling and secondly, the rotating drill chuck could damage the pickguard. However, it’s really important to refit the pickguard immediately after the hole has been drilled as it will be needed for alignment when fitting the bridge pickup assembly. The second of the two pics above shows how the earth wire is inserted into the horizontal hole and then clamped into position by screwing down the bridge stud. The free end of the earth wire can then be clamped down in between the pickup assembly and the guitar body.
As you can see from the two pairs of pics above and below, the neck pickup has been fitted directly into the body, and the relic’d control plate, knobs, ‘Lego tyre’ and jack socket plate are all now fitted. The special custom tailpiece we made earlier in the build from a vintage ’60s trapeze has also been installed using two ordinary wood screws. The bridge pickup assembly has also been screwed down and the ToM-style bridge has been fitted with the saddle adjustment screws facing the bridge pickup (just like on Francis’ guitar). We have even inserted the black Jim Dunlop XL nylon pick that Francis was using around the time of Live Aid underneath the pickguard for that authentic look.
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