Telecaster Scratch Plates

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Telecaster Scratch Plates -

First a little about the Telecaster (I'm unashamedly biased here though :-)

The Fender Telecaster - (and the numerous copies and variants of it) is without doubt one one the greatest electric guitars of all time. First introduced as the broadcaster -and then hastily renamed the Telecaster (Gretsch already had a broadcaster guitar - so to avoid Legal hassles Leo Fender -Radio Repair man turned guitar designer - went with the Telecaster name instead).

Many gigging musicians (including) myself prefer it to a Fender Stratocaster (one of the other top 3 electrics guitars of all time) because it won't go wildly out of tune if you break a string and need to hang on till the end of the song before you can replace the dearly departed string (traditional Stratocasters have a trem unit which counter balances the tension of the strings against 3 or 5 springs -which is great till you break a string; then you're on the fast road to the town of Wildly-out-of-tunesville!!)

Many gigging players also prefer the Telecaster to the Gibson Les Paul. Why? Well it's not cuz the Les Paul isn't a great guitar -it most definately is!! But it's also HEAVY - For someone who plays 2 hour plus energetic gigs - it's a Tele everytime!! (Obviously I make no bones about the fact that I'm biased towards the Tele - but in all fairness I should say I own Teles, Strats and a Les Paul -and wouldn't be without any of 'em. But when it comes to live work; as many guitarists will tell you the Tele is as comfy an 'axe' as you'll ever find. Plus it's when it's in the treble pick-up position it's got all the sonic qualities of a razor blade..... 

So You've got a Tele but want to customise it...

So you've got yourself a Tele (good choice may I say!!!) what's the easiest way of customizing it?

Got to be the Scratch Plate. Why? -Well, unlike a Stratocaster which has all the pickups, knobs and selector switch connected to it - a Telecaster Scratch Plate can just be unscrewed and replaced with a funkier one.

Is it that simple?

Well yes - but please be aware that when you buy a new scratch plate for your Tele-  there have been/and still are many designs of Telecaster (Even if you concentrate on just the Fender Teles - there are Japanese ones, Mexican ones, American ones - and what about age/ series; was it made last year or 30 years ago - and so on.....

What I'm getting at is that no manufacturer of scratch plates in the world can make a plate that will fit all types of Telecaster. The size of the plate is almost never a problem -it's the screw holes; that don't always line up.

As anyone (like me for instance) who's ever worked in a guitar shop will tell you -when you fit a new scratch plate, you will sometimes have to re-locate the odd screw hole. Relocating a screw hole is easy and because your scratch plate will cover the old hole, the redundent hole(s) will never be seen. (The only Tele that I personally wouldn't do it to would be a really, really old vintage one), anything else I would consider fair game.

What sorts of Tele Scratch Plates Are There?

Well leaving out any weird or ultra expensive designs - you can have White, Black, Tortoisehell, Vintage Mint Green (The vintage green is designed to replicate the look of an aged Tele Scratchplate), Pearl White and Pearl Black. Plain colours are the cheapest, T/shell and Mint Green are more expensive, with the price rising sharply for pearl colours.

As well as colour there is the 'ply'.

Cheaper / budget scratch plates (although some expensive Telecasters also have them) normally tend to be single ply -which means they're a single piece of plastic.

Normal Tele scratch plates are what we call 3 ply -which means that if you look at them side on you'll see a 'sandwich' of three layers - for example a white 3 ply scratch plate will be (if viewed from the side)  White/Black/White. I personally  have only ever bought/sold/used 3 ply Teleaster Scratch Plates as I think they look better!!!

Other things to watch out for before you part with your hard earned cash..

So you've found the Tele Scratch Plate of your dreams on eBay, you've got your screwdriver at the ready, and you're just about to click the mouse button to submit your winning bid....but have you forgotten anything -Well make sure that your Tele hasn't got an unusual pick up configuration that won't fit a standard style Tele scratch plate -such as; A large/unusual/custom or humbucking pick up in either the bridge or neck position - there's even a Telecaster (The Nashville model) that has 3 pick ups!!

The normal Telecaster Pick Up configuration is this;

A long thin slanted pick up with 6 silver circles on top (called pole pieces) one pole piece for each string -in the Bridge Position.

- And a Silver shiny - chrome strip - pick up in the neck position (the shiny chrome strip is actually a cover -underneath there are 6 pole pieces just like on the Bridge Pick Up).

As long as your Telecaster looks like this you should be fine (though you still may have to relocate a screw hole or 2).

If your Telecaster doesn't quite match the normal pick up configuration - use your common sense and judgement - you can easily (with a little patience) enlarge a pick up hole slightly -or add a couple of extra holes for pick up screws etc.

- But if there's too much work to do, you might just want to just forget it and stay with the plate you have, at least until something more suitable comes up (you can actually make your own plate from a big piece of scratch plate material -but the process is very long and very, very boring to do well -so I wouldn't recommend making your own unless you really, really have to -lol!!).

So there you have it - Customizing your Telecaster by adding a new Scratch Plate is (as long as it's a standard design Telecaster) pretty easy -there's always a chance you may have to relocate the odd screw hole -but as long as you don't mind doing that - you'll have a transformed Telecaster in no time!!! I'ts surprising how much just changing the scratch plate can alter the'look' so startlingly. Next week you can have get a full respray and gold hardware too.. Just kidding!!!

Hope you enjoyed my Guide to Tele Scratch Plates :-)


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