Fender Custom Shop 51 Nocaster Repair Log
Repair Log: 30th of July 2010 SN:NCxx Fender Custom Shop Limited Edition ‘51 Nocaster made by Fender in Corona USA
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Copyright reserved Terry Relph-Knight 01/10/17
Current value – Can be found on offer for £1,700. Purchased from Wunjo’s for £2,000.
Delivered with a rectangular cream and maroon Fender Custom Shop hard case, including a custom shop certificate and other documentation.
Strung 10 to 52 Ernie Ball STHB
Description – A Fender black guard Custom Shop replica of a 1951 ‘Nocaster’ Telecaster, reliced with all slot screws.
Body – Light swamp ash body in the traditional blond finish. Relic wear under the forearm and around the back edge. The black 5 hole pick guard does indeed appear to be made of a thin (0.0625 inch 1/16) sheet of un-bevelled phenolic material and the top surface is lacquered to make it look blacker and shinier. A small area below the top E string has been rubbed away to simulate playing wear.
Neck – One piece, fat soft V, maple neck with a walnut skunk stripe. Wear through on the lacquer up to the eight fret. 21 thin vintage frets. Headstock carries only the script Fender logo in silver with black outline, Fender Custom Shop V logo on the reverse.
Repair Log Fender Custom Shop 51 Nocaster
Hardware – Kluson style tuners. A single round string tree next to the G tuner. Custom Alnico 3 Tele pickups (bridge pickup has flat magnets). Nickel plated folded thin sheet steel bridge with three brass barrel saddles, 4-40 height screws?. Through body stringing with flat ferrules. Four bolt, chrome plated steel neck plate stamped with the NC77 serial LIMITED EDITION and the Fender Custom Shop V logo. Standard Tele control plate with a three way switch and solid nickel plated brass flat top (slight edge radius) knurled knobs. All cloth wired. Tone and volume controls are modern CTS pots. Unfortunately these pots have no stress relief clip, the pot shaft slides in the collar and is only held in place by the locating post into the middle of the steel clip on cover.
This guitar as shipped from the Custom Shop was originally wired to the ‘51 Nocaster schematic with a 15K (wired between neck and middle on one half of the switch and an 0.05uF cap (wired from the other half of the switch – neck terminal – to ground). These components have been removed and the guitar re-wired to modern Tele wiring by a previous owner.
The original ‘51s had no variable tone control. The wiring offered –
Neck pickup with a set bassy sound (no variable tone control)
Neck pickup with no tone control at all
Both pickups with the second rotary control acting as a blend for the bridge.
The neck pickup has the North of the magnet poles up and the bridge has the South up. The pickups do seem to be arranged for hum cancellation in the middle position.
Centre saddle low E to middle 12 fret 327mm, 325mm high E. 257mm front edge of bridge to middle 12fret. Bridge plate is 3 3/8” long.
Problems – Brought in for noise (hum) and a loose output jack. Guitar occasionally produces loud crackles and hums. Seems related to the tone control.
Work done –
Tightened up the nuts on all the controls, on the switch and on the output jack. Dabbed on some clear nail varnish to help lock the output jack nut in place. Replaced one of the rusted ‘reliced’ pickup screws with a clean screw. Re-bent the cover tabs on the tone controls loose cover, shifted the output jack ground over to the back of the volume control where all the other circuit grounds are. Sleeved the long bare wire on the tone cap. Placed an M3 nut inside the Tone knob as a spacer to stop it scraping on the control plate. Replaced the missing switch tip with a barrel tip (the original barrel tip was included in the case, but the slot for the switch arm was so gouged out that it would no longer fit securely).
Having removed the strings in order to lift the bridge I removed the saddles, sanded them down to remove old string notches and soaked all the screws and springs in WD40 to remove dirt and rust. Also cleaned the bridge plate. With the saddles re-assembled and replaced on the bridge plate I set up the action and intonation.
Diagnostics – Loose output jack. Missing switch tip. Pot nuts are loose. Control plate screws loose.
A quick fret rocker test shows fret 8 is high in the middle and one or two other frets further down the neck are a touch high. Fret surfaces look as though they have been levelled fairly recently, but not re-crowned.
A continuity test showed that the bridge plate and strings weren’t connected to ground. Removing the strings and lifting the bridge plate revealed that the ground jumper between the pickup ground lead tag and its elevator plate was intact. It turns out that all three reliced bridge pickup screws were so rusty they no longer made an electrical connection between the pickup elevator plate and the bridge.
Input jack tip contact seems slack, jacks don’t make a positive insertion. Ground lead from tone cap (cap added by previous owner when the guitar was re-wired to modern wiring) is not sleeved and runs over the top of the volume wiper where it could short out.
The tone control seems loose and repeatedly rotating it fully anti-clockwise often produces loud crackles and hums. Looking closely the steel back cover is loose on its four folding tabs. Ridiculously, the only ground return for the output jack is through a black cloth covered wire that is soldered to the back of this cover. With the tabs to the cover being loose the output jack ground has only a very sketchy and intermittent connection to the guitars circuit ground. Perhaps the 1950’s pots had more reliable connection to ground from the cover, the pots in this guitar are of course modern CTS pots. CTS do seem to have changed to using a thinner, softer steel for the pot casing and the fixing tabs are quite easily loosened through down pressure on the pot shaft.
Along with the bad ground connection to the bridge plate the grounding scheme seems very poor. Fender may have been intending to exactly copy a ‘51 Nocaster, (the Fender shop wiring drawings do show this as how the ground was wired) but in the process they seem to have done some really daft things.
Screws – American guitars have either 4-40 or 6-32 saddle height adjustment screws. The first number indicates diameter and larger numbers greater diameter. The second number indicates thread count – 40 is more per inch than 32.
4-40 is 0.112 inch clearance
6-32 is 0.138 inch clearance
4-40 are smaller screws found in Strat saddles.
So 6-32 is the larger size found in the early Tele 3 saddle bridges.
My DeTemple titanium 3 saddle Tele set has ½ inch long screws in the centre and 3/8 long on the two outside saddles. My Rutters is 3/8 and 5/16.
Bridges like the Wilkinson are metric and use M3 screws. They seem to be all 10mm long.
Black barrel switch tip.
Further work – 20/12/17
The original slot head saddle grub screws stick up and are sharp and uncomfortable under the palm of the right hand. I replaced the original screws (six 7/16” long 6-32 slot head) with two stainless steel 1/4” long 6-32 hex head screws for the high and low E strings and four stainless steel 3/8” long 6-32 hex head screws for the other four strings (1/16” hex key for adjustment).