So you own one of the Mexican manufactured Tele’s, or are considering getting one. ‘What’s up with these instruments?’, you might ask. I’ll tell you. There’s nothing wrong with them that can’t be fixed, and/or dealt with.
The biggest revelation is the bridge placement on these guitars. A Tele’s string path goes through the back of the body, before exiting the bridge-base, going through the saddle’s middle, and then up towards the nut, and tuners. It’s sort of amazing in this age of advanced machines, and machine work that the placement of the bridge has been slightly miscalculated on this instrument. It’s either that, or the neck pocket itself is not routed far enough into the body. Since the pickup placement on the pickguard is a set variable in the shape of the pickguard, I think it’s the former, not the latter. Is this a tragic fault? Not necessarily.
The intonation problem can be corrected by providing longer string length adjust screws for the bridge saddles. You’ll need these for at least four out of your six strings if you’re using a typical plain-G rock type string set. Five if you’ve got your Tele strung with a wound G-string set (Yes, gang: they do exist). The instrument comes with an inscrutable combination of two long length adjust screws, and four shorted ones. The short ones may be useful on a plain G, and the low E string for setting the correct string length. However, you’re going to need at least two more long ones to continue. I also recommend Loctite, or some similar product to help stop the saddles from jumping off of the length adjust screws as time goes on, and you change string sets. A small amount applied to the screw threads before setting the string length will do the trick. Working with these type of products, it would seem that you must always over apply the product, and then clean up the excess to assure a correct application of the material, and a successful result in the application of such aide.
Once you’ve got the bridge set-up correctly, there will still be a few things to remember to restring your Tele without ripping your hair out. I also like to set the neck pitch so that the height adjust screws for the saddles do not protrude from the top of the saddle, once the action is adjusted correctly for the neck. If you do any palm muting techniques, these screws can chew your hand up pretty good. So your neck-pitch, truss rod, action, nut, and intonation are all set, right? So what’s the problem? Well, not much. You just have to remember to push the corresponding saddle back towards the bottom of the guitar, so that you align the keyhole in the saddle over the hole in the bridge base-plate that the string is coming through. You’ve got to align the needle before you thread it. It’s just one more element of fun to remember when you’re restringing your Tele. Other than that, these are great instruments.
The bottom line is that I’m surprised that these types of manufacturing errors still happen, and are allowed to get out of the factory, into your hands. It really points to the fact that the manufacturers figure you won’t know the difference, anyway. So what! You’re not going to read about this in those on line, and mag reviews that sound like they were written by a 9 year-old, and it’s not the end of the world. It’s a problem that can be dealt with.
The photos of this instrument are not the only one I’ve encountered. I’ve run into this on a couple of other Mex-Tele’s that would have appeared to have been manufactured around the same time period. Conclusion: there’s a load of these out there that are just like these ones that need help to make playable. Of course, that may not be of any importance to some owners out there. For those who would like their piece to play as good as it can, though, the above changes will make everything OK. Now all you have to do is make some time to practice everyday.