From The Shop

The Tortoise Telecaster

Tort5Over his many years with the Fender Custom Shop, Master Builder Dennis Galuzka has made countless guitars.  But his offering for the 2014 NAMM Show is one of the most unique instruments to ever come from his hands.

What has Galuzka been up to?

The passionate woodworker recently finished what is being called a Tortoise Telecaster.

As the history books show, Fender started offering faux tortoiseshell pickguards made with celluloid in 1959. But Galuzka had bigger plans, covering the entire Tele body with the faux tortoiseshell design.  Throw in the striking ivoroid pickguard and binding, and this guitar is truly breathtaking.

“I’ve always liked plastic covered guitars,” Galuzka said. “I just think they look cooI, and I’ve been thinking about doing one like this for a while, but it took some time to actually make it happen.”

One of the reasons for the delay was the simple fact that Galuzka didn’t have the resources available to actually make the Tortoise Tele… Or so he thought.

“In order to get the plastic to bend over the wood, you basically have to soak the stuff in acetone, he noted. “Typically, you’d use half acetone and half water, and then you put the thin plastic in the vat – which sucks because you need an entire vat of this stuff – and it becomes like a piece of wet spaghetti.  You can bend it any which way you want.”

It took a random spark of inspiration to push Galuzka’s idea forward.  One random Saturday morning, Galuzka was sitting with his daughter watching Spongebob Squarepants, and was lost in a daydream when the solution hit him.

“I was just laying there when I came up with a way to do it – a way that didn’t involve acetone,” said Galuzka.

Galuzka instead took another approach and decided to use contact cement, which gave him the ability to create the Tortoise Tele at his workbench.

”It simplified it greatly, and it couldn’t have come out better,” he said.  “We use the contact cement for Paisley guitars, things like that.

“I used that to cement the top on, and then after that, I just cut a binding channel in the plastic.  And then I used ivoroid binding, and I’m glad I did because it really made it look great.”

Other accoutrements on the Tortoise Tele include tortoise pickguard material affixed to the tops of the knobs and tortoise buttons on the tuners.

All in all, what began as a challenging process turned out better than even a Master Builder like Galuzka could have expected.

“I’m just happy it all came together so well,” he said.  “It was pretty easy to do, and much easier than I originally thought.  Hopefully, I can make some more of these.”