I love guitar kits, they are pretty much the primary way I learned how to assemble, build, and modify guitars. Kits give you a low-risk way of developing your finishing, wiring, and modification skills without having to rip apart the gear you rely on or spent your money on. Even the highest quality kits are far and away so much cheaper than a pre-assembled guitar. Usually, you can spend around $150 to get a pretty decent kit that you can turn into a unique, customized guitar or bass.
For those who are looking for their first kit or just another fun project for the winter, here are four kits I put together myself. I’ve ranked them 1-4 and while all of them left me a very satisfied customer, there are a few differences in price, labor, and options to note.
# 1: The Fret Wire TL Thinline Style Kit $165.00
Full disclosure, I do have an affiliate relationship with The Fret Wire, but I do not promote their shop because of it. I promote their shop because this is my second kit from them and each time they have provided not only a great product but great customer service. I got both of my kits off of Reverb.com and can’t recommend them enough.
This kit was great for a few major reasons: it was affordable, it was easy to put together, and it creates a great base for a fun mod project. I loved this kit so much it’s the only one of the four that I kept, as I gifted the other three Telecaster’s away to my family members who play guitar.
It’s even the body used for my current project on building a superior Thinline Tele than Fender. The Mahogany body comes with a Maple top, two tonewoods I wasn’t expecting at this price, and the two humbuckers that came with the kit were surprisingly rich and loud.
Even better, every hole comes pre-drilled for you, meaning for true beginners you can just screw parts in and go. For more adventurous modders, feel free to swap out parts like I am and create a truly unique guitar.
Pros: Affordable, Easy To Assemble, Solid Tonewoods, Nice Humbuckers
Cons: Cheap Tuners, Need To Carve Headstock
# 2: StewMac T Style Kit $149.99
This kit is usually a lot more expensive, coming in at $259.99 but it seems to be on sale, making it a great deal right now! This kit was the most expensive of the bunch, and I felt you really saw that extra value in the quality of the pickups. They had much more of a Mexican-Fender feel than a Squier feel, despite still being a sub-$300 guitar.
Not every screw hole is pre-drilled for you, which may be a pro or a con depending on how you view guitar kits. Some people buy them with the intention of assembling them with very little labor so they can get a cheap guitar quickly, some really like to work through piece by piece and enjoy the process.
Overall, I really like this kit as I felt the Mahogany body was really comfortable and the finish came out great.
Pros: Great Tonewood, Twangy Tele Pickups, Comes With Detailed Instructions
Cons: Usually More Expensive, Need To Carve Headstock
# 3: Solo TCK-1 DIY Kit $119.99
One of the most affordable Telecaster kits on the market, the Solo TCK-1 is no slouch despite coming in third. All holes come pre-drilled, except for the string tree, which isn’t a big deal at all but like, c’mon…why not just drill that one too?
This Tele kit does have beautiful black binding around the surprisingly heavy Basswood body. The Maple neck comes with a Blackwood fingerboard, and for those that want a quick, easy Tele build, the headstock comes pre-shaped. If you’re looking to do your own customized, headstock carve, look elsewhere, but I appreciated this feature myself.
The TCK-1 pickups are a bit noisy if we’re being honest, but they also had the most sustain out of the bunch, and I did really enjoy playing this guitar. It was also the heaviest by weight of the four I assembled.
Pros: Pre-Carved Headstock, Good Sustain, Easy To Assemble, Affordable
Cons: Noisy Single Coils, Lesser Tonewood, Heavy
# 4: Bargain Musician GK-002 DIY Kit $129.99
Another incredibly affordable offering, Bargain Musician’s Tele kit for sure requires the use of a drill. This one required the most labor to put together, as you’ll have to drill in guide holes for the pickguard, control cavity, bridge, and neck. Again, not a huge deal for most people, but in case it is, now you know.
This Ash body comes with a Maple neck and fretboard, and is incredibly light and comfortable. These single coil pickups were also a bit noisy as well, but I have to say they did a really good job of imitating that Tele twang and slap for such an affordable price.
They do offer a very helpful support network to new builders and they have worked with some great programs that focus on having high school student’s build their own guitars. It’s a great company, an affordable kit that won’t disappoint, it just may be for the more handy kit assemblers out there.
Pros: Affordable, Pre-Carved Headstock, Great Tonewood
Cons: Cheap Tuners, Noisy Pickups, Absolutely Need An Electric Drill
4 thoughts on “Ranking Four DIY Telecaster Kits From Best to Worst”
Thanks for writing this, it’s very helpful! Just wondering if soldering or any other types of wiring is needed for any or all of these kits? I’m looking for a first build and I’m fairly handy but I know nothing about wiring or soldering. Feel free to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org if you see this comment. Thanks again.
LikeLiked by 1 person
For every kit here, soldering was required. However, there was different degrees of soldering needed for each. For example, the Fretwire kit needed every pot and pickup and whatnot wired together. The Bargain Musician kit came with the pots pre-wired and all I had to solder in was the pickups!
Hi Matt, are any of these telecaster thinline kits available with single coil pickups as per 60’s vibe
To my knowledge, only the Solo Music Gear company offers such a variant!