La Cabronita – How to build a custom clone

Fenders’ La Cabronita custom build clone monster

So you want to own a Fender La Cabronita? Well look no further.

If like me, you love the look and sound of these beasts, but think they are way over priced.

OR

Have plenty money and just want to build the best sounding axe you can ever own.

AND

You’re reasonably handy and like the smell of freshly sawn wood. Read on.

My friend, you have arrived at your destination. For I, have traveled the path before you and wish to share my hard earned knowledge with you.

I first tried one of these at Red Dog Music in the Grassmarket. It was part of the Fender Telebration series and sounded amazing. The clarity, note separation and sheer growl under crunch was awesome. Proper Malcolm Young.

And so the quest began. 

I needed a body first. After a bit of research, I ended up on eBay and a supplier called WoodWoo2.

I love eBay, it’s like a game. I watched, waited and then pounced. The Alder body was mine. This seller makes these custom La Cabronita bodies and they are value for money. Check it out below.

La Cabronita Part 1 

So now I had the body, I needed some parts. First of all the bridge. I borrowed a Fender  modern hardtail from Lee’s Strat and it was perfect for prototyping the build. Next up buying the other bits and bobs:

  • CTS Pot for volume
  • Jack socket
  • Jack casing
  • Borrow a telecaster neck from Lee
  • Borrow a hardtail modern bridge from Lee
  • Wire from connections, shielded proper Gibson style

So onto fitting the test bridge. Easy stuff and if I remember correctly, I drilled the screw holes a little bigger.

Now I had to fit the pickups. Well I didn’t have them yet, so I had to borrow one from my Gretsch.

Then came the surprise. The pickup was sitting way too high in the routed cavity.

Apparently, the pickup cavities had been routed for TV Jones and I had HS filtertrons. They look very similar on the top, but underneath the TV Jones have shorter pole screws.

So I had the choice. Cut the screws, all 32 of them, or adjust the cavities. So guess what I did? I pressed the pickup into the wood to mark the hole. The I drilled a hole deep enough to house the long screw. This would do for testing, but for the final build, I routed the cavity out with a router for a nicer cleaner finish.

Once this was done, a quick string up to check everything was in place and aligned correctly. I then wired up the pickup to see how it sounded.

Cue the Guinness.

La Cabronita Part 2 

So you might be thinking at this point all is tested and working, let’s finish building this thing.

No, I decided to gig it – at a wedding – and it was awesome.

So built, tested and gigged it was time to buy the proper parts and finish the build. Back onto eBay to find a supplier for HS Filtertrons, the same as in my Gretsch. I dabbled with the idea of buying TV Jones Classics, but the sound from the Filtertron was so good, I decide to get them.

At the same time I ordered a neck and thanked Lee for lending me his. It did the job but now I wanted a new Fender built birds eye maple neck with abalone inlays. Both the neck and the pickup came from the US and I got stung by customs on the neck, so beware. However, the pickups slipped under the radar.

When they arrived, I built a little jig and routed out the pickup cavities to fit them properly. Oh what a great Saturday morning that was, cutting wood!

All that remained was to adjust the size of the brass base plate on the neck pick up as it was too wide. I dismantled the pickup to remove the plate and run it against my bench grinder, but not before wrapping the pickup in cling film to stop filings going inside. 

Everything now fitting and assembled, including a new hardtail bridge, it was now ready for the neck.

La Cabronita Part 3

It seemed to take ages for the neck to arrive, but when it did it looked amazing. It was exactly how I wanted it. My first maple neck and a birds eye one at that. Neck fitted and strung up, it was ready to fully test. I plugged it into my Blackstar amp and let rip.

At this point I had not properly setup the action or intonation etc, but it played and sounded incredible. To believe that you can assemble/build a guitar that sounds as good as this is just great. I have played many guitars through many amps and this was kicking the crap out of them all.

So gigging we went, but after a few I realised that I needed to finish off the wood or at least to protect it.

My original idea was to paint the body in a green sparkle with a cream double binding, but the paint job alone would have almost doubled the price. Not only that but when the body arrived, the edges had been contoured meaning I couldn’t do the binding.

The cost didn’t bother me, it was the time and effort. So I decided to treat the wood and I have to say it was very enjoyable. Rub the wood down, coat it with shellac and repeat three times. The finish was a very natural colour and I really kind of liked it as it went really well with the neck. Job almost done.

A quick purchase later of tortoise laminated plastic (eBay) and I had quickly crafted a control cavity plate using only a Stanley knife and a bench grinder for tools.

So that’s the story. It is now my favourate guitar and I have played it at every gig since building it. 

What do you think? Leave your comments below. 

La Cabronita Part 4

And here is how it sounds.

About Neil Ferguson

Neil provides the vocals (mainly) and much of the lead guitar work. One of the three founders of the band Neil also delights in the bands technical responsibilities.
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