090105      The first F1

I am dead serious:  the first F1 is far and away the finest Tele ever made. You did the impossible: you actually reinvented the wheel and made it far better than the original. If I were Leo Fender, I'd be ashamed of myself. If I were Bill Gates, I'd order 100 of them and give them to all my guitar-playing friends as gifts.    RH


Body Style
Body Wood
Neck Wood
Fbd. Wood
Neck Joint

One Piece Swamp Ash




Kluson Vintage Style


7.9 lb

See the 1st and 2nd F1 side by side The bodies were adjacent from the same board

Do you want to hear how it sounds? Click here

After such a long time my F1 is finally a reality. I did not have much experience with Telecasters. I never owned one and they never really interested me. I thought they were primitive and crude things, with a thin sound and they played awful. I never really played one until I went to a NAMM show in 96 or 97. There was a smaller company exhibiting, which made a limited number of guitars, not mass produced and they had their own version of the Telecaster. I picked it up on a whim and it was the coolest thing at the show. I loved that guitar and could not put it down. I could not get enough of that "twang". I never played anything with that tone before. Well, apparently these people had done it right. They used the right woods, the right hardware and the right pickups. I played it through some vintage clean amp with some reverb and the tone was delicious. I was going to buy one but I was just starting to build guitars and thought that one day I would just make one myself.

Well, here is the day. After much preparation and frustration, trying to develop, modify or find all the right hardware and components. Waiting for machine shops to make me some jigs and templates, I pulled it off I think. The project was difficult because I had some very important criteria that I wanted to meet. You can't doubt that this guitar and its tone is very historically significant. Its tone is immediately recognizable and I wanted to make my F1 historically correct. To pay tribute to this historical significance it had to be made the right way with respect to its original design. This is the guitar that Country Music and much of Rock was played on. When I think of the Telecaster I think of Country Music. Its roots music, the folk music of America and there is no country music without the Telecaster and its distinct tone. You can't help but become a country picker if you pick up a Telecaster. It just leads you in that direction.

I know that one can buy any number of modern guitars in the shape of a Telecaster but that is just a sacrilege. They make them from a variety of improper woods, with the wrong brass bridge plates, improper saddles, the wrong pickup specifications, different scale lengths, different necks and fingerboards, the wrong tuners, thick plastic finishes, etc. Well, that is not historically correct and you will not get THE sound. It must be correct to get that Tele sound. The proper and true voice of the Telecaster.

So, my goal was to preserve the original, historically famous Telecaster. At the same time I had a lot of things to fix about it to make it playable. Most of today's and many vintage Telecasters are unfortunately unplayable, in my not so humble opinion anyway. They may have the right hardware, and wood, the right scale and even the right pickups but they play like crap and feel awful. Many great players just did not know any better and suffered their whole careers playing them. The original Telecaster has a narrow neck, yet one which is thick, this is a bad combination. It also has a very curved radius, thin frets, not enough space at the edges of the fingerboard, an uncomfortable neck joint, small neck pocket, sloppy fitting neck, etc.

Leo Fender was a genius and very progressive for the time. We now take the Telecaster for granted and forget what a milestone it really was in 1949. This guitar could only have been invented and designed by someone with the shortcomings of Leo Fender. Nobody could have imagined that some hack who did not know how to make a proper neck joint would put screws through the body to hold on the neck. It was an atrocity that the world had never seen before. Strings through the body? That was another crazy idea. A strange shape, which must have been very ugly at the time compared to all those fancy archtops. A crude bridge, large ugly pickguard, non angled headstock and one which was quite phallic as well. It was simply a monstrosity from the mind of a person who was no guitar builder, not even in his dreams.

Yes this guitar could only have been envisioned and built by a person who knew nothing about guitars or building them but was to naive to even have second thoughts about doing it. While others were bound by tradition and the art of luthery, Leo was a hack who could not even play the guitar and viewed the whole think as purely a business venture. He wanted to bring to market a tool for musicians to use. A simple utilitarian object, devoid of any beauty or style. This is precisely why he could move forward, copy the ideas of others before him, together with his own innovations and ideas. Precisely because he was not a guitar builder or even a player he was bold and fearless enough to bring this guitar to market. As far as he was concerned, he did not know the rules, so there was no rule he was worried about breaking.

The Telecaster is a masterpiece in many ways. Its commensurate in impact and design philosophy to the Ford Model T. Leo did not bother with hand-craftsmanship either. He wanted to mass produce these things from the cheapest materials and have them made by cheap labor in southern California. The genius behind the Model T and the Telecaster is their total simplicity and functionality. The key to the success of the Telecaster in manufacturing is that it was designed to be simple, made from cheap and readily available materials and by unskilled labor on an assembly line.

I rode in a Ford Model T last year and it is obvious that if it wasn't for cold weather one does not need anything more than a Model T for most driving around town. The Model T could still be relevant today if it wasn't for the politics. The model T is gone but the Telecaster remains.

Leo Fender was a visionary precisely because he was not a schooled craftsman or a guitar player but this was also his handicap. He failed in making the guitar as good as it could be, simply because he was not a player. This was his blindspot. The Telecaster and the Stratocaster are full of design quirks, which make them frustrating in many ways. Despite these shortcomings many great players did the best they could with them and some did well regardless but improvement is necessary.

If the Telecaster did not have such historical significance, according to today's standards it would be considered a low quality, crude, almost juvenile instrument. Some kind of a shop class project, (which it originally was). The hardware is crude and rough, the pickups are as simple as they come, the way everything is mouthed is crude. The fit and finish is unacceptable by today's standards. The tuners are low quality, the toggle switch is a monstrosity and the knobs are not even spaced right. Its an awkward and uncomfortable guitar really.

I found this project a challenge because in many ways I felt that I took over where Leo Fender left off. Yet, the challenge was to maintain the original Telecaster with all of its important characteristics. This was crucial. I would not change the important elements, I would simply make it more playable and more useable as an instrument.

I made the neck wider obviously, added my signature headstock, I kept the original tuners and bridge, that was a must. I had to keep the original stamped steel bridge. Most people fail to realize that this is an important part of where the tone of that Tele pickup comes from. Since the whole bridge is magnetic and it interacts with the pickup. I stayed with vintage specifications for the pickups, I kept the original switch and pots. I even kept the same thickness and dimensions of the body and very importantly, I used the same Swamp Ash for the body and Maple for the neck and fingerboard. I gave it large frets, a wider neck with generous spacing at the edges. I had the bridge modified with removed sidewalls, to allow for unobstructed picking. I moved the neck into the body by one fret length to give it a more stable and a more tone-transferring neck pocket. I added my 5 screw neck mouthing system for unmatched strength. Now the Tele neck is rock solid. I also added contouring to the body to make it more ergonomic. I also use real ebony wood position dots and as with all my guitars it has an oil finish only.

The result is a hot-roded Telecaster. You get everything a Telecaster is known for but you just get more of it.

To my surprise the pickups are extremely balanced. Even with the non-staggered poles, every note is balanced in volume. Also, the sound is bright, like a Tele should be but it is not harsh in any way. Leo Fender once said that all he cared about was the highs and the lows, the midrange is useless. Well this thing has truly great highs and great lows, all at the same time. Usually you find guitars which have one or the other, with an undefined muddy tone or a shrill thin tinny bright sound. The tone of this F1 is bell-clear and really defined. You can hear every nuance of movement from the fingers. It only has 3 sounds but they are very distinct and each very useful. That twang is addictive.

The way I gauge a guitar is that if I can't put it down and if I feel like I want to play it all the time or if I look forward to playing it during the course of a day, then its one hell of a guitar. This is how I feel about this guitar.

Thanks Leo for not being afraid to just do it.


Nice twanger man!
Seriously, it's got TWANG written all over it. Finally a Tele that works. All the woods are right. I can almost see/feel/smell that swamp ash resonate. No-nonse look. A comfortable neck. Did you go with a slightly lower fingerboard radius on this one, or am I imagining things? I see you kept a Z2-like wing on there. Doesn't look too radical (no BC-Rich vibe there ;-) ) and should really balance well. 24 frets! Fender purists will freak out! ;-) Definitely something you'd keep within reach all the time, just to be able to pick it up and play whenever you want to. Congrats on the new model. It's a winner.   David (Belgium)

You are absolutely right, good eyes. Most of my guitars are 20" radius and to go with that Tele vibe I made the fingerboard as curved as I could with the tooling I got. This is quite curved for me. Its exactly 12" radius. Can you belive that some magazine reviewers actually call a 12" radius "flat". To me its very curved. Can you imagine what a vintage Tele 7.5" radius is like?

So - this is how Leo Fender's revolutionary Broadcaster would have evolved, if it hadn't been bastardised and cheapened into the horrid, screachy monstrosity it's become over the past 50 years. I would dearly love to spend a few hours with this guitar!

I genuinely believe that no-one has advanced the design and construction of the electric guitar as much as you have - capturing the purity of the originals while taking them to the next quantum level (the uniplane headstock, the deep neck-pocket), introducing a level of precision where it matters most and discarding the spurious and unnecessary.

I also really like the Z2-like scallop at the rear of the body. It makes the guitar more stable when playing sitting in the classical guitar position. Yet I'm surprised that you have retained two features of the original - the tone control and the twin-string bridge saddles. I would have thought that individually-adjustable saddles would be essential for accurate intonation, especially on the higher frets (?) I'm ambivalent about the tone control. Although not having one has taught me to alter tone by playing technique and not by twiddling knobs, I still think it has its uses, as demonstrated by the late great Danny Gatton (and by Eric Clapton in his Cream days).   Ludwik (UK)

The double string saddles pivot and intonate perfectly. Take a look at the adjustment screw on top of each saddle. This is to rotate them to where the intonate the best. I had to retain the double saddles and they had to be made of brass, this is to preserve the true Telecaster tone. Sure the bridge is crude and primitive but this is the caveman of guitars and the combination of these primitive features give it its unique tone. The bridge was not intonated yet when the pics were taken but when properly set they are much more angled. Individual saddles would not give the same effect or the same vibe.

I had to include the tone control because I had a hole in the control plate I had to make use of. Tone control does have some uses, especially on a guitar like this one. With the tone control turned down the neck pickup can be made to sound like an archtop. It gives a lot more versatility to a single coil guitar like this one. With humbuckers the tone control is more useless because if one switches pickups they will get a dark enough sound. Although a Telecaster is not known for a dark sound. Its twang all the way, which comes form phase cancellation from two pickups on together and the use of a bright sounding guitar with a strong attack.

Oh man, oh man... The F1 is a thing of beauty. I'm still in shock so I'll write more later. It's a Tele, but it's SO a Zachary. If I had $1,500 I'd order one now. Whoever gets her is going to be very, very lucky. Your innovations have not polluted the Tele thing at all. The cutaway bridge is pure genius, as is the body. Congratulations, Dude!!! YOU FINISHED IT. AND IT'S FRIGGIN' COOOOOOL!!! Robert S. Frankel

At least on the Tele front you're trying to advance the state of the instrument while retaining its' critical elements. By the way - awesome job keeping the 3 saddle brass bridge but making it adjustable. Gatton would have loved your solution, as he had clearly tried his own out by heating and bending the saddles. In fact, if he were still alive I would borrow an F1 from you and put it into his hands personally at one of his club gigs here in DC. I'll bet he would have wanted to meet you and play your guitars. Rob Frankel

They F1 model.   Just wanted to say that guitar looks awesome!   In Christ,      Pai Chung


Hi Alex, I just checked out the F1. It's spectacular. You kicked ass on it. The 12" radius was the way to go. Thanks for returning the Tele--it arrived safe and sound. I hope you'll let me purchase the first Zachary F1. I could really put it to good use. I'm going to Nashville in Feb. One of my tunes was just named as a finalist in the International Songwriting Competition Country Category. I used the Z3T all over it. Wish I had had the F1!   Best regards, RH (FL)

Alex, Okay, now I fully appreciate your reluctance to part with the first F-1. I thought you were crazy. You weren't.

I was going to list all the reasons why this is the most exciting electric guitar on the planet to play but since you created it, you already know why. What I do want to say is that after playing the F-1 for just a few minutes, my first feeling was profound sadness for all the great Tele players (e.g., Albert Collins, James Burton, Keith Richards, Jimmy Page, Eric Clapton, Jeff Beck, Danny Gatton, Dann Huff, Keith Urban) who will probably never enjoy the experience of playing this guitar.

Having played a Tele for more years than I care to remember, I know the instrument's strengths and weaknesses intimately. I've owned and played many custom built Teles, including Fender Master Built Teles, Don Grosh Teles, Suhr Teles, Sadowsky Teles, as well as vintage Teles and the original '52 Tele reissue (the unplayable handmade 1982 prototype--the one that served as the starting point for designing the F-1 body). You can lump all of those fine Teles into one category because give or take a few attributes, they are all essentially the same guitar--the Leo Fender Telecaster.

Now comes the Zachary F-1, which is in a league by itself. It sounds like a Fender Tele yet it is more musical. It looks like a Telecaster-type guitar yet its design and ergonomic qualities far surpass those of any other Tele I've played. How does it play? Imagine driving a Volkswagen Beetle 120 mph on the open highway. Now imagine doing the same thing in a Ferrari, Porsche Turbo, or Lamborghini. That's as close as I can come to describing the difference in playability between the F-1 and all other Teles . The neck and headstock design, neck dimensions and profile, nut, large frets, workmanship, and set-up all contribute to the phenomenal playability of this guitar. Of course, you already know this. The swamp ash you chose for the body is by far the best swamp ash I've ever seen.

In my opinion, you deserve widespread recognition for creating the F-1. I hope my playing it on various recordings (and raving to other session players, artists, and the press about it) will help you achieve this and more.

I used the F-1 on a recording session. As soon as I get a mix, I'll send you an mp3. On it, I played all of the Zachary guitars exclusively you have made for me: the Z1-B4, the Z-3T, and the F-1.           R.H.   (FL)

I am dead serious: the first F1 is far and away the finest Tele ever made. You did the impossible: you actually reinvented the wheel and made it far better than the original. If I were Leo Fender, I'd be ashamed of myself. If I were Bill Gates, I'd order 100 of them and give them to all my guitar-playing friends as gifts. RH