Every once in a while you find an incredible match between guitar and amp, and it’s a combination to savor for a lifetime. Vintage Fender Telecasters and Tweed Amps are no stranger, but due to the cost of these vintage instruments…many aren’t able to experience such magic. Until now.
In recent years, Fender has released “Thin Skin” Telecasters with a thin nitrocellulose lacquer finish. These guitars leave behind the thick lacquer finish that rob the body of vibrations and feel, and instead provide more of a woody tone that only they can provide. In addition, these Teles are modeled after some classic vintage designs, offering a realistic vintage replica at an affordable price.
In the summer of 2011, we picked up a ’62 Thin Skin Telecaster, in Lake Placid blue finish, and it has exceeded expectations…but not without a bit of work. The guitar was bought from Wildwood Guitars with quite a bit of neck relief, and high action. After straightening the neck via a few truss rod adjustments, reverse shimming the neck pocket, and adjusting the saddle/string height to 4/64″, and swapping in some Harmonic Design Vintage Plus pickups, this baby plays like pure butter. Low action, snappy Telecaster tones, and a vintage feel. It doesn’t get any better than that.
Why change the stock pickups? Well, they were great, but we’re partial to the superior tone of the Harmonic Design pickups, so we had to give their Vintage Plus pickups a try. They delivered in spades.
Rounding out the rest of the specifications, the guitar weighs 7.68 pounds, an alder body, 1-piece maple C shaped neck, 9.5″ fingerboard radius, 25.5″ scale length, vintage style Tele bridge with 3 steel saddles, and chrome hardware.
Victoria 5112 (Fender Tweed Champ Design)
We were looking for a low-watt amp that could deliver crunchy, sweet tone with the ’62 Thin Skin Telecaster. After playing this amp a few times at local shops, and loving the warm yet cutting low gain overdrive tones, we had to give it a try. So, we picked up a Victoria 5112 and quickly got to work with checking out the amp in more detail.
The amp came stock with a JJ 6v6 power tube, Tung Sol 12ax7, 5Y3 rectifier tube, and Eminence Legend speaker. We swapped out the JJ 6v6 for a Tung Sol 6v6 and replaced the 12ax7 with a Electro Harmonix 12ay7, and the tone was further improved. We just like the Tung Sol 6v6 better, and the 12ay7 offers the amp more headroom. The 12ax7 has a lot of gain, and the amp broke up too early for our needs.
We did try plugging the amp’s output into a Fargen Blackbird 1×12 combo cabinet loaded with a Weber Chicago, but the tone was quieter. The Eminence Legend is a highly efficient, 150 watt speaker, that allows the amp to sound more powerful than a typical Fender Champ. Good choice by Victoria.
Luscious Combo: Thin Skin Tele + Victoria 5112
When we plugged the ’62 Thin Skin Telecaster into the Victoria 5112 amp, we wanted the full goods. So, we dimed the amp’s single knob (which controls volume) with the Telecaster going into the High input. Holy damn! The twangy crunch was to die for. Plugging the Tele into the Low input provided more headroom, and a bit less volume, but allowed for chords to ring more clear (yet still crunchy).
The beautiful thing about the 5112 is that it’s so touch-sensitive. With the amp dimed, softer picking allows for clean tones to come through. Digging into the notes provides more tube overdrive crunch, making this a perfect setup for plugging straight into the amp and using picking dynamics to control overdrive.
This setup would be perfect for someone looking for pure, crunchy, vintage tweed tones (at a low volume), paired with a classic vintage Fender Telecaster style guitar. Stage volumes will be lower, so the amp will need to be mic’d. However, the tone will be what everyone is aiming for, but falling short, with louder amps. These two are a true match.