While our focus is on our free guitar email newsletter, we sometimes take deeper dives into things like guitar gear. This post digs into the best Telecaster-style guitar makers that aren't named Fender.
Used by guitarists across virtually every genre of music, the Fender Telecaster is one of the most iconic and versatile electric guitars ever created.
While Fender continues to put out outstanding teles to this day, there are a lot of boutique guitar builders that put their own twist on the classic t-style guitar.
In an effort to narrow down the list of custom telecaster makers down to the top tier of builders, we combined our own experience with lots of feedback from guitar owners on Facebook groups, Reddit, forums such as The Gear Page and the TDPRI Telecaster Forum, YouTube, and elsewhere.
When it comes to the best boutique telecasters, you tend to find 2 different approaches:
- Vintage: Builders honor the history of the Telecaster by building guitars with looks and specs that strive to replicate the original Telecasters from the 1950's & 1960's. In addition to things like vintage-style pickups, bridges, and tuners, many manufacturers offer different levels of relicing/aging to try to make the guitars look and feel like they've been around since that era.
- Modern: Some t-style guitar makers take arguably the best aspects of the original Telecasters, and add more modern features, such as a contoured neck heel, locking tuners, compound-radius fretboards, belly cuts, and noiseless single coil pickups.
It's completely a matter of personal preference - whether you prioritize comfort vs the history of the instrument (or look for a combination of those things). It's great to have a lot of options, so everyone can find the guitar that best suits their own needs.
Let's dive into our list of the best non-Fender Telecaster style guitars (not listed in any specific order).
G&L Musical Instruments
Being that Leo Fender (The L in G&L) co-founded the company (after selling Fender, and owning CLF Research), it seems like a good place to start.
The G&L ASAT is offered in various configurations, and typically feature G&L's own unique pickups. G&L's MFD pickups are higher-output than most Fender telecaster pickups, and their Jumbo MFD pickups in the ASAT Special are one of our favorite single coil pickups, with a glassy tone that sits somewhere in the P90/Jazzmaster range tonally. The Bluesboy - with a neck humbucker, is another great guitar that offers specs tough to find in t-style guitars. If you're not a fan of G&L's MFD pickups (they're admittedly not for everyone), they do offer alnico pickups as well for that classic tele tone.
While G&L offers a budget friendly line of guitars called the Tribute Series (which typically have the same pickups as their American guitars), we generally recommend their American guitars (if your budget allows for it, and they're often available at very reasonable prices on the used market). G&L's American-made guitars are incredibly high-quality, especially for the price.
Another great feature of G&L is that you can order their guitars made to your specs for roughly the same cost as their retail model guitars.
- 22 frets
- Offered in various neck profiles and fretboard radiuses
- Belly carve offered on most models
- Their MFD pickups have a unique sound tough to find from other pickups
- There aren't many other companies that offer a semi-hollow t-style guitar with a neck humbucker and bridge single coil pickup.
- Great value for the price
While other guitars are often made to look like vintage guitars, Kelton Swade guitars really feel and play like them as well.
Based in Nashville, Kelton Swade crafts hand-made authentic replicas of vintage guitars that have made it into the hands of greats such as Robben Ford and Keith Urban.
- Vintage-style, but some some more modern features, such as a 9./5" fretboard radius and narrow-tall frets
- Nitrocellulose finish
- Authentic-looking distressing (ranging from light to heavy distressing depending on your desire)
K-Line is the product of St. Louis, Missouri-based Chris Kroenlein, and his Truxton t-style guitar is a killer take on the classic tele design.
K-Line uses hand selected woods, top-quality hardware, and K-Line custom hand-wound pickups. Whether you are looking for a distressed/road-worn look, or a non-aged guitar that will age well from your own use, Chris takes the time to work with you to make sure you get your dream guitar. The reviews of K-Line guitars are generally as good as it gets, and Chris has earned a reputation is one of the best boutique telecaster-style guitar manufactures out there.
- Hand made
- Beautifully done nitrocellulose finishes
- Aesthetically accurate in color, finish and components
- Single coil, P90, & humbucker pickup options
- Great service
John Suhr took his experience as the Senior Master Builder for Fender, and launched his own guitar company back in 1997. Suhr quickly built a legion of die-hard fans, and has built a reputation as being one of the best guitar manufactures in the world.
Suhr's offers a modern and innovative take on the Telecaster, and arguably sets the standard for perfection when it comes to guitar build quality.
The Suhr Classic T is typically offered either with the classic 2 single coil setup or with a humbucker in the neck position, while their semi-hollow Alt T features dual humbuckers, with a 5-way selector that offers split-coil tones.
The Alt T is truly one of the most versatile t-style guitars around, with a sound that sits somewhere between a Telecaster and an ES-style guitar.
With modern features such as a compound radius fretboard, a neck heel carve that allows for easy access to upper frets, locking tuners, their own noise-cancelling system, and 22 stainless steel frets, Suhr takes playability to a new level.
- Proprietary SSCII hum cancelling system to remove 60-cycle hum.
- 22 frets
- Various pickup configuration options
- Contoured neck heel
- 9" - 12" compound radius fretboard
- Locking tuners
- Stainless steel frets
Around 2013, Cleveland, Tennessee's Anthony Sims decided to build himself a T-style guitar just for fun. He wanted to build the type of guitar he always wanted to buy - with tone and playability that was beyond most of the mass-produced guitars found at guitar shops.
After spending a few months building it, Anthony played the finished guitar at a gig. Local musicians in attendance started asking him about the guitar, and just a week later, he had a request to build a custom guitar for a local musician. Word quickly spread about the outstanding quality of his guitars, and Lucky Dog Guitars (named after Anthony's dog 'Lucky') was born. Anthony went full-time with the business in 2018, and a long wait list quickly formed from people looking to get their hands on his guitars.
Lucky Dog handcrafts guitar necks and bodies to customer specifications, and builds guitars with a level of attention to detail that is tough to match.
The Lucky Dog Evangelist is a vintage-style tele with aesthetics and tone that will blow you away. Each Evangelist is a unique work of art that any guitar player would be lucky to own.
- Guitars are hand-built to your specs
- Offered in 21 or 22 frets
- Offered as a solid body or semi-hollow
- Various pickup configurations are offered
- Incredible-looking flame maple necks
Bill Nash's Nash Guitars builds guitars that capture the awesome look, playability, and feel of vintage Fender guitars, at a fraction of the price an actual vintage guitar would cost.
Nash differs from many of the other guitar companies on here in that they use parts sold through big manufacturers/sellers. While some people are quick to denounce Nash guitars as 'partscasters', those people are ultimately dismissing what are great guitars.
Technically, all Telecaster style guitars can essentially be called 'partscasters', and while yes, it's also technically possible to get all the parts yourself and build your own guitar for a bit less than you're paying for a Nash, that's sort of missing the point.
Nash uses very premium materials for their builds, and the value is really in their professional setups. Nash is known for being very selective in the parts they use (favoring lightweight bodies!), and use top-of-the-line handwound Lollar pickups (some of our absolute favorite tele pickups) and Gotoh tuning keys.
Nash uses 100% nitrocellulose finish for their guitars, and offers various levels of aging/relicing, ranging from extra light to heavily reliced, making each guitar unique.
Nash guitar owners tend to love their guitars, and it's tough to deny how great they sound. Check out Nash's T-52 & T-57 for a 50's style Telecaster, or their T-63 & T-69 Thinline for 60's style teles.
- Lollar pickups
- Various levels of aging, for a vintage look and feel
- Great value for the price
- Can be custom ordered to your specs (for the most part; they don't currently offer any necks with a 22-fret fretboard)
- Large amount of color options
- Available as either solidbody or semi-hollow, with either single coil or humbucker pickups
- Offered in either a Medium C or fat boatneck neck profile
LsL was founded in 2008 by husband-and-wife couple Lance S. Lerman and Lisa S. Lerman in the garage of their home (I guess when you both have the same initials, your company name is basically already decided for you).
LSL's T-Bone, Bad Bone, and other Telecaster-style guitars are made completely in-house in Southern California, starting with sourcing the highest quality lumber they can find, and extending to hand-carved necks, and custom hand-wound pickups. Their guitars are finished with nitrocellulose lacquer, and set up to perfection.
- Various levels of aging
- Different neck profile, fretboard radius, and fretwire options
- LSL hand-wound pickups
Tom Anderson's Anderson Guitarworks is one of the world's premier guitar manufacturers, relied on by pros ranging from Keith Richards to Kirk Hammett.
Anderson's T-Style guitars are some of the best telecasters you'll find, and they are offered in a variety of configurations. Anderson's t-style guitars typically feature modern features, including 22 frets, and even a front body contour on some models.
Anderson uses only the finest and most beautiful woods from select lumber mills, and uses Computer Aided Design technology to create some of the most precise and comfortable guitar bodies and necks in the industry.
Anderson's custom shop offers pretty much every configuration option you can imagine, making them a great option for your dream guitar.
- 22 frets
- Body contour options for comfort
- 3-way or 5-way pickup selector options
- Solid or chambered bodies
- They offer hundreds of paint and finish options
- Various neck profiles, fret sizes, and materials
- Various body materials, including hard-to-find exotic woods
- Many pickup options
Creston Electric Instruments
Based in Burlington, Vermont, Creston Lea combined his passion as a musician with his experience as a carpenter, and launched Creston Electric Instruments back in 2004. While Creston might be a bit less known than some of the other companies listed here, musicians have taken notice, as guitarists such as Jay Farrar, Scott Metzger, Charlie Parr, and many others play (and praise) Creston guitars.
Creston is known for his unique guitar designs, often making guitar bodies from old barn beams and other unorthodox materials (in addition to the usually more traditional woods).
Operating with the principles that 1.) he doesn't want to make any guitar that looks just like a guitar you can get somewhere else, and 2.) he wants to be excited about every guitar he builds, Creston will work closely with you to create a guitar that is unique to your style and desires.
- Nitrocellulose lacquer finish
- All guitar necks and bodies are custom made
- Cool and unique designs
- Great service. Creston works closely with you to build your dream guitar
Perhaps a bit better known by some guitarists for their great effects pedals, California-based Exotic is one of the world's best high-end guitar manufacturers.
Xotic's XTC series features some of the best Telecaster-style guitars around. The XTC models combine a vintage appearance and tone with premium features such as stable roasted flame maple necks and a compound radius fretboard.
Offered with a thin nitro finish and available in light, medium, heavy and super-heavy aging options, if you're looking for a guitar with a reliced look, Xotic does some of the most authentic-looking aging you'll find.
- Nitrocellulose lacquer finish
- Outstanding-sounding pickups
- Wonderfully playable necks
- Authentic-looking aged finish options
With over 40 years of experience under his belt, Ron Kirn has perfected the art of building custom guitars. Kirn is a true expert, and a great member of the guitar building community - having published 6 booklets that educate people about building guitars.
Perhaps best known for his Barnbuster (T-Style guitars made with 100 or so year old reclaimed wood and buildt to 1950 Broadcaster specs), Kirn is highly regarded amongst Telecaster fanatics.
All of Kirn's guitars are built with a great attention to playability, and he's even known for spending a week or so playing custom guitars he builds, tweaking the setup until it's perfect. Kirn's are truly designed to be your 'forever guitar'.
- Custom built to your specs
- Incredible attention to detail
- Great value for the price
- Nitrocellulose lacquer finish
- Guitars are set up great out of the shop
Looking for a unique T-style guitar that really stands out? Mount Pleasant, Tennessee-based Veritas builds incredible guitars that are straight up eye candy.
From their humbucker-equipped Portlander, to the more vintage-inspired Texas Miracle, Veritas comes up with creative and elegant designs, combined with outstanding tone and playability.
Veritas will work with you to build a custom guitar where they'll take your vision and create the guitar of your dreams. Not ready to dish out the money for a fully custom guitar? Check out Veritas' ProLine series. Built in Korea, their ProLine models feature designs, materials, and electronics that are all exclusive to Veritas Guitars, offered at a lower price point.
- Custom built to your specs
- Incredible attention to detail
- Innovative guitar designs
- Solid body and Thinline guitars
Patrick James Eggle Guitars
Based in Oswestry, England, Patrick Eggle has perfected his craft from building guitars for over 30 years.
Working with a small team of craftsmen, Patrick produced a limited number of high-end electric guitars each year, aiming to produce guitars that are not only visually striking, but that also demonstrate superior play-ability and tone.
The Patrick James Eggle 'Oz' T-Style guitar stands out due to its impeccable craftsmanship.
Featuring carefully chosen hardware, hand-wound vintage correct pickups, and unique patinated pickguards, the Oz simply looks and sounds outstanding.
- Mojo Pickups
- Sources beautiful and unique tone woods from around the world
- Beautiful flame maple neck options
Whitfill Custom Guitars
Take a background working with metals & precision machinery, follow it with experience overseeing the manufacturing of wooden wine barrels, as well as a decade of repairing musical instruments on the side. Combine it with a passion for musicians and wood, and the result is Charles Whitfill's Whitfill Custom Guitars.
Known for superior wood sourcing, proprietary pickups, and top notch electronics/hardware, Whitfill 's 'T' guitars have a mojo that is tough to find elsewhere.
Whitfield's 'T' Guitars are possibly the closest to a great vintage Telecaster you will find for both vintage tone & feel. The "T" features a super smooth and playable neck, and pickups that sound great in every position.
Guitarists ranging from Jack Pearson, to Brent Mason, Johnny Hiland and countless others consider Whitfill one of their favorite guitar manufacturers.
- Light, resonant, and harmonic woods
- Proprietary pickups
- Authentic-looking guitar aging
- Offered in various fretboard radius options
- Various neck profiles, including Modern C, Vintage U, & Baseball Bat
Crook Custom Guitars
During his days as a touring sound engineer, Bill Crook worked closely with many guitars players, often hearing about the shortcomings of the vintage style guitars they were playing. He would update their guitars, adding modern features to make them usable in the real world and to improve stage sound and playability.
After hearing the great results when I mixing live shows, Crook started building guitars on the site, including those ideas he picked up on the road.
Perhaps most well known for his paisley T-Style guitar designs - which include building custom guitars for country star Brad Paisley, Crook's one-of-a-kind t-style guitars have attracted a legion of fans around the world.
- Comfortable necks
- Custom paint job and finishes
- Uses only the highest quality guitar parts
- Available in 22 frets
Reverend Guitars has been putting out high-quality, innovative, and flat out cool guitars since the late 1990's. Reverend guitars are designed in Toledo, Ohio, manufactured in Korea by boutique guitar manufacturer Mirr Music, and then set up by their own tech team. Don't be deterred by them being made in Korea. Doing so lets you get a consistently very well made guitar at a fraction of the price than many of the other companies mentioned here.
In addition to coming up with creative guitar designs and body shapes, T-style guitars have been a mainstay in Reverend's guitar lineup, and are proudly played by pros and hobbyists around the world.
The Greg Koch Signature Gristlemaster is one of our favorite new tele-style designs on the market. Featuring a slightly bigger body size, Fishman's hum-free single coil pickups, a roasted maple neck, a light-weight chambered body, 22 frets, a raised center ridge, and even a boost button, the Gristlemaster is one of the most versatile t-style guitars around.
Reverend's Pete Anderson Eastsider T is a modernized take on the Telecaster, and is a favorite among tele fans. Featuring 22 frets, a compound radius fretboard, and a push-pull phase switch, the Eastside T is a true workhorse guitar, and is a tremendous value for the price.
- Real comfortable and playable necks
- 22 frets
- Compound radius fretboards on some models
- Modern features
- Custom pickups
- Chambered body on some models
- Treble Bleed Circuit on some models
While they might be a larger company than many of the others listed here, ESP has been putting out great guitars with the same level of attention-to-detail usually associated with small boutique guitar makers since the 1970's.
With guitars ranging from their imported budget-friendly LTD line, up to top-shelf custom shop guitars, ESP offers modern-style Teles to suit virtual every level of guitar player - from beginning bedroom players, to the Rolling Stones' Ron Wood.
Speaking of which, the ESP Ron Wood Signature model stands out as a favorite, with a neck humbucker and bridge single coil pickup.
- Offered in various price ranges
- 22 frets
- A lot of t-style guitars with humbuckers, catering more toward rock players
After developing his guitar building chops working at Gibson Guitar and Fender Custom Shop, as well as overseeing the factory authorized repair work for Yamaha Guitars, Mario Martin branched out on his own in 2005, and has been creating some of the best guitars on the planet ever since.
Made at the The Guitar Mill in Murfreesboro, Tennessee, Mario Guitars are boutique vintage recreations of the classic electric guitars, and their T-Style guitars are among the top of the class.
Known for their superior playability, lightweight construction, unmatched resonance, and prolonged sustain, Mario's T-Style guitars sound incredible.
Whether you're looking for a solid body or Thinline guitar, reliced or non-aged finish, single coil or humbucker pickups, Mario will work with you to build your ideal guitar.
- Some of the best relicing/aging you'll find anywhere
- Various configuration options including solid body & semi-hollow, different pickup options, body binding, and much more
- Outstanding design, tone, and playability
The goal of Southern California's Iconic Guitars is pretty simple: Build guitars that inspire you to be your most creative, and to be your go-to guitar that you can't put down. They accomplish that by using top-quality materials and components that are crafted and put together exceptionally well, and set up perfectly.
Iconic's Vintage T52 is based on the legendary 1952 Telecaster, featuring a one-piece swamp ash body, and a quarter-sawn maple neck featuring a compound 7.25″ – 9.5″ radius fret board, and Iconic Revolution T pickups. Available in Blonde, Dirty Blonde or Butterscotch, and offered in 2 popular neck profiles.
Their 60's-style Vintage 67T features a Medium C neck profile with an Indian Rosewood fretboard, with either a 7.25″ – 9.5″ or 9.5″ – 12″ compound radius, and Lollar pickups.
Looking for something more modern? Check out their Evolution T, featuring a fast and thin neck and Bare Knuckle single coil pickups
If these default models don't meet your needs, Iconic accepts custom orders, but we like their approach of offering a few default models, as sometimes having tons of custom configuration options can be overwhelming.
- Killer finish jobs, featuring either nitrocellulose lacquer (with different levels of aging) or thin polyurethane.
- Offered in various body and neck woods
- Offered in 21 or 22 frets depending on the model
We're continually on the lookout for the best Telecaster style guitars, and will update this post as we discover the latest and greatest new options.
Let us know below about your experiences with these guitars, as well as the ones we're missing.