Saraceno Project

A strange Saraceno body came in yesterday.

Samick Saraceno body

It’s been refinished in a greeny-blue metallic pearl — quite nicely, too — but has yellowed in places, taken a few scrapes around the edges, and is wearing through on the back to what might be the original bright red. A home nitro job, I suppose. The paint will certainly be stripped; I have a few ambitious color ideas.

It’s also going to need some filler. One owner looks to have gouged some wood out of the pickup cavities to accommodate long-leg vintage style pickups screwed all the way down, and may have lengthened the neck pocket to take an aftermarket neck. Thankfully he doesn’t seem to have widened it, which might have scared me off.

What interests me is the config:

  • Floyd Rose trem route
  • Neck & bridge humbucker routes
  • Single volume pot route

Meaning it’s of similar spec to the prototypes Blues tended to use, versus the production models, so makes a great platform for a reasonably authentic Saraceno project, even without Karl Sandoval’s mojo! I’d guess it’s a Radio Ten — I’ve never seen a TV Twenty with dual humbucker routes.

I would say watch this space, but I am hella slow with projects, so we’ll just see where it goes. Cool plans are brewing in my head place.

Saraceno video screenshots
In these screenshots from Saraceno's 1995 REH Hot Licks video you can see the configuration he used at that time: one pot, two humbuckers, Floyd Rose.

12 Replies to “Saraceno Project”

  1. It has been years since I have seen a TV Twenty. I remember playing a used one in a Guitar Center and thinking it was really sweet, but I had just spent a metric ton on a new Parker Fly, so I passed.

    I remember the neck being on the thick side, but pleasantly so. I can’t remember what kind of frets (regular or jumbo?) and how wide the neck was. Is yours 42mm or 43mm wide?

    1. Hey, Dan.

      At least the TV Twenties are sleeper guitars now – they never caught on and there are plenty about, so $250-300 is all it takes these days if you want to scratch that itch. (How did the Fly work out for you? I had a Deluxe that I so dearly wanted to like, but it felt too synthetic, I could never quite bond with it like wood, and after a couple years in its case I sold it to someone who’d play it.)

      You made me pull out the steel ruler. My first TV Twenty, the red one in that picture, is 42mm. I have since been sent the original neck for the green body and it is 43mm, I suppose to better accommodate a Floyd? I would say it’s the same jumbo wire on both. Pretty chunky stuff.

      If you’re interested, I posted a review of the red one here. I go into some detail on the feel of that fat neck. I was concerned I’d be somehow impeded, but it feels great having that much to hang on to.

      1. Well, as people do over time, my preferences are changing. I used to avoid fat necks like the plague, but now I can and will play anything.

        I still love the Parker. Nothing like stainless steel frets. The down side is how thin the neck is. Really limits Hendrix “thumb-over-neck” chords. The neck is way too thin for those.

        As for finding any of the Samick guitars, it is a challenge. They don’t show up on ebay like they used to. I always put off getting one because they were everywhere at one time. Now, they seem to have disappeared from ebay. I will keep looking, but the issue is about finding one is good shape with low fret wear. Last thing I want to do is drop $250 and then have to get new frets. I would like to get some playing time in before I refret to some 6100 stainless.

        I am also kicking around the idea of having a body and neck made for me. The neck part is easy as the headstock doesn’t have to be exact. The body is a different issue. I would need a template for that or a builder willing to do it without charging crazy $$$.

        Thanks for taking the time to measure. I appreciate you making the effort for me.

        I did read your review. That is how I got to your site. I was doing some research on a TV 20 and your site popped up. Very good job on the site. Easy to navigate.

        You did say something about one of your friends getting a TV 20 custom made. Where did he get that?

  2. Are there many Samick Saracenos by you? None by me. A plaid one went on ebay for $1200 the other day. No upgraded Floyd or tuners. Just the PATB3 and PATB1n. I didn’t think it was worth close to that. There is only a stop tail one on ebay and one other site. I am not a stop tail guy, so I am going to pass on those. How about by you?

    1. Saw that, Dan. Crazy. The plaids do fetch a pretty penny for their rarity, but not that much. It’s only a finish, after all! Must have been a perfect storm of interested bidders.

      I never remember to search locally, but I plug “saraceno” into eBay a couple times a week just to see what pops up, and often see Samicks. There’s a Radio Ten on there now, as it happens. Vintage trem okay, or are you holding out for a Floyd?

      1. I am actually looking for a vintage trem model as my first preference. I have my eye on this one, but I am a little wary of what the reserve price might be. I have an idea of what my max will be for price, and I am going to wait until the last day to start my bidding. However, I have a feeling that this guy may want more than what it is worth… especially after seeing what that plaid one went for.

        I am hoping that this could be the one I get. I have a preference for the solid colors. I asked him about the frets and he said they were in very good shape. He is only selling because he has to, not because he wants to. We will see what is what in a week. Until then, I am still scouring the net. There is one other place that has one for sale, but it is a stop tail. Not a fan of those at all. Vintage trem, Floyd, then hard tail. I will take those, but not the stop tail.

  3. just found bought a limeade tv twenty from Texas. H-S-S with vintage trem. Should be here the middle of next week. Had to shell out $390, but it comes with a case and that price includes shipping, so it wasn’t too bad of a deal. I am assuming the one on ebay now will go for $300 min. Throw in the $50 for shipping and lack of case and it made more sense to jump on the other one.

    I will have to keep a look out for a H-H vintage trem model in the future. I also think I will use these guitars as templates for some custom ones in the future. The only change I will make in a custom version is increase the body size by 10%… maybe.

    1. That’s great, Dan. Welcome to the fold! I hope the TV Twenty delivers what you’re looking for. (Looks like that white HH didn’t sell as the reserve wasn’t broken.)

      I forgot to mention a while ago that I did find a picture of my friend’s custom built TV Twenty-a-like, but couldn’t make out the name on the headstock to give you. He has largely vanished from the forum we talk in, but if he returns I’ll ask who built it for him. It’s a nice looking thing with a stained black top and binding.

  4. So far, so good. This guitar has lots of vibe, for lack of a better word. The action on this guitar is a little high. I will work on this over time. I am going to let this guitar get used to being in this climate first. Came from dry Texas to humid North Carolina.

    No problems adjusting to thicker neck. As a matter of fact, I think I will go in this direction from now on. This is a thick sounding guitar acoustically. Very loud and fat. I have no love or hate for the bridge pickup. The rails are a little fat sounding for singles. If I replace them in the future, I think I might throw an Andy Timmons set up in there: DiMarzio AT-1 and 2 Cruisers. The bridge is fine for now. If I ever replace it, I think it would get a Super Vee BladeRunner. Lastly, maybe some locking tuners at some point.

    The first thing it may need is a stainless steel refret a couple of years from now. You are right about getting some black on the fingers after playing for a bit. These are big frets, so they are going to have some life to them. Even though this is not supposed to be something that you sink money into, these guitars are worth it since they are players. The foundation is very good. Just needs to be adjusted or furnished to taste.

    Now I need to see if there are any builders out there willing to do a custom version at some point in the future.

  5. I have a tv-twenty, the head stock decal says so, with the floyd and the two Duncan Designed Humbuckers. Black body with thick profile maple 7″ radius neck. It was stock and neglected in pawn shop. I wanted it to learn how to set up a Floyd. De-rusted the well sweated floyd and resoldered the switch. One volume knob. Wasn’t expecting much, and had never experienced a floyd before. The daunting neck carried you along with it. It dictated what you could play. Clean twang thanks to the maple and bite when cranked. As much as I tried, I could not dislike this guitar. It just wanted to play. Never experienced a guitar that made hours disappear before. Was going to fill in the floyd rout and make a hardtail, but saw that there were so many TV-20 tragics out there , I couldn’t do it. Still got it. Still original. Still excellent. Korea still produces a huge amount of “American” brand name second string models, Squire, Epiphone, G&L etc. They got it right on this model, but no Made in USA pedigree, which would have made it a classic.

  6. !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! i painted that!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! i use to have 6 of them, lost them all in a divorce….i really miss my blues babies!

    1. Hi, Jayme!

      So you had six all the same? Did you do this weird neck pocket carving? *shakes fist*

      I’m sorry to inform you that I’ve sanded the paint off. :/ But the body will have a new lease of life, new paint, soon. Ish.

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