Working on the Jaguar headstock

I’ve masked off the fingerboard on the Jaguar neck. After spraying a few light coats of clear nitro onto the headstock to seal the wood, I’ve let that dry and shrink back for a few days, before spraying a light coat of tinted laquer over the top. Nitro tends to darken over the years – so on vintage guitars, the maple eventually darkens and goes a deep honey colour. Since the rest of the Jaguar is going to be white, I quite like the idea of keeping the light maple pretty much as it is, but I really need to find a way to pick up on a bit of vintage look. The contrast helps define the shape, and offers a little visual balance. So I’m going to tint the face of the headstock very slightly, to help add some definition.

I’ll be using some of Steve Robinson’s light tint amber nitro. Available at www.manchesterguitartech.co.uk/. Steve runs a really useful resource, with some great tips and blog pages showing how to do stuff. His nitro sprays really well and he uses a courier company who deliver next day – even all the way down here on the edge of Kent.

A couple of light coats of Steve’s “Light Amber Tint” go over the clear coat. Having the clear coat underneath means if you happen to mess up and have to go back to the original wood – you can remove the tint more easily, since it’s effectively isolated from the wood. Once the tint is right, (and it darkens suprisingly quickly – so go easy!), a couple of coats of clear nitro to finish off, and then I leave the neck to dry, and for everything to shrink back.

Part of the look of the Fender guitar is that iconic logo on the headstock. When I was young, it was something to aspire to and it had a quality that all the Kays and Hondos in the world, just didn’t have. So, part of the build is going to be getting a logo on the headstock. I’ve got to point out though that I’m not trying to fake a Fender here. I’m not planning on selling this on and trying to dupe anyone. Part of trying to build my own guitar is, in fact, trying to build a better finished item than I could actually buy in a shop. It might be a bit of a conceit – but I plan to use top quality hardware throughout, in an attempt to build something at least as good as a real Fender. plus – I can also use this project as a bit of a “sandbox”, and move the hardware on to better guitars, should the current project not work out, quite as planned.

Steve Robinson points out, in a blog of his, how he puts an obvious spoiler on the headstock – so I’m going to do a similar thing. I’ve got hold of some waterslide paper which will run through my printer, and I’ve run off some decals based on the “Original Contour Body Pat. Pend.” roundel found on some period Fenders. Mine will read “Custom Build Inspired by Leo Fender”.

The clear nitro on the headstock face has dried nice and flat. There aren’t too many coats, and I haven’t gone too heavy – so there’s no orange peel, and no overspray or other loose bits – so after a quick wipe down with naptha, it’s time to float on the waterslide decals.

It’s a good plan to wet the area where the decals are to be applied, and I’ve also added a touch of PVA to the water. This helps the decal to bond. The waterslide decals are soaked in warm water for at least 20 seconds or so, and then floated onto the surface. They remain repositionable for a while, but gradually you press them into place, and mop up the water with a paper towel. DON’T RUB SIDEWAYS, OR YOU WILL TEAR THE DECALS. I know this from making plastic AirFix models as a kid. Gradually, all the water is mopped up and the decals stick firmly in place. Make sure any air bubbles behind the decals are pressed out and to the sides. Once everything looks good – leave to dry properly.

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Repeat the process for all the decals. Once they’re properly dry, I’ll be burying them under layers of clear coat lacquer. But before that, as they dry, you might notice a small haze from where a little diluted PVA has dried on the surface around the decals. Wipe this away with a damp cloth.

Job done. What’s next?

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