Not much spare time today. Just enough however, to make a couple of additions to the general guitar specification. Both from Staytrem, in Folkstone, Kent.
Since I’m building, pretty much, from a wide menu – which includes all available possibilities – I’m able to incorporate a few non-standard components from the off. Rather than retro-fitting bits and pieces at a later date, I can build in a few common Jaguar modifications to the specification, as I go.
Looking around the various information sources on the internet, (and there’s a really useful site for all things offset at: http://offsetguitars.com/forums/index.php), there are many items regarding the general reliability and functionality of the Jaguar bridge and tremolo. The Jaguar was supposed, at the time, to be the Rolls Royce of the Fender line. Given that, you would have expected the bridge and trem to be tried, tested and, pretty much bullet-proof. However, the bridge especially proved to be a little problematic for some players, and soon a standard modification developed which removed the stock bridge and replaced it with a bridge from the Fender Mustang. The Mustang was a later Fender design, but one which seemed to recognise, and address, some of the drawbacks encountered with the original floating bridge system on the Jaguar. A bridge modification is at the heart of the Jag-Stang hybrid guitar, as used by Kurt Cobain, and one is also used on the Fender, Johnny Marr specification, signature Jaguar.
With the original Jaguar/Jazzmaster bridge, players found that the strings could sometimes leap from the saddles – due partly to the design of saddle used, but also down to the low string break angle achieved by the combination of bridge and tremolo. Some people just didn’t like the “rattly feel” of the bridge either.
The Staytrem interpretation of the Mustang bridge is a solid upgrade, with saddles machined out of stainless steel. Six, solid saddle units are held firmly on adjustable posts, without the need of fiddly springs. The saddles are machined with deep, single string slots to stop strings jumping out, and the E to E string spacing is reduced to 52mm (down from 55mm/56mm standard). This helps keep the strings from straying too close to the edge of the fingerboard at either side. The bridge is already radiused – so there’s no need to set, or further fine tune the saddles once the correct string height has been established. For that reason, bridge variants are available from Staytrem to suit both 7.5″ and 9.5″ radius fingerboards. It’s important to get the correct bridge, with a radius pre-set to match your fingerboard. The bridge simply slots into the standard thimbles that have already been fitted to the body. Bridge height adjustment is via two, small hex-drive screws – one at each post. With the addition of special nylon post inserts, the bridge fits snugly, and doesn’t rattle about too much. This adds to the overall stability of the bridge – although it is still allowed to rock backwards and forwards slightly. This is normal, and is part of the correct operation of the tremolo action.
The other common modification supplied by John at Staytrem is a replacement tremolo arm and collet. The original arm has a tendency to flop, and hang loosely when not in use. It’s often said that the standard tremolo arm “doesn’t exactly inspire confidence”, what with it’s floppiness and general rattling about. Staytrem have designed a replacement collet to hold the arm much more snugly – with a special nylon bushing to eliminate unwanted movement and to make the use of the arm, with a much more positive feel. As with most guitar parts – fitting is a critical matter of getting hold of the correct part to begin with. Both US and UK, Imperial and metric, components are commonly found on Fender guitars, and John at Staytrem is keen to point out that you need to be sure which one needs to be supplied, since mixed unit standards will not allow for straightforward replacement.
I’m pretty sure I have a genuine Fender American Vintage Reissue, (AVRI), tremolo plate – a quick email with a photograph of the original collet, (pictured above), gets an equally quick reply confirming the collet to be US, 3/8″. The replacement part duly arrives, next day delivery.
Fitting the collet involves the simple removal of the existing collet, by unscrewing the nut on the back of the string plate. (Somewhat confusingly, the nut on the original US spec, seems to take a UK metric 12mm socket to remove it). The replacement collet goes back in with a 1/2″ socket. It’s a straight swap. The special arm made to fit the collet is strong stainless steel. This takes quite a bit of pushing into the nylon bushing, (the replacement arm atthes by pushing it on, rather than screwing it in), so I’ll leave it off for the time being. The replacement arm comes with a small dot marking on the arm – showing the point, to which, the arm should be fully inserted. I’ll wrestle it later once I get round to stringing and setting up the guitar.
So that’s the Jaguar hardware pretty much sorted. From here on in, I have to concentrate on the pickups and general electrical workings. This promises to be quite a learning curve.