New Project. Custom built Fender Jaguar USA

I want to push on, and learn a bit more about Fender offsets, and in particular – I want to revisit my original, Olympic White “62” Jaguar project, which was one of my first builds. I’ve spent a couple of years now on a few Stratocaster builds, and it feels like I’ve learned an immense amount – but I can’t ignore my original fascination with offsets much longer.

Classic, Fender Candy Apple Red

Having recently retrieved my Olympic White “62” from it’s case – I’m still relatively pleased with the instrument, overall. However, it’s increasingly obvious that my general building skills have improved over time. There are things which I previously tolerated, (actually, I thought they were great at the time), but which I now want to change. Wheras I originally tried to address and pursue a wide range of specifications on one particular project – I now realise the advantages of working within more precise perameters, and spreading goals out, over a number of projects. And I also now realise that to get the best results – quality and accuracy is key.

My Olympic White Jaguar originally set out to be a sort of “62” tribute – but with a good dollop of more modern modification thrown in – including a “Staytrem” bridge and other, Johnny Marr inspired, stylings and mods. Due to apparent difficulties involved in obtaining genuine Fender Jaguar parts in the UK, my first Jaguar – like so many other of my first builds – came together around a number of reproduction parts. Notably in this case – the body and neck. Both, obviously, critical components, but I had to make do with copies of original parts.

It would be my usual aim to gradually replace all the reproduction parts with genuine Fender aftermarket parts, and to gradually upgrade the specification over time. However – It being one of my very first builds – I’m still actually very fond of my Olympic White Jag, as it is. I’ve still got a lot to learn about offsets in general – so I think I’ll try to refine the overall “62”, period stylings of my original project build – leaving much of it as it is. Meanwhile – I’ll look to my JagStang project. And elsewhere…

Fender USA “Original 60s” Reissue. Body and Hardware. Select Alder, 4lbs 10oz.

However, I can’t keep ignoring the obvious. My eyesight really is deteriorating for detail work. I can still muddle through with some things, and rely on process and technique – but I recognise the need to build successful projects on solid foundations. I’d like my ideal Jaguar to be quality through and through. I figure that I need to make this project more about sourcing quality components from the start, and less about trying to merely reproduce someone else’s methodology and process. The problems of sourcing quality Fender Jaguar parts in the UK still remains – so this project will be more of a lengthy sourcing and shopping process. A leisurely build, made up to my custom specifications. Since I can let my ambition fly a bit, I might as well try and focus on real quality – bide my time, and see where that takes me.

It occurs to me that both the Jaguar and I will hit our 60th birthday in a couple of years time. I’d like to try and put together my “perfect Jaguar” – drawing on some of the original, vintage Fender styling, but also bringing some more modern innovations to play. (Probably looking at those Johnny Marr modifications again here).

So to kick off my own custom Jaguar project – I’m starting with a Genuine Fender USA “Original 60’s” Jaguar body – in one of Fender’s most iconic, vintage colours. Candy Apple Red.

Original Fender bodies come with Case Candy!

It’s a 4lb 10oz, vintage reissue body, made from select alder, and finished beautifully with nitrocellulose lacquer. Mint condition – manufactured in the Corona facility in California – this body is a “top of the line” Fender classic – and arrives with full documentation and the usual “welcome pack” accessories. The finish and quality of construction quite takes me aback at first. I’ve used genuine Fender bodies before – but usually they have been finished in Urethane or Polyester. I’ve sprayed and polished my own bodies with nitrocellulose lacquer before, and marvelled at the shine I achieved – but the finish on this USA body is simply glorious, and the Candy Apple red glows in a way which just doesn’t seem to carry through on any photograph.

Genuine Fender US body – genuine Fender US components

I acquired the body through the STRATosphere in New Hampshire, USA. I’ve used them before to source a few other genuine Fender components. Much of the UK share of aftermarket and replacement Fender parts seems to be quite limited. It’s mostly dependent on current Fender manufacture and distribution lines – or centred around a few online resellers, (plus, of course, the inevitable eBay market). More often than not – there are more options in Germany or france, than there are here, in the UK. The STRATosphere often has some good deals on, and what appears to be, quite a few lines of “new, old” or “open box” stock. Their prices are usually quite competitive – although shipping to the UK does involve the usual, additional VAT and import taxes. (And you can never escape the periodic fluctuations of the Pound/Dollar exchange rate).

Sometimes buying abroad can be a bit stressful. This time there was a minor hold up at customs, while the UK agencies checked if the body wood was, actually, on or off the current CITES banned list. Another advantage I’ve found with sourcing from the STATosphere, is that they send expedited, via well-known carriers. Even the hold-ups due to customs clearance can go quite smoothly. In this case – purchase to delivery, took only five working days.

The body was purchased with some of the hardware already sourced and fitted. As I discovered on the Olympic White Jaguar – getting some of those bits to fit together properly relies on fine tolerances all round. A genuine Fender tremolo unit and vintage style bridge accompany a mute unit, strap buttons and a serial stamped neck plate. The body has, quite possibly, been surplus at the Fender factory – and the brass plates lining the control cavites, although wired together, do show signs that the original pickups have been removed at some point. There’s no neck supplied – no chrome control plates – no pickguard. But it’s a really good base to begin with.

The mute will suit my “62” better

After unboxing the body – the first thing I do is remove the mute. I discover that it’s precisely what about 95% of Jaguar players have always done. The mute seems so anchored in it’s time, and so much a part of that sixties sound – however it really doesn’t have much of a purpose for most players, these days. That said – it’s part of the look of a real sixties icon – so I’ll experiment with putting it on my white, “62” Jaguar – while I restyle that particular project closer to it’s original inspiration.

The mute fits below the floating bridge, and is held in place with two, adjustable screws. There’s a greased plug, which fits into the centre hole, between the two thimble fittings – and this plug appears to push against a small, metal disc which sits in the bottom of that hole. I can’t find an easy way to extract the small metal disc – so I may have to look for a replacement or alternative, for when I fit it onto the other Jag.

At this point I also remove the bridge, and store it away in the components box. I’ll probably end up using a Mustang, or even another Staytrem bridge on this build. Once again – the vintage style bridge will probably be repurposed as part of the ’62 period restyling of my Olympic White Jaguar.

Whilst ordering the body – I took the opportunity to combine the shipping, and also obtain some Jaguar scratchplates at a good price. Because all the bodywork holes are already pre-drilled at the factory – it’s ideally best to make sure that the scratchplate and control plates all fit together properly. Probably the easiest way to achieve this is to source genuine components wherever possible, since they’ll hopefully be built to the correct dimensions and tolerances. I’ve already found there to be subtle, dimensional differences between reproduction, MIJ and US aftermarket components. No sense creating work for myself if I can help it, this time round.

Now, I’m one of those people who will change my mind on things like scratchplate colour, many times over the course of a build – so I took the opportunity to buy in a few alternatives, while I was at it. The white alternative is actually an “aged”, pearloid white option. The figuring shows some darker, off-white and cream areas. It’s part of a classic sixties “red and white” Fender colour scheme – and might work best if I happen to take the sixties styling a step further, and match the body with a white-bound neck. Pearloid block inlays, and all.

But then I might well change my mind. I’ve always thought that Ira Kaplan’s Jazzmaster looked pretty cool. All red. But then I’d need a colour matched headstock to do justice to that particular look…

So, for now, there’s plenty to decide upon – so it’s back to research and shopping. The new body gets re-wrapped and safely stored away again. If I stick with my desire to source the right, quality components – then this will develop slowly, and take a while to come together. And that’s all after I finally decide which stylistic direction to go in. But if I can get the magnification on my computer screen up another notch or two – it’ll be something deeply pleasureable to focus on, over the months ahead.

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