Custom built Fender Jaguar USA. Fitting the neck

Things always move more slowly this time of year. The workshop is cold. Way too cold for lacquer work. Brexit seems to have complicated my occasional purchase of components from the continent, and yet another lockdown for Covid will, no doubt, further slow up the flow of other processes. I’m still struggling with my remaining cataract too. No progress, nor hope of any, on the immediate horizon. Any detailed, close-up work has to be well and truly thought out in advance. To be honest – I’m beginning to put some things off for fear of messing them up. That’s not a good state of affairs, and I need to be making constant progress – even if it’s limited. I have at least four projects on the go, and unless I keep things moving, tasks will begin to get in the way of each other.

Fresh components!

Anyway – at least I can make some progress with my Candy Apple Red, Custom USA Jaguar. I’ve been able to source a really nice neck, and it should bolt straight on. It won’t keep me busy for long – but having the neck in place will allow me to start to look at some of the other elements in more detail. It’ll get the ball rolling for the New Year.

The neck, sourced yet again from The STRATosphere in the US, is a Fender American ’65 re-issue neck, (Fender parts number 009-4017-970). Looks like a surplus neck from the discontinued “American Vintage ’65” line – and it’s exactly what I was looking for. My favourite 7.25″ radius, rosewood fingerboard, with maple neck that has been given a really comfortable, mid-60’s “C” profile. This example has the tuner bushings already fitted, and is already pre-drilled for tuners, one string tree and the standard, 4-bolt fitting. As I say – it won’t be the most complicated job to fit – but at least I don’t have to worry about any of the usual preparation. Even Mr Magoo could do this job.

The best thing about the neck is the fact that it’s bound. I have an Epiphone Sheraton II with a fully bound neck and, although the Sheraton has a flat, >12″ radius, I’ve always enjoyed the way the binding seems to smooth the handling. A bound neck looks much tidier too. Cosmetically, it might eventually influence my choice of pickguard and plastic hardware. The binding is a bright, clean white – rather than an aged white – so it might be good to pick up on that where I can. The binding also wraps over the ends of the string nut. That’ll make replacing the nut a much more fiddly process. Fortunately – the specification readout shows that the fitted nut is bone, rather than the usual Fender “synthetic bone”. That’s another job I won’t have to do – just as long as I can slot it successfully. I figure it should be reasonably well set up already, but I’ll get too see later.

The neck is finished with, what Fender call, a “thin flash coat lacquer”. It certainly looks like lacquer, and should mellow and match perfectly with the body finish. The application overall is quite glossy, and looks thicker than it probably is. I’ll probably knock the finish back a little, on the back of the neck, to provide a less tacky, satin finish. Otherwise – the neck looks promising. With this custom build, I’m trying to source the best components I can find, and then customise the configuration to suit my ideal. Looks like the form and bodywork of the guitar will draw on a distinct, Fender vintage, mid-60’s vibe. That works for me just fine.

Fender USA, stamped serial plate

The neck attaches using the stamped serial neck plate provided and matched with the body, and with four stainless steel bolts. Throughout the build, I’ll be using replacement stainless steel screws wherever I can. I lubricate the threads of all four bolts with wax before tapping them home ensuring that they aren’t over-tightened. Just enough tension to bite. It helps to work the screws, in turn, diagonally across the plate. This keeps the pressure equalised from corner to corner.

Neck fitted…

The neck fits the pocket well, and as the bolts are tightened, everything looks to be straight and true. I’ve heard that on some Fender models, the neck pocket is slightly angled so that the headstock falls away from horizontal slightly. This is intended to help provide a little bit more of a distinct break angle at the bridge. Unfortunately, I don’t have any way of measuring such a slight incline, if it even exists. Maybe my dodgy eyes are decieving me, but there does seem to be a very slight slope up as the neck fits into the plane of the body – but I’ll need to check properly. As I continue with the build, I’ll be able to physically measure the height of the fingerboard above the face, and also the height of the bridge when it’s fitted. That will tell me if I need to shim the neck pocket any more. For the time being – the neck looks to be nicely in line. I can now begin to look at fitting the body plates, and at sourcing some suitable tuners.

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