Custom built Fender Jaguar USA. Fitting a customised, bound and block-marked neck

A few tiny flaws aside – my custom finished neck looks good to match with my Fender “Original ’60’s” Jaguar body. I’d originally planned to use a bound Fender ’65 Reissue Jaguar neck, but having been tempted by the devilish good looks of some original 1960’s vintage examples, with matching, painted headstocks – I decided to have my ideal neck profile custom made by Musikraft, which I could then paint up, and swap-out. I’ve recently been running it as a small, separate project – running alongside the main build. As it is, I’m now actually planning to move on with this project build, and yet another Jaguar project, with the intention of possibly being able to swap and interchange necks, between the two instruments. I now plan to begin work separately on a sort of “natural” finished Jaguar – mainly to use up some spare parts, but also to try and investigate some alternative switching arrangements – possibly involving coil-tapped pickups. A red tortoise pickguard looks great on a natural, ash body – and I’ll be able to use my original 60’s neck, with it’s slightly yellowed maple headstock or, equally, use the new, custom-painted, Candy Apple Red neck, in it’s place. In the latter case, the red of the headstock will match visually with the red tortie pickguard, and suggests a vintage “players” guitar, where the body paintwork has been stripped back to the original wood. I have a thing about well-finished guitar bodies – but I also really like natural wood finishes. Either way – I have plans in mind for both bound Jaguar necks. For the time being, at least, I’ll be pairing the Musikraft, customised neck with this US “Original ’60’s” Jag body.

Reaming out the pegholes, for the Gotoh SD-510 tuner bushings

But that’s me getting ahead of myself again. The focus for today, is fitting out the new neck with some decent tuners, and then fixing it onto the Fender CAR body. I’ve polished up the headstock a little more with some T-cut and mutton cloth, so that there are no swirl marks and the lacquer is about as glossy as I can get it manually. I’m fitting a set of Gotoh SD-510, vintage-style tuners, in nickel. On checking the diameters of the supplied bushings, and those of the pegholes – it’s clear I’m going to have to ream out about a millimeter overall, in order to get the bushings to push home snugly. I really don’t want to force the issue, and want the bushings to sit securely – but if I have to force then in with my drill press – there’s always the risk that I’ll split or damage the lacquer finish, (maybe even split the wood of the head paddle). Ideally – I’d just like to be able to push the bushings home manually but, of course, I want them firm enough to ensure they won’t ever come loose, or rattle.

Since I left the pegholes unprotected whilst painting the headstock – there’s a little paint and lacquer residue in the pegholes too. Nothing, however, that can’t be cleaned up with a peghole reamer. I’ve got hold of a special tapered violin peghole reamer – which allows me to slightly enlarge each hole to a desired dimension. Having checked the ideal dimension required by measuring the bushings with a digital slide gauge, I can measure and mark off the corresponding dimension on the reamer, and turn it within each hole until the desired mark is reached. This peghole reamer is specially designed, so that the three cutting edges are set on one side of the circumference – leaving the other to describe the rest of the cylinder. This means that the reamer always follows the circular path it cuts itself, and ensures that material is taken away equally, all around the circumference of each peghole.

Because I’m having to remove some of the outside of each hole – I need to slightly enlarge the “countersink” around each hole first. This ensures that the reamer blades can’t cut at the edges of the lacquer coat. Although they’re sharp – there’s always a possibility that the reaming action might crack or flake the lacquer coat, and at this late stage of the customisation job – I don’t want to risk ruining it all, over a single, tight bushing.

First tuner bushing pushed home – Five to go…

I manage to ream out the first peghole to the ideal diameter – where the bushing sits straight, inside the outer lip of the hole – but can be just pushed home with a firm shove with my thumb, (cushioned with a flat piece of padded plywood). At this diameter, the bushings are still tight, and since I need to use a protective piece of wood to help push the thing home anyway – in practice – it means I might as well use my drill press with it’s special bushing-presser fitted. (Just in case – Gotoh provide another one, as a part of the whole tuner kit). I really don’t have to exert much pressure at all, to get the bushings to sit straight and flush. Just a little padding under the back of the headstock, and a single smooth action pushes the bushing home.

All tuner bushings fitted

The process is then repeated for each bushing in turn, until all six are fitted. A light buff up, just to remove any fingermarks and debris – and it’s time to fit the tuners.

Gotoh “C-A-R-D” tuner washers

The Gotho SD-510 tuner’s I’m using are a new favourite of mine. Quite simply – they’re the sturdiest vintage style tuners I’ve come across. They are so much less “rattly” than some of the Fender or Kluson alternatives I’ve previously used. They’re sometimes a bit tricky to get hold of here in the UK, (these have been on back order for quite a while now), and they coast a little more than the usual alternatives – but well worth checking out if you ever suffer with “drifting” tunings. (Since Jaguars already have enough going on, on that score – what with the usual tremolo and bridge issues – it’s one less thing to worry about at the headstock end).

One of the features of the SD-510’s is that Gotoh supply them with special carbon fibre inserts, which act both as a kind of protective gasket, and a secondary alignment point for the tuning posts. With the posts held securely at both sides of the headstock paddle – wear on the firm, teflon-coated gears is reduced, and the solidity of the whole machine head is maximised. The “C-A-R-D” inserts also fit the pegholes tightly, and therefore act as perfect templates to help correctly locate the positions for the tuner screws. In laying out the inserts, it’s important to realise that each C-A-R-D insert is slightly asymetrical, and therefore there’s a “right way” the tuners can be fitted, and a wrong way. The right way means that the insert closest to the nut, is fitted with it’s “short” end towards the nut. Once all of the inserts are fitted, a metal ruler can be used as a straight edge, and the inserts properly aligned. The correct screw locations can then be marked out in pencil – ready for drilling.

Fitting the Gotoh SD-510 tuners

It helps to remove the inserts whilst drilling out the screw holes, and to use the correct, sharpest, HSS drill bit available – marked off at the correct depth. Once all of the holes are correctly sunk – the inserts are re-installed, and then each tuner is fitted into place, with the screws tightened down just enough to keep the tuners from rattling. Once all of the tuners are in place – the alignment can be double-checked with the metal straight-edge, before each tuner in turn is tightened down. I’ve found it useful to set the two end tuners firmly in position first. That way, any slight mis-alignments can be resolved along the inner four tuners. Providing the screw holes are correctly sized – the screws don’t need to be over-tightened. With the C-A-R-D inserts in place – the tuner machine heads are tightened down so that they sit on the slight shelf, provided by each insert. The screws just need to be tight enough to pinch down, and hold the machines firmly in position.

Musikraft custom Jaguar neck, with CAR painted headstock, and Gotoh SD510 tuners

With the tuners firmly fitted – the neck looks even better. Time to remove the Fender “’60’s” bound Jaguar neck from my project body, and prepare to fit the new neck. Musikraft have supplied the neck already drilled for “standard Fender fitting”. It should literally bolt straight on…

Fitting the StewMac 1.0 degree neck pocket shim

…although first, I need to install a shim into the neck pocket. Since I’m probably going to install a mute onto my custom build, (I don’t practically use one that much – I just like the look of all the extra chrome), I want to be able to raise the bridge a little. It’s also about setting something of the traditional Gibson “Archtop” architecture, in the way that the neck slopes slightly down – allowing for an improved break angle, and slightly more downward force for the strings in their saddle paths, over the bridge. On my previous “1962” Jaguar project, I ended up shimming the pocket a full 1.5 degrees – although in that case I used the “notoriously less secure”, original Fender pattern bridge. On this project, I’ll be using a StayTrem, “Mustang” style bridge. Although I’ll still need a little height to accommodate a mute – a 1.0 degree shim should suffice.

The shim is already shaped and drilled to fit a standard Fender pocket – although there’s a little trimming required to conceal a couple of exposed edges, one the neck is in place. This time,however, I’m reminded to remove the, approximately 1.0mm excess, from the thicker, inner edge of the shim. That way – from the end – you can hardly see any trace of the shim in the gap, when the neck is tightened up. (You can still see it when looking in from the side, of course, but if properly done – it looks quite tidy).

Oiling the fingerboard for the first time

With the shim in place – the neck bolts are tightened, and the neck attached with the neck plate cushioned against the body with a black, nylon HOSCO gasket. The back angle of the neck now causes the furthest machine head to touch the table when the guitar is laid flat. That immediately suggests the possibility that there’s even more of an angle than my original Jaguar build. (ie. >1.5 degrees). It is always possible that the neck pocket was already pre-engineered at the Fender factory, with a slight incline – (or perhaps, the SD-510 tuners might be considerably deeper). I’ll check and assess the geometry again when I set the guitar up and, if I need to try a different angled shim, or even do without one all together – I’ll rectify things accordingly, when I set the bridge up.

Meanwhile – with the neck supported, and the guitar laid flat on the worktop – I can oil the fingerboard for, what looks like, the first time. A few liberal applications of Crimson Guitars Fingerboard Restorative, soon has the dark rosewood fingerboard glowing, and looking nourished. Each application is carefully spread out, before I leave things for 15-30 minutes to let the oil soak in. Any excess left on the surface is then mopped up with a paper towel, and the whole surface burnished, until there’s no sign of any oil left on the surface. I then repeat this a couple of times, until the wood has drunk up as much of the oil as it’s going to. This is, I think, the first time the board has been oiled. It doesn’t take much to darken the wood – but it seems to greedily soak up three heavy applications.

Customised Fender “Original ’60’s” body, with modified Musikraft, Jaguar neck

And there it is – looking good. Although now that the new neck is on, I do wonder if I might possibly prefer the look of a darker tortoise pickguard, after all? That was my original plan, I recall – but I swapped to an off-white scratchplate for some reason, or other. Now I think about it – I can’t even remember why. That’s often the problem with making things up as you go along. Things keep getting modified to accommodate ever-changing circumstances. In many ways – that’s all part of the fun…

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