New project. Natural Ash Jaguar

I’ve ended up with two viable necks for my Candy Apple red, USA Jaguar. Having originally paired the Fender “Original ’60’s” body with a Fender “1965” Vintage reissue neck – I’ve since worked up a customised Musikraft neck, and produced an alternative, block-marked and bound neck with a Candy Apple red painted headstock to match the body. The CAR body works just as well with either neck, so since it’ll be an absolute crime to leave one of the necks stored away – I might as well take the opportunity to investigate a few more technical and finishing possibilities, on yet another Jaguar body.

A borrowed image to illustrate my starting point

In planning this latest offset – I’ve taken inspiration from a particular vintage 1966 Jaguar example, which I spotted online. This has had the original Candy Apple Red paint finish completely removed from the body, and the wood rubbed back and polished. When the natural wood tones are paired with a red scratchplate – the plate echoes the original paintwork left on the painted headstock, and the neck certainly doesn’t look out of place. Although perhaps not yet displaying the aged, amber tones of this 1966 maple – my colour-matched Musikraft neck should work just as well, and I’ll be able to tone a new body accordingly. However – the natural wood tones of an unpainted body will work equally as well with a stock, lacquered, unpainted headstock – as on my Fender “Vintage” reissue neck.

“Natural” finish on a Fender Jaguar – this example shows an alder body

Working on a natural finish will give me a chance to investigate an alternative approach to using finishing oils or nitrocellulose lacquers. I’ve long wanted to have a look at French polishing, and since the process was the default finish for stringed instruments prior to the 1920’s and 30’s – I’m keen to see if it remains a viable alternative for contemporary instruments. Fender, historically, have essentially evolved their finishes from basic automotive paints, and whilst they still remain perhaps the default route for a quality finish – the use of solvent-based lacquers for the hobbyist, or home-builder, can be troublesome, noxious, and even, potentially dangerous. French polishing, whilst hard to get to grips with initially – seems to offer the possibility of a cleaner, and potentially less polluting alternative. Always keen to try a new approach – I’ll see how it goes. I’ll probably still have to prepare the wood in the usual manner, by filling the grain and sealing the open pores – but beyond that – French polishing seems to offer another controllable way to apply a quality, high-gloss lacquer finish.

“Kurt Cobain” Jaguar switching

The neck of the guitar is already taken care of – and some of the other components I’ll need are already in the project box. Some are duplicates, or alternatives gathered whilst I’ve been working on other offset and Jaguar projects. I certainly seem to have amassed a few different control plates and pickguards. Otherwise – much will depend on the switching requirements of the pickups I’ll be using. I’ve already got a set of Creamery “Alt ’88” (Mid-Range) pickups planned for my CAR Jaguar, and I’m intrigued by Jaime’s new “Twin Sound” 88’s, which use coil-tapping to offer a further expanded sonic pallette. I’m keen to see if I can open up the standard Jaguar switching and, since the “Twin Sound” pickups use push/pull pots to switch between coil options – I might , additionally, look into controlling each pickup with a separate volume control – as on Kurt Cobain’s modded Jaguar. Although designed around humbucking pickups, the “Cobain” switching options maintain the usual, separate rhythm circuit on the upper panel, but replace the standard three vertical pickup switches with a Gibson-style, three-position, toggle switch. In theory, this toggle should also offer an additional, powerful, “bridge + neck” switching option, and replaces two of the usual vertical switches. The third, “strangle” switch is left unused on Fender’s Kurt Cobain Jaguar, but it will be interesting to see if it’s function can be reinstated, or even replaced with another pre-set filter, or perhaps a series / parallel selector.

There’s plenty to investigate there, and I’ll also be looking to get into the potentiometer and tone filter capacitor values, in some detail, to really push the sound capabilities. Consequently – this project is likely to be a slow burner. There’s a lot to learn along the way. However, it looks to be one which will provide a challenging, steep learning curve – with plenty of scope for evolution along the way. If I learn something, and can bring together a truly individual instrument while I’m at it – I’ll be delighted.

And at least that spare neck won’t go to waste…

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