Kurt Cobain “Jag-Stang”. Fitting the tuners

My JagStang project build has been on hold for so long now – however, the better weather means I can begin to move on and prep the body for spraying. I’ve managed to source most of the other components I’ll need, and I’d like to check everything over on the project, with a preliminary, dry assembly. Getting the neck alignment correct would be a good start – so to do that, I could really do with installing the tuners to the finished neck first. It’s a relatively quick and easy task, and one I’ve covered in much more detail on earlier posts. It’s something which needs doing carefully and properly, but it shouldn’t take long, and I’ll cover just the basic process, for this neck, in this post.

JagStang neck – fitting the bushings

The lacquer on the finished neck has had ages to cure, and the polished end result looks excellent. Just a tiny flaw in the decal – but even that appears to have become much less noticeable. I’d plugged the pegholes during the spraying process – but nevertheless – there’s a slight lip of dried lacquer around the outer edge of each opening. I really don’t want to risk splitting the lacquer, (or the wood), by pushing in over-tight bushings, so I need to cut the lacquer back at the edges of each opening with a countersink bit, and then ream out each hole, so that the bushings will fit snugly – but not too tightly.

Normally, it would be easy to use a tapered peghole reamer to slightly enlarge the holes – but these pegholes are stepped at the bottom, so that they better support the tuner posts at the rear of the headstock. In this case – I have to resort to using grit paper, wrapped around the blunt end of a drill bit. It’s fiddly, but once I’ve worked out just how much paper needs to wrap around the bit, in order to provide the correct clearance – each peghole can be prepped to almost exactly match the one before. The pegholes are enlarged, just enough, so that the bushings require little more than a good shove, to fully seat. The milled edges need to fully engage with the edges of the pegholes, so there’s less of a chance of them eventually working loose or rattling. If any peghole is reamed out slightly too large – a wrapping of copper foil around the gripping edge of a bushing provides a little extra “meat”. The thin copper foil is also maleable, and tends to mould itself around the milled edges.

The bushings came provided with the tuners and are, supposedly, correct for AllParts, “and other vintage-style” necks. Still – it seems that they’re just slightly too large for comfort. However – they’re made to fit snugly, by just enlarging each peghole by approximately 0.75mm. The tuners are made by Gotoh for Fender, and the bushings are eventually pushed home using a special Gotoh, “bushing-pressing” bit, which is fitted into my drill press. This provides that little extra bit of muscle – without risk of damaging the neck or finish.

Fitting a set of Fender American “vintage style” tuners

The tuners I’m using are Fender “American Vintage”, nickel machines, with a “single line”, stamped Fender Logo, (Fender parts number 099-207-4000). As well as being supplied with bushings – they also come with a handy positioning template which doubles up as packaging, to help you find the ideal placements for the securing screws. In fact – it’s always a good idea to keep the used templates handy. Not all tuners come supplied with such easy-to-apply fitting guides.

The tuners are aligned, and held in place on the template with some grabby, double-sided tape. The tuners can then be fitted through the pegholes, and the screw positions marked onto the neck, through the holes left in the template, with a sharp brad. In the image above – the drawn mid-line is my guide – just to double check on the alignment and positioning.

Once the hole positions have been marked – the tuners are removed once again, and the screw holes sunk to the required depth and diameter. I’m using stainless steel screws throughout this build, and I usually lubricate each with a dab of candle wax, before they tap home for the first time. Sometimes – the tiny steel screws which come supplied are quite weak, and I really don’t want to have to drill out any sheared-off screws – just because they’re made out of toffee.

The tuners are then re-installed, checked for alignment with a steel straight edge, and then the securing screws are gradually tightened down, one at a time. I always find it easier to either work from the middle, outwards – or from the outside tuners, inward. Each screw holds one tuner tight against it’s neighbour – so getting each tuner in the correct place, has a direct influence on the precise alignment of the next. As the tuners are tightened down, tiny lugs at the corners of each machine bite into the lacquer and the wood of the headstock. It’s always a good idea to get the fitting right, first time, if you can.

The completed neck, apart from a fitted nut, is then set to go – but with the tuners fitted, it’ll make the dry-assembly process that much easier, and will enable me to better locate the bridge, and then fit the neck so that everything is in proper alignment.

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