I’ve already looked at cutting my own shielding plates – albeit with mixed results. I originally cut a “rough” set for my first, Olympic White Jaguar – but tried to form them out of 0.5mm brass plate. (It seemed plausible at the time). This proved, however, to be way too thick, and although the finished plates ended up being perfectly useable – they were a little bit crude in shape, and lacked a “professional” looking finish. Using tin snips to cut out the shapes, means it’s incredibly difficult to manoevre around those inside curves.
After measuring the gauge of some genuine Fender Jazzmaster under-pickup plates – I realised the plate thickness only really needed to be 0.25mm. This is much easier to cut with snips and I have, since then, worked out a way to accurately trace out and reproduce the required shape of the rhythm circuit shield, for use on my Custom Jazzmaster. Cutting a set of Jaguar plates should follow exactly the same process. I’ll need a full set of plates for my “Mary Kaye” Jaguar, and will also cut a spare set, so that once I get round to refitting my Olympic White Jag – I can swap them over, and take out the experimental and crude “heavy metal” plates I originally put in there.
I have a digital Fender specification drawing for a ’62 Reissue Jaguar – in PDF format. The drawing is accurately scaled up to full size in Adobe Illustrator, and then printed out onto card stock. Actually – the print needs to be done in two parts, so that all of the plates can be printed on sheets of A4.
The grounding plates are clearly indicated on the drawings, and are deliniated with a thick, black outline. It’s a simple job to cut out each shape, and then to assess the accuracy by test-fitting the card templates into a Jaguar body. There are a few minor tweaks required – but once the drawing has been scaled correctly – everything seems to match almost perfectly. The body I’m using for my “Mary Kaye” build is a direct copy of an early 1960’s Jaguar – accurately cut on a CNC machine, by guitarbuild,co,uk . It’s a good confirmation of accuracy, that the plates from a Fender ’62 Vintage re-issue specification, fit so well.
I’m only using thin card – so I can print out using my home printer. Nevertheless – the card is thick enough to allow me to carefully trace around each part. To trace and scribe onto the brass plate, I use a sharpened awl. Again – it’s an easy job – but there are a couple of things to bear in mind.
The first issue, is that I can only seem to get hold of 0.25mm brass plate in certain pre-cut sizes. Unfortunately – the most easily obtained size, (from model shops @ 250mm x 100mm), isn’t quite large enough to allow me to cut an entire U-shaped under-pickup plate in one piece. I’ll have to create each full pickup shield out of two pieces, and then join them in the middle with solder.
The main pickup plate is the largest and most complex shape – and it also requires drilling, so that the pickup height adjustment screws can tap into the wood at the bottom of the pickup rout. Drilling through thin plate sounds easy enough – but in practice, it can be a bit tricky. The best approach is to drill the openings before attempting to cut the shape of the plate, and to heavily clamp the metal plate as close to the drilled openings as possible. This stops the metal from flexing or moving during drilling, and helps keep the final hole as accurate as possible. Always pre-oil the drill bit, and clamp the thin sheet with a piece of scrap wood underneath. Use a plunge drill, and don’t mess about. DO NOT try to save time by just casually holding the plate down with one hand, while you drill with the other. You might get away with it – but if the drill bit should happen to stick in the middle of drilling – the plate will rapidly transform into a whirling blade. You’ll need those fingers to play guitar with…
Once the holes have been drilled – take a little extra time to remove any sharp edges or burrs from each hole, with a rat-tail file. The rest of the shape can then be trimmed out, using a pair of tin snips. The straight sides are easy enough – but the rounded ends take a little more concentration. As with most things – the results get better with practice. If you need to trim off any little extra bits to refine the shape – bear in mind that the little curls of brass which are produced, (together with the newly cut edges), are razor sharp. Clear up any trimmings and dispose of them carefully. (I put mine in a jar with all my used knife and scalpel blades). De-burr all of the newly cut edges with the shaft of a screwdriver, or something similar. To de-burr the rounded ends – an old fret file can prove useful, and can even be used to subtly “ease” the finished curves – making them look a little more regular.
Use any sizeable offcuts to make up the smaller plates in the set.
The process is repeated until all of the shapes required ,are cut. Enough to make two sets of Jaguar plates. The four pieces which form the two, main, under-pickup plates are trimmed to leave a slight overlap, and are then temporaily joined, with a few strips of self-adhesive copper foil.
The plate sets can then be checked for size and fit, back on the actual Jaguar body. Finally – the temporary joins on the main, U-shaped plate are firmed up by flowing some solder under, and around, the overlapping ends.
Short leads can then be attached to the plates, to match the configuration of the leads which are provided on a genuine Fender plate set, (Fender parts number 005-4518-000). The out-lying plates, at the switch and control cavities, each have either one, or two leads attached. One provides a grounding link directly to the covering metal control plates, (Attachment lugs will eventually be required in these locations). Where a second lead is attached, (as on the main control plate) – this is supposed to connect directly to the input jack. I normally prefer to locate a central “star” grounding point at a slightly different location, and lead all of my grounds there – so this lead may eventually become redundant, and will be removed, as required.
On the main, U-shaped plate – three leads are attached, which allow direct linking connections to the adjacent, out-lying plates. The wires will run via small conduits drilled between the body cavities, and the solder joints will be made upon installation.
I attach leads, slightly longer than might actually be required – using black, cloth-covered, “push-back” wire. The wire is then coiled to keep things tidy and compact, and before you know it – there are a handful of plates, all ready to go…
…and a spare set in the project box too! All I need to do now, is to add a couple of neoprene foam “springs” at each of the pickup locations, and I’ll have a set of plates which closely resembles a set of Fender originals. And whilst they might have the odd rough edge here and there – they’ll perform exactly the same function, at a fraction of the cost.