Kurt Cobain “Jag-Stang”. Assembly after finishing

I’ve already done a test assembly before undertaking the nitro finish on the guitar body. The body has now been painted, lacquered and polished and is also now fully shielded, with the tremolo plate and bridge thimbles fitted and grounded. I can now finally unite the body with the previously finished neck, and with most of the other main hardware. I already know most of this will fit perfectly, and have already drilled most of the necessary screw holes in the body, before painting.

JagStang – Main component assembly after finishing

I’ve sourced most of what I’ll need along the way, (except the pickups as yet), and it’s all been stored away in the project box. This will be a straightforward, bolt-it-together job, and should be a breeze. I have changed my mind on a few of the components along the way, and therefore may have to make a few fine modifications, here and there, as I go.

JagStang – Joining body to neck

First off – the previously prepared, AllParts Jaguar neck is joined to the body in the usual manner, using a thick, blank, Fender plain steel plate, and a black plastic HOSCO gasket. The neck bolts are Callaham, stainless steel replacements, and they’re lubricated with a little wax before being tightened just enough, so that the neck is held firmly in position. Although I make every effort not to overtighten the neck bolts – the neck gasket is there to help protect the finish.

JagStang – Pickguard shielding

On my assembly dry-run, I opted to fit one of two plates which I’d had specially cut by Warmoth, to perfectly match their replica alder body. I’d originally chosen to use the white one, (like Kurt Cobain’s original prototype), but have since realised I actually prefer the look of the faux tortoise plate. The Sonic Blue and red tortoise combo is a familiar pairing from one of Kurt’s earlier Nirvana Mustangs, and it’ll look a treat here.

Opting for the alternative plate means I need to repeat a little fine tuning, and scribing, to fit the scratchplate evenly around the tremolo plate. This is done to match the first plate – using the edge of a Stanley Knife blade, held at the perpendicular, to gradually scrape away at the edge wherever I need to remove a little of the celluloid. Once the fitting matches the original perfectly, I turn the plate over and apply a partial covering of self-adhesive copper foil, which is placed to overlap a previously applied, and much more localised area of aluminium foil. Together, these conductive areas will complete the EM shielding effect. Any excess foil is pared away from the openings, and around the edge of the plate, with a sharp scalpel blade.

JagStang – Pickguard fitting

Since the tortoise plate exactly matches the originally selected, white plate – I already know the screw holes will line up, and fixing the scratchplate is carried out with 10 stainless steel pickguard screws. However, that lower horn remains a bit of a puzzle. It seems intentional that the plate contours don’t exactly follow those of the body. The plate looks slightly askew – exaggerating a few of the other “out of line” aspects of the form… the pickups on the diagonal, the way the line of the control plate doesn’t quite follow the bottom contours of the body…

JagStang pickguards – Modern Fender (left), and early Fender Japan replica (right)

But Fender’s recent revival of the JagStang appears to feature a scratchplate which sits slap bang in the centre of that lower horn – just like any other Stratocaster or Telecaster. I originally thought, “perhaps Warmoth had made a mistake”? However, on checking random pictures of JagStangs on Google, it seems that both cases are prevalent. Older JagStangs – especially some Fender Japan produced replicas seem to display the “off-centre” lower horn, wheras there is photographic evidence that at least some of the early Fender produced prototypes – (and indeed some which Cobain was originally photographed with) – had the plate dead centre. A quick check back to REM’s video for “What’s the Frequency Kenneth”, and Kurt’s Sonic Blue prototype…

JagStang pickguard fitting – Kurt Cobain’s original prototype, (as gifted to R.E.M.’s Peter Buck)

… Fairly conclusive, I’d say. The plate seems to sit dead centre. (Noth that Kurt’s LH guitar is, of course, upside down and is being played RH by Buck). Clearly the detail is something the original run of replicas failed to get exactly right, and it looks like Warmoth took their lead directly from one of those originals. Fender, however, seem to be sticking just that little bit closer to Kurt’s original – at least on the pickguard front.

But, you know, I kind of like that offset, out-of-line, slightly askew look. To coin a much overused and misconstrued client request from my old days as a graphic artist – “can you make it look a little bit… you know?… just a little bit more edgy?…

Warmoth JagStang replica – “Edgy” scratchplate placement and fitting

Anyway – moving right along… Next, the chromed control plate is located and tightened down with three stainless steel screws. The pots and jack socket are in place – but not, as yet, fixed with Loctite. The two previously fitted strap buttons (Fender parts number 006-3267-049), are removed and refitted, with the stock screws swapped out for a pair of slightly longer, Callaham, stainless steel screws. These will be a little more secure than the standard originals. The practically new, white felt washers, having been used only for the test-fitting, are retained and re-used.

JagStang bridge – Using a replica Fender Mustang Bridge

The bridge thimbles are already fitted, and ready to receive the drop-in bridge. Warmoth offers JagStang bodies pre-drilled for both TOM, (tune-o-matic), and “Fender” bridges, (by which I assume they mean Jaguar or Mustang bridges). Since I want to pair a bridge with my favoured, 7.25″ radius, Jaguar neck – and prefer not have a super-high action due to fitting a 12″ or 14″ radius TOM bridge – I’m looking for a bridge which will do just as good a job, and yet still give me the desired saddle radius. The Fender Mustang design is the obvious candidate, and since I won’t require any tremolo function – just as long as the bridge sits fairly firmly in the thimbles, and still allows height adjustment for setup – it should do it’s job, and will pair well visually with that “space-age” looking tailpiece.

Any genuine Fender Mustang bridge should work, but from what I can see, the modern US Fender thimbles seem to require a 3/8″ hole. Warmoth appear to drill their “Fender-ready” bodies to recieve a, (presumably import and therefore metric), 9.0mm thimble. I didn’t want to re-drill the thimble holes and risk damaging the finish, so I sourced a replica Mustang bridge instead, which comes conveniently supplied with the correctly-sized thimbles. The bridge was obtained from Guitars Electric, and is a cheaper, but still well-built unit. (Perhaps by HOSCO?) Checking the bridge over – a few of the mouldings are a little roughly finished, but the saddles seem solid, the height adjustment posts seem reasonably firm, and the roll-over joints, where the post legs are joined to the bridge plate, seem pretty robust – (unlike some others I’ve seen before).

Replica Mustang bridge with Staytrem “non-rocking” grommets in place

The bridge drops straight into the thimbles and seems to sit well, although there is a little bit of forward and backward movement. This is normally to be expected to maintain the tuning when the whammy bar is operated. However – since I’ll probably not be fitting a whammy, I want the bridge to sit much more firmly in place. John at Staytrem used to offer a “non-rocking” option on his replacement bridges, (although the option doesn’t currently appear to be on the Stayterm website). The non-rocking bridges are supplied with little, clear plastic, push-over grommets fitted around each leg. Last time I ordered a bridge from John, I asked for the special grommets to be fitted. The bridge arrived with the grommets in place, and I’ve been able to remove and re-appropriate them for use with this replica bridge. They’re a tight fit – but once in place, the bridge takes a little bit more of a push to drop it into the thimbles, and it remains much more solid. If the bridge happens to require any further firming-up during setup, I’ll add a few extra wraps of copper tape, and re-seat it.

JagStang – checking the bridge and neck alignment

With the bridge in place, and adjusted to a reasonable working height, I can then attach two strings. By installing both of the outside “E” strings, I can tension the neck a little, and follow the string paths to double-check the neck alignment.

JagStang – checking the string spread and neck alignment

The two strings each follow the outside line of the neck, and are comfortably placed – equidistant from either edge. The neck is perfectly in alignment, and the string spread at the bridge looks like it’s correct for the width of the fingerboard. The main components are now all assembled – now I just need to source some suitable pickups, and do my research on the wiring schematic.

Kurt Cobain “Jag-Stang”. Assembly after finishing

4 Replies to “Kurt Cobain “Jag-Stang”. Assembly after finishing”

  1. I don’t know how much it changes the action, but those are usually strung differently. I’d heard that Kurt’s guitar tech flipped the cigar to run them straight through. I’m just going by what I’ve seen in videos: https://youtu.be/TT_HAh-_wok

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  2. Thanks for the link – really useful. To be honest – I haven’t really got round to thinking about the practicalities of the Mustang trem yet. I just threw a couple of strings on to check the neck was in line. Didn’t really think about how I did it, but your man has a point. Makes perfect sense to wrap the strings under the cigar. Especially if planning to use the trem. Crucially, it’ll help increase the break angle over the bridge.

    Mind you – on the other hand – I wonder if stringing straight through might just loosen up the action a little more? A bit like the “toploader” through-stringing as on Jimmy Page’s Tele. That makes playability a bit “slinkier” and consequently you can step up a gauge without the action getting too stiff. Slightly heavier strings work really well on the short-scale Jaguar too. They help sort some of the notorious bridge issues out, and I think they really help open up the sound. I wonder if the same could be said for the JagStang?

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    1. The guitar tech I linked specializes in offset guitars. In his other videos he explains his preferences for setting them up, including heavier strings.

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