“Mary Kaye” White Blonde Fender Jaguar. Re-fitting the headstock with gold hardware

I’ve had this Fender Jaguar neck for a while now. Originally, I bought it to pair with my Custom Candy Apple Red Jaguar, but after going for a custom Musikraft neck with a painted headstock on that build, it’s been hanging around waiting for another suitable home. It’s a 2017 Fender “65 Jaguar RW MILL” neck, (Fender parts number 009-4017-970), bought from the STRATosphere. Online searches for the neck don’t throw up much information – but it seems that it may have sourced a few other ex-Fender factory Jaguar necks, towards the end of 2019. Naturally – these sold like hot cakes, and I was lucky enough to land one at the time. It’s a chunky, vintage style neck with a 7.25″ radius, and a rich rosewood fingerboard which has been bound around the edges. It certainly looks like a ’65 neck and, I’m told that the “chunky” (C?) profile is more typical of an early ’60’s neck than some thinner, more delicate, modern ones.

Fender ’65 Reissue Jaguar neck – Rosewood fingerboard with bound edges

I did toy with the idea of upgrading my Olympic White Jaguar with the neck – but I’d always saw that build as being mainly based on the original ’62 iteraton of the guitar. I’m not entirely precious about being faithful to that whole thing – but if I do look at the details – a bound board wouldn’t have been strictly available until 1965, and even then, only for a relatively short while. Additionally – the body on my Olympic White build is more of a “reissue” style, wheras the body I’m using for my latest, custom blonde, Jaguar was directly copied from an early ’60’s original. That will probably be a much better match for the reissue ’65 neck, all things considered.

The thing is, I’m now planning to fit out my blonde Jaguar with a bit of a “Mary Kaye” inspired look – Gold hardware and a white, single-ply scratchplate. The ’65 neck will fit right in – but I’ve previously fitted it with polished nickel hardware. Sourcing alternative gold hardware isn’t the issue, and swapping parts over is one of the easiest things you can do to update your instrument. However – up until now – the thought of swapping over tuner bushings filled me with dread. If they’re seated firmly – there’s always the possibility that pushing them out forcefully will result in damage to the lacquer around the edges of the holes. If that damage extends out beyond the narrow flanges on each bushing – that’s a recipe for a prematurely scarred and disfigured headstock.

Removing headstock bushings by “backing them out”

Fortunately, I’ve happened on a way of pulling the old bushings without damaging the lacquer on the headstock. I came across a video on Youtube by Billy Penn at 300guitars.com, and his approach is simple and, the video of his technique in action is reassuring. Watch the video yourself to get the actual action right – but “backing out” the bushings is as simple as inserting a round shafted screwdriver into each bushing in turn, and then gently rotating the screwdriver handle in a circle, a little wider than the diameter of the bushing opening, (if you see what I mean). The video only last three and a half minutes, but that time will save you hours of worry, and in the time it takes to watch it again, you can safely remove your bushings without damaging the finish on your headstock at all.

Thanks Billy. The comments on the video feature the thanks of others like me who have clearly been sweating the prospect of digging out those old bushings. I just love picking up little tips like this, and putting them into practice.

Bushings removed. Replacing the string tree

With the bushings removed, I swap out the nickel string tree for it’s gold replacement. It’s a HOSCO 5mm Vintage Telecaster type, (Parts code HS005-GD) – sourced from northwestguitars.co.uk . It’s a straight swap – I tend to prefer the look of the vintage, disc-type retainers over the usual, bent-metal “butterfly” types. A word of warning though…

…the gold screw supplied looks a little bit longer than the nickel one it’s replacing. I always try to check the lengths of screws when fixing into timber – no matter what the depth – even when I know it should work. Measure if not sure, and then measure again to check. No-one wants to screw all the way through the body of their guitar, or the fingerboard. Accidents will happen. Don’t ask me how I know this.

Because the replacement screw is slightly longer – I use a short plastic sleeve to shim the button a little distance further up off the surface of the headstock. Just enough to compensate for the extra screw length. I’ll check the ideal height of the retainer once I set the guitar up, and if I need to lower the tree at all – I’ll trim a little bit off the length of the screw and lower it. The shim is plastic and can be trimmed down to the correct length – or I can remove it entirely, if not actually required.

Fender ’65 Reissue Jaguar neck – Replacing the tuners and hardware

After removing the bushings – the pegboard openings are just as Billy Penn describes in his video. Slightly flared at the top, due to “backing” the bushings out. I’m replacing the nickel, Kluson-style, Fender tuners with a gold set of Gotoh SD-91 machines. Again – these are a straight swap, although the first thing I need to do, is to check the replacement bushings for fit. They’re just a little bit loose now, at the surface, but as they’re pushed down – the peghole becomes narrower and the bushings “sit down” properly. However, just to make sure there’s absolutely no movement, and just in case I’ve stretched the openings just that little bit too much – I want to pack the ridged length of each bushing with a few turns of self-adhesive copper foil. Not too much – but just enough to enable me to press the bushings firmly home with just my thumb, (and a handy piece of strip wood for padding). The copper foil moulds to the ridges in the bushings, and they bite back into the marks left by the previous fittings.

Fender ’65 Reissue Jaguar neck – Replacement bushings installed

After I’ve packed the bushings, and pressed each one firmly home – the headstock is ready to fit the tuners.

Modifying a set of Gotoh, “C-A-R-D” washers

I’m a fan of Gotoh’s SD510 line of tuners – but they can sometimes be difficult to get hold of. They’re a “vintage-style” tuner, and dimensionally – there doesn’t appear to be that much difference between the 510’s and Gotoh’s standard range, the SD91. The 510’s are supplied with a set of carbon fibre backing washers, which help to pad the machine heads off the wood of the headstock, and also serve to help keep the tuner leg perpendicular, and in-line. These “C-A-R-D” inserts are available separately, and since they are compatible with the SD91 line too – I’ve obtained a set for use with the hardware swap.

However – the pegholes on the neck are stepped in this case. ie – the holes at the back are narrower than those on the face of the headstock. This means the pre-shaped “plugs” on each C-A-R-D insert will have to be trimmed off, in order to get each insert to sit flat. I clamp the inserts in a suitable vice, trim the lugs off with a fine saw, and then (carefully) ream off any surplus fibre with a sharp blade.

Fender ’65 Reissue Jaguar neck – Gold replacement tuners installed

The replacement tuners are then fitted in the usual manner – with the modified inserts in place under each machine head. The replacement fittings are an exact match in size to the previous, nickel hardware – and so the screw holes are perfectly positioned and sized, to accept the replacement gold screws. Once fitted, the tuners are checked for alignment with a straight edge, and then the screws are tightened down. Job done. Nickel replaced with gold, and the neck is ready to match with the early’60’s replica, blonde, “Mary Kaye” style body, once it’s polished up.

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