Progress with a couple of Jaguar necks… Toning a PauFerro fingerboard, and prepping a re-lacquered headstock, including hardware installation

With a couple of Jaguar project builds held-up, awaiting progress on their associated necks, and with most of my focus recently taken up with drum fettling and hardwood floor laying – my re-assignment of necks among various other Jaguar projects certainly isn’t getting anywhere fast. I need to shift things along a bit…

Progress with a couple of Jaguar necks…

The problem is, that some of the scheduled, “minor” alterations and repairs, take time to settle after completion. The actual interventions and repairs are all fairly minor – but things like lacquer repairs still take weeks to properly cure. Since I’m re-assigning necks between various builds, delays on one neck impact the next in the chain – so waiting for the lacquer repairs on one, ultimately leads to plans for all four of my Jaguar projects getting bogged down.

The lacquer repairs to the AllParts neck, (which was previously installed on my Olympic White ’62 Jaguar build, and is destined for my blonde “Mary Kaye” Jag), have taken ages. First a lengthy process of lacquer repair and gradual re-amalgamation, followed by six weeks to allow the lacquer to cure properly, and shrink back so it can be flat-sanded and polished. That’s left my ’62 Jag without a neck, pretty much all winter. It’s eventual replacement – a vintage amber nitro’d Fender “Classic 60’s” Jaguar neck, is just a little bit too shiny and new, and has way too much of an overall yellow/amber hue to sit well with the Olympic White paint job. The new Fender neck also comes with a PauFerro fingerboard – rather than my preferred rosewood. Whilst I’ve got the toolbox out, I’ll take the opportunity to move both necks along, so that I can free up potential for progress elsewhere.

Toning the PauFerro fingerboard of a Fender “Classic 60’s” Jaguar neck

Toning a PauFerro fingerboard – cleaning the surface

First – I’ll prepare the Classic 60’s neck for toning with dark relic wax. The problem I have with the newer, Fender PauFerro necks, is that they sometimes look much paler than the rosewood necks they’re supposed to be an alternative for. It seems that over time, the rosewood used for fingerboards – originally rich and dark in the 50’s and 60’s – gradually, over the decades, became paler, with more obvious visible figuration and more contrast between lighter and dark striations. PauFerro – once it became Fender’s wood of choice in response to the changing CITIES regulations in the 2010’s – continued that trend. Whilst it can appear, for all intents and purposes, almost like a light rosewood – with dark contrasting figuration – the basic hue of the PauFerro often comes across as much more orange – occasionally even pink in colour. Now that fender seem settled with PauFerro as a sustainable option on many of their necks – If you’re looking for a 60’s inspired vibe for your Fender, simply fitting a “Classic ’60’s” neck isn’t necessarily going to get you that much closer to the authentic richness of a dark rosewood board.

But, (to use a phrase I simply hate), “it is what it is”. PauFerro is here to stay, and although the CITIES regulations have since been relaxed somewhat – cost constraints and other considerations means it’s simply impossible to provide dark rosewood boards, with my preferred 7.25″ radius, on every one of my builds. Sometimes – a PauFerro boarded neck is the only option. Fortunately – I’ve had pretty good results from toning the PauFerro down with toning wax. It’s not a full stain, but it tends to darken the wood just enough, so that the contrast between the light and dark figuration is a little less acute. The relic wax also provides a richness and depth to the wood – with slightly more of a darkening effect than conditioning with fingerboard oil might impart.

The sealed end of the fingerboard, under the amber lacquer of the headstock, already shows a marked contrast between it and the apparently un-oiled PauFerro. But before applying the relic wax, it’s essential that the board is cleaned, and any possible previous factory-applied treatments removed. I use a light application of white spirit on a paper towel to de-grease the surface – and this darkens the wood temporarily – showing what a conventional oiling with lemon oil might achieve when freshly applied. The relic wax should give me at least this tone, but will hopefully further darken some of the lighter banding. The dark paste wax should persist in the grain too, and not dry out and fade over time.

Applying the “Montypresso” Wax

Once the fingerboard has been cleaned and de-greased – the toning wax is generously applied with a paper towel. Once again, I’m using “Montypresso Relic Wax” by Monty’s Guitars. It has a deep brown hue, which appears much warmer than the alternative, black “Bison” relicing wax. I rub the wax in across the grain, and allow a considerable amount to build up over the surface of the fingerboard. It’s much easier to apply if the working temperature is relatively warm – since this helps the wax soften, and penetrate quicker.

Allowing the “Montypresso” Wax to pentrate the wood

Enough of the wax is applied to literally “cake” the surface of the fingerboard, and all excess is cleaned off the nitro lacquerat the edges of the board. (The nut will be switched out at a later date, and acts as a convenient dam at the top of the neck). To even out the application – it seems best to gently stipple the wax so that the overall tonal appearance is regular. this should, in theory, help it penetrate into the wood evenly – keeping the eventual effect consistent. To allow the wax to be absorbed into the wood – taking the darker dyes along with it – the neck is stored away in a suitable cardboard box, where it will remain for a couple of weeks. The surplus wax will then be removed, and the fingerboard polished and buffed. Hopefully – one application will be sufficient to take the edge off the PauFerro, but if a darker board is still required – further treatments can be undertaken.

Finishing up the headstock lacquer repairs on an AllParts JGRO Jaguar neck

Cured lacquer after repairs and re-consolidation

The somewhat lengthy process of re-consolidating the existing lacquer, rop-filling, applying new lacquer coats and then flatting-back, has resulted in a fresh-looking lacquer finish to the face of the headstock on the AllParts JGRO neck. Virtually all of the checking marks and sub-surface cracks previously noted, have now been eliminated – leaving only a few, small, visible hairline marks, which appear to be in the layers of lacquer which lie under the applied decal. There’s no way of re-consolidating the lacquer here without disturbing or even destrying the decal – so these two or three minor checks will have to stay. The plugged and drop-filled string-tree holes have now settled, but some contaminants seem to have discoloured the surrounding lacquer. Presumably there are some oils or waxes in the soft pine wood plugs I’ve used, and something has leached out under the action of the solvents in the lacquer. (I actually used sprigs from match sticks – so maybe that shouldn’t surprise me). It’s a disappointing flaw – but at least one of the marks will be hidden under the replaced string tree(s). Anything else is just “added character”. It’s too late in the process to go back now and fix things all over again.

Overall – the new lacquer finish has dried and shrunk back, and 95% of the problematic checking marks and cracks have completely disappeared. There’s scant evidence of any “orange peeling” or other spray marks – and so after flatting-back the surface, it should become completely flat once again, and should take a polish well.

“Flatting-back” the lacquer on the headstock

The process of flatting back the cured lacquer begins with 320 grit wet and dry paper, over a cork backing block. By gently working the paper over the entire surface – it’s possible to leave the surface of the lacquer with a consistent, dull sheen all over. Two, very slight indentations in the surface are still just apparent around the string-tree fills. Otherwise – the surface appears to be completely level, with no other low-spots visible. There’s no further need to cut back and level the lacquer, and from here on in – after feathering-in the low spots with a small piece of un-backed grit paper, I can begin to polish up the surface. The process involves working through a sequence of finer and finer grades of grit paper. It’s important to clean the piece off before moving onto each finer grade – to avoid leaving scratches – and care is taken to leave the surface as consistent as possible after each pass. Passes are made with 600, 1200, 1500 and 2000 grade, and then finally, the surface is gently regularised with a fine, grey Mirka Mirlon sanding pad. At this stage – the polish is already beginning to emerge.

Polishing the repaired lacquer on the headstock

The polishing job is completed with more, and finer passes – first with Automotive rubbing compound, (I use Halfords white Rubbing Compound), then with Meguiars SwirlX2.0, swirl remover. In each case, the compound is applied with a paper towel, and then left to dry a little. The drying compounds are then gently rubbed over the area with a fresh kitchen-type, paper towel. As the excess compound is absorbed, the paper towel works with some of the dried compond left on the surface – gently cutting, and imparting a finer polish. You can hear the sound of the cut – almost like gently-tearing silk to begin with – followed by a distinctive “squeak”, as the last of the dried-on compound is removed.

After the cutting compound and swirl remover – an application of “T-Cut” leaves an almost liquid-like shine to the lacquer – with no visible witness, scratch or swirl marks anywhere. Finally, a silicone-free polish – in this case an automotive Meguiars Carnauba Wax compound – is applied, and buffed by hand to add a final, protective shine.

Applying a restorative fingerboard oil

The rosewood fingerboard is then given an application of Crimson Guitars’ restorative Fingerboard Oil. This is generously applied, allowed to sink in, and then all excess periodically wiped away with a paper towel. It takes a few attempts to remove all of the excess – since it can seep out of the wood for quite a while after the main application. However – the oil seems to penetrate deep into the wood, leaving a beautifully rich, dark and nourished-looking fingerboard. Once the application has had time to dry, and there is no further “seepage” of excess oil – the board is buffed to a sheen with a soft, clean cloth.

Fitting the hardware to the restored neck

The AllParts neck can now be fitted with the gold hardware which was originally used, (but has since been reclaimed from), my bound Fender American ’65 re-issue neck. (That neck was eventually refitted with silver hardware, and became the main neck for my Fender “American Original 60’s” Jaguar – hope you’re keeping up). Although the gold tuners aren’t my favourite Gotoh SD510’s – the vintage-style Gotohs will still work with C-A-R-D inserts, and I’ve purchased a set specifically for this re-fit. First, however, the pegholes need to be reamed out to the correct diameter – front and back – so that the inserts and bushings will fit into the pegholes correctly. The components are measured with a digital caliper, and the corresponding depth marked off on a tapered reaming tool, with masking tape. Once the pegholes have been carefully reamed-out inside – the bushings and inserts fit perfectly, and are pressed home and secured, with nothing more than a firm shove with my thumb.

The tuner mechanisms can then be installed in the usual manner, The back of the pegboard is already pre-drilled for the attachment screws, and once the tuners have been checked for level with a steel rule – the screws are tightened up to secure the machines in position. With the C-A-R-D inserts offering a second means of support at the back of each peghole – the tuners are significantly more stable than you’d normally expect, and I don’t notice much play or “wobble” in any of the tuning posts. The neck is now virtually back up and running. I can now begin to proceed with fitting out my “Mary Kaye” Jag, and look to re-drill the bolt holes in the neck, at the correct Fender configuration and specification – and then, finally join the neck to it’s new, “translucent blonde”, nitro-finished, ash body.

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