The new neck for the rebuild of my “1962” specification Fender Jaguar project, is a 2017 Fender “Classic 60’s” example, with a “vintage amber” nitro lacquer finish. Although it’s prepared to a sort of “vintage specification”, with a 7.25″ fingerboard radius – it has a Pau Ferro fingerboard, which is just a little bit too pinky/orange for my liking. I’ve had the neck stored away for a month now, with a liberal application of dark toning wax applied to the fingerboard, in an attempt to “tame it” a little bit. Time to see what effect the wax has had.
The toning wax has been liberally caked onto the fingerboard, and the neck has lain undisturbed, in a box, to prevent the wax from getting everywhere it shouldn’t. The current warm weather and overnight ambient temperatures have ensured that the wax hasn’t ever really hardened much from it’s initial application. Consequently – it’s a dark and goopy mess that now needs carefully cleaning off.
The only practical way of approaching this, is to methodically clean off each fret position in turn – using as many paper towels as it takes to efficiently remove the excess. It’s messy stuff, and easily clings to anything that gets too close. Underneath – the Pau Ferro has darkened, although I would prefer it slightly darker still. Generally speaking – the entire length of the board now more closely resembles the portion beyond the nut, where the board has darkened under the gloss lacquer. Overall – it’s still quite light in parts – especially in the prominient contrasting figuration, and the board still retains a little of it’s original light orange tone, in-between the darker lines. I suppose it’s all still in-keeping with the overall “vintage amber” pallette. A definite improvement on the raw state of the Pau Ferro – but I still might experiment with another application of wax, to see if I can obtain a darker tone still. However – there’s nothing to stop me prepping and readying the neck a little more at this stage. If I install the tuners and a new nut – the neck will still have plenty of time, separate from the new body, to experiment with final toning.
Once all excess wax has been wiped away, the neck is simply buffed-up with a soft cloth. The wax leaves a lovely sheen, makes the fingerboard super-silky, and there’s no need to oil the wood further. The original nut – a Fender “synthetic bone” example – is tapped out from the side, using a pin hammer and a fine drift. Checking the nut slot with a profile gauge – I still can’t easily tell if it’s flat, or slightly curved at the bottom. I’ll go with a Gotoh slotted and shaped bone replacement. The Gotoh nuts are usually already well fitted for straightforward replacement into a Fender neck, and they come pre-shaped with a central tab on the base. This can be trimmed away completely for a curved slot, or left intact for a flat-cut slot. In this case, I’ll file just enough away so that the nut sits solid, and won’t rock at all.
The nut fits well, straight from the packet, and a few strokes from a small, flat, diamond file reduce the central tab to the correct height. There’s no need to adjust the thickness of the bone blank – just a slight adjustment required to the overall width, so that the curved ends drop smoothly and seamlessly down into to the curves of the neck itself. When shaping and fitting new nuts, I like to try and get the tolerances so fine, that the nut stays exactly where it’s supposed to be – holding by friction alone. This nut fits OK as it is – but if I’d had to thickness it from a blank myself, I would have probably left a couple of extra hundredths of an inch “extra meat” to grip the edges of the slot more firmly. Although the nut stays where it is initially – I think any sideways string movement might possibly dislodge it slightly. To make sure the nut stays put – I use a tiny dot of super glue under the central tab. Pressed into place again – the nut is now secure.
I’ll be re-using the tuners from my original build, but since they originally fitted to an AllParts neck – the original bushings are too large for the Fender specification peg holes on the new neck. A set of Fender “vintage” bushings, (Fender parts number 099-4946-000) will fit the pre-drill peg holes exactly, and will also work with the 6.35mm posts of the Gotoh SD91 “Kluson style” machine heads. There’s no need to ream out, or otherwise prepare the peg holes to receive the bushings. They simply press home with thumb pressure only – using a small piece of flat metal, (I use an old dinner knife blade) – to spread the pressure, keep the bushings straight, and protect the surrounding finish.
Although Gotoh C-A-R-D inserts are designed for use with their SD51 tuners – they’ll also work just as well with vintage style SD91’s. The inserts act like little gaskets between the back of the headstock and the tuner machines. Their carbon fibre construction primarily acts as a second bushing – helping to maintain correct alignment of the tuning posts. But they also help protect the headstock finish from damage under the sharp edges of the tuner casings, and further provide a good connection to facilitate efficient vibration transfer. Projections on the C-A-R-D inserts drop into the pegholes at the back of the headstock, and the SD91 machines are fitted over the top. The neck is pre-drilled for “vintage style” tuners like the SD91, and I use the original stainless steel replacement screws from my original build to secure the tuners in place as usual.