A set of new, genuine Fender Jaguar shielding plates seems to be an impossible find here in the UK. Additionally – high shipping costs and import taxes means it’s not exactly economical to specially ship sets in from the USA. So – why not make a set, myself, from scratch?
Sometimes, trying to capture the intrinsic character of a particular instrument is more rewarding than merely grafting on the latest and greatest upgrades. In some ways, retro-fitting a standard type bridge to my Jaguar, might be seen as a step backwards. But with a Fender Mute, Flatwound strings and a bit of a tweak to the geometry – I think I’ve brought it closer to it’s 60’s roots.
So if I try to work with some of the Jaguar’s unique design features, take a good look at the principles at work, and treat the bridge more like I might on an archtop – what is that going to mean for the setup itself? Is there a way to achieve a perfect balance between solid-body form and archtop function?
Clearly – the original Fender Jazzmaster / Jaguar bridge has it’s issues. For many – that’s enough of a reason to look for alternatives. However, I want to try and stick to the technology of the time on my “62” Jaguar project. If I can’t fix the bridge entirely – perhaps I can find a way to tame it, and make it work better by setting it up right.
Since I’m decided on following the “62” vibe of my Olympic White Jaguar, to its’ logical conclusion – and since I just happen to have a surplus Fender Mute assembly on my new, Vintage USA Jaguar body – there’s really only one thing to do. But I’ll have to learn how to install the thing by looking first, at how to remove it.
One of the “received truths” about the Jaguar – seems to be that the original bridge design is at fault for just about everything – (although there are a whole series of common mods which address some sonic characteristics as well). With the bridge however – many of the “fixes” appear to cause problems, or unwanted knock-on effects, themselves.
…what does that mean for the setup itself? Is there a way to achieve a perfect balance between archtop form, and solid-body function?
Comparing the various Jaguar bridge options got me thinking. I just couldn’t work out what that Fender Tune-o-matic bridge was trying to achieve. Since I plan to have a few offsets to set up over the next few months, I need to work out how to solve some of the technical differences which make Stratocasters and Jaguars so, apparently, different. I began to realise, I’d have to look at things in a different way…
With two new offset projects, and an existing Jaguar build to upgrade – I need to make a few choices. I’ve collected a few different bridge options over the past few months. Now might be a good time to go through the options, and work out which bridge might best suit each build.
That’s the way it goes sometimes. Guitars get rotated around, and sometimes you don’t play a particular favourite for ages. I recently started a few modifications on my Ash Stratocaster and, looking around for an alternative to hand, I took my White Jag out of its’ case for the first time in ages. I get to have a good long look at an old favourite with “new eyes”, and the benefit of a good few months working on other projects.
The Jaguar brought a new set of challenges. Nitro finishing, a fiddly wiring job and a bit of shimming to compensate for a higher bridge. The winter months have meant that the workshop is uncomfortably cold to work in – so the final finishing has been mostly done in the warmth of the kitchen. Over the last month or so, I’ve managed to finish both the Jaguar and the Strummercaster. Time to step back and have a look at what’s been achieved.
The Jaguar has been sitting for a little while, to let the strings stretch, the neck to adjust under tension and to generally let everything settle. It’s already pretty playable – but a proper setup should improve this even more.
It seems the Staytrem bridge must be taller than the stock design Jaguar bridge. Either that, or the neck heel is too deep. The action on the Jaguar is well above what you’d call normal – even with the bridge screwed all the way down to the deck. Fortunately – there’s a cure.
As with most projects, all the individual elements build one on another – each relying on the quality and accuracy of the previous steps. So fitting the pickups feels a little bit like putting the pinnacle on a house of cards. Here’s hoping all my preparation leads to an easy installation.
The pickups for the Jaguar have arrived! Time to pull this project together – well, see if I can wrap up the construction anyway. I need to make sure the neck is good to go – so it’s in the best possible shape for the first setup.
I have a copy of an original, hand-drawn, Fender wiring diagram I found on the web. It’s dated 7th August 1962. That’s exactly the same week I was born, (and the same week Marylin Monroe passed). As I’ve mentioned before in previous posts – to me, the Jaguar design totally encapsulates that era. Rockets, chrome, conical bras, spacemen, surfboards, cars with fins. You can see it all in the lines of a Fender Jaguar. And it’s one of the reasons I embarked on this whole project to begin with.
In the original, 1962 Jaguar design, all the ground side of the circuit ran via a series of linked, brass plates which fitted into the bottom of each recess cavity. However I end up doing the wiring – I’ll have to replicate this function in some way or other.
I’ve got a pair of pickups and a wiring harness on order. In the meanwhile, it’s time to tidy everything up and get ready.
A quick change to the standard specification – but one which comes highly recommended.
It could still all go horribly wrong…
There are six holes to drill in the newly polished Jaguar body, so that the chrome tremolo plate can be fitted over the large cutout.
The urban dictionary has an entirely different meaning – Hmmm. But polishing this Jaguar is actually quite a “Zen” way to spend a dull autumn day.
Polishing up the headstocks and fitting the tuners – ready for assembly.
Adding the protective clear coat to the painted body. This should eventually polish up into a lustrous, liquid shine.
There are quite a few processes to run before the neck is ready to go. The decals need sanding flat, and the fingerboard needs oiling.
It’s all in the preparation and approach.
There’s plenty to do. Let’s start with some relatively easy stuff. Waterslide decals take me all the way back to the plastic construction kits of my childhood.
Let’s get another project up and running. I always find it useful to have, at least, a couple of projects on the go at any one time.