Two Jags…

Chris brought his L Series Fender Jaguar to me just after Christmas and it has taken until this week to be able to make a start on it. It is well used, with a Seymour in the bridge position and the paint is looking very worse for wear and he wants it to be returned to its original glory.The controls all work and the wiring has already been renewed.

The second Jag came from a most unexpected quarter- Thailand!

This Jag is a 1975 US-made model that had already been refinished in a not-wonderful candyapple red and for some unknown reason, the inlays in the bound neck had been removed…

Stuart has stripped the body and neck but it still arrived with the brass shields still in the cavities.

But the guitar, on close inspection, is in quite good condition but the neck had also been refretted with large fret wire and unfortunately, the plastic binding has been adversely affected by the chemicals used to strip the finish.

So while the body will be straight forward- the neck not so much…

Now, it makes good sense to carry out the necessary work sort of side-by-side…both are to be refinished in tobacco sunburst, including the necks, and consequently, both will require replacement decals from their respective eras.

A good source of replacement Fender decals tends NOT to be Fender, though, as they tend to be rather…unhelpful.

But I have located a very helpful chap in the UK and, as will be seen further down the track, he produces excellent replacement decals.

(Not everybody producing or trying to source replacement decals is necessarily trying to hoodwink the general public, Mr Fender…)

Ok. The older Jag also will need a bit of repair work, so that is a good place to start. But first, the guitar needs to be disassembled.

As I said earlier, all the wiring has been renewed on the L Series, but in their enthusiasm for the use of vintage correct, cotton covered wire, sadly all the wiring is black…no colour coding.

The solution to this is to unsolder each wire one at a time and resolder back into position on removal.

If you’ve attempted a rewire on a Jag, you don’t want to have to start from scratch…

With all wiring and shielding removed and reconnected into its respective positions…

…I can address the repairs required. At some stage, replacement machine heads were fitted and the new screws caused some splitting.

And it would also appear that the neck screw holes have stripped and the original holes have been filled with dowel plugs and redrilled, also causing some splitting.

But before I can address these little issues, the finish has to be removed and the sticker on the back…

…has to go. And on removal…

…this is what it was covering. Some previous owner had renewed the mounting screws for the front pickup and drilled all the way through. Not once, but three times…

Oh well.

The neck on the younger Jag is next.

The neck and body of the 75 Jag arrived already stripped which is both good and bad. The body requires only minimal work but unfortunately, the stripper has rather badly eaten into the plastic binding on the neck…

…and the binding will have to be replaced. I initially thought that it might have been possible to just peel off the old binding, but- no.

I suppose that any chemical that will readily remove two-pack polyurethane will be fairly severe on plastic binding as well.

No, this was going to require a mechanical means of removing the old binding and after a bit of thought, I decided that the best approach was to do it with a router bit that would remove the old binding, and cut a new channel for the replacement binding.

And this is how it was done. A piece of mdf was cut to the exact size of the fretboard and so that the neck could be attached without movement, the mdf “carrier” had to have a matching fretboard radius.

To achieve this, the frets – which we had decided should be replaced because they were over size- are removed…

… the fretboard is straightened and reprofiled and self-stick sandpaper attached to give the mdf carrier the matching 7 1/4″ reverse profile.

The neck can now be run along a table-mounted router to cut out the existing binding and create a new binding ledge…

…like so.

Removing the old binding also allows me to recut the fret slots- this will be this guitar’s third set of frets- and of course, the fretboard inlays also have to be replaced with similar pearloid plastic inlays.

Because the thickness of the “mother-of-toilet seat” inlays has to match the routing in the fretboard, the depth has to be rerouted.

Now I can start making the replacement inlays.

Ok…well, using the Dremel solves only part of the problem; the plastic that I’m using for the inlays is decidedly thicker than the original and milling the inlay cavity is a slow business.

Perhaps a sharp chisel is the way to go…

…and that seems to be the way to go.

One other complication, though, is that the inlays are flat: the fretboard isn’t.

Hmmm.

It needs to be like this.

My heat gun and a sanding form to the rescue…

And now it sits exactly the way it should.

All the inlays are given a slight curve and are ready to be installed.

The glue to use is the same as I use for binding, considering that the inlays are pretty much the same plastic.

And for added insurance, I’m also using- where it’s needed- a fretting caul that matches the fretboard radius.

I’ll leave the inlays either clamped or taped until tomorrow.

When the glue has had time to thoroughly dry, I can level out any irregularities with a sharp cabinet scraper.

Any remaining gaps are filled using epoxy and appropriate wood dust- in this case, rosewood.

And again, when suitably hardened, it’s again levelled using the scraper.

With all of that out of the way, the next thing to do is refret the neck.

Fortunately, I had the opportunity to discuss this aspect of the- well, I suppose it is a restoration- with Stuart and when he returned home to Thailand, he sent me some photos of how he wanted it to look.

Originally, the bound Jag neck looks like this…

…the fret ends stop at the binding.

But another photo shows the way I would prefer to do it…

I suggested to Stuart that considering that I had to replace the binding, that I would prefer to extend the fret ends over the binding, because it gives just a bit more fret width. So that’s what we’ve opted for.

A word or two about this refret…

Because this guitar is about to be fitted with its third set of frets, I don’t want any loose, badly seated frets.

The technique goes like this:- the new correct sized Fender wire is cut to length, pre-bent and where the fret extends over the binding, the fret tang is removed. Glue is introduced into the fret slot…

…and the fret ends are tapped down. The fret is tapped into its slot…

…and the glue squeeze-out is wiped away using a damp cloth.

I then use a thin blade to check that the fret has indeed seated correctly and then reseat the fret and watch for more glue to appear…

…and again wipe away the squeeze-out.

Time consuming, yes, but the end result will be worth it.

Now I can get on with the refinish of both Jags…

Both guitars have to be fine sanded and major imperfections taken care of. A new nut has to be made and fitted to the 75 Jag and the nut replaced into the 64 one.

The fret boards are taped off and they are ready to be painted…

Here’s how I intend to hold the body and neck for painting

I’m making use of the truss rod to hold both necks by threading a holding rod onto the end of the truss rod in place of the adjuster.

For the body, I’m using a holder that screws into the back pickup rout that is hidden by the pickup on completion. This holder allows me to rotate the body into any position when it’s mounted into its stand.

The knob allows me to adjust the tension when the handle is rotated, holding the body just where I want it…

Just as an aside, in 1975, I would have thought that the Jaguar was probably Fender’s most expensive guitar. But in the course of sanding back Stuart’s Jag, I was somewhat surprised to discover that the body is made up of at least 5 pieces glued together…

and also somewhat surprising- a repair of a dodgy piece of alder at the heel…

As a maker of guitars, I would have rejected that centre piece out of hand!

And the neck as well…a piece glued on to the edge of the neck.

Of course, these “blemishes” are of no consequence in the completed instrument, but unexpected frugality on behalf of Fender, surely.

Anyway- on to painting.

Both bodies and necks are given several coats of sanding sealer and rubbed back before the sunburst is applied to the bodies.

The necks are appropriately finished in a “vintage clear” and are ready to receive their new decals.

After rubbing back the finish, the new decals are put in place…

…the 75 Jag on top, the 64 underneath. I’ll let the decals dry over the weekend and put a clear coat on them on Monday.

But the bodies were rubbed back and clear coated this afternoon and they’ll be ready for polishing around the middle of next week.

The colours are just a bit distorted by my sprayroom lights- the red isn’t as prominent as it looks- but they’re looking good…

The 75 is the top body, the 64 the one on the stand.

The necks are also given their final clear coat, ensuring that the new decals are “embedded” in the clear.

Okay. The paint has had ample time to harden and they can now be rubbed back…

…until the surface is totally flattened. My friend David- who’s building an archtop guitar with me (more on that soon…)- says that it is anomalous that a wooden guitar is rubbed back wet

And then the bodies and necks are buffed.

And now the 75 Jag is all polished up and ready to return to Stuart in Thailand…

Unfortunately, I don’t get to re-assemble the 75 Jag, but more on this guitar later…

Tomorrow, I’ll start re-assembling Chris’s 64 Jaguar.

Well- in typical fashion I suppose- I’ve been waylaid with other guitar work but when I did get to Chris’ 64 Jag, I discovered that the machine heads to be fitted no longer fitted. At some stage in the past, a set of non- Fender machines had been fitted and the machine head holes had been appreciably enlarged.

Chris wanted the original machines refitted and this meant that the holes had to be plugged and then redrilled.

I first made a drilling jig that replicated the spacing of the old Fender machine heads…

To match the hole size, the dowel that I had on hand had to be resized and I did this with a piece of steel with a couple of holes drilled in it that allowed the oversized dowel to be reduced to the required size by tapping through the larger hole and then the smaller one …

…and then the dowel could be cut to length and glued in.

Then, with all holes filled, the jig is applied and the holes redrilled…

…and the old machines re-installed.

But then for the next surprise…

When the top and bottom strings were fitted, the alignment was way, way out.

Chris had asked me to source a better bridge because the Jag had been difficult to keep in tune and this might just explain why. The strings had to be placed like this to keep them on the neck…

…and with the new Staytrem bridge, this is what happened.

After a few days thinking about the problem, it seemed that I was going to have to adjust the neck pocket and I would have preferred to do that before the guitar was refinished, not afterwards!

The neck was screwed back in exactly the same place as it was before it was painted and I didn’t consider for an instant that the holes in the neck would be wrong…

So I tried this. A clamp was placed on the neck (with the strings still attached) and the neck screws removed.

And rotating the neck allowed the strings to align again. The neck screws were just in the wrong place. On removing the neck again, the cause of the misalignment became obvious.

The original screw holes had been filled and then redrilled, but in the wrong place. No wonder that the strings didn’t run where they should have…

The neckholes were drilled out, filled and then redrilled, this time in the correct place- and now the strings are in alignment with the neck and the new Staytrem bridge.

The pickups are just taped in place until the top and bottom strings are installed so that they can be mounted with the polepieces aligned with the strings.

And with the neck now in the correct place…

…the pickups are screwed into position and the strings installed.

And after a lengthy -well “restoration”- Chris’s 1964 Fender Jaguar is again back to its old – but considerably improved- self.

Before…                                                        And after…

Now- back to the 75 Jag.

Stuart- who owns this particular guitar- lives in Thailand but travels home to Geelong occasionally and on his most recent trip back, paid me a visit and collected his refinished Jag and took it back to Thailand with him for re-assembly.

Recently, he sent me pics of the Jag being rewired and then reassembled…

And a nice few words from Stuart as well…