Tuesday, April 28, 2015

The state of the (CIJ) Jazzmaster, April 2015

In memoriam of Fender Japan's closing and in recognition that it's been a while since I posted about it, here's the current state of my Japanese Fender Jazzmaster:

Added a tortoise shell pickguard, and re-added the "aged white" pickup covers that I'd tried out and previously removed.

This is more or less the look that I originally wanted back when I bought this guitar in 2007, but I ended up a little bit smitten with the mint pickguard it actually came with. Still, literally the entire reason I wanted a red Jazzmaster with matching headstock was this:

That's one of Kevin Shields' Jazzmasters, as normally played by Bilinda Butcher in My Bloody Valentine. See it in action in the "Soon" video here:

His, of course, was a vintage Jazzmaster with a vintage pickguard - and as anyone will tell you, most modern tortoise shell looks absolutely nothing like vintage. I have a Japanese Jazzmaster which further limits my options. (An American pickguard will fit with some slight mods, but I don't want to drill either into my guitar or into a vintage pickguard.)

My pickguard above is from Allparts. Yes, Allparts pickguards fit Japanese Jazzmasters without mods - in fact, except for their gold pickguard, that is all they fit. The template they use for most of their guards is Japanese, whether they even know it or not.

It is tough to find decent pictures of tort pickguards online (somehow they all end up a blurry mess), so here's what's hopefully a pretty good shot of the Allparts tortoise shell. It is printed tortoise, meaning there's a clear layer of plastic over what's probably a piece of paper with a tortoise pattern printed on it. From far away it looks okay, but up close it's pretty obvious that there's no depth to it. It's very "2D".

This is true of a lot of modern tort, including Fender Japan's official tort pickguards. (Their early pickguards were red printed like this, although I think the Allparts looks better. Their later tort pickguards were brown, but still printed.) Fender's new US pickguards don't look printed, but they're also not "real" tort - they look like they're made with some variation of the swirl painting technique, the same way their "bowling ball" guitar finishes were made.

There's one guy who's figured out how to make real celluloid tort again, just like the vintage stuff, and his nom-de-plume is Spitfire. If you want a vintage-looking pickguard without spending $500+ for one, he's your guy - as long as he's got a template for your guitar. A long time ago in a thread on a guitar forum I read he posted this kind of amazing video about pens, and it seems like that set him off and running. This is how you make real tort:

I'm literally counting the days until he sorts out his Japanese Jazzmaster template, which he's apparently in the process of doing. My Allparts guard is a placeholder.

I'm not sure if you can tell (it's more obvious in the photo at top), but in person I still feel like the pickup cover color is off. See, those knobs there aren't the modern reproductions - those are real vintage knobs from 1966. That's the color they've faded to, not the yellowish brown that Fender's "aged white" really is. Granted, not everything would have discolored at the exact same rate, but usually most of the plastic on any guitar matches.

The stark white Mojotone covers I had, though, didn't look right either on a tort pickguard. I felt that way with my AVRI also; tort needs something a little softer.

My phone whitened up the pickup covers in this photo - damn, I still think this is a beautiful guitar. Just can't wait to slap a Spitfire guard on it!

About This Blog

This is increasingly not a blog about Alphabet City, New York. I used to live in the East Village and work on Avenue B, but I no longer do. Why don't I change the name if I'm writing about Japan and video games and guitars? Because New Yorkers are well-rounded people with varied interests, and mine have gone increasingly off the rails over the years. And I don't feel like changing the name. I do still write about New York City sometimes.


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