Crawls Backward (When Alarmed)

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Squier Vintage Modified Jazzmaster Modifications, Pt. 1

I have some interesting (to me anyway) projects in the queue.  Perhaps I should clarify by saying there are some that are at the top of the queue that are interesting and will be worked on soon.  As opposed to projects that are interesting but are so far down the list we won't see them anytime soon.

Anyway, here's the first one.

This is a Squier Vintage Modified Jazzmaster.  Fender, via its budget Squier line, came out with this Jazzmaster and a Jaguar a few years ago.  I'd been watching them for a while, waiting to find a used one.  This one is supposedly a factory refurbished guitar, but I don't see any obvious issues with it. 

Issues in any event would be a little moot because I'm going to modify it. 

One thing right off the bat:  this is a darn well made guitar.  I don't know how Fender sells this thing for the street price of $300 U.S and makes any money.  I paid less than that, and I think I got a major deal.

For a "budget" instrument, this thing is pretty amazing.   Yes, the body is basswood.  Yes, it's made in Indonesia.  But it's a terrific guitar!

The only quibbles I had are with the setup: Fender puts .009 gauge strings on it (way too light IMHO) and it needs a setup.  But even needing a setup, it was not unplayable.  I'm just a bit picky, and anyway, I love doing set ups.

The guitar features the goofy/crazy/wacky electronics that the original Jazzmaster had at its birth in 1958.  The pickups were unlike the Telecaster or Stratocaster.  They are thin and wide and sound a bit fatter than a Tele or Strat.  And there are actually 2 independent wiring circuits on the guitar that give different tones.

There is a conventional circuit (Fender called it 'lead') with a Gibson-style selector switch on the treble bout that selects the neck, both, or bridge pickups.  There are 2 Stratocaster knobs for volume and tone.

The unique part of the Jazzmaster is the 'rhythm' circuit.  There is a small slide switch on the upper bout.  With the switch down, the guitar is on the 'lead' circuit.  With the switch up, only the neck pickup is on, and its volume and tone are controlled by the two roller knobs near the switch.  The 'rhythm' circuit is dark and quiet, and sounds 'jazzy.'  Fender was aiming at the Gibson market with this guitar for sure.  In hindsight, that was wishful thinking.  However, Jazzmaster was a hit with surf bands right away and is still a cool, if quirky, guitar today.

The body also is unique - its waists are offset, there is a belly cut and an arm cut.  Fender patented this body design, and it is very comfortable sitting or standing.  Finally, the tremolo (vibrato) is also unique to the Jazzmaster.

I'm going to swap out the bridge (more on that upcoming) and mod the electronics.

First I take off the bridge.  It just pulls right up.  The bridge was designed to rock back and forth when the vibrato was used - to help return the guitar to pitch.  The 'rocking' was accomplished by two posts that ride in cup-shaped 'thimbles' on the body.

You can see all the play in the mounting, which can let the bridge slip out of alignment.  The new bridge I have on order will eliminate a lot of this and should be an improvement. 

Now we take off the pickguard assembly.  The pots and switches are mounted directly to it.

Here's the pickguard up off the guitar.  The pickups are mounted to the guitar body at this point, so I can't take the guard off all the way.

But we can get a look at the wiring.  Hopefully I'll get to tidy this up some.  I'm going to shield the pickup cavity to reduce hum, so all of this will be coming out.

And here's the simple-but-clever way the roller pots are mounted.  The pots are actually just small sized ones turned sideways so their shafts are vertical.  Then the knobs attach to the shafts and protrude through a slot in the pickguard.

I'm going to experiment with some changes to the values of the tone pot and capacitor to hopefully turn the dark circuit into one that can be chimey or dark!  Wish me luck.

On to the thimbles.  I had read up on this on the interwebs and thought they might be a bear to get out.  Au contraire!

I stuck a wide screwdriver blade into them and they turned easily.  They I just carefully grabbed the thimbles and up they came.


One Jazzmaster bridge thimble removed.

All Posts on the Squier Vintage Modified Jazzmaster Modification Project:

Part One: Starting Disassembly (This page)
Part Two: Removing Factory Wiring
Part Three: Shielding
Part Four: Wiring Modifications and Curtis Novak Pickups
Part Five: Neck Inserts and Installing Mastery Bridge
Part Six: Buffalo Bone Nut and Final Setup
Part Seven: Modified VM Jazzmaster Visits the Garden
"Ching" Rhythm Circuit Revisited: 28 April 2014


Post a Comment 3 comments:

  • dreaminthought said...
    November 13, 2013 at 4:11 PM
    Awesome Job on the VMJM. Do you know if a J. Mascis Squier Jazzmaster, or any AOM bridge equipped JM, requiers filling and drilling of the bridge holes? I'm just about to start down the mod road on this and have not, and thus am somewhat frightened, of filling the holes in and re-drilling etc. Do you have any resources or tips on the subject.

    Awesome blog btw, was exactly what i was looking for.
  • Yr Fthfl Blggr said...
    November 13, 2013 at 8:23 PM
    Thanks for your kind words.

    According to the Mastery site, you need to use different thimbles, and I read that also to mean you have to drill out the holes a bit. They also say you have to drill the pickguard holes out as well. Neither sounds that hard to me.

    If you go here: and then click on "Not sure which bridge to buy" you can find more info. Good luck! That Mascis guitar is sweet.
  • Anonymous said...
    November 16, 2013 at 5:56 PM
    New info:

    AOM thimbles are bigger, so one would have to remove them via heated soldering iron to loosen the glue, screw n hammer etc. I've also heard of people using socket screws which is intriguing to me as I'm not sure if there would be a loss in height adjustments or if the bridge of choice would sit higher?

    From there, it's doweling and redrilling to fit the mastery diameter.

    The pickguard would need wider holes and it's aluminum, so I'm going to have to research that one before moving forward. I'm thinking the gold guard is going to reside on a shelf soon, so redrilling will not be an issue. I dig it, but the idea of gold just rubs me the wrong way, though I believe it lends more of a vintage feel. AVRI pick guards fit seamlessly. I'd keep the gold guard with a Sherwood green body as that would be a sweet combo, but I paint canvas not wood and I'm sure cat hair would be very much a part of the body.

    I'm shocked at how good the Mascis is, the neck is incredible and I'm liking the jumbo frets. My '74 Gibson L6S has a great neck as well, completely different feels though. Anyway, the Mascis Squier is the perfect mod guitar and I don't feel weird at all about adding a bridge that costs almost half of the guitar. I might have to visit Mr. Novak about some pickups.

    Thanks again for the great blog.

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