Welcome back to part 2 of my blog/writeup on the 2019 Squier Classic Vibe Jaguar. For part 2, I will move on from my review of the stock model to talk about how I fix the flaws identified in the previous review, as well as some mods I perform to the guitar to get a bit more out of it!
To watch me doing doing all the mod work, watch on here:
To begin with, here's what was involved in fixing the flaws identified on my guitar:
To fix the lackluster fretwork, and to get the guitar playing with as low and comfortable an action as possible, a fret level and dressing was required after checking the seating of the frets to make sure there were no high frets. If there weren't so many high frets, spot levelling and dressing would be sufficient. However, this unfortunately was not the case.
Here's a brief description of what I and many other techs do for this kind of work. I won't go into my techniques too much here, as honestly I could write many blogs to cover that topic alone.
Before starting, I make sure the neck is as straight as possible with no strings on the guitar. I also apply painters tape to the fretboard to protect it from the whole process. It's also worth taping the tops of your pickups to prevent any metallic dust and shavings from getting stuck to your pickup polepieces since they will be drawn to the magnetism of the pickups.
The first step is to use a levelling file (I like to use the Stewmac Snapfile levelling system for this) to file away enough material across all of the frets until they're level. I do this by applying permanent marker across all the frets so I know exactly how much material I take off when I pass the file over the frets, and then applying passes over the entire fretboard form headstock to bridge side, evenly across the bass and treble sides until the marker is gone from the frets. I then take a bit more material off the frets from around the 15th fret to the last fret (again, this is done evenly across the frets) to give some fall away which will help with playability later. after making sure everything is level, the frets are left with flat tops. Obviously for playability and intonation, the frets need to be given a dome shape again, and must then have all scratches removed using various grades of sandpaper until the frets have a mirror finish and are completely smooth.
Simplifying the process, I dome the frets by reshaping them using a 3 corner file. If you search the internet you will find many tutorials on how to do this, so I won't go into the process here. As I mentioned before, after giving the frets their dome shape (called crowns), I use grits of sandpaper starting at 400 and ending at around 2000 to remove any scratches left by the files on the frets. I also round the edges of the frets using a fret end file so that they are nice and comfortable to play. After this, I buff them out using a 3 grit nail buffer (you can get these cheap at most pharmacies, I get them from dollar stores to save more money) and the frets are left with a mirror-like shine. You can also use a buffing compound after the nail buffer for extra shininess!
This is by far the longest of the processes for fixing the flaws on the guitar but it is very necessary and well worth the effort! Now that the frets are nice and level, the guitar will be so much easier to play with a lower action, and will be nice and buzz free as the strings won't vibrate and hit any nasty high frets.
After removing the painters tape from the fretboard, I clean away any debris and apply some Harron's Board Sauce (A lemon oil designed specifically for guitars) to condition the fretboard.
This process alone has now fixed the single biggest issue that the guitar had. Now, onto the second issue.
It's all very well having nice, level frets to play on, but it doesn't count for much if the nut isn't set up with the proper action. As I talked about in part 1 of the blog, thee nut on this guitar had too high an action, which means that the strings sat too high off the frets at the nut. This spells trouble as it makes notes uncomfortably high to play during the nut, and it makes perfect intonation when fretting the notes nigh unattainable.
Again, luckily this is a straightforward fix for any tech or luthier.
At a basic level I used nut slotting files at the appropriate gauge for each string to deepen the existing slots to where they needed to be (making sure there is a subtle ramp from each slot down toward the tuners). I like the action to be set so that there is about 0.5mm between the top of the first fret and the string.
After setting the action for the nut correctly, I removed excess material from the top of the nut. After this I set about buffing the nut with my handy 3 step nail buffer until the nut has no more scratches on it, and is nice and shiny/smooth.
Before and After: The nut before action was corrected and finished correctly on the left, after being corrected and finished on the right.
The Bad Neck Shim
It goes without saying that the pieces of sandpaper and tape were removed from the neck pocket. To properly shim this neck, I used a Stewmac shaped neck shim (0.25 degree option) in the neck pocket
The idea with the Stewmac neck shim is that it fits snugly on the base of the neck pocket, getting as much contact with the base as possible. This shim tapers down, so when the neck is bolted back on, it creates an angle that tilts the neck back and allows for better string break angle over the bridge.
This maple shim causes excellent coupling between the neck and neck pocket, which in turn creates bettor resonance and sustain than the previous shim while providing the needed neck angle.
The final fix was probably the most simple. It involved unscrewing the vibrato plate from the guitar (unscrew the 6 outside screws), unscrewing the two domed screws the sit below the e strings, and then simply re-screwing them to the plate from below, so the the domes sit below the plate and nothing can protrude far enough to contact the strings.
Then simply screw the vibrato plate back on to the guitar and you're done! No more contacting screws!
Before flipping the domed screws on the left, and after on the right.
And thats about it for correcting all the flaws that the guitar had before. After a restring and setup the guitar plays perfectly, and works as it should while staying in tune, buzz-free!
With all that out of the way, now it's time for the fun stuff - modifications!
For this guitar, I wanted to improve the ergonomics of the controls for the lead circuit. Rather than using 2 seperate slider switches to control the bridge and neck pickup, I prefer to just use a 3 way toggle switch, which greatly simplifies changing pickup selection on the fly.
To do this, all you will need is a 3 way on-on-on fat bat mini toggle switch (yes it needs to be on-on-on, an on-off-on switch will not work), a rat tail file, and some wiring to wire it up. You can find the switch I bought here.
The next mod will be a series/parallel switch to make use of the bridge pickup slide switch which will be unused with the 3 way switch. This mod will put both pickups in series (rather than the standard parallel) when both on, giving a beefier, pseudo humbucker tone.
Before getting started on the mods, I decided to shield all of the cavities and the pickguard with conductive adhesive copper tape. As I have explained before on other blogs, this tape will form a Faraday cage which blocks out signals from reaching the electronics and in turn will reduce hum. I strongly believe that this method of shielding is better than the stock conductive textured paint you'll find in the cavities of this and other guitars, mostly because the paint does not form a cage like the tape. To get the most out of shielding, it is best to give the electronics 360 degrees of shielding, which of course the paint does not do. Even if you just shield the back of the pickguard, this will likely not be as effective as the shielding tape as the paint does not spill over the lips of the cavities to connect with the pickguard shielding, thus a conductive cage is not formed, which can actually if done very poorly increase noise interference by creating more antennae for signals.
Shielding takes time and patience, but is cheap and you only need scissors to cut shapes of the tape to conform to all surfaces of the cavities and on the back of the pickguard.
In order to get the mini 3 way toggle switch to fit into the neck pickup slider switch hole on the lead circuit control plate, a hole big enough for it needs to be mode. First, remove all three switches from the lead circuit plate, and use a rat tail file to carefully file away enough material for the switch to fit. Go slowly and carefully, it only takes a few minutes to file a hole big enough for the switch, so check the hole regularly in between filing to make sure you don't widen the hole too much.
Above: Using a file widen the slot for the 3 way switch - left
The hole after filing - right
Now that the plate is prepared, the switch can be installed onto the plate as well as the series/parallel switch and the bass cut switch.
Before rewiring the guitar, you will need to unclip/de-solder the little jumper wire going from the claw on the bridge pickup to the grounding eyelet on the pickup, otherwise you will have issues with grounding out. You can instead ground the claw to the shielding if you wish, that way it will still be doing the same job.
With that out of the way, all that's left to do is wire the guitar up! Here's the crude diagram I drew myself to help do so!
You'll notice an added treble bleed on the volume pot for the lead circuit, this is simply a a 0.001 mfd cap with a 120K 1/4W resistor wired in parallel wired between lugs 1 and 2 (just not the grounded lug) of the volume pot. This gives the pot a more natural, useable sweep by 'bleeding in' treble frequencies to the signal while rolling the pot down. This is good if you hate the usual muddy tone you get on volume pots when you roll form 8 or 9 down toward 0. It's a very small mod, but very useable if you make a lot of use of the volume pot sweep.
So now that I've explained the treble bleed I added all you need to do is follow the diagram when rewiring the guitar to complete the mods!
Note on the diagram for the series/parallel switch there is a jumper going between lug A3 and B2, the hot wire from the neck pickup, doesn't just go straight to B3.
Once the guitar is wired up, the mods are all done!
So lets review what added features we now have:
1. A more ergonomic 3 way selection switch for the lead circuit
2. A series/parallel switch to get an extra tonal option of the more beefy variety when both pickups are engaged
3. If you decided to follow my diagram completely you will also now have a treble bleed on your volume pot!
Something to note with the series parallel switch, when it is in series mode, if you switch the selector switch to the neck position, you will get no signal. Think of this as an added killswitch! This is also a common side effect if you add a series parallel switch in place of the rhythm/lead switch as is a popular mod with Jaguars and Jazzmasters.
As I see it, these mods add a something to the guitar without taking anything away, you can still get all of the tones/switching options that you get on a stock standard Jaguar, plus the extra series/parallel option. And you get easier pickup toggling - so there really isn't much of a disadvantage to doing these mods in my opinion.
So there you have it, my review and mods of the Squier Classic Vibe Jaguar.
If I were to score guitars in my review, I would give the guitar an 7.5/10 even with the flaws on mine. However, after the fixes and mods it would score a solid 9/10 in my book!
Thanks for sticking around for the blogs, I hope if you're reading this you are gaining something from them!