Jazzmaster Phase 3: All the other stuff (it’s done!)

My impatience got the best of me this weekend. I squeezed in whatever time I could to work on the Jazzmaster and finally got it all set up late Sunday night.

I started out by tackling the remaining wiring tasks, such as installing the pickups and running the ground wire:

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While the wiring harness I bought from Hoagland Brothers was very nicely wired, I struggled to keep the extra pickup wires neatly contained. I did what I could, then added the foam pickup supports, and placed the pickguard with some masking tape, in case I needed to get in later and tweak (or fix!) any of the electronics:

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Almost ready! Neck was installed after this:


After stringing it up and doing some quick playing, I realized that the nut was just way too high—any open chords I played near the top of the neck were horribly out of tune. I realized this called for some filing. However, I had no suitable files. After a quick trip to the hardware store, I returned with a three-sided triangular file. This is probably not the best solution, but it worked. I was able to bring the strings down to a more reasonable level and the guitar would then remain tuned while playing open chords. Score one for me.

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After doing more setup, bridge adjustments, and intonation attempts, for what seemed like forever (people really are not joking when they say the Jazzmaster is one of the more difficult guitars to set up), I decided it was time to install the string tree and straplock buttons. This was much easier than I’d expected. I don’t have photos, but I opted for Schaller straplock buttons to match my straplocks, as I use those on all of my guitars.

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Finally, I drilled the holes for the pickguard using the pickguard as the template. There are probably a million reasons not to do it this way, but I felt pretty comfortable with it, so there you go. My lovely daughter installed all of the screws. My wrists are still thanking her.

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And then, I spent a ton more time intonating and adjusting the action. And adjusting. I was feeling like the strings were too high, but based on several Jazzmaster setup guides I found, the distances were all within the standard ranges. After experiencing first-hand the fabled saddle buzzing and string slippage, I am now considering a buzz stop for the bridge. It’s cheap and reversible, i.e., it does not require any modifications.

Also, I was playing it for awhile and started to notice a bunch of crackling sounds coming from the electronics whenever I’d play. I decided to shelve it for awhile and then remembered that I’d lowered the bridge all the way right before that started. I raised the bridge just high enough to not touch the cups and the crackling seems to have abated. It must have been some sort of ground loop, I’m guessing.

So, now that it’s all done and ready to go, what is the verdict? Awesome! I love this guitar so far. And while I plan to do some more fine tuning, I’m already digging the feel of it, the shape, and the sound. I don’t know why I didn’t get a Jazzmaster sooner. It feels like it fits me. May have to build another one. And, the finished product:


I’ll take some nicer photos when I have more time (and daylight). Now the only major decision is whether to use the decal I designed or just leave the headstock blank:


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