Fender® Japan really latched onto the Offset series in a big way, and its not unfair to say that up until recently, its been more common to see Jaguar and Jazzmaster guitars coming from the far east in Europe then their USA counter parts.So with that in mind, these are the pickguards to fit.
Whilst the USA version ran from 1962 through to the mid 70s, the Japanese versions run from the early 90s, through to the modern day, and normally, they're built as "re-issues" - fairly faithful copies of the original US models.
However - Fender Japan, as is common, decided to do a few things "their way" - which is completely understandable looking back on it. The Jaguar® hadn't been made for over a decade when they re-introduced them. So you will see some minor variations between USA and Japanese models. The main one that jumps out, is the pickguard.
The "problem" is essentially the control plates - Japanese Jaguar® guitars (and this isn't a hard and fast rule by any stretch of the imagination!) come with different control plates when compared to the USA model.
The plate itself is also a slightly different shape, and the mounting hole pattern is different.
Fender®, Squier®, Jazzmaster® and Jaguar® are registered trademarks of Fender Musical Instruments Corporation and Axesrus® has no affiliation with FMIC
Japan vs. USA - Control Plates
Fender Japan, have always had a strange relationship with control plates on guitars.
Mustang? Different control plate to the USA/Mex/Squier® versions!
Telecaster? USAs, Mexicans and Squier® all use a 32mm wide version nowadays. Fender® Japan use a 32.4mm
And the biggest pig of them all? You guessed it – The Jaguar series!
Now, remember that none of this is official, and it does seem to be restricted to certain periods of guitar – but there is pretty strong evidence that Japanese Jaguar guitars use completely different control plates to the USA, Mexican and Squier versions.
The problem here is that no one really seems to know when Fender Japan used their own spec control plates, and if/when they ever swapped back over to the USA versions. So rather then us trying to guess at dates and models, lets have a look at how the control plates are different in relation to the pickguard.
Easy one first.
Here we see a Hex plate fitted to a USA Spec pickguard, and it a perfect match.
It'd look the same on a Japanese pickguard, so, seemingly, they're the same part.
On the left, we've got a USA Spec Control plate paired with a Japanese Pickguard - notice the gap?
On the right, USA meets USA, and as you can imagine, its a perfect match!
On the left, we've got a USA plate on Japanese guard - see how when the plate is in the correct positio, it doesn't fill the route?
On the right, USA on USA - and it behaves as expected.
Tortoise Shell Explained
You’ve probably noticed with the pickguards, we do A LOT of different variations in tortoise shells – and even then, we barely scratch the surface when it comes to completing the line-up.
Basically, Tortoise shell, originally, way back when, when it first started (long before the electric guitar was a thing) was just that – pieces of a tortoises shell, fixed together into a shape, and polished until semi-transparent (some of the early acoustic pickguards were actually made this way)
Now, obviously, none of us want to see a return to those practises, but seemingly, everyone liked “the look” – so with the advent of plastic in the early part of the 20th century, science found a cheaper way (it wasn’t until the seventies when trade in hawksbill turtle (the main source of Tortoise shell) shells became illegal!)
The first “plastic” Tortoise Shells were made from Nitrate plastics, usually Celluloid – and, frankly, it’s pretty gorgeous! Its semi-transparent, it’s got a sort of leopard skin look to it, and it soon worked its way onto guitars (again, most acoustics)
The problem is – Celluloid plastics are astonishingly flammable – they have a low point of combustion, and once they’re burning, they don’t go out until the fuels gone, or they flame is deprived of oxygen. As you can imagine, no one really liked working with Celluloid. It was risky to use (cutting = friction = heat) it was dangerous to store, and it wasn’t really suitable for the job at hand ( it changed colour when exposed to sunlight, it warped, it shrank, it was generally, pretty badly behaved!)
Never the less, it did eventually find its way onto electric guitars by the late 50s and early 60s, but was soon replaced for something more suitable and much safer.
Nowadays, you see Tortoise shells in either Polyoxymethylene (more stable as a material, but still very flammable) or PVC (which is fairly bomb proof, but does give off toxic fumes if burnt)
Now, getting to the modern day – Tortoise shell comes in 5 “variants” for us (ignoring the Celluloid offerings, they’re still out there, and great for historical accuracy, but just be VERY careful with them – not only in buying them/storing your guitar once its fitted, but also in actually sourcing the stuff, we’ve yet to find a factory who will even consider making a plate with it (too big a fire risk) and even when we do, its very cost prohibitive (more expensive to buy the things then we could ever dream of selling them for!) – there are guys out there making them though – but as a rough guide, expect to pay upwards of £150+)
Now this is a funny one. For the longest time, it was the only Tortoise shell we had access to, and honestly – its OK – turns up pretty often on mid-priced guitars, such as the Squier® Classic vibe and vintage modified lines – personally, I think of it was a cheats Tortoise shell, because it seems to be a screen print sandwiched between the layers of PVC, and as such, it looks a little flat. It is, however pretty uniform, so if you want all your tortoise shells to look the same, classics the way to go.
3 Ply Brown
Now we’re talking – rather then a “flat layer” brown tortoise is the real deal – layers of semi-transparent PVC (one yellow, one brown) over laid to give that characteristic look. For whatever reason, the 3 ply version shows a little more yellow in the mix then the 4 ply. It shows a great depth of colour as a result, and if pressed, I’d say it was my favourite of the shells.
4 Ply Brown
Slightly darker then the 3 ply version, less yellow bleed through in the mix (presumably because the yellow “layer” is thinner)
3 Ply Red
Similar to the brown version really – yellow and red, one on top of the other, but it’s the same principle, same results, just a little more vibrant then the brown.
4 Ply Red
Where the brown 4 ply shows a little less yellow, the red version pretty much cuts it out completely. Its almost bordering on a red pearl for us, and certainly not without its charms. Ideal if you really hate the idea of the yellow peeking through.
For completeness sake, heres a photo of a celluloid plate too - i think we can all agree, it looks absolutely glorious, and theres a real depth to the "shell" effect - but if you look closely at the photo, you can probably see that the plate (in this case a Jazzaster) has badly warped, its been kept in the same conditions as the PVC plates above, for the same amount of time, but its way past being usable now.