How does a ’97 ‘Crafted in Japan’ reissue Jaguar compare to an original 1965 model?

– a comparison by John Phillips ‘Unquiet’, Scotland. originally appeared in Chris Greene’s ‘Fenderforum’.

Very well actually. I’ve got the pair of them in front of me right now, here are the details:

  • Neck: CIJ feels bigger, the original’s is quite V-shaped and feels thin, the reissue much rounder and more hand-filling. Headstock shape is fairly accurate with only a very slightly larger bulge under the logo – barely noticeable. But wrong logo! The reissue logo is a late-60s-style black with gold outline. This is not right on a 62-style dot neck (but maybe deliberate to prevent use by forgers?). Interestingly, the neck is stamped ‘JG-66’ on the heel. Were they trying to make a ’66 reissue? That might explain the logo but then why no neck binding? The ‘Jaguar’ script is a bit too skinny.

    Neck finish is excellent, exactly the right shade with none of the ‘fake-tan’ aspect of so many of the reissues. Dots are a bit ‘flat’ looking, more silver than pearl. Side dots are black and in the maple rather than silver and right on the join line. Frets are near identical. The rosewood fingerboard is quite pale-looking, but 35 years of oil and sweat should help!
  • Nut width: ’65 – overall 41.2mm, string spacing 35.8mm. CIJ – overall 41.0mm, string spacing 34.1 mm. This is interesting as the reissue FEELS wider – but it’s not! It can only be the bulkier neck profile giving a wrong impression I think.
  • Machineheads: accurate apart from the lack of ‘Kluson Deluxe’ lettering, work nicely.
  • Body: the overall outline is very accurate, the only significant difference is in the treble-side waist, which is slightly less deeply cut. Contouring is about the right depth but the edges are much less radiused so the impression is a bit more ‘slab-like’. The sunburst is good, but the centre is noticeably more transparent and less yellow (which is the ‘Fullerplast’ on the original). Of course the finish is polyester not cellulose so is harder and more shiny than the original would have been even when new. There’s no routing for the mute on the reissue.
  • Trem unit: ‘pat. no #2,972,923’ lettering is smaller but that’s about all the difference.

    I haven’t dismantled the ’65 recently but the reissue looks just about the same mechanically from what I remember. The arm is curved just right too.
  • Bridge: the pivot posts are riveted-in quite differently, there’s no ‘dome’ above the plate like the original. Saddles are larger diameter and slightly coarser thread on the lower 3 strings (advantage – wider grooves). So are the intonation screws, and they’re longer (disadvantage, the ends of the screws interfere with the strings even worse than on the oldies, I had to cut the end off the bottom ‘E’ screw on the ’65). The height screws are 1.5mm Allen not 1mm.
  • Scratch plate: a little thinner than the ’65 but a very nice colour for a modern tortoise plate.
  • Metal plates: also a little thinner, and the Vol/Tone/Jack plate is a bit roughly

    shaped. The screws that hold the switches and roller controls are also raised flat head, not countersunk as on the original.
  • Controls: roller knobs are excellent, switches are a little thinner and taller than the originals, and the knobs… are the single worst visible fault on the reissue. Horrible, cheap looking and coarse to feel, slightly too tall and far too skinny.
  • Internal electrics: the pots are the right values but are small and cheap, though they seem to work well enough. The jack socket is of course a far-east one not a Switchcraft, basically the same construction but a bit flimsier. The switches are DPDT types instead of SPST, which makes possible all sorts of interesting wiring mods without changing the appearance… eg series wiring using the 3rd switch… the brass screening plates are all there, but aren’t held in by anything! They just rattle about in the bottom of the cavities (the V/T/J-plate one audibly so, not good). I’m going to use some double-sided tape if nothing else…
  • Pickups: quite close visually, but no staggered pole pieces. DC resistances: ’65 – 6.2k (neck) and 6.4k (bridge). CIJ – 6.0k (neck) and 6.1k (bridge). But the reissue pickups are NOT opposite polarities. Very bad. This misses out on one of the best and most ahead-of-its-time features of the original… hum canceling in the both-on mode (which I almost always use, especially with distortion).

    …on the old one the 2 low side-pieces [the "saw teeth"] are for the A and low E, on the reissue they’re under the B and high E. This might make a significant difference as they widen the magnetic field (being effectively extra pole pieces), but less so where they are cut down. So in theory the ’65 should have a mellower top and twangier bottom than the reissue… which does seem to be true… but hard to tell for sure as the new guitar is so much brasher sounding in general. [Note: As found out by comparison on the FDP-forum, vintage Jags have the saw teeth aligned both ways – but it seemed to be intended to go under the b and e string, like on the new MIA reissues]

Now the hard bit… how do they sound?

Well, OK I’m biased but my ’65 is as near to a perfect guitar sound as I can imagine. Smooth but punchy, mellow but twangy, etc. In comparison the reissue is harsher, more ‘honky’ and springier sounding. But it’s not just the pickups, it’s like that acoustically to some extent as well. The pickups just accentuate it. If it were mine I’d definitely think about some Seymour Duncans…

What I think: this is a very nice guitar. It’s very accurate for a reissue, much more so than the Strats and Teles, only let down by a few cheap parts (easily changed), the loose screening plates (easily fixed) and those pickups (also changeable). The basic build quality is so good I wonder how the new US reissues can be that much better for double the money (I haven’t seen one yet, dealers over here won’t take them except on special order). Why did Fender stop making them? Why don’t they do a MIM one?
– John, Mar 2nd, 2001

Additional info:

They still do make the Japan models. There are a few differences in measurement. The pole pieces of the pickups are different than an old Jag. The bridge base began looking like the ones on the Japanese Jags on USA models as early as 1968. The pole pieces are flat because 1962 and 1963 Jaguars have flat pole pieces. The staggered ones came around in about late 1963. [here are images of flat vs staggered pole pieces]
The roller knob knobs and pots are very different on the Japanese reissues. The knobs are actually nicer made than the old ones/MIA reissues.

…The roller knob difference is as such. The originals are made of aluminium with a 1/8″ shaft hole. The MIJ’s are heavy (brass?) with a 1/4″ (or metric equivalent) shaft hole. If you need replacement pots,try finding 1/8″ shaft with that size body in an electronics catalog! The 1/4″ is much easier to find. But that worry is over now too because the MIAs have the post ’65 type pots. (I specified post ’65 because pre-CBS Jags and Jazzmasters use Stackpole pots exclusively, and in ’65 they switched to CTS)
– Jim Shine, USA

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