Squier Vintage Modified Baritone Jazzmaster

Squier Vintage Modified Baritone Jazzmaster

I bought this baritone in 2016 because it was affordable and I happened to have the exact amount of money in my PayPal account after selling a dumb Star Wars collectible lightsaber on Ebay that I had won in a Subway contest (I’d say ‘long story,’ but that is essentially the entire story). This guitar prominently features the much-maligned Antigua finish. And rightfully maligned, I say. It’s weird as hell. It can seem all right in certain lighting conditions, but in general it looks like green-tinted baby puke mixed with burnt baby puke. (Side note: I think the only time I’ve ever seen an Antigua finish instrument in popular culture is Horatio Sanz’s bass in the More Cowbell sketch.) Anyway, it’s a fine instrument: good sound and a nice beefy neck. As a former bass player, I approve.

I’ve decided to mess around a bit and do some visual upgrades. Nothing too crazy. 

DEC 2018 — Sanded the Antigua finish off the pickguard. Surprisingly easy and clean! Used a sander and then by hand, all the way down to some really high sandpaper grit. Looks all right. I also swapped out the metal knobs for some old-style witch hat Fender knobs. These simple tweaks are an immense improvement.

Squier Baritone Jazzmaster pickguard

*BUT* I’m not really a fan of white pickguards. So I tried a tip I’d read on a forum to ‘relic’ it — not in a cheesy ‘roadworn, played a thousand gigs’ way, I just wanted to knock the BRIGHT WHITE vibe down a notch or two. The internet advice: Let ‘er soak in a container of coffee grounds and hot water for a few hours. Okay, sure! The result? OH WAIT THE PLASTIC WARPED AND SHRUNK IN THE HOT WATER AND NOW IT’S USELESS THANKS INTERNET ADVICE

“Hey Tom cool knobs. Oh hey your pickguard doesn’t look screwed down. What do you mean the holes don’t line up anymore? What’s wrong with you, Tom?”

Yeah, yeah. Lesson learned there. I don’t normally make mistakes like this, but when I do, boy oh boy they’re TEACHABLE MOMENTS. So LEARN FROM THAT, KIDS.

That’s kind of okay though, because this fucking around with the pickguard was intended to be a stopgap measure. My true goal is to refinish the body in Fender Vintage Cream and match it with a red tortoiseshell pickguard.

(visual reference / goals / vision board / whatever)

JAN 2019 — I decided to buy the new pickguard now instead of later. Red tortoiseshell, purchased from an eBay seller who did a really nice job. Recommended. Look how cool this looks. COME ON.

(Note: This Instagram filter makes the Antigua paint job look nicer than it actually looks.)

This guitar is not a popular offering in the pick guard world, so I was glad I found a guy with a template. Pretty spot-on match, other than a few screw holes that don’t line up, but I was assuming that would happen anyway. I will leave ’em empty for now and deal with it in the spring… when I PAINT.

ReRanch nitrocellulose paint & Minwax lacquer

I’ve got my Vintage Cream nitrocellulose lacquer from Guitar Reranch ready and waiting. I’m highly judgmental of the font they use on the can, but otherwise they seem to be a fine and reputable company. Ha. Anyway, it’s the dead cold of winter and I need a work space with better ventilation. Nitrocellulose and lacquer takes a long-ass time to cure. I’ve got a recording session in March. So I guess maybe this is all on hold til spring.

MARCH 2020 — Thirteen months later, as a pandemic swoops upon our land, I figure it’s time to get back around to this project, because clearly it is a priority. Well, it’s at least a thing to do. Disassembly! I opted to tape up the electronics instead of cutting/re-soldering wires. The bridge is screwed into the body in a weird way that makes me apprehensive about altering the screw hole, so that is staying, too. I filled the misaligned pickguard screw holes, left the good ones.

APRIL 2020 — Warm weather has rolled into town, so I hung Barry up in the garage and rattle canned him. I am not as familiar working with lacquer as I am with polyurethane, so it’s a little weird, but after applying the Vintage Cream, I laid on a buncha coats of lacquer over a period of time. I will now let it cure for around two weeks. Some sites recommend way longer. Some less. This is my middle of the road amateur compromise.

It looks good. At least it photographs well. It has not been sanded or buffed or polished so it isn’t particularly shiny. If it doesn’t end up glassy-glossy I won’t be too upset. My greatest concern is that it will end up uneven. As long as it is uniformly right or wrong or whatever, I’ll be pleased with the result.

MAY 2020 — Two weeks later: 600 grit wet sand; checking where some new pickguard screw holes are gonna go. I have some Micro Mesh coming in the mail this week, because my local hardware store doesn’t carry anything finer than 600. Again I will stress that this photographs better than it looks in real life, but I’m still pleased with the progress.

Final wet sand. Micromesh 1500 through 12000. My sanding job makes it look sorta semigloss, which i’m happy with. I was a little overcautious on the initial/coarser sanding and too impatient to go back and redo it. Lessons learned, money spent, project complete.

In total, this upgrade project cost me $130 or so (a lot of that was shipping — mailing the paint cost more than the paint itself) and two years of very intermittent effort. I am pleased with the result and now I just gotta play it once in awhile.