We make custom electric guitars by hand. We make guitars with bolt on necks. If you ask us nicely, we’ll make guitars with neck through. But no matter how much you plead, we won’t be fed after midnight and we won’t make guitars with set necks.
Set necks means the neck is glued in. Traditionally, there’s a mindset which says that glued necks are superior to bolt on necks; this perception seems to be based on nothing more than the fact that Gibsons (exponents of glued necks) are more expensive than Fenders (bolt ons). At this juncture, let’s ignore the fact that a set of neck bolts and ferrules is more expensive than a light application of wood glue.
Gibson recently went into administration and in our opinion, has floundered for years following misjudged positioning of new ‘genre defining’ models, poor finishing and as we now see, having overleveraged the business with expensive debt. We’re not saying that glued necks have caused Gibson’s insolvency but the wider malaise in which Gibson has become mired in recent years should go some way to dispelling the myth that expensive glued necks are ‘better’ than less expensive Fender bolt ons.
Ok – we recognise that PRS are also advocates of glued necks but they’ve also released a number of bolt on neck models, eg DC3, NF3 and most recently, the lauded Silver Sky.
Most other reputable, high calibre guitar makers advocate bolt ons, eg Ernie Ball Music Man, Ibanez, Charvel, Jackson, EVH, Suhr. This can’t just be because bolt on necks more readily lend themselves to factory production; even the top of the range models (such as Ball Family Reserve, Ibanez J Custom) from these builders carry bolt ons.
In our view, glued necks immediately place the guitar owner at a disadvantage:
– If your neck is damaged, the headstock snaps off or you simply want a new neck with a new fretboard, a glued neck makes it almost impossible to deal with any of those situations satisfactorily
– Glued necks tend to present the player with a very chunky heel to contend with, restricting upper fret access
– If the neck pocket and heel aren’t cut correctly and the neck isn’t set and glued correctly (you’d be surprised how often this happens), then there’s really no way to correct this
– They just feel old fashioned. Don’t they??
But the overwhelmingly compelling argument that favours bolt on necks is that metal conducts vibration much more efficiently than wood.
THIS IS WHY YOUR STRINGS AREN’T MADE OF WOOD. THEY’RE MADE OF EXTRUDED METAL.
To an extent we’re being flippant here but the physics is valid:
– A glued neck merely presents a wood on wood interface. This isn’t bad but it’s one medium of vibration transference.
– Whereas a bolt on neck presents a metal to wood interface PLUS a wood on wood interface.
A paper by RM Mottola (2007) deals with Sustain and Electric Guitar Neck Joint Type; this paper measures (to a high degree of accuracy with electronic equipment) the relative sustain of bolt on necks versus other neck joints. The conclusion is that bolt ons sustain at least as well and in many cases better than other neck joints, such as glued necks.
In addition to the all important benefit of sustain, a bolt on neck also enables:
– Easy repairs
– Easy re-frets
– The ability to swap out the neck for another one
– Removal of the neck for transit or storage
– Retrospective work on the heel/ pocket to provide a better fit
This is why we are dead set, full-on-gear-headed, wide-legs-stage-rock-stance advocates of bolt on necks.
(And if you ask nicely, we might do a neck through…)