neck debate

Winky

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Why will it have "short-grain"? If the wood you're using has a curve in the grain at the junction, just use it to your advantage. (My tele has continuous grain right through that area - the grain aligns perfectly with the headstock as it comes in - but it's all straight). But in your case, angle the headstock just enough for continuous grain from the main part of the neck to the headstock. It's never going to be an actual Fender. If the required angle is still shallow, you may still need a string tree (or two), but that's NBD.
 

Peegoo

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I think your friends are guitar snobs.

Are you building this guitar for you?

Or them?

Sorry for being blunt, but it's true. It's your guitar. Build it exactly as you want it and to H-E-double-hockey-sticks with others' opinions about what is 'correct'.
 

eallen

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What a crock on not being a tele. It may not be a fender but the only reason Leo didnt use mahogany is he used whatever wood was cheap & available where he was located.

As far as having short grain, it is an inherent problem with the Gibson kick back headstock style. Just let one even have a slight fall & the needed repair will make it very evident!

Mahogany makes an excellent fender style neck.
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handlebarmike

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Wow, a lot of great responses. Thanks go out to everyone. I was away from the computer all day yesterday (I'm refinishing concrete countertops that I made 20 years ago when we build our home) and was surprised how many responses were here this morning. My neck blank has not yet arrived, but it does seem based on some great pictures in the responses that I may be worried about nothing. I"ll look more closely when I have all the bits in front of me and let you know what I decide. I'll also post some pics as this build goes along, per several requests. Thanks again, what a great resource you all are...
 

Freeman Keller

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Wow, a lot of great responses. Thanks go out to everyone. I was away from the computer all day yesterday (I'm refinishing concrete countertops that I made 20 years ago when we build our home) and was surprised how many responses were here this morning. My neck blank has not yet arrived, but it does seem based on some great pictures in the responses that I may be worried about nothing. I"ll look more closely when I have all the bits in front of me and let you know what I decide. I'll also post some pics as this build goes along, per several requests. Thanks again, what a great resource you all are...

Mike, it might be more helpful to post any building questions at the DIY Home Depot - that is mostly where the builders hang out. And I've got a lot of questions about exactly what you want to do. I have built both Fender and angled head necks and most of mine are multi piece scarf joint. You can certainly combine the concepts and just putting an angled scarfed head on a tele neck is quite easy, but if it comes to mixing them there might be some issues, particularly with a shallow angle. We can talk about this more when you get ready to do your build.

If you haven't gone thru the steps to build a scarfed head guitar, I recently did one for a little archtop that is on my work bench. There are lots of things that are different from a Fender neck (which is why I'm wondering just what you intend) but at least you can see the basic steps. The neck stuff starts at pose 192


I've also got pictures of building Fender style necks if you want to see that.
 

handlebarmike

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Mike, it might be more helpful to post any building questions at the DIY Home Depot - that is mostly where the builders hang out. And I've got a lot of questions about exactly what you want to do. I have built both Fender and angled head necks and most of mine are multi piece scarf joint. You can certainly combine the concepts and just putting an angled scarfed head on a tele neck is quite easy, but if it comes to mixing them there might be some issues, particularly with a shallow angle. We can talk about this more when you get ready to do your build.

If you haven't gone thru the steps to build a scarfed head guitar, I recently did one for a little archtop that is on my work bench. There are lots of things that are different from a Fender neck (which is why I'm wondering just what you intend) but at least you can see the basic steps. The neck stuff starts at pose 192


I've also got pictures of building Fender style necks if you want to see that.
Freeman - First, thanks for taking an interest, much appreciated. I've built several scarfed necks, as thus far I've built mostly acoustic guitars. What I haven't done much of is build electric solid bodies, but this is for a good friend who really wants a guitar that is built by his "luthier" buddy. My initial concern, as I have never built a Fender-style neck, was that the flat headstock would somehow have some short grain at the transition point between the fingerboard and the headstock and that as a result perhaps mahogany would not be the best choice of MOC. I've since seen that this is not really the case and I do think mahogany will be fine for a traditional Fender-style neck/headstock... I'm still debating Quartered vs. Flat sawn. The overall build will have a pretty dark aesthetic. Paulownia body with a claro walnut drop-top (the Paulownia will be stained to something darker than natural, but I'm using it as the player has some neck issues and I really want the light weight that Paulownia offers), Macassar ebony fretboard, black hardware (including tuners), and pearl black pick-guard, all set off by EVO fret wire and a zero glide nut system. So I did not really want a maple neck.

Thanks for the tip on the DIY Home Depot, I'll start looking at some threads over there. I'd always enjoy chatting (via online messages or on the phone) with another builder. One of the real attractions of luthiery was the community of builders and the willingness to share information and insight. Not too many other vocations seem to want to share what might be considered "trade secrets" the way amateur (or "semi-professional") luthiers are willing to do.

Cheers

Mike
 

oldunc

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For my builds, my primary consideration is playability/tone and aesthetics are secondary. I don’t build to have decorative instruments that sound like crap, I build to have a quality instrument that sounds amazing and looks good as well.

You are building a solid-body electric from scratch and you have no design obligations to anyone but yourself. If you want a Telecaster, build it from licensed or original parts. If you’re building your own, don’t let Fender’s design cues dictate any more than you would crib a chord progression or melody when writing a song.
I would agree with you about building guitars, not so much about writing songs.
 

Freeman Keller

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Freeman - First, thanks for taking an interest, much appreciated. I've built several scarfed necks, as thus far I've built mostly acoustic guitars. What I haven't done much of is build electric solid bodies, but this is for a good friend who really wants a guitar that is built by his "luthier" buddy. My initial concern, as I have never built a Fender-style neck, was that the flat headstock would somehow have some short grain at the transition point between the fingerboard and the headstock and that as a result perhaps mahogany would not be the best choice of MOC. I've since seen that this is not really the case and I do think mahogany will be fine for a traditional Fender-style neck/headstock... I'm still debating Quartered vs. Flat sawn. The overall build will have a pretty dark aesthetic. Paulownia body with a claro walnut drop-top (the Paulownia will be stained to something darker than natural, but I'm using it as the player has some neck issues and I really want the light weight that Paulownia offers), Macassar ebony fretboard, black hardware (including tuners), and pearl black pick-guard, all set off by EVO fret wire and a zero glide nut system. So I did not really want a maple neck.

Thanks for the tip on the DIY Home Depot, I'll start looking at some threads over there. I'd always enjoy chatting (via online messages or on the phone) with another builder. One of the real attractions of luthiery was the community of builders and the willingness to share information and insight. Not too many other vocations seem to want to share what might be considered "trade secrets" the way amateur (or "semi-professional") luthiers are willing to do.

Cheers

Mike


OK, I thought you were trying to make some sort of hybrid and each design has its own characteristics. First, a fender style flat head does cut across the grain on both sides of the transition but not completely - if you use a 1 inch board and built to specs most of the grain runs straight thru. Depending on your truss rod design you can minimize the size of the access hole and it won't weaken the head. I have never seen a broken fender neck in my years of repairing

The really weak heads are the ones sawn out of a single billet. We call those Gibson style but almost every maker has used them at one time or another. Gibson just makes it works by hogging out that big hole for their truss rod nut. I have seen way too many broken heads and they aren't just Gibsons. This guitar already had a repair up the neck stick when it happened again

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Since I like building guitars with angled heads I've been doing scarfed heads and have never had a problem.

I don't think Leo designed his necks the way he did to avoid breakage, I think he just came up with a cheaper and easier way to build the neck. The curved tension truss rod is similar to what Gibson had been using, it takes some jigging to route the curve and drill the ends but once you've made the jigs its easy to make necks which I think was Fender's goals.

The big problem with Fender necks, of course, is that you have break over angles ranging from very shallow to pretty steep - again, Leo came up with a brilliant solution. Add a couple of little gizmos to hold down the strings that needed it. Bingo

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Interesting that the F and G style heads have very close to the same break over angle - much more variation on the F style. You may or may not think that is important.

You question using quarter sawn or flat sawn wood for your neck. As you know the whole idea of Q sawn being stronger or stiffer has more or less been debunked as far as spruce is concerned, but I still use Q sawn for all my braces. I think mahogany is plenty strong and stable in any configuration, but I still like the looks of Q sawn and since I only build a few guitars each year that is what I use.

One last thought that I try to keep in mind as I am designing a guitar is to make it fit an available case. That shouldn't be too much of a problem with a tele inspired guitar but angling the head and/or changing its shape might mean buying a custom case and they are expensive. Ask how I know...

Good luck, sounds like you have things well under control. I'll enjoy watching your build.
 

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Timbresmith1

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It’s the angled peghead that makes for “Short-grain” and it’s associated weakness. You don’t have short grain across the headstock of a Fender neck unless you use some wonky (poorly selected) wood
 

chas.wahl

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I'm assuming that what @handlebarmike meant was that at the transition between headstock to fretboard, there's short grain (meaning grain more approaching end grain, rather than grain parallel to the surface) in the curvature of the neck wood -- not that the whole headstock has short grain.
 

moosie

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I'm assuming that what @handlebarmike meant was that at the transition between headstock to fretboard, there's short grain (meaning grain more approaching end grain, rather than grain parallel to the surface) in the curvature of the neck wood -- not that the whole headstock has short grain.
There is no short grain in a Fender headstock. All the grain is parallel to the length of the neck. At the heel, the tip of the headstock, and the transition scoop, we see the cross section of that, which is called end grain.

Short grain would be if the grain ran from back of neck to fingerboard, not head to heel.

With a one-piece neck with a tilt back headstock, the grain is still oriented parallel to the length of the neck. But, the neck now changes direction, and the headstock portion is on a different plane. The grain of course does not change direction. It still runs parallel to the neck. The headstock grain is indeed, short grain. Starting right at the tilt. The grain here doesn't run perpendicular. It's more diagonal, but it's still short grain, and thus quite weak.

Put another way, on a tilt headstock like that, the headstock grain is maybe 1" long, instead of the 6+" length of the headstock.
 
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Telenator

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Seriously, not to be snarky but, this is one of those times when more guitar playing and practice is the correct answer. In fact, playing more is almost always the best answer!

Enjoy the build!
 

moosie

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More on the tilted headstock:

Usually the headstock is a bit wider than the neck, and to eliminate waste, a small 'wing' is glued to each side of the headstock before it's shape is cut out. The wings have grain oriented parallel to the plane of the headstock. The result is that we cannot usually see the short grain. It's there, though, and still weak.

Here's an interesting situation where it is visible:

The wings were attached, and the headstock perimeter was cut. The hourglass waist is very narrow, and we can see where the wing was entirely cut away over the span of the tuners. But above and below the tuners, the headstock widens, and we see the wings. You can't make it out very well in the photo, but the wing grain is indeed parallel to the headstock. And you can easily see that the neck grain itself, visible in the waist, is parallel to the neck, not the headstock. That's the short grain, right there. The entire headstock, right up to the break point.


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Refugee

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I'm building a tele-style (maybe franken-tele) and I want to make the neck of mahogany. BUt I'm debating with friends that the fender style one piece neck will have some short grain at the fingerboard/headstock join and I think I should do an angled neck (very shallow angle, maybe 9 degrees) with a scarf joint. People have said "well, that's fine, but it's no longer a tele! If the headstock is fender-ish shape, with in-line tuners, what's so wrong with an angled headstock? Are they right? I mean, the body is certainly tele, the pickups and hardware are tele (but it does have a Stetsbar bridge with a whammy). I just don't want to build a guitar that the neck is going to be like a Gibson and the headstock is gonna pop off if you bump it... Really interested in people's opinions here...
If it does snap off, you should be able to glue it back together. I've played several Gibby's that had snapped and been glues, and they played and sounded fine, as long as you have the right person do the work. Seems like it would be you. Have you ever glued a Gibby? How'd it turn out?
 

Freeman Keller

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More on the tilted headstock:

Usually the headstock is a bit wider than the neck, and to eliminate waste, a small 'wing' is glued to each side of the headstock before it's shape is cut out. The wings have grain oriented parallel to the plane of the headstock. The result is that we cannot usually see the short grain. It's there, though, and still weak.

Here's an interesting situation where it is visible:

The wings were attached, and the headstock perimeter was cut. The hourglass waist is very narrow, and we can see where the wing was entirely cut away over the span of the tuners. But above and below the tuners, the headstock widens, and we see the wings. You can't make it out very well in the photo, but the wing grain is indeed parallel to the headstock. And you can easily see that the neck grain itself, visible in the waist, is parallel to the neck, not the headstock. That's the short grain, right there. The entire headstock, right up to the break point.

I'm not opposed to adding wings when necessary but I mostly use 3 inch wide mahogany boards for my necks and you can just (barely) get either a Martin style or Gibson style head out of 3 inches. Many other shapes do require wings but its pretty easy to add them to a scarf joined head. The head plate strengthens the assembly and hides the seams from the top

If it does snap off, you should be able to glue it back together. I've played several Gibby's that had snapped and been glues, and they played and sounded fine, as long as you have the right person do the work. Seems like it would be you. Have you ever glued a Gibby? How'd it turn out?

Unfortunately I have fixed a lot of broken heads (ironically none of them have been on Gibsons, one Epi however). Some come out pretty good, some can be a nightmare. I've had to install splines and back straps and finish is always difficult. I find it much easier to build guitars that won't break and then keep them in their case to make sure.
 

oldunc

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Making a copy or two is a good learning step, as is building from a kit, but it's a pretty unambitious end goal. I think you should do whatever you want with your design, acknowledge that you used the Telecaster as a starting point in the design process, and not worry about what to call it. It's not a Telecaster unless it's made by Fender anyway
 

moosie

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I'm not opposed to adding wings when necessary but I mostly use 3 inch wide mahogany boards for my necks and you can just (barely) get either a Martin style or Gibson style head out of 3 inches. Many other shapes do require wings but its pretty easy to add them to a scarf joined head. The head plate strengthens the assembly and hides the seams from the top
Yeah, I was trying to show an example of short grain, and why it's sometimes not obvious that it's there (the wings).

Scarf jointed headstocks may use wings, but they don't cover up any short grain. The short grain discussion only applies to single piece necks. I know you're aware of that, I just wonder if we're talking past each othere here.
 

Thumper

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I'm building a tele-style (maybe franken-tele) and I want to make the neck of mahogany. BUt I'm debating with friends that the fender style one piece neck will have some short grain at the fingerboard/headstock join and I think I should do an angled neck (very shallow angle, maybe 9 degrees) with a scarf joint. People have said "well, that's fine, but it's no longer a tele! If the headstock is fender-ish shape, with in-line tuners, what's so wrong with an angled headstock? Are they right? I mean, the body is certainly tele, the pickups and hardware are tele (but it does have a Stetsbar bridge with a whammy). I just don't want to build a guitar that the neck is going to be like a Gibson and the headstock is gonna pop off if you bump it... Really interested in people's opinions here...
PM me on that neck
 




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