Tele necks from scratch, considerations, questions

mountainhick

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I have a douglas fir tele body in progress, hopefully will get to rough cutting shape and making a routing template from my MIM tele today.

I am going to build a neck from scratch (actually more than one). I have some biases about construction, but want to run them by the quorum, along with other questions. I am not concerned about traditional construction, but I do care that the tone is all Tele.

1- I've always found Fender's flat neck construction with string trees kind of stupid functionally, though brilliantly simple in terms of production. So. scarf joint? If so, how much back angle is needed to do away with string trees?

2- I have a couple double action truss rods, so route from fingerboard side, and adjustment at headstock. I have not used these before. Any considerations peculiar to these?

3- Seems to me that multi piece with intelligent grain orientation will result in better neck stability. A single slab whether flat or riftsawn has more tendency to twist/warp, so i am thinking of doing a couple of opposed grain halves, perhaps with a center stripe piece. Yay. Nay?

4- Wood type. I have more of this Doug fir, some of it is very tight grained and dense. Are there noticeable differences in tone and stiffness and stability between different neck woods? I do not want to veer off the bright snappy character of a real tele tone wise. I also have maple, koa, birch, hickory and a few odd ball wood types. The body will be medium weight, so I don't want to use anything too dense that will neck dive.

5- Dimensions: i am looking forward to a tiny bit wider nut! 42mm necks jam my fingers together too tightly when chording in open position. I am unsure though about thickness. All of my guitars have seemingly modern slimmer depths, which are generally comfortable, but I don;t know anything different. This is why I plan to build at least a couple necks, to try out different sizes/shapes. I know the general dope about shape, C vs D vs U vs V etc, but what are typical neck depths at nut or first fret, for slim to medium to fat?
 

Freeman Keller

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I'll jump on that.

1 - I agree that the flat head is stupid functionally but it is simple to make out of a one inch hunk of whatever wood you have on hand. String trees are the solution to the break angle problem - genius. When I am making an "inspired by Fender guitar I use that design just because its expected.

For everything else I use a scarf joined angled head. I adopted the Gibson/Martin "standard" of 14 or 16 degrees a long time ago and made my carving jigs at that angle - in retrospect I should have made the jigs adjustable.

A Fender neck with string trees will give you a break over angle of somewhere around 12 to 14 degrees depending on the location of the trees

IMG_4931.JPG


A Gibson head will be very similar, maybe slightly more - you could relax the angle if you want

IMG_4929.JPG


2 - I use LMII double acting truss rods on everything I build. I put the adjuster at the end that makes the most sense - it does weaken an already weak area at the head but if you use a small allen adjuster you can make the route small. I cover the head with a head plate

IMG_5908.JPG


Coming back to your first question, you can see that if you reduce the head angle too much you will have a very long shallow route to the adjuster which might be a problem getting a wrench in.

3 - I think that multi piece necks made out of stable wood are plenty strong and stable enough. All of my necks are mahogany, I've never had one "warp". Laminated necks are certainly strong and beautiful and are a good substitute for the scarfed head - doing the scarf joint with laminations makes aligning every thing very difficult.

4 - I'm actually a fan of Douglas fir. I have built five solid body guitars using it for the bodies and one acoustic classical guitar using it for all the body woods (top, back and sides). I have never used it for necks and would not, simply because I don't quite trust it. I have 30 guitars experience with mahogany and see no reason to risk something else.

Doug fir actually has engineering properties (density, Youngs modulus) very similar to spruce which is why I felt good using it for the classical. Spruce is not a good wood for necks however, and I would say the same thing about Doug fir

5 - The nice thing about making your own neck is you can make anything you want. When I build a neck for someone else I ask them to bring me a guitar that they like and I copy the neck profile and dimensions. In fact my personal tele clones have neck profiles that I took off a vintage Les Paul (heresy) and my acoustics have profiles from other acoustics that I like. You should do the same

IMG_1486-1.jpg
IMG_1488-1.jpg


Last comment - you say you want the tone to be tele. That is all in the pickups, your neck choices will have very little impact. My last tele inspired guitar has a Douglas fir body, after market maple neck and P90's. It really doesn't sound like a telecaster. Which is good

IMG_6924.JPG
 

mountainhick

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I'll jump on that.

1 - I agree that the flat head is stupid functionally but it is simple to make out of a one inch hunk of whatever wood you have on hand. String trees are the solution to the break angle problem - genius. When I am making an "inspired by Fender guitar I use that design just because its expected.

For everything else I use a scarf joined angled head. I adopted the Gibson/Martin "standard" of 14 or 16 degrees a long time ago and made my carving jigs at that angle - in retrospect I should have made the jigs adjustable.

A Fender neck with string trees will give you a break over angle of somewhere around 12 to 14 degrees depending on the location of the trees

View attachment 1048181

A Gibson head will be very similar, maybe slightly more - you could relax the angle if you want

View attachment 1048183

2 - I use LMII double acting truss rods on everything I build. I put the adjuster at the end that makes the most sense - it does weaken an already weak area at the head but if you use a small allen adjuster you can make the route small. I cover the head with a head plate

View attachment 1048185

Coming back to your first question, you can see that if you reduce the head angle too much you will have a very long shallow route to the adjuster which might be a problem getting a wrench in.

3 - I think that multi piece necks made out of stable wood are plenty strong and stable enough. All of my necks are mahogany, I've never had one "warp". Laminated necks are certainly strong and beautiful and are a good substitute for the scarfed head - doing the scarf joint with laminations makes aligning every thing very difficult.

4 - I'm actually a fan of Douglas fir. I have built five solid body guitars using it for the bodies and one acoustic classical guitar using it for all the body woods (top, back and sides). I have never used it for necks and would not, simply because I don't quite trust it. I have 30 guitars experience with mahogany and see no reason to risk something else.

Doug fir actually has engineering properties (density, Youngs modulus) very similar to spruce which is why I felt good using it for the classical. Spruce is not a good wood for necks however, and I would say the same thing about Doug fir

5 - The nice thing about making your own neck is you can make anything you want. When I build a neck for someone else I ask them to bring me a guitar that they like and I copy the neck profile and dimensions. In fact my personal tele clones have neck profiles that I took off a vintage Les Paul (heresy) and my acoustics have profiles from other acoustics that I like. You should do the same

View attachment 1048187 View attachment 1048188

Last comment - you say you want the tone to be tele. That is all in the pickups, your neck choices will have very little impact. My last tele inspired guitar has a Douglas fir body, after market maple neck and P90's. It really doesn't sound like a telecaster. Which is good
I appreciate the detailed input!

Good thoughts on scarf angle. I wonder if other makers scarf at lesser angles successfully. Seems to me, the less the better as long as enough pressure remains on the nut. Could potentially use staggered tuners for even less scarf angle.

I'll have to get out the dial caliper and measure all my necks. I don't think I have any guitar close to 0.96" at the nut!

I understand your outlook on rejecting doug fir for a neck, but I am curious enough about the properties of a few super dense tight grained pieces I have here, that I may try them anyway. When we built our house and my shop, it was clear that some of the older tight grained dense 3x6 floor boards I got for the shop were almost like an entirely different species from the farm raised doug fir two-bys that were so plentiful at the time. Another issue with it is how straight grained? Mahogany seems to be a very dimensionally stable wood. Maple not even as much so. I have some maple boards here that are quite warped. doug fir can have some spiral in the growth pattern which is no good for a straight neck. Not as bad though as Lodgepole pine, which is notorious for its spiral. (I live in lodgepole/aspen country). Anyway, if I do try doug fir, I will be incredibly selective about the particular piece(s). I just have a lot of it!

I agree that at least the bulk of the tone comes from the pickups (and coupled electronics i.e. load, capacitance, amplification (let's not get into the player's ability/touch etc, I mean duh, of course)), but there is something going on between several of my strats for example. The acoustic resonances of these solid body instruments are different enough that I know at least that such subtleties do matter. Proportionally how much? How much comes down to personal preference? The jury is still out for me. I remain curious about one piece of wood vs another, whether of the same or different species, for the body and neck in terms of how a solid body guitar sings. Regarding tele sound, beauty is in the ear of the beholder, and there's been a range of wood types used for tele's so what's best for me? dunno, I have only played a few. I don't really even know the range. As stated in my other thread about approximating alder, the doug fir body blank I have in progress seems to be close in terms of weight and hardness and has a nice crisp tap tone.
 

Freeman Keller

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A few more comments.

I come from an acoustic background and just expect neck angles of 12 or 14 or so degrees so that is what I use. My first couple of necks were sawn from single pieces of wood but I have also repaired so many broken heads that I quickly changed to scarf joined heads. I learned that a single 7/8 or 1 inch by 3 inch plank could make any neck I wanted - paddle head, slot head - and was very strong. I've been building mostly Gibson inspired guitars, 16 is their head angle and thats what I use.

Its interesting that forumite Reynman is currently building his second Rick inspired guitar and talking about head angles in the 5 degree range. That seems awfully shallow to me but you might want to follow his work


Second, I like phat chunky necks. I like a bit of a vee on my acoustics, I guess I'm not as particular on electrics. The nice thing about building your own necks is that you can make them anything you want (within reason). Nut width, string spacing at the nut and saddle, offset from the edge of the fretboard can all be adjusted to fit what you like. I use the facet method to start my carving but make templates for the final shape.

IMG_7170.JPG


There are lots of neck profile gauges and all sorts of cross sectional drawings available on line, I just prefer to make my own.

Doug fir may be perfectly good neck wood, but like so many other conifers you don't see it being used on guitars. I have good luck with mahogany so thats what I use. On my last guitar I did put two carbon fiber square rods in the neck next to the truss rod which made it very very stiff, maybe too much so. I did it for another reason (floating the fretboard off the top of the guitar) but I know several builders, including Bob Benedetto reinforce their necks with CF. Just a thought

I don't open the tone wood can of worms. All of my guitars sound like guitars, only different. I'm particularly impressed with the sound of the fir classical, a very good classical playing friend played is side by side with his custom Braz guitar and we both felt it held up nicely. The fir isn't particularly pretty, here it is with the fir tele
IMG_6927.JPG
 

eallen

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1. An easy solution to the need for a string tree is staggered tuners rather than scarrf joint.

2. Nothing hard.

3. I make 99% off my necks from 2 piece of wood with no regard for flat or quarter sawn. Use woof moisture checked & acclimated for stability and a decade without stability issues

4. Neck wood type for tele sound. Invest in the right pups & the wood influence won't be significant.

5. Neck size is very subjective. Find what feels best to you. Measure it & replicate. I vary mine between .81 for those wanting thinner & .88" for thicker unless someone has a specific measurement request. I find around .84 pretty likable for most. It does take much width & thickness to feel quite a bit different.

Eric
 

guitarbuilder

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Here's my 2 cents. Find a guitar you really like the feel of in terms of the neck. A bunch of numbers can help you make a variety of necks in terms of size and shape but there's no guarantee you will really bond with them.

In my guitar playing life of about52 years, I found that a Gibson LG 1 neck was the best. You just can feel how one neck works for you.

It doesn't take much material removal to create a winner or a loser feeling neck.

Build one neck. with the dimensions you like. A digital caliper and molding shape gauge can help in that regard. Then build another if the first one isn't to your liking...then build another. You will get the hang of it.

I like quartersawn lumber for the stability. I strive to minimize glue joints unless I don't really care about the results.

Choose a wood you like that is dry. Less dense woods may get more dings. I've done basswood and pine necks. They all work.

Forget the word tone for now and just start building and aim for how it plays.

I like one piece necks but have made a few spliced joint tilt back pegheads on my acoustic builds, mostly to use up shorts.



Some here have found these threads useful.



 
Last edited:

mountainhick

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In my guitar playing life of about52 years, I found that a Gibson LG 1 neck was the best.
54 years here. My first guitar was an LG-O. Pretty slim, but wide enough at the nut. I have two regrets selling my old guitars, one is letting that one go. Had an LG-1 as well at one point, it was good but I didn't have the same love for it.

Find a guitar you really like the feel of in terms of the neck.

LOL. 54 years playing, have owned probably 30 guitars, and played a couple hundred. I still don't know what I like best, just a few things that I don't: fat D shape, and narrow width at the nut. I have never payed that much attention nor made a spread sheet using my dial calipers.

I agree, I will be making a couple/few to find out by trial an error.
 

crazydave911

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Needless to say, I like doug fir necks
 

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Freeman Keller

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I'll make a neck outta damn near anything once, more if I really like it 😁😁😁😁
As much as I respect Dave, I am the complete opposite. Materials for a neck are cheap - a good piece of mahogany might be 20 bucks. By the time I put 40 or 50 or more hours into carving and shaping and finishing it, making and fretting a board, inlaying the markers, not to mention gluing it into a body (most of my guitars are set necks) I don't want to learn in a year that I made a bad choice.
 

old wrench

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Regarding your question #5, here is a good Musikraft resource, probably the best I've come across regarding different neck profiles and shapes - lots of good info in one spot -


As far as nut width goes, people are now a lot bigger than they were 50 or 60 years ago - I think that's pretty obvious to even a casual observer

The old "vintage" nut widths like 1.63" to 1.65" just feel too tight for many folks

Most of the necks I build measure 43mm (1.69") at the nut - one millimeter isn't all that much, but it actually makes quite a bit of difference as to how comfortable a neck feels and plays

Build for comfort and playability

.
 

crazydave911

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As much as I respect Dave, I am the complete opposite. Materials for a neck are cheap - a good piece of mahogany might be 20 bucks. By the time I put 40 or 50 or more hours into carving and shaping and finishing it, making and fretting a board, inlaying the markers, not to mention gluing it into a body (most of my guitars are set necks) I don't want to learn in a year that I made a bad choice.
I appreciate that Freeman 😁. I came to guitar building completely sideways, from building wooden boats. Consequencely I come to many material choices the same way. Using traditional methods and materials we'd build the mast and yards. At the end of the first cruise we inspected her completely out of the water noticing what we got right and what may need improvement. As I understand it this has an old history and led to different materials in say northern waters and other specific areas. Leading to English oak, white oak and even Indonesian oak. What I saw and was taught is that everything has a home somewhere. I live in the Southeast US which is fairly humid and hot even when it isn't. What would/has worked for me would not necessarily work in the PNW or many other areas. I simply state what has worked for me and maybe why. YMMV 😁
 




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