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21 fret to 20 conversion

Discussion in 'Hardware, Setup & Repair [BG]' started by badusername, Feb 16, 2016.

  1. badusername


    Sep 20, 2015
    Hey all,

    A few months ago I purchased a new neck for my Squier P-Bass. The original bass had 20 frets, and the neck I bought had 21 frets, which I didn't have an opinion about either way, especially not for the price I paid for the neck. I've installed the neck and it's been an improvement over that of the Squier's old one (which I think was bowed), however, lately I'm really not digging the extra 21 fret overhang because I feel like I have to stretch a bit more to play the thing.

    The neck's of decent quality, the fret ends could use some work but there's no problem with the actual wood or fret spacing. I'd like to chop off that last fret and re-mount the neck to my bass as a standard 20 fret neck. There seems to be ample room on the heel of the neck to move it back a bit, and I have room on my bridge to move the saddles back for proper intonation, but I'm wondering if having 2 sets of 4 holes for mounting screws to the body will cause any issues? Will the neck be less strong considering I'll have mounting screw holes (from prior installation, at 21 frets, and adjusted installation at 20 frets) pretty close together and will I have issues re-mounting the neck?
  2. JustForSport


    Nov 17, 2011
    The extra fret is only about 1/2" more, and most of that is mitigated by the overhang.
  3. sissy kathy

    sissy kathy Back to Bass-ics Gold Supporting Member

    Apr 21, 2014
    Arbutus, MD
    In other words either leave it alone and don't play that last fret, or pull the last fret and cut the fret board even with the end of the neck. The neck doesn't need to move because you remove the last fret. If you took off the last five frets you wouldn't move the neck, because it would throw out the scale of the remaining frets. That's assuming the 21 fret neck you bought is a 34" scale neck. Measure from the fret board side of the nut to the 12th fret; it should measure 17" if it is a 34" scale neck..
    mbelue and eukatheude like this.
  4. Gilmourisgod


    Jun 23, 2014
    Cape Cod MA
    This sounds like a painful solution to a non existent problem. If the 21st fret overhang doesn't interfere with the pups or pickguard, I can't see any point in hacking it off. Is it just the cosmetics bugging you?
    mbelue likes this.
  5. Bruce Johnson

    Bruce Johnson Commercial User

    Feb 4, 2011
    Fillmore, CA
    Professional Luthier
    Just to clarify something:

    On a standard Fender-style 20 fret neck, the back end of the heel is right on the 21st fret line. That is, it's right where the 21st fret would be. The length of the body, the position of the pickups and the location of the bridge are all based on that; the back end of the neck pocket is right on the 21st fret line. That's standard for most Fender basses, with only a few exceptions.

    On an aftermarket 21 fret overhang neck, the heel surface is still at the same place, the 21st fret line. When you look at it from the side, the 21st fret should be right even with the back heel surface. Only the fingerboard sticks out a little bit further.

    Check this new neck that you got to verify that it is indeed a 21 fret overhang neck. If it is, it should fit right into the body, with the heel seated against the back of the neck pocket and the little bit of fingerboard overhanging the body. That's the correct position to line up with the pickups and bridge. As the others have said, you can leave the 21st fret on there, or you can pull it out and trim off the overhang, whichever you prefer. As long as the heel itself is still seated against the back of the neck pocket.

    Just for your knowledge base, there are some basses out there which are built with 21 fret full necks. The neck has 21 frets but the end of the heel is at the 22nd fret position, with no overhang. I don't think that there are any Fender models with 21 fret full necks, are there?

    22 fret necks are usually 22 fret full style, with the end of the heel at the 23rd.

    24 fret necks can be either 24 fret overhang, with the heel at the 24th, or 24 fret full, with the heel at the 25th.
    mbelue likes this.
  6. alembicguy

    alembicguy I operate the worlds largest heavey equipment Supporting Member

    Jan 28, 2007
    How often are you playing that 21 fret that is become a problem?
  7. badusername


    Sep 20, 2015
    I've included some pictures of my bass with the new neck installed and the old neck on top of it to verify that the frets on each line up and that they are (if my understanding is correct) the same scale lengths. The old neck is a Squier P-Bass stock affinity neck, which should have the same scale lengths as a Fender P, correct?


    Now, the picture below proves my neck is a 21-fret overhang neck, correct? If you look closely you'll notice the heel don't match up, and that it seems I have the ability to reinstall the new neck a bit closer to the body by cutting off that last fret, installing it so the heel meets with my current 21st fret bar, and will intonate when I set the saddles closer to the end of the bridge. Am I wrong in thinking this? And, if I'm right and do decide to move it back (as I'm having second thoughts as the distance, as stated by JustForSport above, is really only about a 1/2" difference), will I have an issue with re-drilling holes to mount the neck to the body so closely to the already existing holes on the neck's heel?

  8. JustForSport


    Nov 17, 2011
    From your photo, it looks like the difference is really only about 5/16" (slightly more than 1/4") that the nut and neck has moved forward.

    From where your saddles were with the old neck, do they have enough travel space to move forward about 5/16""? That's about how far the nut will have moved from the bridge.

    If the saddles stay on the bridge plate, you're ok.

    Having to 'stretch' 5/16" more to reach the nut isn't much for some people, but for others it can be a significant distance more.

    If it is too much more to comfortably reach, you could leave the overhang for the extra fret, and cut/shape the heel back to where the other one is, underneath the overhang.

    If the screw pattern is the same, I wouldn't make new holes that close to the old ones w/o filling the old ones first. If the new holes are at least 3/8" from the old ones, I wouldn't worry about them.
    Last edited: Feb 17, 2016
    badusername likes this.
  9. badusername


    Sep 20, 2015
    Thank you for your incredibly informative and helpful post! I definitely have that much room to move back the saddles on my bridge.
  10. badusername


    Sep 20, 2015
    Another thought: What if I were to instead carve a bit into the neck pocket so that when I place in that maple board neck (uncut), it would be in the same position as the rosewood board neck was? I'm beginning to wonder about cutting into that neck's heel because I'm not sure where the truss rod ends...and I'm thinking that cutting into the body might be safer? The overhanging fret would cover up the cut ends of the body.
  11. JustForSport


    Nov 17, 2011
    If you can set intonation with the saddles having enough travel, I wouldn't mess with the neck pocket, or cut the heel.

    If it won't intonate, yes , the pocket can be lengthened, but then your screw holes will not line up, and new ones may be too close to the old ones to use w/o first filling the old ones.

    If you route/trim the end of the pocket, you want a matching contour so that the heel beds solidly against it. The pickguard will have to be trimmed to match, as well.

    Measure from the 12th fret to the end of the heel on both necks- what's the difference?
  12. badusername


    Sep 20, 2015
    The rosewood-board neck measures (from 12th fret to heel) 6" and 11/16ths. The maple boarded neck measures 6" and 15/16ths. Between the two options what do you suggest I do?
  13. JustForSport


    Nov 17, 2011
    That's 1/4", pretty close to what I thought from your photos, but even just a bit less.

    First, can you get the intonation right, as it is?

    Second, 1/4" shouldn't be much more of a reach.

    Third, if you cannot get the intonation right with the saddle travel avail, or you can't adjust to the extra 1/4" reach to the nut,

    I would trim the pocket, since it's much easier to cover a small mistake with the pickguard (unless you can get it routed precisely, which is the best way to go).

    Only consideration- would you ever, later, want to put a shorter neck in its place?
  14. iiipopes

    iiipopes Supporting Member

    May 4, 2009
    If it intonates, leave the damn thing alone. You will FUBAR it if you try to do anything to it. Get used to it. Or go back to the original neck and give the bass a complete setup.
    BasturdBlaster likes this.
  15. badusername


    Sep 20, 2015
    Pretty sure I can't just "go back to my old neck and give it a setup" since that one is bowed...

    Thanks for the advice justforsport!
  16. JustForSport


    Nov 17, 2011
    I was referring to sometime in the future you may (or not) decide to go with another 20 fret neck like the old one.

    But, if you really like the new one, there's no reason to go back.
  17. Looks to me like the holes in the new neck were not located properly, that's why there's a space.
    Most I'd do, is remove the neck, plug the holes (if needed) set the neck in the pocket properly, and drill and screw it in the correct placement.
    badusername likes this.
  18. badusername


    Sep 20, 2015
    Sorry, justforsport, you have sound advice and I'm likely going to follow that. In my previous post I was referring to the post directly above me. Honestly, thanks for the information!

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