Neck through or bolt on

Discussion in 'Luthier's Corner' started by DBN, Sep 10, 2010.


  1. In the third grade for Arbor Day, I took home a Maple tree in a milk carton. Last year I cut it down and have had it drying in my cabinet shop for a year. One of the many projects I have in mind for this lumber is a new bass for myself. Reading the outside of the lumber with its's twists and turns, it should be quite something on the inside.

    My question(s), having no experience whatsoever in building a Bass, is primarily aimed at the neck. --Neck through or bolt on?-- I'd like some input as to the differences in sound, strength, etc. It would be nice to have about 10 dollars worth of two cents, if you could.

    Also, any advantage or disadvantage of using rift cut or quartersawn lumber for the neck?

    And, lastly, how about three or five piece necks?

    Thanks in advance.
     
  2. Rickett Customs

    Rickett Customs

    Jul 30, 2007
    Southern Maryland
    Luthier: Rickett Customs...........www.rickettcustomguitars.com
    Ok, broken down......

    My first build was a neck through, so other answers will be different, so therefore will be subjective.

    I've always preferred quartersawn woods for neck wood. However, there are necks out there that are flatsawn and riftsawn, so again this will be preference.

    I choose not to make one piece necks, but that's just me. 3 piece, 5 piece, 7 piece, 9 piece, etc...... at the end of the day, it's still a neck, you be the judge.

    A main recommendation would be to check out 2 books, since you have a cabinet shop, i assume you're no stranger to wood at all.

    Martin Koch

    Melvyn Hiscock

    These 2 books will help you tremendously, trust me. They will be wise investments, especially if you're building your first one.
     
  3. SDB Guitars

    SDB Guitars Commercial User

    Jul 2, 2007
    Coeur d'Alene, ID
    Shawn Ball - Owner, SDB Guitars
    Quartersawn neck wood will generally be stronger/stiffer and more stable.

    I prefer bolt on or glued in necks. I used to do mostly bolt-on, with an occasional neck through or glued in neck, but now I have gravitated to almost exclusively glued in necks. I's still choose bolt-on vs. neck through, if those were my only choices, though, because you can use thinner neck blanks doung bolt-on, there's less waste of the wood. Easier on my conscience to use a 7/8" or so thick neck blank that is 36" - 40" long, rather than using a ~2" thick blank that is 48" long.
     
  4. SDB Guitars

    SDB Guitars Commercial User

    Jul 2, 2007
    Coeur d'Alene, ID
    Shawn Ball - Owner, SDB Guitars
    +1 on the Hiscock book, by the way. Read it from cover to cover several times before starting to build, and it has been an invaluable resource to me over the years, for the humor and pictures of other instruments, as well as the "instrument lessons" contained therein.
     
  5. thank you both. Makes perfect sense.. read a book on the subject which will cost less than one screw up. Problem has been for me.. too many books out there, so it's nice to get references. How about the sound though? What i've read thus far only indicates a difference in sustain from neck through vs. bolt on or glue in. It would seem to me that the lamination of multiple pieces of different species/densities and grain orientation would have an impact on the overall tone. Am I off on this one?
     
  6. SDB Guitars

    SDB Guitars Commercial User

    Jul 2, 2007
    Coeur d'Alene, ID
    Shawn Ball - Owner, SDB Guitars
    Lots of varying factors can affect sustain, including wood density, strength of neck to body joint, wood stiffness, etc. Too many variations in the wood alone to do more than generalize, I think. At least, that's my opinion. Take it for what it is.

    On the topic of what affects "tone" in a solid body instrument - not touching that with a 10-foot pole. :bag:
     
  7. Son of Magni

    Son of Magni

    May 10, 2005
    NH
    Builder: ThorBass
    The multiple lams really effect the stability more than the tone. I find that using some lams of dense heavy wood are likely to help achieve the tone I want. But I combine that with regular old maple so it doesn't get too neck heavy.
     
  8. mikeyswood

    mikeyswood Inactive

    Jul 22, 2007
    Cincinnati OH
    Luthier of Michael Wayne Instruments
    The construction style has no appreciable application to the tone. There is a fantastic article in the Guild of American Luthiers Fall 2007 issue that will enlighten you. Sadowsky, Fodera, and Alembic are prime examples of the three styles. Whatever you choose, build a good one. :)

    The cut of the wood has no appreciable effect. The quality of the wood means everything. Compression wood will twist in service no matter what you do and you cannot see compression wood until you are working it. Whatever you choose, cut a good one. :)

    I prefer to build multi-lam neck for the artistic aesthetics but still build the occasional one-piece flat-sawn neck in a BC Rich or Fender style.
     
  9. DaLoCo

    DaLoCo

    Jun 16, 2010
    South Africa
    How do you actually see what compression wood looks like, or is it an acquired skill?

    Thanks
     
  10. headlikeahole

    headlikeahole Commercial User

    Oct 31, 2009
    Manchester, NH
    Owner: Zoov Custom Guitars
    I use quartersawn maple for my necks most of the time. I find that when I make multi lam necks they are extremely stiff in comparison to the one piece maple necks. I love the way the one piece maple necks move so freely when adjusting the truss rod. Maybe it's not always true just something I've noticed. I also like to do set necks instead of neck through. This is just preference. Finally don't worry about tone when you're building. Put together something you think looks good. A well put together instrument will sound good no matter what wood you use. I've read more than a few Carl Thompson interviews where he says people constantly want him to build a bass that sounds like Les Claypools. When the reality is that Les's tone is more a result of years and years of practice and god given talent than the basses he plays. Also I have those books in pdf format if you would like I could send them to you.
     
  11. SDB Guitars

    SDB Guitars Commercial User

    Jul 2, 2007
    Coeur d'Alene, ID
    Shawn Ball - Owner, SDB Guitars
    Which books are those?
     
  12. mikeyswood

    mikeyswood Inactive

    Jul 22, 2007
    Cincinnati OH
    Luthier of Michael Wayne Instruments
    Avoid crotches for necks. Those are always compression grain pieces. Avoid highly squirrely grains is species such as Walnut. That is almost always an indicator of being from the bottom of the branch.

    Always keep an eye on your pieces as you go. When moisture comes back into a piece after it is cut it can move on you:

    Build334.jpg

    Warlock053.jpg
     
  13. headlikeahole

    headlikeahole Commercial User

    Oct 31, 2009
    Manchester, NH
    Owner: Zoov Custom Guitars
    koch and hiscock books sdb
     
  14. SDB Guitars

    SDB Guitars Commercial User

    Jul 2, 2007
    Coeur d'Alene, ID
    Shawn Ball - Owner, SDB Guitars
    Headlikeahole, please think carefully about redistributing those. Not only are they copyrighted materials, but it is only through users purchasing the books legitimately that the authors are able to publish updated editions. I would hate to see these books go out of print because people chose to illegally distribute digital copies of them...

    I've chatted with Melvyn Hiscock on the MIMF forum, and I know that he only gets meager royalties on the book, and yet he tries to update it every few years with new bits of information that would be helpful to builders throughout the world.
     
  15. headlikeahole

    headlikeahole Commercial User

    Oct 31, 2009
    Manchester, NH
    Owner: Zoov Custom Guitars
    Point taken. My bad
     
  16. mikeyswood

    mikeyswood Inactive

    Jul 22, 2007
    Cincinnati OH
    Luthier of Michael Wayne Instruments
    QFE

    I believe that every actual builder here has hard-copies of both of those books and we will cite them as the most useful tool to our beginnings.
     
  17. psychotiger

    psychotiger

    Feb 24, 2008
    Austin, Texas
    Builder: Moore Custom Guitars
    +1 My copies are dog-eared. Practically biblical.
     
  18. headlikeahole

    headlikeahole Commercial User

    Oct 31, 2009
    Manchester, NH
    Owner: Zoov Custom Guitars
    I also own hard copies of both books. I recently found them in pdf form in my online travels. I was just trying to help someone out wasn't really thinking when I posted that. I apologize.
     
  19. miziomix

    miziomix Über on my mind Commercial User

    Sep 28, 2009
    Milan, Kuala Lumpur, Paris.
    Bass builder @ MüB.
    When it comes to neck style and sound relationship, I have heard many a time that bolt-on produces a punchier sound while neck-through offer more sustain with set-neck kinda sitting in the middle.

    I have never experienced such a thing on good basses - not to the point of knowing with certainty that it was due to neck construction style anyway.
    Mickeyswood's point about Fodera, Alembic and Sadowsky sounding great regardless the different construction style says it all.

    Neck though and to some extend set necks offer a smoother neck joint. But a carefully designed instrument will give you that on a bolt on too.

    Multi-lam do offer considerable more stiffness than a simple piece of wood would. However double action t-rods and graphite rods today make IMO a 3-5-7 or more lam more of an aesthetic choice really.

    Aesthetically speaking, you need to consider how the neck will complement the rest of the instrument. Some basses would look terrific with a multi-lam neck; some might look too busy.

    Another consideration would be a practical one. Building a neck through means that - from a certain point on - you'll have to move around the entire bass while working on it. Not as friendly as working on a bolt on neck - at the very least for a first build.

    Lastly, if you have no particular reason for choosing one or the other just bear in mind that a bolt on can be replaced if you need or want to.

    ps: get those books :bassist:
     
  20. mikeyswood

    mikeyswood Inactive

    Jul 22, 2007
    Cincinnati OH
    Luthier of Michael Wayne Instruments
    Who's Mickeyswood? ;)
     
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