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NECK: Thru-the-body or Bolt-on? Advantages/Disadvantages?

Discussion in 'Luthier's Corner' started by OmegaZ27, Nov 13, 2005.

  1. OmegaZ27


    Sep 18, 2005
    What are the advantages/disadvantages of both? I'm trying to decide which one to pick if I am going to build a bass.
  2. Bolt-on is easiest for a first build. Its easier to deal with the neck and body seperately and if you mess one up its less of a loss. But i do like thru-necks, and they are not as difficult as they look. The main difficulties in building a thru-neck bass for me are getting the neck angle right (with a bolt-on you can always shim it), finishing the bass as a whole thing and getting a whole bass under a fretpress, its much easier to fret a bolt-on neck.

    With my first ever thru-neck bass i avoided two if these problems by not having a neck angle (i inset the bridge slightly instead) and finishing the bass in oil and wax. The fretting was still difficult.

    Some people reckon thru-necks sound better because of the way they are built with the whole length of the string being attached to the same peice of wood but there are millions of bolt-ons out there that would disagree, its really a matter of personal preference
  3. Cerb


    Sep 27, 2004
    My first (still being built) is a neck-through, and I just don't understand how people could think it to be harder to build than a bolt-on. I am planning my next as a bolt-on and I'm scared as hell about it. O_O
  4. Suburban


    Jan 15, 2001
    lower mid Sweden
    :D :D :D
    I have to agree on that. Neck pocket...whooooo :bag:
  5. It really is just the fact that you have a bit more room for errors that makes it easier for me to do bolt ons, in that you can replace either the body or neck if you mess one up. If you buy a template from stew-mac doing a neck pocket is just as easy as routing for pickups.
  6. Phil Mastro

    Phil Mastro

    Nov 18, 2004

    I don't see why you need some kind of angle on your neck. The neck-thrus I built were flat,
    and they play fine. I think the angle was used on acoustics and archtops to get a playable
    amount of action without having the string-break angle at the bridge to low.
  7. FBB Custom

    FBB Custom TalkBass Pro Commercial User

    Jan 26, 2002
    Owner: FBB Bass Works
    I can certainly see how getting a tight-fitting pocket could be more intimidating than any part of making a neck-through. The advantage of a bolt-on is that instrument is going to be more wieldy if it remains in two parts until the very end, and so making a bolt on makes a few things, like shaping and sanding, and spraying for sure (if you are going to do that), a little easier.
  8. mahrous


    Aug 13, 2005
    i dont understand how you would need to add a neck angle to a neck-thru. if ur affraid of extremely high action, use a thich fretboard. i am using an 8mm thick fretboard on my coming neck thru.

    neck pockets are n a s t y!
  9. Cerb


    Sep 27, 2004
    I'm using a thick fingerboard on mine, but not for the action. I'm using an odd construction method for the neck (I've never seen it done), and my neck blank was relatively thin. I like baseball bat necks, so I got a 3/8" fingerboard.
  10. nateo

    nateo Schubie Fan #1

    Mar 2, 2003
    Ottawa, Ontario
    I used a fingerboard that tapered from 1/8" at the nut to around 3/4" at the bridge end on my EUB. It was my way of adding a neck angle without angling the neck, if you know what I mean. Things have been somewhat held up in the finishing stages lately, so I still don't know how it plays and whatnot.

  11. Cerb


    Sep 27, 2004
    That's smart thinkin', right there. How did you go about tapering the board?
  12. OmegaZ27


    Sep 18, 2005
    Thanks for your replies guys!

    Well, just to let you know my plan: I was planning on just going through Carvin to buy parts. Hardware isn't the issue. I didn't want to go through the pains of building a neck from scratch and I mailny planned on doing bodywork and electronics. So I was going to buy the neck through Carvin.

    So if I was going to go Bolt-on, what would I need if I was going to build it off of this neck:

    I would go bolt-on thinking that I might replace the neck, but then I thought of when would I ever in years, so I might just stick with through the neck.
  13. Geoff St. Germaine

    Geoff St. Germaine Commercial User

    Many neck-thru/set-neck guitars use neck angles. The bass in Melvyn Hiscock's book is made using a neck angle as well. I believe that Ric's have a neck angle as well. I personally use a stepped up fretboard to get my string height right, but I don't want to have to use a really thick fretboard as I use dual-action truss rods and this would limit how thin I could make the neck. I route a downstep into the neck where the fretboard ends.
  14. full_bleed


    May 27, 2005
    Sorry OmegaZ27 I'm going a little off subject and jacking your thread for a second, but what are some common neck angles and what basses are they used on?
  15. Geoff St. Germaine

    Geoff St. Germaine Commercial User

    I imagine that the neck angle is probably in the neighbourhood of 1-2 degrees. Guitars are normally around 2-3 degrees for a tune-o-matic bridge.
  16. DavidRavenMoon

    DavidRavenMoon Banned

    Oct 20, 2004
    I've built both bolt-ons and neck-throughs, as well as set neck basses. I'll share some of my observations.

    Each has a slightly different sound, although I can't hear any difference between the through neck and set neck, at least not the way I made them. I inlay my set neck from the front, and it extends up to the neck pickup... that also hides where the neck ends!

    Bolt ons seem to have a "snappier" tone, as I think some low end is lost in the joint, but that also depends on how large a surface area your neck to pocket is. On an alder bodied 8 string I made, I inlayed a slab of hard rock maple, and routed that for the neck pocket. It made the bass sound a lot better than the neck bolted right to the alder.

    For through necks, I do put in a slight neck angle... maybe 1-2 degrees. The way I do it is after the body wings are glued to the neck blank, I glue a 1/8" thick piece of wood to the top of the neck, before the fingerboard is glued on, and I use a fixture I made that allows a router to taper that 1/8" piece from full thickness (at the body end) to zero at the nut. The fixture is made from ply wood, and attaches to the bass in progress, and has rails that the router, which has a square acrylic base, can ride in. It's made with the angle built in.

    You don't need a neck angle though. Rickenbacker basses don't have any, and use a thick fingerboard to make up for it. But too thick a fingerboard might prevent your rods from working well.

    The reason you might want a neck angle is to accommodate the hight of your bridge, which in turn gives you a little more downward pressure (you can have your saddles raised a bit higher).

    My set necks have a slight angle as well.

    I don't find any disadvantage to carving a set or through neck, because you are going to blend the neck into the body anyway.

    Bolt on necks are easy to replace, but also tend to get a hump in the fingerboard over the bolt area. And of course you have the heel to contend with while playing.

    Here are two set neck basses... you can see from the rear photo how the neck blends into the body.


  17. nateo

    nateo Schubie Fan #1

    Mar 2, 2003
    Ottawa, Ontario
    An angled sled and a table saw. I also used the sled when radiusing the board to 3". It worked reasonably well, but I'll spend a lot more time on the radiusing jig next time (if there is a next time, since I still don't know how the 3" radius is going to feel).

  18. For most people using a thick fretboard to avoid a neck angle is not an option, the neck would end up very fat.

    Neck angles let you get the best action, its also an advantage for shorter players if the neck is angled towards them somewhat. This was never a problem for me but i had people ask for more of an angle cause they were having to reach further. But they can be avoided, on my first bass i realised the string height was going to be far too high so i recessed the bridge into the body and made a feature of it, this is instead of using a neck angle. I will try to post a picture

    Attached Files:

  19. Hey, it worked :bassist:

    Lets try some more, This was about my 8th guitar and some of it is a bit ruff, bad, bad headstock but see how low the action is with the bridge sunk into the body,The strings touch the frets at the bridges lowest setting so i have all the adjustment upwards on the bridge height adjustment.

    Attached Files: