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One piece necks vs separate finger boards?

Discussion in 'Basses [BG]' started by davidjackson, Dec 3, 2012.

  1. davidjackson


    Sep 10, 2011
    Just a quick question that I hope somebody might be able to help with.

    My Jazz bass has the 'standard' type of neck in that although the neck and the finger board are both maple they are in fact two different pieces of wood. This is obviously the way that bassess with maple necks and rosewood finger boards are constructed too.

    My P bass has a one piece neck in that the neck and the fingerboard are in fact the same piece of wood.

    I love both my basses but just wondered about the difference in construction. Are there are pros and cons about these two different types of neck? I understand that one piece necks limit the woods you can use but where it is a maple board on a maple neck why would a manufacturer bother to use two different pieces of maple?


    PS: Always interested in the history of the electric bass so any historical comments would also be appreciated!
  2. FunkHead

    FunkHead Supporting Member

    Mar 10, 2007
    Stewartsville, NJ
    I don't Know why they did both but My 1983 MIJ Squier Bullet is one piece. It's a gorgeous neck with incredible fret work and "Rolled" edges.
  3. metron

    metron Fluffy does not agree

    Sep 12, 2003
    Lakewood Colorado
    Truss rod installation. One piece necks have a skunk stripe.
  4. Groovy_Gravy


    Apr 26, 2012
    So does my rosewood board bass...
  5. St Drogo

    St Drogo

    Oct 9, 2009
    I'm guessing here, it might be to convey more vibration from the frets to the neck down through the rest of the bass? Vibration is the argument for a lot of these things, like bridgemass, neck joint type, even kind of finish. I can imagine that, even though a seperate fb and neck might be glued together very well, a one piece is preferable because there is no seam at all.

    Though a lot of these effects are probably too minimal to fuss about, imho. No one is going 'yeah, lemon song has an awesome bassline, but i wish jpj had played it on a bass with a onepiece neck, neckthru jazz with a hih mass bridge'.
  6. St Drogo

    St Drogo

    Oct 9, 2009
    Also i'm thinking now, could it be that is is purely from a practical standpoint? That a damaged fretboard could be replaced without replacing the entire neck? (not sure if that is actually possible of if a glued fretboard is stuck for life). Leo was after all an engineer first and foremost and a lot of his designstandards were born out of ease of manufacturing and maintenance.

    Otoh, his first precision designs were a one piece neck right? Then the above is probably not the case.

    Good question op!
  7. metron

    metron Fluffy does not agree

    Sep 12, 2003
    Lakewood Colorado
    All one piece necks have a skunk stripe but not all necks with skunk stripes are one piece. ;)
  8. Oracle

    Oracle Banned

    Sep 7, 2012
    Per Dingwall website:

    We take neck construction very seriously due to our extensive experience in guitar repairs coupled with our geographic location and corresponding extreme climate. In my years in the guitar repair business I constantly had to deal with humidity related problems made worse by the huge temperature and humidity swings of our local climate. Many of these problems could have been minimized through simple design changes and materials choices.

    Touring musicians are constantly amazed at how stable Dingwall instruments are. Many state that their Dingwall necks are as stable as their graphite necked instruments.

    We’ve experimented with many different laminations and have found a 5-piece maple construction to be among the best. Years of experience have proven this design to be extremely stable and reliable while minimizing dead spots.
  9. Handyman

    Handyman Supporting Member

    Sep 4, 2007
    Austin, TX
    This is the case with Fenders, at least. Old Peavey basses had a neck made of one piece, but no stripe. They took the piece of maple for the neck, cut it down the center, routed and installed the truss rod, then glued it back together.
  10. I believe that whole thing came from Fender production changes. They started out with only 'maple necks' very early on, and had rear routed truss rods (and hence the 'skunk stripe' to close that channel. When they started providing RW boards, they just stuck with the rear routed channel for production reasons.

    Later, for what again I assume is production reasons and cost, they (and most other luthiers/companies) switched to top routed truss rods, using either the maple or RW (or whatever) board to 'close the channel'.

    Tonally, IMO Zero issue. Some luthiers like Carey Norstrand are going back to the skunk stripe/rear route method for their 'classic line' of instruments, and actually using one piece necks for specs with maple boards. Tonally, stability, IMO zero issue. More for IMO 'retro legitimacy' for these sort of 'classic builds'.
  11. metron

    metron Fluffy does not agree

    Sep 12, 2003
    Lakewood Colorado
    Right! I forgot about bi-cut. I even owned a few. :rolleyes::D
  12. I never knew that even existed as a method for installing a rod. I guess the glue is stronger than the wood anyway, so it makes sense in a way.
  13. iiipopes


    May 4, 2009
    Oh, God, I'm getting old and watching history vanish before my eyes:

    The original reason Leo Fender started using a slab rosewood fingerboard was because he saw one of his well-played maple necks on TV and did not like how it showed the wear patterns that are "classic" vintage Fender (although the rest of us do.)

    Later, CBS changed the slab board to a curved veneer board.

    Even later, others noticed the difference in tone that the different fingerboards make. Sites like Warmoth have good explanations of how they sound different.

    And to further complicate matters, in the late '60's, Fender again offered a maple board as a separate board.

    In the meantime, Leo, of course, saw that if you're going to do a separate fingerboard, truss rod installation can be different and easier.

    That is the oversimplified version. Other history and enthusiasts' websites can supply further details.
  14. iiipopes


    May 4, 2009
    That method of construction was started by Leo Fender on G&L basses.
  15. smeet

    smeet Gold Supporting Member

    Nov 27, 2006
    Woodland Hills, CA
    Ken, I think Carey feels that the one piece neck adds resonance, and does change the tone of the instrument. Do you disagree with him on that?
  16. Hapa


    Apr 21, 2011
    Tustin, CA
    There is a definite difference in tone with a 1 piece neck vs one with a separate fingerboard. I think the possibilities of a deadspot happening is greater with a 1P but the tonal benefit for open-ness/ uncompressed/ organic is also greater. I hear the tonal compression with any glued on fb. I prefer 1 piece necks for Fender like objects, 3-5 piece for others. Stability is a big factor, but with the right cut, wood selection, and type of truss rod 1 piece necks can be just as stable. Or be as crazy as I am and build an all wenge 1 piece neck.
  17. JTE


    Mar 12, 2008
    Central Illinois, USA

    Leo Fender's first basses and guitars had a one-piece maple neck with an integral fingerboard. They routed the back of the neck to install the truss rod, and filled that slot with walnut, hence the "skunk stripe". Had nothing to do with transmitting vibrations.

    When he saw some of his instruments on television with dirty fingerboards, he decided to switch to rosewood fingerboards. The first ones were slabs of rosewood glued to a flat neck blank. BTW, the "veneer board" are NOT really a veneer. The rosewood is not a flat sliver that was bent around the arch in the maple, but rather was machined as a curved piece- and most likely much more expensive to make than a the slab boards- the change was likely initiated because they were having problems with necks being returned under warranty when the two different species of wood expanded at different rates, causing warping. This is one of the reason Fender's Vintage Series chose 1962 as the nominal year- if they had problems with that same warpage, they could switch to the round laminated boards and still be authentic to 1962.

    They routed for and installed the truss rod before they attached the fingerboard, so that eliminated the need for the skunk stripe. In the late '60s they introduced the special-order option for a maple fingerboard (originally limited to the Telecaster guitar). To make it easier to manufacture by using the same tools and process, they made it a separate glued-on maple board, so those "maple over maple" necks do not have a skunk stripe either.

    After they FMIC bought the company from CBS in '85, and had to build a new factory, the new machinery and process made it easier and less expensive to rear-route all necks for the truss rod and install a skunk stripe, whether they have maple fingerboards or not.

    The bi-laminated necks (like Peavey and the early G&L) install the truss rod after splitting the neck lenghtwise. My recollection is that Peavey had this feature first (because it was definitely used on the T-60 and T-40, well before the G&L instruments were produced). However, if I recall correctly, G&L flipped one of the pieces of wood so that if the grain induced warping, the other piece of wood was to counteract that movement.

    As for sound? There are SO many variables that produce what we hear that I believe it's difficult to pin much to any specific aspect, like "rosewood vs. maple". As a Fender dealer from '77 through '88, I've played enough bright sounding rosewood boarded instruments and enough darker sounding maple boarded ones to believe there are other factors that'll override the species of fingerboard wood.

    Having said that, I do believe that there's credible evidence that a lot of what is commonly ascribed to rosewood boards has as much to do with that huge glue joint affecting the sound as the specific species. I've played a lot of maple-over-maple necks (including my Lakland 4-94 that I've owned since around '98), and they share many of the characteristics of similar rosewood board instruments compared to one-piece maple necks.

  18. Handyman

    Handyman Supporting Member

    Sep 4, 2007
    Austin, TX
    They Peavey and G&L bi-cut necks are acually quite different, with the G&L cut making for two asymmetrical neck pieces, while the Peavey cuts are right down the middle.

    Either way, the Peaveys came first. Their bi-cut neck basses started shipping in the late 70s. The G&L bi-cuts didn't show up until 1982.

    Here's the relevant Peavey patent, filed in 1978, before G&L existed.
  19. chef wong

    chef wong Banned

    Sep 15, 2012
    I don't care for maple fingerboards on a fretted bass. Fretless, on the other hand..sounds great with maple.
  20. Every design decision has an impact, of course. I guess my point would be that if you could do a blind experiment, bolting a sample of one piece necks and 'fretboard' necks onto the same body, etc. (i.e., to control as best you can for all the other components that have any sort of impact on the tone, a listener would not be able to identify whether they were hearing a one piece or fretboard neck beyond the chance level.

    Put another way, if there is a difference, the variability in particular pieces of wood and the other zillion things that make one bass sound quite different from another, even with identical specs, would overwhelm any impact of that thin veneer of glue between the neck and the fretboard, versus the thin veneer of glue between the skunk stripe and neck:smug:

    That being said, I love my one piece neck on my Nordy P, but most likely love it for the beautiful fretwork, the wonderful shape and profile, and the impact of that particular piece of maple versus the 'one piece' or not.

    IMO and IME there.