what's the next neck material?

Discussion in 'Luthier's Corner' started by Low8, Feb 25, 2018.

  1. Low8

    Low8 Supporting Member

    Mar 30, 2014
    Most of those on this forum are very content with the wooden necks on their electric basses.

    But after we've seen aluminum and carbon fiber, what do you think the next material to be accepted for bass necks will be?
  2. Bruce Johnson

    Bruce Johnson Gold Supporting Member Commercial User

    Feb 4, 2011
    Fillmore, CA
    Professional Luthier
    Like it or not, wood is still the cheapest material to use, by far. And it's relatively low labor to machine into shape. Its drawbacks are from the grain; uneven drying, warping, splitting.

    My guess is that the next big material development area will be molded wood products. Using ground wood fibers and resin, some mechanical inserts, molding the whole neck in one piece in an aluminum die set under heat and pressure. A higher tech version of particle board. Wood-based composites, if you like. It's amazing to watch what Rocklite is doing now with their synthetic ebony and rosewood. It's not a cheap substitute, it actually has better properties than the real natural wood.

    With the spread of smaller, less expensive CNC machines, the tooling for large molded pieces is becoming more practical.

    Picture a neck which is molded into final shape, requiring almost no sanding or machining operations. Like molded plastic. Except it's wood. It feels, looks, weighs and even sounds like wood. The grain is perfect, and it doesn't warp or crack. Synthetic wood, made from real wood, but using the real wood much more efficiently.
    moonshinegtrs, JIO, nouroog and 5 others like this.
  3. Low8

    Low8 Supporting Member

    Mar 30, 2014
    Great info, Bruce... many thanks!

    Yeah, I'll buy that for a dollar. That sounds kinda like Greg Curbow's "Rockwood", yes? It also sounds like what some folks are constructing decks out of.

    Regardless, I'd love to jump ahead 50 years and have a look around at the state of guitars and basses.
  4. Beej


    Feb 10, 2007
    Vancouver Island
    Rocklite's apples and oranges compared to Rockwood. Those were early days. :)

    Check out the videos on this page. It's pretty cool.
    Rocklite Fingerboards
  5. MPU


    Sep 21, 2004
    Valkeala Finland
    Low84 likes this.
  6. I reckon the assumption on the part of a lot of "techy" types is that wood is somehow flawed. This is simply not the case. I can understand this assumption, because I thought wood was somehow second rate. The media is complicit in this. Showing us 400yo tone woods one minute in strad violins, and all carbon parker fly guitars the next. I seriously investigated other materials in the hope of moving forward. What I found surprised me, but it's true. In most respects, timber is a superior material for necks and bodies. It's an insulator, it's light, it's easily controllable and can be glued, painted and shaped with ease (as Bruce noted).

    The other important thing is, timber guitars are better for our world than anything else. The minute you go building out of metal or plastics, the carbon footprint/energy levels required to produce the instrument go through the roof. Every ounce of alumin(i)um we have has to been refined from oxide. Iron is the same and the holes left in the earth are ugly and bad. Plastic is all dead dinosaurs of which there is a limited supply. Where as trees can be planted and just grow. What's left over can be put back in the ground to feed more trees. I think you get my point.

    So we're not just 'content', we're excited about timber as a material. ;)

    P.s. sorry if that's an essay.
    Last edited: Feb 26, 2018
    ctmullins and Low84 like this.
  7. Bruce Johnson

    Bruce Johnson Gold Supporting Member Commercial User

    Feb 4, 2011
    Fillmore, CA
    Professional Luthier
    Wow, what Flaxwood Guitars is doing now is just what I was describing above. I'd heard about what they were doing with the material Flaxwood, but I didn't realize that they were at the point of making fully molded necks. Finland leads the world!

    Rocklite is doing a similar process with their material, making synthetic exotic wood boards for Luthiers. I've been using Rocklite's Ebano here in my shop, and it's amazing material. Here's a thread I've been writing about it:

    Rocklite: The Latest Synthetic Ebony For Fingerboards
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    Primary TB Assistant

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