Posted by: kubiakl | July 28, 2010

Q&A… Solo

Before I decided on a new guitar neck I had some questions.  And, as I’ve mentioned, there weren’t any real clear answers out there.  People who actually know information must be required to keep it off of message boards, because it took wading through a metric ton of crap to get an ounce of answers.

Maybe this will help, maybe it won’t, but here’s what we’re going to do:  a self Q & A.  I’ll type a question I had before the process started, then answer it with what I’ve learned.  Just because I love you guys.

Q:  I’m thinking about buying a neck, should I go with Warmoth?

A:  Yes.  The neck arrived a little before estimated delivery and was of good quality.  The nut was cut well (the slots could be deeper, but they leave it high so you can cut it to taste), the frets were nicely done, and the woodwork was stellar.  I also heard good things about USA Custom Guitars, but ordering from Warmoth seemed easier.  Allparts and Stewmac necks are much less expensive if you’re just looking for a standard neck without custom options, but the reviews were mixed.  One thing I did note is that my Warmoth neck is lighter than my old Fender neck – my assumption is that the maple used isn’t as dense.  The tone is good but it seems easier to pull the neck and cause notes to go sharp.

Q:  What size frets would be good for my style?

A:  I play blues rock more than anything so I wanted a fretboard I could dig into without buzz.  I also don’t have a light touch – if the frets were too tall, everything would go sharp when I pressed down to the fingerboard.  The 6105 frets, which are tall and narrow (.090″ wide x .055″ high), work well for me.  If you’re more of a shredder you’ll probably want to go with lower frets.  For those who really like the SRV style of playing you may want taller frets.  6105 just seemed like a good all around choice.

Q:  How much difference will the SRV back contour make?

A:  Not so much that you have to change your playing style, but enough that the neck feels more comfortable.  Since the back is a little larger than Fender’s standard C it puts a little less strain on your hand.  If you want the old Fender ’52 Tele feel they do make 1″ necks (and thick necks will transfer tone better).  Speed demons may want to go for a thinner contour.  I feel like mine is a good all around shape.  The asymmetrical contour isn’t really noticeable, so don’t worry that it will feel strange.

Q:  What fretboard radius should I get?

A:  Whew, this one had a lot of options and took a bit of reading to really figure out.  The way they measure fretboard radius is to imagine the curved fretboard was the surface of a full cylinder – the fretboard radius is the radius of that imaginary cylinder.  A smaller radius has a tighter curve, a larger radius is flatter.  Vintage Fender necks have a 7.25″ radius which works great for chords… but as you head down the neck and start bending, you’ll run into issues.  Notes may fret out when bent.  Current Fender production models have a 9.5″ radius, Gibsons run at a flatter 12″.  Warmoth offers a compound radius, which means it changes as you move down the neck.  Instead of imagining a cylinder, imagine a conical shape.  10″ – 16″ is the default.  Warmoth will allow you to choose whatever radius you want, so if you want a Fender style neck with a 12″ Gibson style radius – more power to you.  I personally like my compound radius.

Q:  Which construction style should I go with?

A:  I went with Vintage Modern for two reasons – a single truss rod and a headstock adjustment.  The headstock is classic Fender style, although they offer an Angled Strat to eliminate the need for string trees.  If you want total vintage be prepared to take off the neck for every truss rod adjustment (the truss rod nut is at the heel).  If you want a double action truss rod go with Warmoth Pro.

Q:  Finished or unfinished?

A:  I’ve already talked about this a little bit, but I went with unfinished for a few reasons.  One of my main complaints about my old neck was how it felt – the high gloss finish just didn’t jive with me.  Finishing would also have added five weeks to the completion time on my neck and I was a bit impatient.  And finally – an unfinished neck, while not under warranty, isn’t an unsafe bet.  Warmoth will tell you that approximately 10% of unfinished necks are returned due to warping.  Finished necks rarely have that issue.  What made my decision to gamble on an unfinished neck was the environment I usually play in.  My Strat doesn’t leave my apartment very often so it’s not subjected to any extreme temperatures or humidity.  I’m also meticulous about cleaning my hands before I play.  If I was gigging with it regularly or traveling with it then I doubt unfinished would have been for me.

For those of you who like the unfinished feel but want the warranty, Warmoth offers a satin finish option that will probably work well for you.

Q:  What nut width should I go with?

A:  I chose the 1-11/16th inch because it was the closest to Fender’s standard width.  If you have huge fingers or need more string space, go larger.  If you want a vintage feel, go smaller.  1-11/16th is probably close to what you’re used to playing on already as it’s the industry standard.

That’s about all of the questions I had going into the purchase, so hope this helps.  If anyone has more questions feel free to leave a comment or e-mail me.

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