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A neck wood question...


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I have been told and read that a quartersawn rosewood neck has a great impact on the resonance of even a solid body electric guitar. SO, being me and having my devious little mind, I started to wonder what a solid quartersawn ebony neck would do to a gitar, and then rthe idea of a quartersawn maple neck, and quartersawn mahogany, and quartersawn snorklewhackerwood...er...you, uh, get the idea...

 

anybody ever hear a guitar with a quartersawn ebony neck before?

Always remember that you�re unique. Just like everyone else.

 

 

 

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No, but there are many things to consider. Quartersawn is really necessary fr a neck, especially if it is a one-piece for stability. You will often hear of the term "laminate neck..." Most often, you will see these as they will be a book-match for twist stability. These are made from two or more pieces.

 

I would personally not want an ebony neck as ebony, while being very hard, is also EXTREMELY dense and heavy. This would most certainly assure you of having a guitar with terminal neck-dive! What you really want is a high stiffness to weight ratio, not just a high stiffness. Make sense?

Check out my Rock Beach Guitars page showing guitars I have built and repaired... http://www.rockbeachguitars.com
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also, I've seen a whole lot of very expensive wooden instruments with ebony appointments, and I have NEVER seen an ebony neck... not in cellos, violins, guitars, mandolins, or anywhere else in stringland. One would suspect that if there was a reason to use it for a neck, someone would have done so by now, and damn the cost. And if there is a reason NOT to use it, every stringed instrument maker since Stradivarius would have avoided doing so.... as seems to be the case.

 

Bill

"I believe that entertainment can aspire to be art, and can become art, but if you set out to make art you're an idiot."

 

Steve Martin

 

Show business: we're all here because we're not all there.

 

 

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Fender necks have been flatsawn for decades, but maple is much harder and stronger than mahogany, so twisting isn't a high risk.

 

And Gibson still makes most- maybe all- of their one-piece necks with flat-sawn wood (usually mahogany), due to the fact that they cut the blanks to orient the grain so that its bias makes only a very slight change between the neck and the angled-back headstock; y'know, so that the grain kinda flows along with the headstock, and is slightly angled in relation to the rest of the neck, resulting in a stronger, more reliable neck/headstock area...

___________________________________________________________________

 

Dave Wendler makes a lot of cool guitars with bolt-on quarter-sawn Douglas Fir necks; and Dan Erlewine has made at least one axe, a wild long-necked baritone, with a quarter-sawn Douglas Fir through-neck.

 

The following linked-thread has some pics M.I.A., but the topical discussion is intact (as are some pics of Dave's work in fir):

 

Mo' pics of Dan's wild prototype

 

Quarter-sawn maple or mahogany necks aren't entirely uncommon, albeit more often with separate fretboards and maybe found most often on pricier, higher-end guitars.

 

I bet quarter-sawn koa or walnut would make a real nice one-piece, tung-oil & Bucher's wax finished neck!

Ask yourself- What Would Ren and Stimpy Do?

 

~ Caevan James-Michael Miller-O'Shite ~

_ ___ _ Leprechaun, Esquire _ ___ _

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I had to look that up, because I had never heard of these axes. I didn't think that rosewood as I'm used to seeing it was an appropriate wood for a neck, but if PRS is doing it, I guess that it is okay. Do they chemically dry it out and then varnish it, or is it raw? Do they fill it with a paste filler?

 

The quartersawn/not quartersawn this is really a straw man. Necks can be constructed with plenty of stability without having to be quartersawn. It is like having gold plated hardware...does it work any better? Or do you just like the asthetics of knowing that it is quartersawn? Personally, I always liked the look of a Fender maple neck with a dark skunk stripe. I like the book-matched look of a two-piece neck, too, when the grain has been matched up. One of my favorite guitars was custom made for me back in the 70s, and was a through the body construction laminate of seven exotic hardwoods of alternating dark and light colors, with body wings in a vaguely Explorer style... real sexy, real heavy.

 

But if you plan to put a truss rod in the neck, then I don't see where it matters if you have a neck capped by a fretboard or a solid neck with a rout for the truss rod and a filler strip.... except that 20 or 30 years down the line if you've worn out the fretboard on a standard designed guitar, you can heat up the glue, pull off the old fretboard and slap a new one in place rather simply. If you've got a bolt-on strat style, you can just replace the neck. But what do you do for a built-in solid neck? I've only worn the fretboards out on two guitars in my lifetime... my old Harptone Eagle 6-s, and my old Washburn Tanglewood Artist, on which I've written most everything that i wrote. But it is a consideration, particularly if you are going to spend some real money on a custom piece.

"I believe that entertainment can aspire to be art, and can become art, but if you set out to make art you're an idiot."

 

Steve Martin

 

Show business: we're all here because we're not all there.

 

 

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I didn't think that rosewood as I'm used to seeing it was an appropriate wood for a neck, but if PRS is doing it, I guess that it is okay. Do they chemically dry it out and then varnish it, or is it raw? Do they fill it with a paste filler?

 

They were using very high-grade Brazilian rosewood, one-piece as far as I know (and one-piece with respect to the "fretboard", as well- essentially frets inserted into the neck itself, somewhat like '50s Fenders), and such large pieces with very uniform quality from end-to-end are exceedingly scarce- to the point that PRS has completely canceled making these, even for custom requests, no matter how much you offer to pay 'em (or so it's been officially, publicly announced.

 

They were, as far as I know, only cleaned and oiled, and maybe waxed, much as is usually done with rosewood fretboards; but not "finished" in the traditional, "hard finish" sense.

 

The quartersawn/not quartersawn this is really a straw man. Necks can be constructed with plenty of stability without having to be quartersawn. It is like having gold plated hardware...does it work any better? Or do you just like the asthetics of knowing that it is quartersawn? Personally, I always liked the look of a Fender maple neck with a dark skunk stripe. I like the book-matched look of a two-piece neck, too, when the grain has been matched up. One of my favorite guitars was custom made for me back in the 70s, and was a through the body construction laminate of seven exotic hardwoods of alternating dark and light colors, with body wings in a vaguely Explorer style... real sexy, real heavy.

 

But if you plan to put a truss rod in the neck, then I don't see where it matters if you have a neck capped by a fretboard or a solid neck with a rout for the truss rod and a filler strip.... except that 20 or 30 years down the line if you've worn out the fretboard on a standard designed guitar, you can heat up the glue, pull off the old fretboard and slap a new one in place rather simply. If you've got a bolt-on strat style, you can just replace the neck. But what do you do for a built-in solid neck? I've only worn the fretboards out on two guitars in my lifetime... my old Harptone Eagle 6-s, and my old Washburn Tanglewood Artist, on which I've written most everything that i wrote. But it is a consideration, particularly if you are going to spend some real money on a custom piece.

 

A trussrod can compensate for bend, but not twist... Quartersawn is still the best for single-piece necks due to its inherently straighter grain...

 

I still kinda think that the most important ingredient... is the cook, or in this case, the luthier/designer, be they at a CNC, or a set of spokeshaves and finger-planes!

 

The Fender Eric Johnson sig-model Strats- the snazzy, premium, vintage-y ones with the subtly tweaked headstock-design that doesn't require string-trees- have quarter-sawn maple necks that, overall, are otherwise pretty similar to vintage Fender Strat necks.

 

Fender almost always uses flat-sawn maple necks for all their bolt-on electrics; the flat-sawn pieces tend to more often show the grain and any figure in a more dramatic, visually pleasing way, whereas quarter-sawn pieces tend to look "plainer" most of the time; flat-sawn is cheaper and more abundant; and the flat-sawn ones, if made from good wood, handled and treated correctly, has a fairly decent track record for being OK. It's worth noting that the original late '40s and '50s Broadcasters, Telecasters, Stratocasters, etc. were designed both with flat-sawn necks, AND with the concept of easy, cheap replacement- Leo envisioned mailing out Broadcaster necks in cardboard tubes like those that Christmas wrapping-paper came on, in exchange for the customer's bad neck! Part and parcel of the whole bolt-on, flat-sawn, one-piece/skunk-stripe topology.

 

Gibson traditionally has used flat-sawn Mahogany for their one-piece necks (as opposed to the multi-piece necks on some of their models). They very deliberately stick to this, but they also are very deliberately picky about the grain and consistency from end-to-end (at least, before and since the Norlin/volute years!), and orient the grain by so many degrees relative to the front and back so that it is similar to the pitch of the angled-back headstock, yielding a stronger, more reliable yet slender neck-to-headstock transition-area, which can otherwise be an "Achille's heel". (Look at all the SGs and early Norlin-era/pre-volute Gibsons with repaired necks and headstocks!)

Ask yourself- What Would Ren and Stimpy Do?

 

~ Caevan James-Michael Miller-O'Shite ~

_ ___ _ Leprechaun, Esquire _ ___ _

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but as stated, doesn't need to be single piece.

 

For what it is worth, back in the 70s a luthier I know designed an aircraft aluminum internal brace to replace the adjustable truss rod. It was welded, and had two long square (or rectangular) pieces running side by side with a space between them (3/8"? 1/2?? something like that, might have been mms...) and the two were joined together at the top and bottom. No twist, no bend, nothing. Don't know what happened to him or his guitars.

"I believe that entertainment can aspire to be art, and can become art, but if you set out to make art you're an idiot."

 

Steve Martin

 

Show business: we're all here because we're not all there.

 

 

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What was his name, Bill?

 

the company had a wood variety name, like Babinga or something. Sunk from sight in the late 70s, never to be seen again.... but a lot of people did that, and got 'straight' jobs and became 'respectable'.

"I believe that entertainment can aspire to be art, and can become art, but if you set out to make art you're an idiot."

 

Steve Martin

 

Show business: we're all here because we're not all there.

 

 

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From what I have been told, the quartersawn bit is not a straw man. Marimbas use quartersawn rosewood tone bars, and they have to be quartersawn because they don't sound right otherwise. An oscilloscope will show a measurable sonic difference between tone bars made of flatsawn and quartersawn wood. A guitar neck is a tone bar under tension from the strings, and a quartersawn neck is going to resonate differently with vibrations of the strings than a flatsawn neck.

 

Now the question is "will the installation of a truss rod and 20+frets in a tone bar affect the tone bar's resonance, and if so, how & how much?" Quartersawn spruce tops on an acoustic guitar sound different from flatsawn tops, and they are glued to braces, and have a bridge plate glued to the middle. If all that restriction doesn't interfere with the vibration of the top, how much effect is a truss rod and frets in the neck gonna have?

Always remember that you�re unique. Just like everyone else.

 

 

 

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I really can't imagine how much tonal difference there is within the various wood species on necks. Necks are intended to be stiff and not to vibrate, tops are designed to vibrate, so that would be a whole different thing, not comparable.

 

My point was not that there is anything wrong with quartersawn lumber, which is desirable and beautiful... but that in a neck, it is likely not to make much difference beyond the cosmetic. And as I said before, from a stability standpoint, the bookmatched split necks have excellent stability.

 

Sometimes we get carried away... I mean, glue joints are bad for guitars... fewer are better, because any place that a change in material occurs, there is a decrease in resonance. But nobody accuses the Les Paul of not having plenty of sustain. And some Les Pauls have three piece tops, three piece necks glued into a single piece back. That is a lot of glue joints. And when I mentioned that my Santa Cruz had ebony buttons on the tuners, someone commented that this affected the sound. Okay. And I'm all for the concept of doing the best that you can, and if you know something is better done one way than another, then why not do it that way? Wouldn't it seem logical that from a design and building standpoint, piling things done well on top of each other is better than piling things done a little less well? Sure. But will anyone ever hear the difference? I don't know. In the case of the neck material, I don't think so. The only way to know would be to build two identical guitars from the same lumber stock, except for the necks, and see what the difference in sound might be.

"I believe that entertainment can aspire to be art, and can become art, but if you set out to make art you're an idiot."

 

Steve Martin

 

Show business: we're all here because we're not all there.

 

 

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No, but there are many things to consider. Quartersawn is really necessary fr a neck, especially if it is a one-piece for stability. You will often hear of the term "laminate neck..." Most often, you will see these as they will be a book-match for twist stability. These are made from two or more pieces.

 

I would personally not want an ebony neck as ebony, while being very hard, is also EXTREMELY dense and heavy. This would most certainly assure you of having a guitar with terminal neck-dive! What you really want is a high stiffness to weight ratio, not just a high stiffness. Make sense?

 

I have an ebony neck Strat that has no neck dive, may be due to the offset balanced body weight, it feels great when sitting or using a strap...not that what you're saying isn't true, I've felt neck dive problems on cheapy rosewood neck models, I have a Fender acoustic cheapy Tele that uses some sort of fiberglassed body, had to drill a new hole for the strap to balance it out, so the manufactures sometimes forget about neck dive, saw a recent photo in GP where the gibson firebird strap holder was re-drilled to offset neck dive...even on expensive models they have a little neck dive (ie. SG's)so I wonder if it's more to due with design than the wood used for the neck?

Take care, Larryz
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Does anyone know what the reason was that PRS put quartersawn rosewood necks on their guitars?

 

Good Brazilian rosewood has a very nice tone to it, and you don't have to put a finish on it, so it was also good for that raw/oil-"finished" neck feel. And if it's a good piece of quarter-sawn wood, it's likely to be especially stiff and stable.

 

PRS apparently had a line on some particularly choice, large Braz RW planks or blanks, and decided to offer somethiong a little different, and a lot more expensive! They must've run out, as they officially publicly announced that they will not make any more, even for custom-ordered guitars.

 

For anyone unfamiliar with this, "quarter-sawn" refers to a particular section/orientation of a raw log being sawn-up, which determines the grain's orientation

 

_____________________http://www.plesums.com/wood/WoodSawing.jpg

 

______________http://www.plesums.com/wood/sawn_wood.jpg

Images from Plesums dot com, where there's a lot of further info on wood cut and applications

 

No, but there are many things to consider. Quartersawn is really necessary fr a neck, especially if it is a one-piece for stability. You will often hear of the term "laminate neck..." Most often, you will see these as they will be a book-match for twist stability. These are made from two or more pieces.

 

I would personally not want an ebony neck as ebony, while being very hard, is also EXTREMELY dense and heavy. This would most certainly assure you of having a guitar with terminal neck-dive! What you really want is a high stiffness to weight ratio, not just a high stiffness. Make sense?

 

I have an ebony neck Strat that has no neck dive, may be due to the offset balanced body weight, it feels great when sitting or using a strap...not that what you're saying isn't true, I've felt neck dive problems on cheapy rosewood neck models, I have a Fender acoustic cheapy Tele that uses some sort of fiberglassed body, had to drill a new hole for the strap to balance it out, so the manufactures sometimes forget about neck dive, saw a recent photo in GP where the gibson firebird strap holder was re-drilled to offset neck dive...even on expensive models they have a little neck dive (ie. SG's)so I wonder if it's more to due with design than the wood used for the neck?

 

Just so you know, I believe that a solid, all-ebony (or rosewood, etc.) neck was what was meant here, as opposed to a maple or mahogany neck with an ebony or rosewood fretboard...

Ask yourself- What Would Ren and Stimpy Do?

 

~ Caevan James-Michael Miller-O'Shite ~

_ ___ _ Leprechaun, Esquire _ ___ _

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Just so you know, I believe that a solid, all-ebony (or rosewood, etc.) neck was what was meant here, as opposed to a maple or mahogany neck with an ebony or rosewood fretboard...

 

Yeah, I wanted to know what effect, if any, a quartersawn ebony neck would have on tone. What does that ebony-necked strat sound like, and how does it differ from other strats you have heard/owned/lusted after in your heart, larryz?

Always remember that you�re unique. Just like everyone else.

 

 

 

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Good Brazilian rosewood has a very nice tone to it, and you don't have to put a finish on it, so it was also good for that raw/oil-"finished" neck feel. And if it's a good piece of quarter-sawn wood, it's likely to be especially stiff and stable.

PRS apparently had a line on some particularly choice, large Braz RW planks or blanks, and decided to offer somethiong a little different, and a lot more expensive! They must've run out, as they officially publicly announced that they will not make any more, even for custom-ordered guitars.

 

As I understand it Brazilian rosewood is endangered, from over-harvesting, & has been unavailable for importing for about 20 years. Thus any stashes of Brazilian rosewood would be non-renewable NOS & extremely expensive. Apparently rosewood currently is harvested in India & a few other parts of Asia.

 

Scott Fraser

Scott Fraser
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...Apparently rosewood currently is harvested in India & a few other parts of Asia.

Scott Fraser

 

and has always been considered to be inferior to the Brazilian variety for instrument making. Don't know why.

"I believe that entertainment can aspire to be art, and can become art, but if you set out to make art you're an idiot."

 

Steve Martin

 

Show business: we're all here because we're not all there.

 

 

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Yeah, I wanted to know what effect, if any, a quartersawn ebony neck would have on tone. What does that ebony-necked strat sound like, and how does it differ from other strats you have heard/owned/lusted after in your heart, larryz?

 

I would guess that it would be kinda bright, crisp, and sustaining, not unlike hard rock maple; I'm not so sure that being quarter-sawn or flat-sawn would generally have much impact on the tone, other than the quarter-sawn tending to potentially be stiffer (and more stable).

 

Just going by what I've seen in fretboards and other parts, I believe that ebony, especially in such a large piece, would be a bit prone to splits or cracks opening along the grain if it got a little dry, probably more so than maple or rosewood or koa; and it would probably be pretty heavy!

 

Here's a 'page of neck wood descriptions at Warmoth dot com; note the dark-to-bright "Tone-O-Meter" graphs, and that they use some woods for necks, bodies, and fretboards, and some just for fretboards.

 

Of ebony in particular (don't know about it's being flat-sawn or quarter-sawn), they say:

 

Ebony (Dispyrus melanoxylon):

 

_____________________http://www.warmoth.com/Options/images/wood_toneometer_10.jpg

 

Very hard, smooth and fast feeling, it has a bright, long sustaining tone. Chocolate brown or dark gray streaks are not uncommon. Ebony has a long history of a preferred fingerboard choice of high end electric guitar builders. An excellent choice for fretless necks. Available primarily as fingerboards and occasionally for full neck construction.

 

 

Used for neck backs YES

Used for finger boards YES

Finish required NO

Used for bodies NO

Ask yourself- What Would Ren and Stimpy Do?

 

~ Caevan James-Michael Miller-O'Shite ~

_ ___ _ Leprechaun, Esquire _ ___ _

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but as stated, doesn't need to be single piece.

 

For what it is worth, back in the 70s a luthier I know designed an aircraft aluminum internal brace to replace the adjustable truss rod. It was welded, and had two long square (or rectangular) pieces running side by side with a space between them (3/8"? 1/2?? something like that, might have been mms...) and the two were joined together at the top and bottom. No twist, no bend, nothing. Don't know what happened to him or his guitars.

 

That reminds me of the matching Kramer bass & guitar set I had for a while in the 1980s...sort of a downmarket version of Travis Beans.

 

Boggs can probably address some of these points as well as anyone, but I don't think I've ever seen a guitar neck made from a single piece of wood.

Even when the neck & fretboard are the same material, they're fashioned separately, aren't they ?

 

Regarding the effect of fretboards on tone, I don't think it's accurate to call a guitar neck a "tone bar". It doesn't vibrate to create the note.

As pointed out by Caevan, there's a bit of a mixup here discussing the way the wood's cut & the typre of wood.

Also, lthough I seem to've read otherwise here, I think there is a definite quality difference that can be heard between softer woods such as rosewood & harder materials such as maple.

d=halfnote
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I think there is a definite quality difference that can be heard between softer woods such as rosewood & harder materials such as maple.

 

Which is why you can choose rosewood or maple on most Tele & Strat models, because there is a difference.

 

Scott Fraser

Scott Fraser
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Just so you know, I believe that a solid, all-ebony (or rosewood, etc.) neck was what was meant here, as opposed to a maple or mahogany neck with an ebony or rosewood fretboard...

 

Yeah, I wanted to know what effect, if any, a quartersawn ebony neck would have on tone. What does that ebony-necked strat sound like, and how does it differ from other strats you have heard/owned/lusted after in your heart, larryz?

 

Have 5 strats, 3 maple, 1 rosewood and 1 ebony...the ebony has no fret markers and has a smooth glassy feel with mellow tones...I picked it up mostly cause strats with ebony necks are not seen around town too often...I like 'em all and each has a differnt feel, but the ebony fat strat also has a jazz/blues look to it...all are American made and have differnt sounds(especially the 2 with active EMG's)...

Take care, Larryz
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Have 5 strats, 3 maple, 1 rosewood and 1 ebony...the ebony has no fret markers and has a smooth glassy feel with mellow tones...I picked it up mostly cause strats with ebony necks are not seen around town too often...I like 'em all and each has a differnt feel, but the ebony fat strat also has a jazz/blues look to it...all are American made and have differnt sounds(especially the 2 with active EMG's)...

 

Just to be clear here, are we talking an ebony fretboard on a maple neck, or a truly ebony neck?

 

Scott Fraser

Scott Fraser
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Have 5 strats, 3 maple, 1 rosewood and 1 ebony...the ebony has no fret markers and has a smooth glassy feel with mellow tones...I picked it up mostly cause strats with ebony necks are not seen around town too often...I like 'em all and each has a differnt feel, but the ebony fat strat also has a jazz/blues look to it...all are American made and have differnt sounds(especially the 2 with active EMG's)...

 

Just to be clear here, are we talking an ebony fretboard on a maple neck, or a truly ebony neck?

 

Scott Fraser

 

ebony fretboard on a maple neck...didn't know they made truly ebony...this is the only Fender Strat I've seen with ebony so far...

Take care, Larryz
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just a note from a novice builder player... I don't like to finish my necks. So, I order rock maple quarter sawed necks... There's a huge tonal and sustain difference in a flat sawed Fender factory neck and a quarter sawed rock maple neck. Night and day.

 

I also own a solid rock maple guitar, with a quarter sawed rock maple neck... One heavy MF! Sounds snappy and warm at the same time, sustains like nothing I've EVER played. But, Jesus! It's heavy... Been playing it for 20 years, no finish, just oil. Straight as an arrow. And, it's been on tour buses, and flown, in cars, on the ice... So, it's seen some barometric highs and lows.

 

In my experience, the snappier the neck, the more response you get from subtle touch adjustments in your technique. Whenever I play rosewood, I'm disappointed in the sustain and the touch response I get. However, others play and sound fantastic on them. It's certainly stylistic and a "comfort" thing after a while.

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ebony fretboard on a maple neck...didn't know they made truly ebony...this is the only Fender Strat I've seen with ebony so far...

 

OK, clearer now. Several times in this thread the term ebony neck has come up & I've not seen a neck made from ebony, just fretboards, so I thought I may have been undereducated about some esoteric construction methods.

 

Scott Fraser

Scott Fraser
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ebony fretboard on a maple neck...didn't know they made truly ebony...this is the only Fender Strat I've seen with ebony so far...

 

OK, clearer now. Several times in this thread the term ebony neck has come up & I've not seen a neck made from ebony, just fretboards, so I thought I may have been undereducated about some esoteric construction methods.

 

Scott Fraser

 

FWIW, Warmoth makes solid/all-ebony necks:

 

Ebony (Dispyrus melanoxylon):

 

...Available primarily as fingerboards and occasionally for full neck construction.

 

Used for neck backs YES

Used for finger boards YES

Finish required NO

Used for bodies NO

 

just a note from a novice builder player... I don't like to finish my necks. So, I order rock maple quarter sawed necks... There's a huge tonal and sustain difference in a flat sawed Fender factory neck and a quarter sawed rock maple neck. Night and day.

 

I also own a solid rock maple guitar, with a quarter sawed rock maple neck... One heavy MF! Sounds snappy and warm at the same time, sustains like nothing I've EVER played. But, Jesus! It's heavy... Been playing it for 20 years, no finish, just oil. Straight as an arrow. And, it's been on tour buses, and flown, in cars, on the ice... So, it's seen some barometric highs and lows.

 

In my experience, the snappier the neck, the more response you get from subtle touch adjustments in your technique. Whenever I play rosewood, I'm disappointed in the sustain and the touch response I get. However, others play and sound fantastic on them. It's certainly stylistic and a "comfort" thing after a while.

 

Very cool post! Now, are any of your quarter-sawn necks one-piece, without a separate piece for the fretboard?

 

Are they of the Fender-style flat/straight headstock type, or the more traditional angled/tilt-back design?

Ask yourself- What Would Ren and Stimpy Do?

 

~ Caevan James-Michael Miller-O'Shite ~

_ ___ _ Leprechaun, Esquire _ ___ _

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