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Bolt-on Versus Set-neck And Proper Tenon Length


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I would assume that, when doing a set-neck, you would like to have the tenon extend into the body a reasonable distance, probably at least 4 or 5 inches. The reason I ask is because my pre-made neck is designed to be a bolt in, and if I glue the neck into the neck pocket I fear it might not be strong enough. This is a standard sized Strat neck pocket we're talking about.

On the other side of the token, I've thought that if the neck were properly glued it, it would be as strong if not stronger than 4 screws/bolts. I would like to have a sculpted heel, so the body of the guitar would definitely be less meaty in the heel area. The most important thing to be seems to be that the neck will fit tightly into the pocket before gluing to ensure that the wood is making good contact in there and the glue has a great chance of getting into the pores and setting up really nice. Solid maple body and neck. Thoughts?

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That's the kinda heel I'm after. Fortunately, my neck has no holes drilled in it so the possibilities are endless. It just seems to me that a carefully routed neck pocket, some Titebond, and clamping for 24+ hours would hold just as well as 4 screws. I'm going for aesthetics, here.

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If the fit is sloppy, you can slide some veneer in there when you glue it up.

Given the footprint of a Strat neck pocket, a solid glue joint should be entirely possible, IF the bottom of the neck pocket is perfectly flat and the bottom of the neck tenon is too, and the sides are perpendicular in both places. The area of a Strat neck pocket can't be much different than a typical scarf joint, and those hold up just fine under 200lbs of string tension.

Edited by Geo
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The part of the question I'm interested to see answered is: will a strat neck joint be strong enough glued with no bolts? Aside from shaping, this IS what we're talking about here, right? :D

Exactly.

Geo, the neck tenon is perfectly flat and the sides will be perpendicular. This tenon looks like any other Strat tenon I've seen. I haven't routed the neck pocket yet, as I've just planed the body on both sides. Routing comes next. When gluing this joint, should I go with Titebond or should I use epoxy?

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I would say Titebond, if there is ever a need to remove the neck you will have half a chance. If you use epoxy you will not remove it. Gluing a fender style heel in will work fine as long as your pocket is a tight fit to begin with. In other words press that neck in and you should be able to support the weight of the body unglued.

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I agree. You want to stay away from epoxy. It is a pain to work with if you ever have to remove the neck. I also agree with what Chops said about the tenon length. It does not have to be very long to get a good solid neck joint. The main thing that you have to look for is a tight fitting neck pocket. If the neck pocket is tight, your glue will be just as strong as the bolts.

Look at some of the companies that have set neck guitars like PRS. Most PRS guitars' tenons are barely longer than the Fender tenon. I would say that you are in good shape as long as your neck pocket is tight. Let us know how it goes.

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I agree. You want to stay away from epoxy. It is a pain to work with if you ever have to remove the neck. I also agree with what Chops said about the tenon length. It does not have to be very long to get a good solid neck joint. The main thing that you have to look for is a tight fitting neck pocket. If the neck pocket is tight, your glue will be just as strong as the bolts.

Look at some of the companies that have set neck guitars like PRS. Most PRS guitars' tenons are barely longer than the Fender tenon. I would say that you are in good shape as long as your neck pocket is tight. Let us know how it goes.

PRS joints probably aren't any longer like you say( i don't have a PRS on hand so i can't be sure), but they have the extra depth up the side of the tenon which would add a fair bit more gluing surface, therefore more strength in the joint. But, IMO a nice tight fitting fender joint with the neck glued in would be much stronger than a screwed neck. :D

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Just make sure you use titebond original. You are using light coloured woods & titebond 2 will dis-colour them. Wont take a stain either. the comment about looking at the AANJ profile is a good point aswell. Id look into that if I were you, even if you glue instead of bolting. the general shape is very condusive to good fret access.

Make sure the neck has a tight fit, is aligned perfectly straight to the bridge & use titebond original. You should be fine then :D

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NoQuattro- In response to your initial question, the heel of a set neck should go into the body at least as far as the back of the neck pickup cavity. Many builders including myself don't even have that bit of body sticking out to form a neck pocket like a typical bolt on body does. As long as the depth of the set neck heel is adequate, and the fit is tight, there's ample surface area for glue.

As for the bolt on neck, provided the neck pocket is is again tight, it should work just fine. The idea here is to grab as much of the heel wood with glue as possible. Bolts going into a bolt on neck grab a lot more than just the surface on the bottom where the neck heel meets the body. If your pocket is loose, then I might not be inclined to glue a bolt neck in there.

If you end up using the bolt neck successfully then blending the heel into the body will be no problem. Several guitar manufactures use bolt on looking necks that are then glued in place. Not sure why really, but they do. Of course, a true set neck would likely yield the most structurally sound neck/body joint as opposed to gluing in a bolt on.

-Doug

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Doug, could you explain what you feel the difference between gluing in a bolt-on neck versus a having a set neck is? I was under the impression that a set neck was, basically, a bolt-on neck that has been permanently glued into place. Is it the tenon size? Presence of some kind of tounge-and-groove?

My neck pocket is going to be roughly 3.5" by 2.25" with a depth of .75".

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Quattro, it has all got to do with the design of the guitar. How do you want it to look,sound, play etc. There is no bonus of one over the other, some people like a set neck because generally you get better fret access and the guitar generally has better sustain, others prefer the percussive attack of a bolt-on joint. Leo made a bolt-on style joint on fenders so it could be replaced if the neck got damaged.

The point im making is, look at your design of the guitar your building and work out what fits best. If you glue a bolt-on style in and shape the joint for better fret access what will it do to the strength of the joint? It still has to support the pressure of string pull... Or, should you change the design of the neck joint so when you glue it and shape it, it will have the required strength.

Doug pretty much summed it up in the last line of his post.

If you give us some insight in your design we may be able to guide you in the right direction.

Chad :D

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Doug, could you explain what you feel the difference between gluing in a bolt-on neck versus a having a set neck is? I was under the impression that a set neck was, basically, a bolt-on neck that has been permanently glued into place. Is it the tenon size? Presence of some kind of tounge-and-groove?

My neck pocket is going to be roughly 3.5" by 2.25" with a depth of .75".

Go to my web site and the How To page... once you see how it's done, you'll understand fully. Yes, the heel, and it's dimensions are quite different than a bolt on neck. There's about 2" of heel beyond the last fret and the heel is about 2" tall. Well, that's what size they are when I ship them out to a customer. Trimming is involved to create the exact dimensional needs for the specific instrument.

-Doug

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Chops - the design is a massaged Strat style, one off body. 25.5 scale Warmoth neck, all maple from neck to body to veneer.

Doug - I looked at your site and can see how the set necks are definitely different from gluing in a bolt-on. I think I'll just do a bolt-on for this first one with something similar to the all access neck joint. As I do more builds (made the mistake of playing a Tele yesterday...need one now) and gain experience, tips, and tricks, I'll do set necks or neck-thrus. I'll start a build thread soon once I get some more pics and a little further in to the process.

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one thing i would warn against is using premade parts for this kind of thing

as others have said, Its perfectly possible to glue a strat style neck into a strat style body pocket and there is more than enough gluing surface for it to survive

what i would not want to do is buy a strat body, buy a strat neck and glue them together - unless i was absolutely sure they were completely free of anything on the surface. A lot of 'unfinished' necks actually have some basic sealer on them which would make a normal glue join quite weak.

i have has to repair a guitar where the owner took his strat and glued the neck in 'for a more gibson like tone.' it was a silly idea.

edit - and then you mention its a warmoth neck - they dip in an oil based sealer

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Yeah, I guess I'll just go bolt on for this one. The next one will be a neck through, I would say. I was unaware that Warmoth dipped their necks in any sealer as they advertise them as unfinished - especially the Maple ones. They are pretty adamant about telling you that they'll void your warranty if you leave it raw and just oil it. Undecided what finish, if any, I'll do on the neck.

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