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Author Topic: Strat tone myth or legend? - No 2 - neck pocket  (Read 9650 times)

AndyR

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Strat tone myth or legend? - No 2 - neck pocket
« on: June 01, 2010, 03:31:57 PM »
Here's the other mod I've been doing to a couple of my strats - it would apply to teles as well, I guess, or any bolt on.

I have to admit I believed more in this one than the other one here. But I could never be @rsed to put the effort in.

Both my Roadworns were very bright, almost hard sounding, strats. In many ways I like this, but sometimes you wanna get mellow...

Anyway, I was having a problem with my latest one, the maple boarded 50s version. I could feel (and sometimes hear) the neck moving sideways while I was waving it around doing Ritchie Blackmore impersonations. It wasn't moving enough to alter the tuning noticably, but it was bugging me.

I'd also noticed the general alignment of neck > pickups > bridge was not all it could be.

I tried all the usual loosen/tighten the neck bolts business. But a) I couldn't get the neck to stop shifting while I played, and b) I couldn't move the neck far enough to line the strings up how I wanted.

The string alignment was not the end of the world - the side where I might have been falling off, the treble side, I wasn't falling off unless I was being really deliberately sloppy and trying to fall off...

But the occasionally "click" noise was bugging me. Why couldn't I get the neck to "stay put"? Then I realised that on both of my Roadworns, the neck pocket is really tight. On the 60s, if you loosen the bolts, the neck didn't even move (with the strings at concert pitch!). What if the pocket was so tight that you couldn't get the neck down on the 50s? A visual inspection seemed to confirm this

So the first guitar attacked was the 50s.
1) Neck off
2) Remove all finish from the sides of the pocket
3) Remove all finish from the sides of the neck where they touch the pocket
4) Light sanding of the base of the pocket to ensure nice and smooth
5) Offer the neck up again

It was a bit looser, but not enough to line the neck up... and also, in my estimation, not enough to get the the neck and the base of the pocket into firm contact... so I took my life in my hands and did the following:
6) Slightly widened the bottom of the bass side of the pocket

This seemed to be going according to plan. So I thought "while I'm at it", I might as well do the "mod" that seems to be popular:
7) The neck has a bunch of stickers on it, one of which is under the lacquer, so remove all of this for "better contact".

I put it all back together, retuned, then loosened the neck and set it at the angle I wanted and retightened. Everything hunky dory. Neck no longer moves (I had even been considering adding glue like mentioned in  here if it hadn't cured it), the strings line up a lot better now, and... hey wow!! Can you hear that??!

There seemed to be "more" accoustically. It was still bright, but there was an added warmth as well. It seemed a spot louder. And these were the same strings. I'd expected a slight difference plugged in, because I'd moved the strings in relation to the pups... but I hadn't even plugged it in yet! When I did... oh yum...

I got the 60s Roadworn out to compare, and yes, the 50s had become more rounded but had kept its bite. I promptly broke a string on the 60s, so I thought sod it... and whipped the strings and neck off. I went through exactly the same procedure (take finish off the sides of the pocket and neck, smooth the base of the pocket, remove the neck's stickers and lacquer where it contacts the base of the pocket). The only thing I didn't do was deliberately widen the pocket - there wasn't any problem that needed fixing here.

Reset, restrung... same effect. More "wood" to the tone. (Obviously, this one's harder to judge - the strings were changed).

But overall - I'd say it's well worth having a peek inside your bolt-on's neck pocket. It didn't actually take that long, and it seems to have more effect than I'd have given it credit for. (Caveat - if you like the tone already, stickers/gunk/and all, then a change in tone might not be what you want - think about this first! :lol:)
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Philly Q

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Re: Strat tone myth or legend? - No 2 - neck pocket
« Reply #1 on: June 01, 2010, 04:24:31 PM »
Something I've often noticed on (US) Fenders - they wax the screws to make it easier to attach the neck, and little "pancakes" of wax end up around the screws in the pocket, so the neck wood isn't even touching the body.  That definitely deadens the sound!
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AndyR

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Re: Strat tone myth or legend? - No 2 - neck pocket
« Reply #2 on: June 01, 2010, 04:41:48 PM »
Something I've often noticed on (US) Fenders - they wax the screws to make it easier to attach the neck, and little "pancakes" of wax end up around the screws in the pocket, so the neck wood isn't even touching the body.  That definitely deadens the sound!

Ooo-er... I waxed the screws... They're quite tight, and I didn't want to go damaging the neck by over tightening (I'm quite good at over-tightening screws :roll:)

Still, I think it's probably OK pancake-wise at the moment...
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Philly Q

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Re: Strat tone myth or legend? - No 2 - neck pocket
« Reply #3 on: June 01, 2010, 05:46:25 PM »
It should be OK so long as the neck and body are fairly tightly held together while you're putting in the screws - in that case I guess the excess wax just climbs back up the holes in the body, rather than depositing itself between neck and body.

Removing the stickers is probably a good idea too.

Going back to your original post, the general wisdom always seems to be that the neck pocket should be as tight as humanly possible.  But if it's too tight, the neck doesn't quite seat itself properly and you get weird "creaking" noises (as opposed to the "popping"/"cracking" noises you get if the neck suddenly shifts in a looser pocket). 

I think the ideal fit is "precise" rather than "tight" - the screws shouldn't be "fighting" to pull the neck into the body.


(How many " " marks did I use there?  :roll: )
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AndyR

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Re: Strat tone myth or legend? - No 2 - neck pocket
« Reply #4 on: June 01, 2010, 06:08:23 PM »
I'm as bad with the ( ) brackets :lol:

Ah, that's what I was getting - the weird "creaking" noise. It was definitely shifting as well, I could bang it back into position and then it would creak again a bit later. Investigating, you could even feel it move. The funny thing is, it wouldn't change tuning at all...

The only thing that worries me now is that the screws on the 50s are holding it in position - if I loosen them, the neck will drift off to where I don't want it. I guess that means really I ought to get the "bridge-end" of the pocket reshaped slightly so it sits where I want... but it seems fairly stable at the moment, it's not moved since I did it a few days ago, and if it ain't broke... (don't break it anymore than you have already! :lol:)

And I just realised - the "myth or legend" I was intending to talk about wasn't this bit, that was just some fingers-crossed DIY that gave me impetus to try the mod.

What I actually meant to discuss was the "remove extra finish and any stickers from the neck and neck pocket - vast improvement in tone..."

I always guessed that this might have some bearing, but I never thought it worth the effort before. But after the effect on the first guitar, it seemed worth giving it a go on the second - and it vaguely surprised me that it seems to have improved that one as well.
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Philly Q

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Re: Strat tone myth or legend? - No 2 - neck pocket
« Reply #5 on: June 01, 2010, 06:20:57 PM »
What I actually meant to discuss was the "remove extra finish and any stickers from the neck and neck pocket - vast improvement in tone..."

I think the stickers bit must be true - they're soft things made of a non-resonant material (like the backplate and scratchplate in fact).  They've got no business being between the neck and body.

The finish question is interesting - a lot of quite high-end makers don't seem to be too careful about getting finish in the pocket, and I don't know anyone who removes finish from the neck heel. 

In the pocket, if there was a thick coating of finish as there is on the rest of the body, I can imagine that being detrimental to tone.  But if it's just a bit of colour that's basically soaked into the bare wood, I can't see that doing any harm at all (and it probably helps prevent finish flaking/chipping off around the edges of the pocket, too).
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AndyR

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Re: Strat tone myth or legend? - No 2 - neck pocket
« Reply #6 on: June 01, 2010, 06:42:17 PM »
I must admit I'm dubious about the finish on the sides of the pocket as well - but seeing as what started me off was "I think this pocket's too tight", removing the bits of finish first seemed a good place to start and then offer the neck up again. After I'd done it to one, with (for me) unexpected improvement in tone, it seemed that I might as well clean it up on the second one as well...

The stickers seemed the most obvious "factor" from the stuff I'd read, and seeing as one was under the lacquer, on to bare wood, removing it seemed to indicate removing the rest of the lacquer in the contact area (Once the sticker was off, there was a sizable lip to the surrounding lacquer lines). I have a gut feeling that, apart from getting the 50s neck seated properly, the removal of the lacquer here was probably the biggest difference.

... and it probably helps prevent finish flaking/chipping off around the edges of the pocket, too).

Remember we're talking Roadworns here :lol: (I did think about this though!)

By the way, you know how the MIM fenders have "strange" round holes here and there - there's one under the scratchplate my Baja tele, and on the Roadorn strats - I think they're for CNC routing purposes... Just guess where there's one on Roadworn strats?? Right in the middle of the four screw holes in the neck pocket :lol: - seems to kinda blow some of the interweb theory I've been sucking up recently about "maximum contact" between neck and body :lol:
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Philly Q

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Re: Strat tone myth or legend? - No 2 - neck pocket
« Reply #7 on: June 01, 2010, 06:59:52 PM »
By the way, you know how the MIM fenders have "strange" round holes here and there - there's one under the scratchplate my Baja tele, and on the Roadorn strats - I think they're for CNC routing purposes... Just guess where there's one on Roadworn strats?? Right in the middle of the four screw holes in the neck pocket :lol: - seems to kinda blow some of the interweb theory I've been sucking up recently about "maximum contact" between neck and body :lol:

I have seen the hole-in-the-neck-pocket thing before, it's odd.  My US Strats and Teles have a metal plate in that part of the neck pocket, to support the grub screw for the micro-tilt adjustment (does anyone actually use micro-tilt?)

I don't know why the Mexican bodies have all those holes, I always assumed it was for an (admittedly tiny) amount of weight relief.  Warmoth manage to make finished CNC bodies with no "extra" holes at all, and they hardly get any finish inside the neck pocket.
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FernandoDuarte

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Re: Strat tone myth or legend? - No 2 - neck pocket
« Reply #8 on: June 01, 2010, 09:21:27 PM »
I think that the difference come much more from taking the finish off and putting the woods in contact than taking paper's stickers of it :)

shobet

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Re: Strat tone myth or legend? - No 2 - neck pocket
« Reply #9 on: June 01, 2010, 11:24:55 PM »
Do you have the neck shimmed as well?
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Elliot

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Re: Strat tone myth or legend? - No 2 - neck pocket
« Reply #10 on: June 03, 2010, 09:01:40 AM »
I don't think the holes are for weight relief - I think they are an artifact of the mexican factory process for mechanically transporting the guitar bodies around the plant.
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AndyR

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Re: Strat tone myth or legend? - No 2 - neck pocket
« Reply #11 on: June 03, 2010, 10:04:46 AM »
I think that the difference come much more from taking the finish off and putting the woods in contact than taking paper's stickers of it :)

That's my suspicion as well Fernando - I have no way of proving it or not, but it just seems like a satisfying explanation :D

Do you have the neck shimmed as well?

Funny you should say that - the answer's no, btw - I was dreading finding a shim in there, because then I would have had to make some sort of decision about what to do with it. I'm fairly certain that that would have involved getting the neck on and off and the strings tuned up etc quite a few more times...

I don't think the holes are for weight relief - I think they are an artifact of the mexican factory process for mechanically transporting the guitar bodies around the plant.

That sounds quite plausible to me. I'd read somewhere about the CNC thing, and I was thinking that it seemed a bit odd as an explanation - like Philly says, other manufacturers manage to make things without extra holes - but I don't know bugger all about it, so it seemed possible.
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Prawnik

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Re: Strat tone myth or legend? - No 2 - neck pocket
« Reply #12 on: June 07, 2010, 04:19:51 PM »
Don't worry about shims or how tight the neck pocket is. In my experience building Fenders, neither seems to have much influence on tone.

Do worry about how straight you can get the neck. Adjust the trussrod so that the neck is flat as a board or only slightly curved when the strings are brought to pitch.

Then use shims and play/or with bridge height to set the string height. Remember that all of these adjustments are interactive; changing any one setting may affect other settings, especially on a Strat or other trem-equipped guitar.

On a Strat, set the trem flat against the body. Use five trem springs. Ever only use vintage-style bridges, tuners, etc.(chicks dig them). Eschew humbuckers, with some exceptions from the 1970's.

Your Fender will then help you to score (with chicks.) Big headstock-era Fenders are the coolest kind and attract the hottest chicks.

AndyR

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Re: Strat tone myth or legend? - No 2 - neck pocket
« Reply #13 on: June 07, 2010, 04:46:24 PM »
I was right with you until this bit at the end...

Big headstock-era Fenders are the coolest kind and attract the hottest chicks.

:lol:

And then I realised you were probably right... :lol:
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