Most Things Guitar Players Worry About Don’t Matter.
I can say this because it is my website and I can do whatever I want and because I am pretty sure I have heard it all. My YouTube videos have given me further insight into what silly stuff people believe. I get comments all the time from viewers telling me how stupid I am. If I had to guess (and I do) most of these people really don’t know any better and have just stepped out of their echo chamber long enough to bad mouth me before they run back to the shelter of… whatever forum they crawled out from. Of course, the award for guy who worries about the least important stuff goes to… ME and all the dumb ass things I have thought were true over the years. I would like to share some of these with you here. Set Necks Are Better Than Bolt-On Necks There was a time when I believed almost everything my elders told me. When my first guitar building influence told me that bolt-on necks were not as good as a set neck I took it as gospel. Without figuring it out for myself I took the man’s words to heart and it was only after a considerable amount of soul searching that I changed my mind.
I don’t think I’m alone in this… Lots of people associate set necks with higher quality, or at least, higher cost. My own conclusion is that adhesive or metal hardware is much less important than the joint itself. A well-executed bolt together neck joint is far superior to a sloppy glued in arrangement. So, if all things are equal, either one will work great. Having said that there are some definite advantages to a Fender style, interchangeable, bolt on neck. They are very easy to replace at the user level if the neck is damaged. The angle of the neck in the pocket can be adjusted if needed. The neck joint, at least, on a Fender style neck doesn’t need to be a 1 to 1 fit male to female (more on this later). Finally, the neck can be skootched around in the pocket if needed to adjust string spread. You might be thinking that all this stuff can just be done properly in the first place and glued in, and you are right. However, the fact remains that for a mass production model the ability to tweak things once it is finished is a real bonus. Our standard neck can be glued into the pocket or screwed in. We have not found any sonic advantages with one over the other. The amount of glue used to set the neck in place is considerably less money than other hardware (we like the machine screws and steel inserts). Most of the time our necks are permanently bonded in place but if we are using different finishes on the body and neck I will generally recommend machine screws and EZ Lock steel inserts. Necks Must Fit into Neck Pockets So Tight That It Is Hard To Get Them Together… Or Apart This is another one that I was originally taught in the mid 80’s by the old school builders. It is also easy to find in the various guitar forums still to this day. The idea of tight wood joints is simple enough but can be taken from sensible to absurd. Before anyone accuses me of sloppy fitting necks remember that here at Texas Toast Guitars we call our neck to body fit “The Christine Sixteen”. I am all for a one to one fit but I also realize that you can get too much of a good thing. Glue added to a super tight neck pocket will swell both the mortise and tenon. It is possible to have even the thin layer of adhesive prevent the neck from sliding home. This is not a lot a laughs on a hot summer day when Titebond sets up in record time. The finish on bolt on necks will also make the outside dimensions of a neck change quite a bit. It is possible to have things so tight that finish will crack and pop off when removing necks from pockets. You got to give it a little breathing room. Remember this the next time you see the obligatory picture of a builder holding a guitar buy the neck (almost daring the body to fall off) to demonstrate how tightly wedged in the neck is. A Truss Rod’s Design Is More Important Than Its Capabilities I don’t know who you are, but I’d make a $100.00 bet that I have done more research and wasted more time worrying about truss rods than you have. I have lost track of how many styles I have used, built, bought and installed. I have a surplus of tools, jigs and fixtures for installing these things. Hell, I even have a 45-minute PowerPoint presentation that I did at a guitar show many years ago if you are having trouble falling asleep some night. After seeking out the ideal neck stabilizing rod I have come to the realization that if the truss rod does what it is supposed to do, hold the neck in place against the tension of the strings, I don’t care what the design is. The rod must be strong and must manipulate the neck. Of course, you don’t want any rattling but the notion of one rod having more of a sonic impact than another is balderdash. I have settled on a style that we have used for many years with no issues. It is a snazzy unit that moves all kinds of directions, is easy to install in every style neck we use and (when ordered in bulk) affordable. When it comes to the guitar nerd possibilities I’m a little surprised this feature isn’t a more popular geek out topic on guitar forums. It should be at least as popular as what kind of finish it has and what kind of glue was used. Guitar Players Care About Subtle Things Like Wood, Electronics & Finish When I first started Texas Toast Guitars the idea was to bring simple instruments to market with emphasis placed on tone… that intangible thing that all guitar players should care the most about. If it didn’t make the guitar play any better or sound any better, I would eliminate it from the process. Those early guitars were stripped down and nasty. All the tone woods used were sourced for sonic properties and stability. The electronics were spartan arrangements that eliminated all the controls in favor of the pick-up hard wired to the jack. Finally, the finish was oil and wax. I had removed any and all the things that guitar players talked about as problem areas. There was no dead sounding lumber, no capacitors or wire to argue about and no super thick paint jobs. Yep… they were boring. What I learned from these early guitars was that you can’t please everyone and that some people just ain’t happy unless they have something to bitch about. I’m sure there are players out there who really do care about the components and the sonic impact each one has on an instrument. They might even be able to hear a difference in truss rods? But I am convinced that there are far more nerds on the internet who just say buzz words and repeat catch phrases than people who can tell the difference. This is true for any on-line community, not just guitar players. People Will Appreciate Hand-Made Guitars It's one thing to appreciate all the hard work that goes into the craft of building anything… it’s quite another convincing people to pay for it. I spend lots of time in the workshop honing my craft and growing as an artisan. I would never claim to be a master because I am still interested in learning new things. If today me builds better guitars than yesterday me did I’m happy. This process is very rewarding and it’s a good thing because no one is paying me to evolve. In my younger, more naive days, I was sure that people would share the same love for creating as I do. Boy, was I (mostly) wrong. The fact is that, by my estimation, about 1% of the guitar buying public gives a damn about how their guitar was made or that it was built by someone who loves making musical instruments as much as they love playing them. The truth is that building guitars for real players has never been a high margin industry. Trading on a classic name with various levels of price point and quality might be but doing this one at a time thing… not so much. Those of you who know me know that I have no illusions of competing with the big boys and selling to the 99%. I like that... it makes me feel like an outlaw. There are lots of preposterous notions that could use a good myth busting. I want to grind those sacred cows into Big Macs! If we had a hundred years to argue about this stuff I think we would still find something to argue about. That’s enough for now, time to get back to work.
 Remember, Leo Fender thought that people would simply replace necks should they become to worn or needed repair. I never cease to be puzzled by people who insist on rebuilding an out of spec part for a Fender.