Here’s a nice little interview with Abigal Ybarra, the Queen of Tone. I just love the idea of an entire cottage industry created around painfully replicating the work of a viejita from Orange County.
I just finished this custom headless bass neck for a customer. I used to think that headless instruments were for total weirdos, but this is a really bitchin’ neck. It has a custom-designed headless string anchor system and the laminated maple construction has aluminum reinforcement bars for extra stiffness. The truss rod is a Bruce Johnson designed stainless steel double action compression truss rod, and is integrated into the heavy-duty neck bolt anchors. This will be going into a rescued 30.7” Hagstrom bass. I can’t wait to see this thing complete! Yowzers!
The customer requested that the neck be made as stiff as possible. The neck was designed for very rigid. Hard maple was selected for consistent, straight grain, and all laminates were arranged so the grain formed characteristic “V” pattern. This optimizes the natural grain structure, providing a solid platform for the neck.
All of my necks are made from carefully selected hardwoods. As a policy, my materials are chosen for their straight, uniform grain patterns. While this may not sound as exciting as a highly figured specialty hardwood, my necks are designed for strength, stability and longevity. Think of them as high performance pieces as opposed to show pieces.
Aluminum Stiffening Bars
Aluminum bars run the entire length of the neck for extra stiffness. Aluminum is a lightweight, yet torsionally stiff material, and the bars provide more resistance against string pull.
Each bar was installed between the laminates during the gluing process.
Custom String Anchor
The custom made string anchor secures each string with a pair of bolts. The double bolt design creates a stable platform for each string, lessening the chance of breakage. The anchor itself is anchored to the neck using a through bolt design.
After my last success/failure using torrefied walnut to build a neck, I figured it would be good to keep pushing forward and experimenting with different neck materials. Since I have a couple of neck builds coming up, I figured now was the time to do a side-by-side comparison between roasted maple and cherry.
Oh Pretty Colors!
Roasted maple has been around for a while, and has kind of become an upsell of maple. I’ve been skeptical of the marketing hype surrounding roasted woods. I don’t believe that these materials are going to change the sound that much, and if even they did, I don’t know that wood itself is consistent enough to make any real scientific analysis that could definitively conclude that a roasted maple neck would give you 20% more tone than a not roasted maple neck. I do know that roasting the maple has structural benefits if you’re working with highly figured woods that would be otherwise unstable. Personally, I would choose a roasted wood for its color.
On the bottom of this image is roasted maple neck blank and on top is a dark roasted maple fretboard blank. Both were purchased from Torrefied Tonewoods. The FB blank is a nice, dark color and it will turn a nice reddish brown when finished. It was cheap, too – $12! I think that the dark roasted wood would be too brittle to make a good neck – in fact, Torrefied Tonewood doesn’t even sell dark roasted neck blanks, apparently for this reason.
Let’s Talk About Cherry
Cherry is a fairly commonplace wood that is easy to source in the continental USA. For some reason, cherry doesn’t seem to be a very popular wood for electric necks. I like it for it’s weight. Cherry is lighter than maple, and may even be lighter than walnut.
I think this next picture will bring it all together:
So, yeah, this piece of roasted maple and this piece of cherry are almost the same color. The cherry might be a little more pink and the maple may be more amber. And just for the numbers, this roasted maple 4/4 neck blank was about $50 plus shipping and it weighs 4.75 lbs. The cherry 5/4 board was about $43 at my local lumber yard, and I might be able to get 3 necks out of it. It weighs in at 10.75 lbs.
To be fair, it’s hard to beat a good maple neck. I’ve never build a cherry neck, but I hear it also can make a good neck. As far as color vs. cost, I gotta say that roasted maple isn’t really giving me a reason to go that route. I’m trying to make lighter weight basses, and cherry is definitely lighter, so that piques my interest. We’ll see how cherry really stacks up once I start getting into carving. One thing I really like about maple over walnut is that maple carves to nice clean edges. I’m hoping that the grain structure of the cherry will render a nice carve similar to maple.
I spent the morning thinking about the new year, and I thought I’d post an image dump of a few designs I hope to get to this year. I know I haven’t finished this Pistolera I’ve been working on since June of 2021, but seeing how my first production prototype is proceeding to the finishing stage, I thought it would be prudent to plan ahead while I am inspired to make designs.
These drawings are just sketches and are subject to change. The headstocks, bridges and pickups are mostly cut and pasted from other drawings.
First, I have the Santo series guitar and bass. The Santo bass is a short scale. I actually have a half finished prototype in my garage, but I’ve already made improvements on the old design. I’m also thinking I could make a 6-string guitar version. The engineering challenge I want to give myself is to use some of the same tooling to build both instruments.