I thought I would post one more before breaking for the Thanksgiving holiday. While it is subject to change, I’m pretty sure this is the neck I’m going to use for this project. I actually bought it off of Craigslist for $110, shipping and all. By any standard, a steal of a deal as it is a brand new neck (2013) with virtually no wear, a great nut and it has just a little bit of tint to it. It came with the standard tuners, which are actually pretty good, but I added a spare set of locking tuners, which I normally reserve for guitars I want to drag on stage. These are genuine Fender, modeled after Schaller’s. I’m partial to Spertzel locking tuners, and have a 15 year old pair on my main Telecaster which I dragged all over the place gigging, but these are still really nice locking tuners, so I can’t complain. That may change as well, but I’m leaning towards sticking with this combination.
There are several advantages to this neck. First, it is a one piece neck, meaning there is no separate fretboard, such as you find with rosewood and some maple necks. It has simple black dots, like most Fender necks. These are consistent with the original snake head neck Leo used, but here is where we break tradition. It has the walnut skunkstripe, which is required if you want to add a truss rod to a one piece neck. Leo’s first guitars didn’t have truss rods, and in fact, he was resistant to adding them at all. It has the modern headstock and it is 22 frets, while Leo’s first necks had 21 frets. It is the same size, it just has the overhang. I like the overhang for guitars with a pickguard, as it hides the joint. (shown in image below) Regular Telecasters have pickguards, and this poses a problem, as you have to remove the neck in order to remove the pickguard. Again, this isn’t an issue here, so it is a good choice. I would also note, this really is a pretty neck, and I like these necks where they put the serial number and such on the back. All that distracts from the beauty of the wood when plastered on the front. The grain is fairly straight, and while there is no birdseye or flaming in it, it just has a really nice look.
Another thing I want to mention is the fact that it is a Mexico built neck. This has advantages and disadvantages, but in most respects it probably approximates Leo’s first neck as well. The American built necks are unquestionably nicer necks, with rolled edged, finely polished frets and premium woods. At the same time, the Mexico necks may not be as “fancy”, but they are rock solid, well built, smooth enough, have the modern C shape with a 9.5″ radius (my preference) and going price is about half that of a new one. Depending on whether is is a pull or factory neck, average price for a near mint or new is around $175 to $225 while the Americans run in the $400-$500 range. They are better, but for a hobbyist, arguably not worth the extra money on a barncaster project. I also like buying “pulled” necks because they already have the nut installed and filed, so they tend to be much less work. When mated properly, I’ve never had to file the nut on a pulled neck.
I did a bunch of sanding last night, enough to begin building empathy for those that do this for a living. Of course, I’m doing this all manually, using only my hand for the edges, and a rubber sanding block for the flat surfaces. Anyone that does this for a living surely has better tools, but most casual barncaster builders will probably be doing it like I am. The most interesting things begin once I get through sanding, and we get to the finishing portion. That is where we find out if an idiot really can do this, and what a finished pine guitar looks like when aged with UV curing lamps.