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Did you ever found yourself playing a bolt-on guitar like a Strat or Tele and it didn’t feel right. The guitar is great, great looks, it has awesome pickups, but still, the feeling isn’t there, there instrument just does not respond the way you would want it to do. Maybe screw inserts for guitar necks can help you here.
Is it the sustain that’s not great? Do you notice dead spots on the fretboard, that kill your solo lines?
Maybe it’s the neck mounting, that is not perfect. Did you remove the neck before? If you have a classic instrument, you may had to access the steel rod screw, at the end of the neck. Or you just build the instrument yourself from a DIY guitar kit? maybe you gave the body a new cool finish? It might be any of these situations that caused you to remove the wood screws, and take of the neck.
Wood screws are not a sustainable fastening method for Bolt-On guitar necks
These wood screws are part of the original design from Leo Fender, from back in the days when his intention was to build best sounding guitars with the most simple (and cheapest) parts and material. He was kind of the Henry Ford of the guitar industry, inventing all kind of improvements and simplifications to the classic guitar design, just like Henry Ford did it in the car industry. Leo made excellent electric guitars affordable to everyone. He probably would not imagine back then that his designs will still be used almost 1:1 decades later. And also that some of the guitars that were built decades ago are still in use, and probably will still be used in the future.
But time takes it toll, even on the finest instruments. Drilling a hole in a piece of maple wood is o.k., screwing in a wood screw is also fine, as long as you let it sit there and don’t remove and reset the screw. Just screw it in to a snug fit, no need to overtighten the screws. Check the neck plate: If it sits tight, its tight enough! Extra tip: put some wax on the tip of the screw, that may help to smoothen the surface of the thread.
what actually happens to your guitar neck when you use self-tapping wood screws
Imagine what happens when the self-tapping wood screw is pushed into the drill hole for the first time: it cuts its own thread, by displacing material, but also cutting the fibers of the precious wood to make space for the thread of the screw.
Now imagine you had the neck taken off, you put it back in place, you stick the screws into the drilling holes of the body, and start turning the screw…
What happens is a little terrifying: the screw will most probably cut a new thread. If you are lucky, the tip of the screw will find the original thread in you neck and follow along the grooves.
Don’t use power tools…
Are you using a power tool because the screws are long and it’s a tedious procedure to put them in? very bad idea…
I confess, I ruined neck screw holes with a cordless power drill. If you over-tighten the screw (with best intentions, you want the neck to sit tight, right?) the thread is gone. It happens to the best of us…
You will find little chips of wood next time you unscrew the neck. That’s the sad evidence that your precious neck not only lost some material, but also lost stability in its connection to the body. You know what that means: dead notes, lousy sustain. The neck may not even sit straight in its pocket, causing string height issues and other ugly effects.
German engineering from the 6ties has the solution!
I was amazed to see when I restored a vintage Hopf Saturn guitar (built about 1963, symbol of the famous Starclub in Hamburg, where the Beatles started their career) some time ago that the German luthiers back in the days used threaded steel inserts already. Maybe the only reason way back then was, because they used plywood for the neck which they claimed would never bend (actually the wanted to save the effort of putting in a proper steel rod) The company Hopf even got a patent for the Everstraight ply wood neck. But putting a screw into plywood along the plies is a very bad idea, it will not hold. So they came up with these guitar neck screw inserts, which were probably used by carpenters at that time, for making simple, easy to assemble ( think: Ikea) furniture constructions out of plywood. Just like Leo Fender, these guys used whatever did the job and was also cheap enough to stay in the budget. But guess what: It’s a steel thread, the screw will always find the thread and go in smoothly. The insert itself sits tightly in the wood, it will not move at all. Maybe they added a drop of wood glue, to make the connection even stronger.
Ibanez uses guitar neck screw inserts as well
I also have a 1979 Ibanez Roadster (not Roadstar, these came later) in my collection.
When i decided to redo the finish of the body and had to remove the neck, I was pleasantly surprised to see that it is also using a steel bolt system to fasten the neck. They even claimed a patent for this: they called it QUADRA-LOCK FOUR-BOLT NECK MOUNT. This is a rock solid system, the bolts are sitting in extra strong washers in the body. In order to mimic the classic look with a screw plate, the added a cover in order to hide the massive bolts. the threaded inserts are not flush with the neck surface, but are pushed deeper in the wood, This gives even more stability, the inserts can not loosen and break out in any way. This is not needed with the inserts we use, they have a little rim at the top, which stabilizes the insert against tilt forces.
Digging deeper into the fascinating world of fastening techniques for guitar necks I found this video from the famous German guitar company Framus. This company uses a very sophisticated system for the neck joint, which also includes threaded inserts. Other luthiers recommend this as well, Ed Roman uses this since the 80s, as part of his direct coupling concept.
Where it all began…
We also looked at the original RAMPA Muffe. Muffe is the German word for threaded insert. A German engineer invented this life saver many years ago. German woodworkers use the name as a synonym for all kinds of inserts now. The original muffe design did not have the hex key socket, but a slot across the top, which allows the use of a big screwdriver to drive the inserts into the wood. The RAMPA company still makes the original version , but also moved forward with the design to improve usability and also the looks. The original RAMPA parts are quite expensive, but we plan to add them to our shop, not only because we want to support German engineering, but also because the quality is outstanding. Let us know what you think about that.
What other guitars do you know that sport real machine bolts for the neck mount ?
Le me know in the comments!