Thursday, September 1, 2011

Fitting a 25-1/2" to 24-3/4" conversion neck.

Here's our patient "before". Don't worry,I already gave him grief about the gold Gibson pickups on a guitar with chrome hardware.
   Scale length is one of those things that make a guitar sound and feel the way it does. The classic example of this is 25-1/2" scale of the Fender Stratocaster versus the 24-3/4" scale of the Gibson Les Paul. The are,of course,many other reasons why they sound and feel different but scale length is a big factor.A longer scale length allows for a crisp and clear tone,conjuring up phrases like "piano-like" and "bell-like". It also makes for a stiffer feel with harder string bending.A shorter scale length tends to be deeper with more bass content,making for comments like "creamy" and "round". Neck-through and set-neck guitars make changing scale length impractical but guitars with a bolt on design allow hot-rodders and budding luthiers to change the neck. Combining a shorter scale neck with a long scale body isn't as simple as it sounds. Simply put,if the beginning (nut) and end (bridge) of the string aren't in the right place,the frets will be in the wrong place! I remember reading that Eddie Van Halen ran into the same problem in his early experiments that led to the now iconic "frankenstrat". I'll add that to the long list of things I learned from Eddie. Luckily for we folks that just can't leave a guitar stock,companies like USA Custom Guitars and Warmoth offer what are called "conversion" necks. These necks allow you to take a body intended for a 25-1/2" neck and "convert" it to a 24-3/4" scale. Let's see how our conversion went:

Here's a side by side comparison. It's a bit difficult to see what's going on in this picture because our Fender neck has a roller nut and the strings don't lead of of the edge of the nut. Bonus points to Warmoth for the skull and crossbones inlay.

You can see the difference better in this picture (assuming I've got things in the right place up at the headstock!).
Here's my solution to a potential future problem. The Fender is set up for the Micro-Tilt neck adjustment. The Fender neck has a nice metal disc for the Micro-Tilt to push against but the Warmoth neck doesn't. This could cause an unknowing future guitar tech to adjust the set screw of the Micro-Tilt right into the bare wood! Long time readers will know about the "penny trick" that works on Fender and Peavey guitars. ( Don't know what I'm talking about? Check it out here. ) That trick's no good here,so I made myself a wood disc to fill the gap. I just sliced of a bit of dowel,double-stick taped it to my finger and belt sanded it to thickness.
Here's our wooden disc at home. It will stop any future adjustments of the Micro-Tilt from jamming into our nice new Warmoth neck.

We're also fitting some sweet Fender locking tuners. Locking tuners are a nice addition to most guitars that have a tremolo,but no locking nut. You can see the cool tuner pin drill jig,designed by Browns Guitar Factory,that allows me to install the tuners accurately. You can pick this up directly from Browns,or from Stewart MacDonald.
Here's a two in one tip for you. 1) If you install locking tuners,there's no need to wrap any string around the post. 2) If you're installing locking tuners on a brand new neck or fitting a new nut,wrap strings around the post anyway,so you're better able to loosen and re-tighten them as needed. This gives you some leeway in the nut fitting process.

Here we are,all done! This is a really cool combination of Fender and Gibson and I think it's inspired me to eventually make one of my own.

Here's a close up of the fingerboard...just because it's cool.

1 comment:

James said...

Great looking neck and guitar. I have question about the fret wire dimensions of this Warmoth neck? These looks so organic to neck. Thanks