Discussion in 'The Small Company Luthiers' started by JohnnyFavorite, Jul 11, 2011.
Can anyone tell me what the pros and cons of having a round-lam fingerboard are?
Like early 60s Fenders? Scott Lentz still does it but I don't remember why. It doesn't mattewr to me either way.
My 63 Strat has one--also known as a "veneer board" as opposed to slab board. Thinner rosewood. I've heard they are harder to make because of the radius carve. Some say the neck should sound a little closer to a maple neck, but I think that would be pretty hard to test.
According to Forrest White's book Fender was having neck warpage issues in dry climates. This was their cure.
Pros: it looks real cool and maybe more stable but proly not more stable than using quality wood and practices.
Cons: it's a lot of work. The fingerboard starts out just as thick as a normal one then gets hollowed out on one side, glued on to a radiused neck shaft, then re-radiused on the face.
Not how I build them...but that is another discussion. I see absolutely no advantages of a lam board. I don't find it saves or wastes any more material, its just a different process. Not too difficult to make, but no compelling reason why either.
To my ears, slab boards sound different than round lam. Better, worse...very subjective. However, as Strats go, there are dogs & gems across the board...but, kickin' out the dogs, I generally prefer the tone of a round lam on a Strat. I've also read where Fender felt that a round lam neck was more stable than a slab due to the slightly greater gluing surface area of the neck/fretboard joint.
A few points to consider... The board is wrapped in a cylinder which increases the rigidity of the neck not to mention the stability. There is also alot less rosewood, more maple. These things affect tone. Now compared to a one piece maple neck there is a radical difference when you consider the rear loaded -vs- top loaded truss rod. Also, the lam is more challenging to make as it requires a special skillset and a more higly evolved set of tools and equipment. Like any neck.. construction techniques, and engineering can vary results greatly. This is especially true in the lam/veneer neck. ymmv and all that.
I have had two slab board guitars and both developed problems. My two round lam necks are/were perfect.
So you steam bend the board or ?? I've always wondered how those were done to perfectly match the maple radius
Agree with your points. I also curve/wrap the board and do not do use the method of radius under and over a standard slab. Preeb builds his lam boards by radiusing the underneath, glue it on and then radiusing the top. I see no structural advantages of that over a standard slab. The different thickness in rosewood will change the tone. That could be done even on a slab.
Back to how you/I may build a lam board. While I can agree that the curved/wraped board adds strength and rigidity, I have not had any problems with building one piece or slab necks that needed added strength, rigidity or stability for that matter. I think the Veneer board has a historical place in time, but my perspective is that a well built one piece or slab neck can be equal or better in all departments.
You are correct about the skill set to build these lam board necks. Many of us lutheirs come from a background of building all sort of instruments (acoustics, archtops, mandos, violins etc) and the added skill are not an issue. But for the less expierence, it could prove challanging.
BTW: Someone just asked me about maple veneered necks. Did Fender build a curved/wrapped maple board too? I know they had maple slabs for awhile in the 60's, but have only heard one other time of curved maple slabs from around 68 or so.
The lam/veneer neck has a different sound and feel and behaves differently. Equal or better is irrelavent and open for interpetation anyway. It's just a different neck with different characteristics that has it's place for people who appreciate it.
They made maple cap necks for a while in the late '60s. Not sue whenr but '68 sounds right.
I specialize in accurate slab board necks and not one has had issues. My necks are quite beefy so perhaps stronger but I also cure the maple for at least a year in the same area the neck will be made.
I love slabs, but thats me. I cant figure out how a lam board saves materials. I doubt highly that was the reason for change. From what I was told years ago - people were used to the Maple brightness and wanted it back. So they made the lam board to get more maple. Of course years later this made people want the slabs again because they were rare. Just like tortoise picks. I remember having a big bin of those in the shop before the ban. Rarely sold any. When the ban came into effect they started selling. A few years after - people were coming it really wanting those magic picks.
it sure seems like the old round-lam fender necks were a lot stiffer, sometimes even to the point of the truss rod not functioning properly due to the strings being unable to pull the neck into up-bow.
The maple/maple necks came in nearly as soon as the round lam RW boards, at least as a custom option, so I would guess that they also are round lam. My Fender CS 66 Ltd Ed Closet Classic has a maple board on maple neck -- feels and sounds great to me.
I have no association with Bare Knuckle, but a comparison between their 59 and 63 sets speak to the OP's question. In a nutshell, a veneer board should be naturally brighter due to greater maple content and therefore the pickups were wound a little less bright and with more lows in the 63 set:
'59 Slab Board set
The introduction of a rosewood 'slab' fingerboard in 1959 is a milestone in Strat tone arguably producing a warmer tone than the earlier one piece maple necks. The '59 Slab Board coils are made with vintage correct black fibreboard flatwork, hand bevelled Alnico V magnets and scatter-wound by hand with 42AWG Heavy Formvar wire. The tone is hollow and woody with tight, punchy, bottom-end snap and crisp, clear highs. Both chording and single note playing is wonderfully percussive and the moderate vintage output is perfect for extra cut with a slab board neck.
'63 Veneer Board set
Marking the change to a thinner rosewood 'veneer' board, the '63 Veneer Board set is based on some of the slightly hotter coils from'63 & '64 with the slightly smaller diameter Alnico V magnets. While veneer board Strats are usually brighter than slab board Strats, the hotter wind helps to add body to the tone while the smaller hand bevelled magnets focus the magnetism under the strings. With deeper bottom-end than the '59 Slab Board set and a more solid high-end, chords carry plenty of weight with a very full, piano-like ring to each note. As with both sets, the coils are scatter-wound with Heavy Formvar wire for wide frequency response and exceptional pick dynamics.
From what I read elsewhere (forgot where), Leo Fender was concerned about the appearance of worn, dirty maple fretboards on his guitars. From a manufacturer's viewpoint, I could understand this is not how you want your product displayed on TV and in concerts. Hence the introduction of rosewood fretboards (slab) in 59. This altered the tone somewhat so later thinner veneer boards were introduced to get the rosewood board look but a tone closer to a maple neck.
I have an ebony board strat and les paul and it's amazing how that little bit of different wood affects the tone of the guitar (bright and fast attack), so I can definitely imagine a different tone out of a slab vs. veneer board.
As to maple necks with maple veneers, I have one of those (firemist silver '66 closet classic) and they don't have the skunk stripe on the back (since the trussrod is inserted from the fretboard side. I only noticed it had the maple cap after a week or so, you can barely tell.
From the first one I built in 97, I was hooked! For ME, this the best neck ever designed, built with .900 maple and .110 rosewood or maple.
Can you share why you feel that way Scott?
Can anyone explain to me why vintage modern Warmoth rosewood fingerboards are so massive. Have you noticed this? I had one that the rosewood seemed to be half the size of the maple neck. Talk about a slab. I have heard this is the way they are but wondering if anyone knows why or has seen this. I did not like it all. For the record my favorite Strat ever was a slim rosewood neck circa early 60's but is a subject I will leave to the experts as I don't have a clue about it. Thanks.
Jack, here's what I can tell you: The maple part of the neck is .900 to .905 radiused. The rod and filler act as a beam sitting within .110 of the playing surface. The neck being radiused creates a different glue surface and in my case the board is glued in compression with hide glue.
Fender and others my radius the board before gluing, then re-radius the neck after the board is glued in place. Building it this way you have less waste, you can use glue from a bottle, and is less complicated to train people to perform the operation. I have to laugh, when people say this neck was built to save money! Anyone with a modicum of understanding the engineering that went into this neck knows; it is an expensive neck.
I can't, nor would I try to speak for those that build slab necks with .250 fretboards. What I can say is that this came into fashion during the Jackson years, he used the double rod. When the double rod was used, there was a fear that if the rod was turned too much... a thinner board would either crack or de-laminate.