Is the Fender 3 bolt neck heel inferior to the 4 bolt heel?

Discussion in 'Luthier's Guitar & Bass Technical Discussion' started by smallbutmighty, Feb 1, 2012.

  1. smallbutmighty

    smallbutmighty Supporting Member

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  2. LarryN

    LarryN Member

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    Slightly less stable, but the rest is up to the individual, soundwise. I like it not tilted for better wood contact. There's more hardware in the assembly, which has a slight affect on tone, plus only two screws directly into the wood. The simple four screws into the wood mounting probably has better energy transfer.
     
  3. Ronsonic

    Ronsonic Member

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    ATMO, yes, the 3-screw is inferior. The necks aren't as stable - that is the first thing a neck should be.
     
  4. mikeylikesit

    mikeylikesit Member

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    From a tonal perspective I can't tell the difference. I think the stability difference, if any, is directly related to setup. This of course is my opinion from having owned and played both types. I remember this being a hot topic since I started playing back in the early '70's and I personally don't believe there is a definitive answer. There are simply too many variables.
     
  5. geekocaster

    geekocaster Member

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    i cant tell the difference tone wise or function wise. that said i prefer 4 bolts.
     
  6. walterw

    walterw Gold Supporting Member

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    not as such, but coupled with the shoddy '70s fender tolerances and the resulting big gaps around the pocket, yeah, not as stable. (G&L did it right later on, with a longer neck plate and tighter neck pocket fit.)
     
  7. Boris Bubbanov

    Boris Bubbanov Member

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    I'm not a fan of the Micro Tilt concept from the outset.

    I believe the 3 bolt Fender and G + L designs grow directly out of the microtilt concept.

    So, you aren't gonna see me choosing this type of 3 bolt over the 4 bolt. There's simply no upside to it.
     
  8. Ronsonic

    Ronsonic Member

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    My '72 Strat sorta ruined me on the three-bolt concept. Ended up with abrasive mesh in the neck pocket and used as a shim with the microtilt screw backed out. Maybe these painful memories from my youth have unfairly biased me.
     
  9. Chris Scott

    Chris Scott Silver Supporting Member

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    In respect to how tight the fasteners are holding the neck, and by default keeping the assembly from moving, I don't believe there's any appreciable difference - the machine screw on the 3-bolt design probably has as much, or possibly more "clamping" capability than the 2 wood screws it replaces, but as walter pointed out, the actual fit of the end of the neck in the body "socket" as well as the tolerances of the screws where they pass thru the body, has much more to do with any actual stability, such as being able to get banged around a bit and NOT have it knock the neck off axis.

    I've played both enough that, all things being equal, I'll choose the 4-bolt over the 3, but more for it's ability to stand up to the rigors of actually being used in a real-world environment, rather than any real sonic difference. And, as many here know (thanks to walter) good contact between the heel of the neck and the corresponding wall of the socket is more important for the instruments capacity to resonate than the contact of the sides of the neck, so again it's all about the damn thing being able to stay bolted together properly than anything else.

    All that being said, some of the 3-bolt guitars have a substantially higher "cheese factor" in respect to fit and finish, and it's totally understandable why a lot of players just simply don't like 'em.
     
    Last edited: Feb 2, 2012
  10. nateclark

    nateclark Member

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    A wise observation. Agreed.
     
  11. SamBooka

    SamBooka Member

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    I agree
     
  12. Schmidt

    Schmidt Member

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    No..!

    Measured out in kilo/newtons the pull coming from four wood screws compared to two wood screws and a machine bolt is almost identical. They produce an equal friction between bottom of the neck heel and the neck pocket floor. And the friction exclusively decide how stable the neck join is. So that's the best preserved nonsence in history of electric guitar - probably made to stimulate vintage Strats and Tele market.
     
  13. blong

    blong Member

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    I don't look for reasons not to like a guitar. One of my all time favorite strats is my 1978 three bolt strat. It is just fine. Like all guitars, some are better than others. There's a lot of internet mythology and a lot of people speak of the three bolt being "inferior" and they have never owned one. Walter is right, the tolerances/oversized neck pocket is a problem. It is easy to fix.

    Also, some say shimming the neck/using microtilt can decrease sustain, affect tone, etc. Maybe, I guess, but I worked on a guy's guitar that said he had never had it worked on, did not want it shimmed, but wanted it adjusted to play better. In front of him I took off the neck and there was a shim in it. He bought this guitar in 1959 and had the check in the case, along with the original cord. It was a telecaster. It had a piece of a business card in there. He swears the neck had never been taken off and he had never had it worked on. This was a few years ago, and by the demeanor of the old man, I believe him. I've seen many an old fender shimmed with paper, wood, and old pieces of picks. Several people claimed to be original owners of these old guitars and that they had never had the neck removed. I understand, though I could be wrong, that doing this at the factory was not uncommon to get guitars to play better, and in the 70's the micro-tilt was invented to prevent this. I've played plenty of shimmed guitars that sound just fine, sustain just fine, and no one would ever know the difference.

    I don't care if it's shimmed or not. Whatever makes it play the way you want and feel good, and the sound is good to you, do that. I doubt some people could hear a difference between a guitar if it was shimmed or not. I do know you would tell a difference in how it feels.

    Bob
     
  14. Boris Bubbanov

    Boris Bubbanov Member

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    Walter's post is so perfect and succinct, but Chris brings out the crux of it.

    MOST of these 3 bolters were fine, when shipped. Where they went wrong was in the field, handled rough in the way Strats tend to get handled. On an LP, with a headstock strike the failure is just above the nut. On the Strat, the headstock is fine as all the attenuation happened at the neck pocket. Heavy shocks just wear out the join, and overwhelm the 3 bolts when 4 bolts might have persevered.

    I personally always had a devil of a time avoiding hitting the Big Strat headstock on mikestands, etc. I occurs to me to suggest a lot of the pocket failures were in part because 4 bolts is better than 3, but also because the Oversized headstock was a menace for many folks.
     
  15. GM Reszel

    GM Reszel Member

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    Truth.

    The new Mexi ri 3 bolters have good neck fit and with the normal tight from the two wood screws and the supreme torque from the machine screw into the plate that neck mount is rock solid.
     
  16. DGTCrazy

    DGTCrazy Moderator de Emporio Staff Member

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    My ONLY complaint about 3 Bolt Fenders: A lot of them weighed a TON!
     
  17. Chris Scott

    Chris Scott Silver Supporting Member

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    Nah...






    ...almost all of 'em did...





    ...and still do!:omg
     

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