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Al Krow

Bass necks - single wood piece vs laminate

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The key is properly seasoned, dried wood, cut at the correct angle and properly joined. A laminated neck is no guarantee of stiffness or stability. I had a Warwick Streamer a few years ago, 5-piece flamed maple laminate with contrasting stringers and that neck would never remain stable. It would go out of tune every couple of days even when left at the same temperature. A good look by a luthier suggested that it was indeed soft and spongy, probably down to insufficient seasoning or different moisture content in each laminate. Which begs the point: if you’re going to make laminates with flamed maple. At least make a cursory attempt to match the wood grain! I guess the Uber-expensive custom shop basses do now but they’ve not got a great track record, especially with maple necks, where it’s more obvious.

Both Fender Dimensions I owned were single piece necks (with carbon fibre rods I believe) and never required re-tuning. Aesthetically I prefer this as on many multi-laminate necks with different woods you can feel the joins as the different wood species move in different amounts. 

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Posted (edited)

Bear in mind that (as stated earlier) I have a bass with a supposedly spongey neck that hardly ever moves. Whereas I’ve had much stiffer necks that move all over the place. That’s what drove Entwistle away from his Alembics.

Flame maple laminates do seem to be a common factor. All the Seis that moved had flamed necks, and the ones that didn’t, didn’t.
 

 

Edited by 4000
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1 hour ago, 4000 said:

Flame maple laminates do seem to be a common factor. All the Seis that moved had flamed necks, and the ones that didn’t, didn’t.

My maruszczyk has a flame maple neck, its pretty solid and only adjusted it when I put tapewounds on it once.

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My Dingwall's neck is a 3-piece, albeit all maple, and has never moved in a decade now, even tho it's 36"+ scale, and no matter what strings I put on it. I do like a very slim neck, so I guess with less wood in cross-section, there's less to prevent movement. The worst I ever had was a Lakland single-piece which developed a backbow and then a twist...I've still got it in a cupboard somewhere...lovely fingerboard, tho... 😕

As is repeatedly stated in the Tonewood Hoohas that crop up regularly, wood is an organic material, and no two pieces are identical, so there's an inherent inconsistency there from the get-go.

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I've seen it written that quilting/flaming/birdseye are caused by the deposition of impurities/other chemicals in the wood during growth. Whilst they're attractive, the said discontinuities react unpredictability to moisture and temperature when compared to the regular areas of timber.

I'm not entirely convinced. My SR5 had a smattering of birdseye in the Maple of the neck and that didn't move at all.

As a theory,  there's a possibility that it might be true, especially if the neck design is a bit marginal with regard to stability. 

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Posted (edited)
2 hours ago, Muzz said:

The worst I ever had was a Lakland single-piece which developed a backbow and then a twist...I've still got it in a cupboard somewhere...lovely fingerboard, tho... 😕

Yeah - that's gotta be the single big concern here for any of us regarding necks. And it's not like Lakland are a budget brand. I had the same issue a few years back on a Fender J 5 string. 

I know you're also a Yammy player - have the necks on the ones you have had been laminated or single piece, and I'm guessing whichever one, you've not had an issue as you've not mentioned? 

Edited by Al Krow

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4 hours ago, Woodinblack said:

My maruszczyk has a flame maple neck, its pretty solid and only adjusted it when I put tapewounds on it once.

Well somewhat ironically, my supposedly “spongey” yet more or less non-moving neck has some flame in it too. But certainly in my experience, flame laminates have been a common feature in the more unstable necks I’ve had. Whether that’s down to the flame, who knows?

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On 05/10/2020 at 10:27, Rikki_Sixx said:

 

The worst neck I ever had was on a Danelectro re-issue (not a 50's / 60's model). It was all over the shop in the end. I'd be interested to know what the construction of the neck was. It was painted black, so it will remain one of lifes great mysteries.

The 90s reissues had single piece neck (maple I think) with a seperatate headstock glued on with a scarf joint. 

Whatever this wood is, 

fAkIeo8.jpg

It's got D'addario half round strings which are on the stiffer end of strings and it's fine so far. Time will ultimately tell though. 

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5 hours ago, Al Krow said:

Yeah - that's gotta be the single big concern here for any of us regarding necks. And it's not like Lakland are a budget brand. I had the same issue a few years back on a Fender J 5 string. 

I know you're also a Yammy player - have the necks on the ones you have had been laminated or single piece, and I'm guessing whichever one, you've not had an issue as you've not mentioned? 

None of my BBs has ever twitched; from the single-piece (IIRC) BB300 and BB414 to the neck-thru 5-piece (again, IIRC...it's been a while) BB3000A and all in between... But then they're Yamahas: I'd hardly expect them to... 😁

The Lakland neck wasn't a Skyline one, either... 😕

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On 09/10/2020 at 13:01, 4000 said:

Bear in mind that (as stated earlier) I have a bass with a supposedly spongey neck that hardly ever moves. Whereas I’ve had much stiffer necks that move all over the place. That’s what drove Entwistle away from his Alembics.

Flame maple laminates do seem to be a common factor. All the Seis that moved had flamed necks, and the ones that didn’t, didn’t.
 

 

It’s not stiffness. That may have an effect on the tone but is no guarantee that a neck will stay in place. The issue with laminated necks, especially those with contrasting wood species, is that the stringers will move, but some might move more or less than others. I’m not sure whether there is a limit in the laminations - so if it has for example 10-15 stringers, the wood movement effect is negated. However, all wood moves, and the higher the sap/moisture content remaining, the more likely it is to move more, and more often. Poor assembly procedures and Imperfections/knots in the wood can also act as weak spots. Constant exposure to extremes of temperature may compound this.
Instrument makers try to overcome these issues by ensuring a consistent and thorough drying and seasoning of the wood, and arranging the grain on the laminates so that movement of any one stringer is kept in check. Proper and even/consistent pressure and the right adhesive during lamination also helps. This is also the reason for carbon fibre/metal inserts, although it’s not clear whether these have a deadening effect on vibration. 

I think this explains to a degree why some apparently softwood and spongy necks may not move, but some laminated hardwood necks behave like a banana!

 

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On 09/10/2020 at 13:01, 4000 said:

Bear in mind that (as stated earlier) I have a bass with a supposedly spongey neck that hardly ever moves. Whereas I’ve had much stiffer necks that move all over the place. That’s what drove Entwistle away from his Alembics.

Interesting! I'd always heard that he sold his first one because the electronics were ropey, but I hadn't heard about wobbly necks being an issue! Am I right in thinking he was still playing Alembics up until around the late '80s?

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6 hours ago, EliasMooseblaster said:

Interesting! I'd always heard that he sold his first one because the electronics were ropey, but I hadn't heard about wobbly necks being an issue! Am I right in thinking he was still playing Alembics up until around the late '80s?

He said the necks moved too much when he was travelling; because his action was so low he was constantly having to tweak them.

I think you’re thinking of the bass that failed at Live Aid which he sold to the Hard Rock Cafe as punishment. 

This should keep you occupied 😉:
 

http://www.thewho.net/whotabs/gear/bass/bass.html

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On paper any multi laminate will be stronger, but as far as guitars and basses go a properly installed single piece is fine and would bother me not.

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