Neck Pocket Fit - Another shattered myth
True to my nature I am going to outrage many experts with my comments yet again. A tight neck fit does not mean a good sounding guitar nor does a loose one mean the tone is going to suck. Sorry but after demoing lots of vintage Fenders I come to this conclusion.
I have handled several old strats with a VERY bad neck fit. Especially the 54's and older Teles. These were production guitars meant to be pumped out and easily adjusted. A perfect neck is not in this game plan. Anyone who thinks otherwise is on glue and knows jackshit about manufacturing, and/or wants to live in a fantasy world of magic and moonbeams.
Fender made bodies and necks in large quantities. If the necks fit perfect they would run into problems during assembly that would require special fitting. Different batches use different templates, templates wear out, templates are used to make duplicate templates etc. Speed and ease does not mean paying somebody to search for the parts that fit together and/or sanding away until its perfect. The necks fit into the pocket quite loosely early years and then progressed into a relatively good fit (with some give). The give would be intentional for a few reasons. First, different batches of bodies/necks would be interchangeable - the whole point of the bolt on neck. Perfect fits mean some parts would not fit together without added labor - that's not mass production mantra. Second, if your neck was a little off center, you loosen the screws a little and yank it into place then tighten. If the fit was perfect - you cant do that. We have all seen the online pictures of guys fitting necks so they can lift the guitar off the table. That's all just great until they get the finish on and the neck is now too tight. They force it in and crack the smallest corner. Oh the craftsmanship.
I used to believe the neck pocket myth but cant say I do today. Some of the old Fenders sound like crap. Others quite good. No correlation between the neck pocket - sorry.
I build guitars. A little builder who usually builds one at a time. Therefore I can match parts and spend the time to fit them perfectly. Of course, If I had Fenders deadlines to meet I would never be able to do things this way. I'd like to say my perfect fits sound better than anything else but that would be bullshit. I've done loose fits, medium, tight ... it doesn't seem to matter. Sometimes a certain body will sound better with a certain neck etc. The fit might have something to do with it - but I doubt it for all the reasons I've mentioned. The only reason for a tight fit is professionalism. It looks better when parts are built with skill and precision. This can be expected on a several thousand dollar handmade guitar or precision CNC cuts. You want that on a mass production bolt on from the 50's/60's? Keep dreaming.
This is the reason Gibson and other set neck guitars cost more money. You HAVE to have a great fit with set necks. You cannot glue up a sloppy fit and expect the glue joint to hold. You also must be on center and at the proper angle as once glued up - that's it - you're done. If you tour the Martin or PRS factories I bet you'll see necks being final fitted by a person with a chisel.
But don't take my word for it - in fact do not take ANYBODIES word for it. That's the big problem with internet forums and vintage shows. So many experts who know nothing - spouting off like they are Keith Richards. Find old guitars for yourself (these holy grails of mythdom) and try them out. Actually play them. Don't look at them - play them, then look at the details. If Jeff Healy and Stevie Wonder agree your guitar sounds good ... that's about the only situation I'd take it on word.
Eric Clapton's Blackie for instance. He mixed up parts he liked from different year strats. Obviously there is no way they could have been a perfect fit. He just liked how the parts sounded together. Now, go to Guitar Center and take a good look at Blackie. Yes that's right - its a shitty neck fit with a bad upper edge.
I am all for a tight professional neck pocket. But the vintage models most often do not possess this.
Myths keep alive for a few reasons:
5) its easier to parrot information than do your own homework
4) everybody wants to sound like an expert
3) once something gets repeated enough it becomes gospel to the masses
2) The whole vintage dream is based on perception. Perception that there once was a better world, when men were men and women were delicate flowers, when things were built of gold and frankincense, simpler times, better times ...... etc.
and the number one reason myths thrive:
While the experts are working hard actually doing - the blowhards sit around eating cheese, incessantly posting on net forums between porn binges. I always get a kick out of the forums. Always 2-3 guys that seem to be there 24/7. For "experts" they sure have a lot of spare time.