This one should be short and sweet. Nothing simpler than fitting a four bolt neck plate – is there?
Well for starters they are not bolts, just good old wood screws. Usually, counter sunk raised head Philips or Pozi-Drive screws.
Some necks have three screws and some like the much maligned Fender “3-bolt” neck, are actually two wood screws and a bolt. Occasionally, you do find genuine bolted necks with threaded inserts set in to the neck heel ready to accept a bolt.
This article refers to the classic four screw neck plate found on a zillion Fenders and Fender style guitars.
For a guitar to perform its duties correctly it must be structurally rigid and resist forces applied to it – that’s your tuned guitar strings. So the neck joint is crucial. Neck screws should be quality steel, preferably stainless steel, of sufficient length, approx’ 45 mm, to bite into the neck heel but not penetrate the fingerboard.
The neck plate must be sufficiently rigid and not buckle or deflect when screws are tightened. This is often evident on thin poor quality plates.
The majority of hardware, such as neck plates, is now manufactured in the Far East, from various amalgams, all aimed at reducing cost, as specified by the customer. It’s noticeable how the weight of metal plates and other parts has decreased over the years. Metalwork is no longer steel or plated brass but some cheap zinc alloy. Similarly, screws are declining in quality – save a cent here and there.
A common fault with neck/body joints is the twin thread scenario. I see this often on new guitars fresh off the shelf. When screwing two pieces of wood together a screw must pass cleanly through the first piece of wood – that’s the guitar body, before screwing home into the second piece, the neck heel.
Often body holes are drilled too small or full of lacquer. During fitting this causes the neck screw to first cut a thread in the body, before cutting into the neck heel. Once fully tightened, much of the torque transfers to the unwanted thread in the body and not the neck. Always ensure the neck screws can pass through the body unhindered.
With a new neck, always pre-drill holes in the neck heel. A stepped pilot hole is best. Test drill a piece of scrap wood. Lubricate the screws with candle wax or a dab of petroleum jelly before fitting.
We manufacture our own top-quality stainless steel and aluminium NCG neck plates in Nottingham, available to purchase here.