A few weeks ago I mentioned completing a new partscaster, a successor to the travel tele I modded a year ago. I got some good mileage out of that instrument, toting it around the United States and even across the Atlantic. The concept of disassembly in my checked bag worked well enough, and I even experimented with a few different modes of amplification. For the amount of money I paid, it was a great proof-of-concept guitar — but unfortunately it came up lacking in a few regards.
First and foremost was playability. I didn’t mention this in my original posts, but the Squier Affinity Telecaster has a narrower-than-usual nut — 1.6″ to be exact (as opposed to 1.625″ on a vintage spec tele and 1.685″ on a modern American Standard Fender). The difference may seem trivial to a non-player, and I didn’t think it would be a big deal on a pinch-hitter guitar. But I had been hoping this would be a gig-worthy instrument that I would want to pick up and play, and at the end of the day I felt like I had a toy in my hands. So my first inclination was to try swapping out the neck.
Options, Options, Options
Fellow tinkerers are probably aware there are quite a few options out there for aftermarket Fender-licensed necks, including offerings from Mighty Mite, Musikraft, Warmoth, and USA Custom Guitars. Some of these companies offer a dizzying array of custom options (all for a price of course); newbies should try surfing the Telecaster forum for advice on where to begin.
I ultimately went with the ever-reliable Allparts brand. While the company only offers a limited set of standard options, their necks strike a nice balance among price, quality, and vintage-inspired specs (rumor has it they come also come out of the same factory as Fender Japan necks). One of their most popular necks (at least on the tele forum) is the appropriately acronymed TMO-FAT. The neck is inspired by early ’50s Fender necks renowned for baseball bat proportions; the U-shaped TMO-FAT is 1″ thick from end to end (actually a little bigger than most vintage necks). Thicker necks are alleged to yield two benefits. First is less hand fatigue, assuming you don’t have exceptionally small hands. Second, and more controversial, is better tone; the extra wood is thought to translate into extra resonance between body and neck. I was interested in both propositions. It’s also worth noting that the TMO-FAT has tall frets, which I prefer, and a vintage-correct 1.625″ nut (the same width as my Fender Mexican Stratocaster, which I like).
Neck and Neck
Receiving the neck in the mail, I was immediately blown away by the proportions of the Allparts TMO-FAT. It was almost comical holding it in my hands. The pics show how it compares to the original neck from my Squier. The additional width (see above) is only subtly evident, but the added girth (see below) is obvious. For additional comparison, the neck on my American Special Telecaster is about 0.85″ at the nut, expanding to about 0.90″ where it meets the body, and that’s probably the most substantial neck I had on a guitar up to this point (my Martin has similar dimensions).
Besides some sharp fret edges, the neck’s craftsmanship was otherwise solid. It came unfinished though, and without any hardware, which meant a weekend project was in the works. In Part 2 I’ll describe the Tru-Oil finishing process, which was a little different from the original frequent flyer-caster, and how this project ultimately morphed into a whole new guitar. I’ll also offer some thoughts on the playability of the final product. Stay tuned!
Follow link to Part 2.