Bolt-On Guitar Neck: This is How It Works

by Joost Nusselder | Updated on:  January 29, 2023

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Many Fender guitars have a bolt-on neck, and the Stratocaster is probably the most famous example. 

This gives the guitars a twangy and snappier tone. 

But what does bolt-on really mean? Does it influence the sound of the instrument?

If you are a guitarist looking to learn more about bolt-on necks, you’ve landed on the right page.

A bolt-on guitar neck is a type of guitar neck that is attached to the body of the guitar using screws or bolts. This type of neck is a popular choice for electric guitars because it is easy to replace and customize.

This guide explains what a bolt-on neck is, how it’s made, and why luthiers like to use this type of neck when making guitars.

What is a bolt-on guitar neck?

A bolt-on neck is a type of guitar neck joint where the neck is attached to the body of the guitar with screws. 

This is in contrast to other types of necks, such as set-in necks or through-neck designs, which are either glued or bolted into place.

Bolt-on necks are typically found on electric guitars and basses but can also be found on some acoustic instruments.

This type of neck joint is the most common and is used on most electric guitars.

It is a simple and cost-effective way to attach the neck to the body and allows for easy access to the truss rod and other components. 

Bolt-on neck guitars are renowned for producing a tone that is more snappy and twangy than other styles.

Everything here is related to the transmission of resonance from the neck to the body. 

When compared to a set neck, that tiny space between the neck and body reduces the sustain.

Many Fender guitars, as well as other S- and T-type guitars like the G&L line, prefer bolt-on necks. 

Bolt-on necks are popular due to their tonal characteristics and, as was already said, the simplicity of making such guitars. 

Building bodies and necks separately, then joining them using a bolt-on structure, is significantly easier.

The bolt-on neck is also known for its bright, snappy tone.

This type of neck joint is popular as it’s relatively easy to install and maintain, and it’s also relatively inexpensive.

How does a bolt-on neck work?

A bolt-on neck is held in place by bolts that are inserted through holes drilled in the neck and body of the instrument.

The neck is then secured with a nut, which holds the bolts in place.

This allows for easy removal and replacement of both the neck and bridge components of the instrument.

The bolts also help keep the neck in alignment with the body, ensuring that it is properly intonated.

How is a bolt-on guitar neck made?

The neck is usually made of wood, such as maple or mahogany, and the screws are usually located at the heel of the neck, where it meets the body. 

The neck is then secured to the body with the screws, which are tightened until the neck is firmly attached.

But the process is a bit more complex than that.

Bolt-on guitar necks are made by first cutting the headstock to the desired shape and then routing a channel into the body of the instrument to accept the neck.

Once this is done, holes are drilled into both pieces that will be used to attach them together with bolts.

The holes in the neck must perfectly match up with those in the body to ensure a snug fit and secure connection.

Once the neck is secured, the nut, tuning machines, and other components are installed before finishing off the instrument with frets, pickups, and a bridge.

This entire process can be done by hand or with the help of machinery.

What are the advantages of a bolt-on neck?

The most obvious advantage of the bolt-on neck is that it allows for easy repair and maintenance. 

If something goes wrong with the neck or bridge components, they can be easily swapped out without having to replace the entire instrument.

When it comes to sound, a bolt-on neck is snappier and twangier with less sustain. This makes it ideal for genres such as punk, rock, and metal.

It’s also relatively easy to adjust the action of the guitar, as the neck can be adjusted by loosening or tightening the screws.

Additionally, this type of neck provides players with more freedom when customizing their instruments.

Different necks and bridges can be easily swapped out to achieve the desired sound or playability.

Finally, bolt-on necks tend to be more affordable than their glued-in counterparts, making them a great choice for beginners and budget guitarists looking for an instrument of good quality.

Overall, a bolt-on neck is a great option for electric guitars, as it’s relatively easy to install and maintain, and it’s also relatively inexpensive.

It’s not as strong as other neck joints, but it’s still a great option for many guitarists.

What are the disadvantages of a bolt-on neck?

The main disadvantage of a bolt-on neck is that it produces less sustain than other designs.

The vibrations from the strings resonate less deeply throughout the instrument’s body, resulting in less full resonance.

Additionally, bolt-on necks require more precise alignment for proper intonation.

If the holes in the neck and body do not perfectly match up, this can lead to tuning problems or unbalanced string action.

Finally, bolt-on necks are not as durable as other designs.

Because they are attached to the body with screws instead of being glued or bolted, they have a higher risk of becoming loose or even coming off entirely.

So, the bolt-on neck is not as strong as a set-in or neck-through neck joint. It’s also not as aesthetically pleasing as the screws are visible on the outside of the guitar.

For these reasons, bolt-on necks are often seen as less aesthetically pleasing and not as desirable as other types of guitar necks.

Why is bolt-on guitar neck important?

A bolt-on guitar neck is important because it’s an easy way to replace a damaged neck or upgrade to a different one.

It’s also a great way to customize a guitar, as there are many different types of necks available. 

Plus, it’s relatively inexpensive compared to other neck options. A set-thru or set in neck is considerably pricier. 

It’s also important because it’s easy to install. You don’t need any specialized tools or skills, and it can be done in a relatively short amount of time.

Plus, it’s easy to adjust the neck angle and intonation, so you can get the sound you want.

Bolt-on necks are also great for maintenance and repairs. If a neck needs to be replaced, it’s easy to remove the old one and install a new one.

And if something needs to be adjusted, it’s easy to access the neck and make the necessary changes.

Finally, bolt-on necks are important because they provide stability and strength.

The screws that hold the neck in place provide a strong connection, and the neck is less likely to move or warp over time.

This helps to ensure the guitar stays in tune and plays well.

In short, bolt-on guitar necks are important because they’re easy to install, customize, and maintain, and they provide stability and strength.

They’re also relatively inexpensive, making them a great option for guitarists on a budget.

What is the history of bolt-on guitar neck?

The history of bolt-on guitar necks dates back to the early 1950s.

It was invented by Leo Fender, founder of the Fender Musical Instruments Corporation.

Fender was looking for a way to make guitar necks easier to produce and assemble, and the result was the bolt-on neck.

Leo Fender introduced the bolt-on neck on his guitars, especially the Fender Stratocaster, which is probably the best example of this neck joint style. 

The bolt-on neck was revolutionary for its time, as it allowed for easier assembly and repair of the guitar.

It also allowed for the use of different woods for the neck and body, which allowed for a variety of tonal options. 

The bolt-on neck also allowed for the use of different fingerboard materials, such as rosewood and maple.

In the 1960s, the bolt-on neck became even more popular as it allowed for the use of different pickups and electronics.

This allowed guitarists to create a variety of sounds and tones. The bolt-on neck also allowed for the use of different bridges, such as the tremolo and the Bigsby.

In the 1970s, the bolt-on neck was further refined and improved.

The use of different woods and fingerboard materials allowed for even more tonal options. The use of different pickups and electronics also allowed for more versatility.

In the 1980s, the bolt-on neck was further refined and improved. The use of different woods and fingerboard materials allowed for even more tonal options.

The use of different pickups and electronics also allowed for more versatility.

The bolt-on neck has continued to evolve over the years, and today it is one of the most popular neck designs used in electric guitars.

It is used by many of the world’s top guitarists, and it is a staple of the modern guitar industry.

Which guitars have bolt-on necks? 

Many electric guitars, including Fender Stratocasters and Telecasters, have bolt-on necks. 

Other popular models include the Ibanez RG series, the Jackson Soloist, and the ESP LTD Deluxe.

PRS and Taylor also offer some models with bolt-on necks.

Here’s a short list of models to consider if you’re interested in a bolt-on neck:

Bolt-on vs bolt-in neck: is there a difference?

Bolt-in and bolt-on are usually used interchangeably. Sometimes bolt-in is used to refer to acoustic guitar bolts.

Also, bolt-in is commonly mistaken for a set neck.

However, most luthiers refer to both neck joints as “bolt-on” because bolt-in necks are not very prevalent in electric guitars.

FAQs

Are bolt-in guitars good?

Yes, bolt-on neck guitars are good. They’re popular among many guitarists because they’re affordable and easy to customize. 

Bolt-on necks are also strong and durable, making them a great choice for those who want to play hard and fast.

Bolt-on guitars are typically considered to be good instruments, as they offer a variety of advantages.

Players can easily customize their instruments with different necks and bridges, and repairs or maintenance can be done quickly and easily.

Bolt-on guitars also tend to be cheaper but still of high quality. 

Take the Stratocasters as examples. The American Professional and Player Series guitars both have bolt-on necks but still sound great.

What’s the difference between neck screws and bolt-on neck?

The bolt-on neck refers to the joint system used to secure the neck to the guitar body, whereas the screws are the bolts that hold the neck together. 

Neck screws are used to secure the neck to the body of the guitar. They are usually made from steel and are inserted into the neck joint. 

The screws are tightened to secure the neck in place. Neck screws are an important part of the guitar’s construction and should be checked regularly to ensure they are tight and secure.

Are bolt-on necks stronger?

No, not necessarily. The bolts can come loose over time, and the neck can be pulled off if it isn’t secured properly.

That being said, a bolt-on neck is still generally considered to be more durable than a glued-in neck.

Glued-in necks are much more difficult to repair or replace and have a higher risk of coming apart if the glue deteriorates over time.

Bolt-on necks, on the other hand, can be easily removed and replaced if necessary.

Do Les Pauls have bolt on necks?

No, Les Pauls typically have glued-in necks.

This style of neck provides more sustain and resonance than a bolt-on neck but is also more difficult to repair or replace.

For this reason, Les Pauls are often seen as a higher-end instrument.

Conclusion

In conclusion, bolt-on neck is a type of neck joint used in guitar construction. It’s a popular choice due to its affordability, ease of repair, and ability to customize the neck.

If you’re looking for a guitar with a bolt-on neck, be sure to do your research and find one that fits your playing style and needs. 

Having a bolt-on neck makes the guitar sound twangier, so it’s great for country and blues.

But it doesn’t really matter – if you get a Stratocaster, for example, it sounds amazing anyway!

Read next: 12 affordable guitars for blues that actually get that amazing sound

I'm Joost Nusselder, the founder of Neaera and a content marketer, dad, and love trying out new equipment with guitar at the heart of my passion, and together with my team, I've been creating in-depth blog articles since 2020 to help loyal readers with recording and guitar tips.

Check me out on Youtube where I try out all of this gear:

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