New "budget" TMI custom necks

The first of my "reasonably low cost" necks is on and playing and sounding ..... great.

I have been working on these necks for my custom TMI stuff I'm hoping to start making next year in 2020.
I have A LOT of nice timber that I bought back when I used to make guitars from '97 to about 2007 but the plan with these was to use currently available common timber for the bulk of the build. As they're for my TMI guitars which are an attempt to make some "cheaper" hand made custom guitars for people, the material costs have to be kept to a minimum without sacrificing too much in the way of strength.


These are Asian mahogany and Victorian ash from my local hardware which is readily available and cheap in dried, dressed sizes perfect for guitar neck making, with New Guinea rosewood strips, all laminated together for strength. I bought a huge stash of New Guinea rosewood back in the late 90's thinking I would use it for fretboards but it was too light in colour and I didn't like it. I tried staining it but it just didn't look good for fretboards so I put it aside and made Jarrah ones instead.

I did however buy a heap of (Indian maybe?) rosewood blanks back in the late 90's and have plenty of these 6-7mm thick slabs that I both slotted and left blank. Back then I mainly used Gibson 24.75" scale on most of my guitars as that was essentially what Mosrite used but I also made Fender 25.5" and all of my guitars had zero frets and most of these slotted ones are made for zero frets (or I would cut the nut at the zero fret) and have 24 fret slots which I rarely made back then.

I used to love the shorter Gibson scale but once I started playing Jazzmasters I switched to the longer Fender scale and now I find it hard to go back to the short scale. This fretboard however was slotted for 25.5" and for a Gibson style nut so I used it as my tester. I mainly use metal nuts if I don't use a zero fret and this one is made from nickel silver. The reason for this is one of the reasons I love zero frets which is the open string sounds the same as the fretted string as the string take off point on the open string is a fret. Using nickel silver (which is what most frets are made of) or brass, which has a very similar density (depending on how it's made) to nickel silver gives a similar result in tone. As a side note aluminium is far too light and gives a more metallic "zing" to the tone.

My necks also have large volutes which is another thing I learnt through Mosrite and I'm a huge fan of as I believe the less the headstock "flaps around" the more sustain and volume you will get out of the neck and volutes not only stabilize the headstock but make it harder to break as well. I usually have my trussrod adjuster at the body end which helps with this as well.These all have double acting trussrods that I bought a lot of back in the early 2000's and are available very cheap now.


I fitted this to my "pickup tester Strat" 'cause I know what this set up sounds like with the old Jazzmaster neck that was on it. My TMI necks are thinner at the nut and neck pocket than Fender but I made this specifically to put on one of my tester Fenders as I'm familiar with how they sound and behave and I did want to compare these to a vintage neck. I bolted this neck straight on and didn't even have to adjust the intonation. 

Laminating timbers like this is a very strong and stable way of making something from timber that needs to take tension. I used to make one piece necks out of really nice pieces of Queensland maple but I rarely spent time at the timber yard looking specifically for the right "cut" and instead just picked nice straight pieces with no deformities or issues. I never made 2 piece necks as I really don't like the idea of having the join on the very thin centre under the trussrod slot. I always made 3 (or more) piece necks to have a solid piece of timber down the trussrod slot. Here I am using Victorian ash for this centre strip which is very hard and stable.

The material cost for these necks is great but of course, the time involved the way I do it all by hand is still the issue for trying to make more budget friendly custom guitars. I have no intention of changing my manufacturing methods so I'll have to work out exactly how much more than the standard TMI neck these will cost. Most of the designs will be able to use the standard neck but I have already run into wanting to make guitars with the tongue under the neck pickup like a Mosrite so, these will be for projects like that.

The necks are finished in acrylic like all my guitars. I used to make necks for people for projects and repairs but at this stage time will probably not allow me to make these for people. That may change if circumstances change but these will primarily be made specifically for TMI guitars. I have 3 more of these in the works in various stages of production with one being an exact Mosrite neck to see if there might be a custom TMI Wosrite in the works? 

Nov 21 2019 Written By: Tim Brennan