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countrygypsy S@nderV MaxGuitar

How thick is your neck?

djadamdjadam Boulder, CONew
Or more specifically, your guitar's neck. I've only once had a chance to play a gypsy guitar with a "thick" traditional gypsy neck and it wasn't enough time to form much of an opinion other than "it was different and I kinda liked it."

Now I find myself on the verge of finalizing the specs for my Shelley Park guitar and telling her to go ahead with the "modern" neck (43mm at nut, 55mm at body join). I opted for this only because it's what I'm used to and comes pretty close to the measurements of my Martin HD-35's neck, which I've always felt comfortable with, but is an entirely different beast.

For example, I always used 13 gage strings on the Martin, so 11s feel pretty light to me - should I be considering that when considering a thicker neck or go with what I know?

The there anyone in Colorado with a thick-necked gypsy guitar whom I could visit and check it out?

BTW, I have about average-sized hands and fingers, if that makes a difference. Your opinions and preferences are welcomed and appreciated!!


  • Bob HoloBob Holo Moderator
    Posts: 1,243
    Interesting topic. I'm spending a lot of time thinking about neck design these days. Of my seven guitars - I play three quite a bit - primarily because I love the "feel" of playing them - which is very much related to neck feel. I have hands that reveal my Norwegian fisherman heritage... IE, they're short, they're stubby, and I can crush rocks with them. That's why I'm a better luthier than player. (or at least that's the current excuse I'm using for my poor playing)

    1.) The one I built to fit my hands. It has a rounded D shaped neck with the width exactly to Selmer spec but 2.2mm thinner (IE< from the back of the neck to the surface of the fretboard is 2.2mm thinner than Selmer spec) It is wide. I LOVE this guitar for chopping simple rhythm and playing leads because the big neck is comfortable because my hands are fairly open and the strings are a little farther apart so single notes are a breeze and I can play rhythm a long time. Thin necks require more hand strength because your fingers have longer lever-arms when they're extended than when they're slightly bent around a big'ol neck. There is a reason that classical guitars have beefy wide necks... but it is much more difficult for me to do thumbovers and somewhat more difficult to do double string stops with one finger (IE, one finger fretting two strings)

    2.) Shelley Park Encore with her "modern" C-profile neck. This is a great all around neck - not too small - not too narrow - fairly easy for single note playing - thick enough to be comfortable - nice all around neck - easier thumbovers. The only reason I prefer my neck is that I play mostly rhythm and I like to keep rhythm simple so a big cadillac neck suits my style.

    3.) 1930's Epiphone archtop with a neck very similar to Shelley's neck profile but with just the slightest hint of a "V" profile (no where near as much as Gibsons from that area - so little "V" that I wonder whether it's actually not "V" but just that the center of the 5 piece neck has somehow compressed less or worn less over the decades. It has all the strengths of the Park but is a tiny bit less comfortable - likely this is my imagination - or the fact that the varnish is partly worn off in places due to age - or the stiff strings of the archtop making it a little harder to fret.

    Shelley's old neck profile was great too... it was narrower than Selmer - but a little on the thick (deep) side and was a very gently rounded D. A friend of mine has ?? #50 or something of that vintage and its neck is wonderful. The neck I eventually settle on for future guitars may be somewhere between Shelley's old neck and my current neck... then I can corner the market on selling Gypsy guitars to stubby fingered Norwegians!
    You get one chance to enjoy this day, but if you're doing it right, that's enough.
  • djadamdjadam Boulder, CONew
    Posts: 249
    Bob, you rock - I think that actually answers my question and it gave me a good chuckle in the process. Next time I'm in Norway you can be sure I'll be looking at everybody's hands!

    While a thick neck has a nice feeling to it, I hadn't considered the thumbovers. I'm really big on thumbovers, so Shelley's modern neck will probably suit me. Am I right to imagine it is a little thicker (from back of the neck to fretboard) than the neck on my Gitane 250M, which is downright skinny?



    PS - as far as Norwegian hands go, I seem to remember a story that a long time ago a young Andres Segovia who was told he'd never be a great guitarist because his hands were small and his fingers short and stubby!
  • Charlie AyersCharlie Ayers Salt Lake CityProdigy
    Posts: 273
    Here are some measurements for you:

    '99 Park Encore:
    Width: 45 mm nut, 58 mm at the 14th fret
    Thickness (back to fretboard) 22.5 mm at 1st fret, 26 mm at the 12th fret
    Profile: somewhat squared

    '03 Park Montmartre: Width: 44 mm at nut, 56 mm at 14th fret
    Thickness: 22 mm at 1st fret, 24 mm at 12th
    Profile: rounded

    Gallato 452:
    Width: 1 3/4 inch at nut, 2 1/8 inches at 12th fret
    Thickness: 27/32 inches nut, 31/32 inches at 12th fret.
    Profile: sqare

    Like you, I used to do a lot of flatpicking; I'm never like wider necks on flattops or archtops, where I'm usually using heavier strings (13s).
    On Sel/Macs I like a wider and beefier neck, but I don't do "thumbovers". I think the light strings (I use 10's) and the lower string tension make them easier to fret.

  • Bob HoloBob Holo Moderator
    Posts: 1,243
    Yep, both of the styles of Park necks I've played are thicker than the Gitane neck I owned (a 250m -- a roarin beast which I sold to a guy who had a really quiet guitar and wanted to play with more oomph)

    Oh, and thanks for the measurements Charlie. Very cool to have measurements - and I love Shelley's necks.

    You get one chance to enjoy this day, but if you're doing it right, that's enough.
  • NEvansNEvans Austin, TxNew
    Posts: 18
    My friend has a dell arte that was custom made for Whit Smith. It's got a humongous neck like an old gibson. I played it a bit and was really uncomfortable with it at first, but once I got used to it I realized that I didn't have to have my hand ...hmm... balled? as tightly to play it and in the long run it makes playing the thing a little more comfortable. I do have fairly big hands though. The best thing to do would be to just find any old guitar that has a huge neck on it and see if the neck suits you not even considering the rest of the guitar.
  • Argyle DaveArgyle Dave bellingham,WANew
    Posts: 45
    This is a topic which has had my interest lately. I recently purchased an old archtop with a fairly thick neck. I think 2x4 or baseball bat when I look at it. However, I when I play it I rather like it. My first guitar back in the mid sixties had a rather thick neck and a high action and I was getting nowhere fast.I got a nice Gibson with a thin 60's neck and low action and my playing took off. Of coarse we are talking 60's, 70's rock & blues here. Anyway I have always thought thin neck and low action was the thing. Now I'm not so sure. I only paid a hundred bucks for this old National/Supro archtop on E-bay but I have been playing it more than all my other guitars lately. It doesn't sound bad but it is mostly the neck that has caught my interest. I feel like maybe I've been missing something. I would be interested in hearing other opinions on this if any one else has strong feelings on this.

    Argyle Dave
  • djadamdjadam Boulder, CONew
    Posts: 249
    Great stuff here, thanks for the specs Charlie and your opinions everyone. It sounds to me like there's something of a concensus that thicker necks actually provide better leverage, making fretting easier. On the other hand, they make the thumbovers more difficult, so for someone like me who is thumb-crazy, it's a matter of finding a good compromise.

    So what do you guys think about a more narrow, modern neck (43/55mm), but still relatively thick? Best of both worlds or weird idea?!
  • StringswingerStringswinger Santa Cruz and San Francisco, CA✭✭✭✭ 1993 Dupont MD-20
    Posts: 386
    Okay guys, I measured my three selmaccs and two of my archtops (for comparison.)

    93 Dupont MD-20: 44mm nut, 55mm 14th fret, 21mm thick at 1st fret, 24mm thick at 14th fret. D profile neck.

    01 Park Elan 14: 44mm nut, 54mm 14th fret, 20mm thick at 1st fret, 22mm thick at 14t fret. C profile neck.

    05 Gitane 250-m: 44mm nut, 57mm 14th fret, 18mm thick at 1st fret, 23mm thick at 14th fret. D profile neck.

    77 Gibson ES 175: 42mm nut, 52mm, 14t fret, 20mm thick at 1st fret, 24mm thick at 14th fret. C profile neck.

    96 Gibson L-5: Same as the ES 175.

    Hope this info is helpful. They say size doesn't matter, but I think to guitar players (and girls :) ) it does. Some like them big, some like them small. Find a guitar (and a girl) that you are comfortable with. I prefer a somewhat thin neck with a C profile that has 14 frets clear of the body and a cutaway. (for girls I like a thin body, and either a C or D profile :) ) I use 11's on the selmaccs and 12's on my archtops.


  • Bob HoloBob Holo Moderator
    Posts: 1,243
    If you're a thumbover man - and you like a thick neck for comfort... Shelley's old neck style is pretty darned cool. Talk to her about it. It's just slightly "D" shaped and a little thicker than her new neck (or at least it feels like it)

    it's not a "C" neck... it's definitely a "D" My first impression when picking up ... Gee ... I think it was # 54 or somewhere in there... was "Dang that's a cool neck, it feels like a Selmer sized-down. it had that nice thick meaty feel but I could put my whole hand around it. I still wonder why I didn't go with that neck... though her "modern C" is a wonderful neck and you won't be sorry with either.

    I feel your pain, man. It wasn't that long ago that I was feeling the "neck choice angst." But you're with a fantastic builder - it will turn out great because that's all she makes ... great sounding ... very playable guitars.
    You get one chance to enjoy this day, but if you're doing it right, that's enough.
  • Craig BumgarnerCraig Bumgarner Drayden, MarylandVirtuoso Bumgarner S/N 001
    Posts: 794

    Thanks for the measurements you posted. Not to be picky but I'm not sure how to interpret the thickness measurements at the "14th fret". Isn't this the heel and body join area. How do you measure neck thickness there? On my guitars the thickness of the neck increases in a straight line from the zero fret to about the 10th-11th fret and then starts its arc to the heel. So I measure the thickness between the 10th and 11th or where ever the transistion to the heel starts.

    My Hodson #93 (recently sold) which had one the nicest necks I've ever played. I took these measurements a couple weeks ago before I shipped the guitar because if I ever get a custom guitar, the neck is going to look a lot like this:

    - Width at the zero fret = 44.2mm
    - Width at the 12th = 53.2mm
    - Thickness btwn 1st & 2nd frett = 24.4mm
    - Thickness btwn 10th & 11th = 27.9
    - C shape

    In spite of its thickness, probably because of its narrow width, this is a very fast neck, great for thumb overs, lead playing and comping. Very comfortable over hours of playing. Course neck shape is highly personal, so what works for me may not for you.

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