If you are in the market for a bass or electric guitar, you will encounter two options: Quarter Sawn and Plain Sawn. In this article, I will share some information and my opinions on the differences and help you pick the best option.
|Quarter Sawn||Plain Sawn||Plain + Graphite|
|Target customer||Touring pro||Anyone||Working pro|
Quarter sawn necks are obtained by cutting the log in quarters, as demonstrated above.
It is a more expensive option because you get lesser blocks from the same log; therefore, cost per block is higher.
However; because the grain direction helps the neck resist against stress factors (like strings), quarter sawn necks are very stable and durable – allegedly. I have even seen a man stand on a quarter sawn neck, unable to break it (don’t try this at home).
They are also allegedly resistant against temperature and humidity changes; which means that you would need less setup in such cases.
Quarter sawn necks are typically saved for custom shop instruments.
They might be particularly useful if you are a touring professional musician. Why?
- Your guitar will go through different cities, airplanes, etc rapidly; which means that the wood will move through significant temperature / humidity changes. You wouldn’t need to re-adjust a resistant neck as much as a standard neck.
- They might survive some touring accidents which standard necks might not.
Also known as “flat sawn”, plain sawn necks are obtained by cutting the log as horizontal blocks, as demonstrated above.
It is an economic option because you get a high number of blocks from a log; therefore, cost per block is lower.
After the praise for quarter sawn necks, you may think that plain sawn neck is an inferior option. It is not. Compared to a quarter sawn neck, it would be “less” resistant and durable – but resistant and durable “enough” indeed.
In other words; quarter sawn necks are freaks with super powers; while plain sawn necks are very tough people.
Many vintage basses from ’50s / ’60s have plain sawn necks and they survived until this day.
This is proof that plain sawn necks are strong enough to survive a lifetime under normal playing conditions. They may need relatively more frequent setups and gentler handling, but that’s about it.
Quality of the neck wood is important, though. If a neck suffers from warping, bowing, etc; it is probably due to the inferior wood or craftsmanship; rather than its sawing type. On quarter sawn necks, the best wood is selected typically; on plain sawn necks, that’s optional.
Plain sawn necks are seen on instruments of all levels; yet are typical in inferior instruments. It is a good enough option for any player, but the best option for people on a budget.
Plain Sawn + Graphite
To find a middle ground between affordability and durability, some manufacturers insert a pair of graphite blocks into a plain sawn neck.
This would make the neck more resistant against temperature / humidity changes; decreasing the frequency of neck adjustments. However, it is questionable if rods improve the durability against significant impacts.
That is the middle-ground option between quarter- and flat sawn necks; and is typically seen on guitars mass produced on their main land (like USA).
Such necks can be preferred by musicians who are…
- … working – but not frequently touring
- … living in a location with varying weather conditions
- … in the market with an intermediate budget.