Vintage Bolt-on Fender Acoustics?

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Vintage Bolt-on Fender Acoustics?

Post by copacetic » Sun Jul 31, 2022 7:34 pm

Hey gang!

I've been a very good boy and haven't built or bought myself a new guitar in about a year, as ive been focusing on building my guitar business and putting cool stuff in other people's hands rather than my own.

I'm happy to say I finally stumbled onto somthing that was too good of a deal to pass up, so I treated myself to a lovely 1969 Fender Newporter Acoustic. After seeing it listed at an insanely low price by a seller only a few hours away, I couldnt get my mind off of it.. Sent a message and was able to sweet talk the seller down to a price that made me feel like i was almost stealing it, and figured "what the hell?"

So now it's headed my way from Amarillo tomorrow, and i'll be giddy waiting for it to arrive for the next couple days ;D
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I'm not a huge acoustic player, but I do like to write on one. Ive bought a few cheap acoustics here and there, some new Fenders with electric-style necks, some Recording Kings, some Gretschs, but i've never found an acoustic that just feels perfect to me and fits like a glove like my vintage fender electrics do. This love for vintage fender necks eventually led me to pondering a vintage Fender acoustic to potentially find the end-all be-all..

I recall hearing that they were "not great" and just kind of forgettable from a lot of people, but having never played one myself, Its hard for me to imagine why. I think the concept of a thin, fast fender electric style neck bolted on a nice acoustic body is genius. You never have to worry about running out of saddle 'meat', you can always shim the neck to make your action ideal, and you get the benefit of that great neck feel. Sure, i dont expect it to be a booming cannon of a guitar due to the bolt on neck, but i play more fingerstyle, soft stuff anyways so thats not really a concern of mine. All in all, im struggling to understand why these arent more widely used and higher priced!

For anyone interested in possibly snagging one of these affordable vintage beauties, i figured you guys might appreciate seeing some of the best deals i found while shopping around. I'd probably act quickly if you see something you want, i dont expect these to stick around long (especially that Shenandoah! :? )

https://reverb.com/item/58383581-1960s- ... -12-string
https://reverb.com/item/57772969-fender ... 65-natural
https://reverb.com/item/58483086-fender ... 8-mahogany
https://reverb.com/item/51947385-fender ... rce=google

Any fellow vintage Fender acoustic owners on the forums? I'd love to hear some first hand experiences with these instruments and bonus points for insight as to why they didnt take off. Its odd to me that Fender still uses Strat neck shapes/headstocks on many of their acoustics, but seem to have decided against making them bolt-on neck designs. Do people just hate bolt on acoustics and think theyre all cheap junk? :squint:

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Re: Vintage Bolt-on Fender Acoustics?

Post by Shadoweclipse13 » Mon Aug 01, 2022 9:30 am

That's a lovely acoustic Charlie!!!

Also, that might be a really good way to get a vintage 12-string neck for an electric project ;)
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Re: Vintage Bolt-on Fender Acoustics?

Post by mbene085 » Mon Aug 01, 2022 9:46 am

copacetic wrote:
Sun Jul 31, 2022 7:34 pm
Sure, i dont expect it to be a booming cannon of a guitar due to the bolt on neck, but i play more fingerstyle, soft stuff anyways so thats not really a concern of mine. All in all, im struggling to understand why these arent more widely used and higher priced!
The issue isn't bolt-on necks per se - Taylors have an ingenious bolt-on design that sounds great and transfers energy effectively from neck to body, while allowing easy neck resets.

The issue is that Fender acoustics were heavily-built junk that will never resonate well or sound good. I'm sure it'll sound like a guitar, but there's a saying that the ideal acoustic guitar is built to be just past the point of imploding on itself. To be built strong enough to handle string tension, but no stronger, so it can vibrate as much as possible.

Fender acoustics are not built that way. All factory guitars are slightly overbuilt to reduce warranty claims, but Fender acoustics were built with the same ethos as the electrics, which just doesn't pan out for this category of instrument. That, and the Fender style of bolt-on neck is fundamentally inappropriate for an acoustic guitar, where you need to transfer as much energy as possible to the top.

That said, if it plays well and you enjoy it, that's all that matters. But if I was a betting man, I'd say it's going to be the kind of guitar where you feel like you're fighting it to get any amount of volume. As a fingerstylist myself, I prefer extremely lightly built guitars so that a light touch is all that's needed.

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Re: Vintage Bolt-on Fender Acoustics?

Post by copacetic » Mon Aug 01, 2022 10:11 pm

mbene085 wrote:
Mon Aug 01, 2022 9:46 am
copacetic wrote:
Sun Jul 31, 2022 7:34 pm
Sure, i dont expect it to be a booming cannon of a guitar due to the bolt on neck, but i play more fingerstyle, soft stuff anyways so thats not really a concern of mine. All in all, im struggling to understand why these arent more widely used and higher priced!
The issue isn't bolt-on necks per se - Taylors have an ingenious bolt-on design that sounds great and transfers energy effectively from neck to body, while allowing easy neck resets.

The issue is that Fender acoustics were heavily-built junk that will never resonate well or sound good. I'm sure it'll sound like a guitar, but there's a saying that the ideal acoustic guitar is built to be just past the point of imploding on itself. To be built strong enough to handle string tension, but no stronger, so it can vibrate as much as possible.

Fender acoustics are not built that way. All factory guitars are slightly overbuilt to reduce warranty claims, but Fender acoustics were built with the same ethos as the electrics, which just doesn't pan out for this category of instrument. That, and the Fender style of bolt-on neck is fundamentally inappropriate for an acoustic guitar, where you need to transfer as much energy as possible to the top.

That said, if it plays well and you enjoy it, that's all that matters. But if I was a betting man, I'd say it's going to be the kind of guitar where you feel like you're fighting it to get any amount of volume. As a fingerstylist myself, I prefer extremely lightly built guitars so that a light touch is all that's needed.
Yeah, i thought of Taylors "big baby" when trying to imagine how this one might sound and those always impressed me.

I can totally understand the sentiment about the bodies, and i vaguely remember one of the techs i learned under saying something similar back in the day. However i honestly still think it'll tick the necessary boxes for me personally because with the acoustics ive owned, the bar is set incredibly low haha.

My two most recent acoustics are a $120 Recording King dirty 30s model i overhauled, and a $250 2013 Fender Malibu SCE i only bought because it had a limited edition neck with b&b and rosewood. Both have been pretty underwhelming, but not because of the sound/volume. Mostly because the necks feel too much like acoustic necks to me. Fat, round, and generally bulky which makes my playing sluggish since im so used to electrics. Feel/ease of play is everything to me, sound and moreso volume are definitely secondary concerns. I actually have the malibu strung with flatwound 10's and use it as kind of a jazz box type guitar effectively, which is kind of my plan with this newporter. A lot of people might say it sounds "dead" if they strum on it, but for me the quiet mellow jazzy sound just works.

All i really want/expect out of this acoustic is for it to have a thinner fender electric-esque neck feel i can set up comfy with low action, and to be at least a little louder than an electric.. about the volume of a hollow body or something like that would be totally fine with me, im probably different from most people in that i dont need my acoustic to be this big, exquisite rich sounding thing. Just something i can plunk around on for writing inspiration, or take with me when i travel and just want a guitar to sit around and jam on unplugged. And of course it helps that its aesthetically gorgeous to me and I will always play a guitar more when it inspires me visually :P

I'm the type of person who adores the oddballs and neglected catalog and pawn shop guitars of the world, and the "duds" of the fender catalog like the Coronado (designed by Roger Rossmeisl who also designed the Newporter and all other Fender acoustics of the era ) Maverick and Swinger, etc. So im pretty confident I've got my expectations tempered properly and will be pleased with this little thing. If not, i practically stole it and can always sell it on or give it to a family member someday :-*

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Re: Vintage Bolt-on Fender Acoustics?

Post by johnnysomersett » Mon Aug 01, 2022 10:21 pm

I played one of these once. I liked its 'plinky' sound which set it apart from all the other acoustics out there. You might be in for a small shock though as the necks are still pretty chunky by modern electric standards and it'll need proper 12 or higher gauge acoustic strings to not sound like a bag of rattly trash (I know you like skinny strings).

I would put it out there that, if it turns out it's not for you, colour me interested as the only reason I didn't buy the one I played before was due to being between jobs at the time.
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Re: Vintage Bolt-on Fender Acoustics?

Post by copacetic » Mon Aug 01, 2022 10:55 pm

johnnysomersett wrote:
Mon Aug 01, 2022 10:21 pm
I played one of these once. I liked its 'plinky' sound which set it apart from all the other acoustics out there. You might be in for a small shock though as the necks are still pretty chunky by modern electric standards and it'll need proper 12 or higher gauge acoustic strings to not sound like a bag of rattly trash (I know you like skinny strings).

I would put it out there that, if it turns out it's not for you, colour me interested as the only reason I didn't buy the one I played before was due to being between jobs at the time.
I had assumed the same about the necks, but part of what sold me on this one in particular is the seller stressing in the listing and our messages that its an extremely thin, tiny neck. He compared it to a mustang neck, so im hopeful. Like any 60s fender neck, these were shaped by hand so theres a considerable amount of variance in the shapes over the years. Perhaps this same type of variance in other areas of the construction is why some are total duds and some are decent little guitars. Buck owens and Ray Davies surely wouldnt have used them if they were total shit lol.

Hmmm, i have a set of Chromes 10's lying around, so i'll probably still try those first, but i have some elixir 11s somewhere too if those dont work out. Might even end up going with heavier strings than that but im also a guy who has a 66 mustang set up with 9s despite everyone whining that my guitar HAS to sound/play like shit (plays perfectly to me--my favorite and most reliable guitar) so i'll definitely do my own thing lol

I'll keep you in mind if i end up hating it, but im cautiously optimistic that itll be everything im hoping it will be. That said there are some really good deals on these and similar 60s acoustics on reverb and ebay if you can swing the international shipping! ;)

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Re: Vintage Bolt-on Fender Acoustics?

Post by copacetic » Mon Aug 01, 2022 11:08 pm

Shadoweclipse13 wrote:
Mon Aug 01, 2022 9:30 am
That's a lovely acoustic Charlie!!!

Also, that might be a really good way to get a vintage 12-string neck for an electric project ;)
I have thought about that many a times when seeing vintage acoustic necks listed online. unfortunately they have a weird soundhole shaped heel that requires extensive re-engineering and irreversible modification to make them work with an electric body, and even then youd likely have to compromise a lot of upper fret access.

Man oh man, how i would love to find a usable vintage xii neck for that price.. :?

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Re: Vintage Bolt-on Fender Acoustics?

Post by copacetic » Wed Aug 03, 2022 2:44 pm

Its HERE! And i'm pleased to report that (after a little work) its everything i hoped itd be and more!

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Went with Elixir 10-47 Nanowebs in 80/20 Bronze to try and see how this thing sounds with brighter strings first to have an accurate baseline. Still might end up going with the flats eventually, but i love the sound as-is, so these are staying for now

I expected to have to do at least one neck reset and probably some fret/nutwork, but this old gal needed a bit more than that. I indeed did have to shim the neck pocket a couple times to get the action where i wanted it, along with micro polishing the frets and hydrating the bridge/fretboard, however after stringing it up i was getting terrible buzz from somewhere around the bridge. At first, i suspected it was the loose wire flopping around in the body from the piezo pickup that was installed at some point in the last 50 years, so i super expertly and professionally secured it down with masking tape lol. Strung 'er up again and was still getting the same bad bridge buzz and i could hear something rattling on the bridge when i tapped the bridge with a screwdriver or shook the guitar body. There was something else going on under the bridge. My mind immediately went to loose bracing or some other hard-to-fix issue and my heart sank a little. I remembered everyone saying how buzzy and crappy these guitars were and was briefly feeling foolish for getting myself into -yet another- project guitar.

Popped the strings off again and started feel around under the bridge until i located the culprit.. each of the 4 screws that hold the bridge onto the body (location marked by pearloid inlays on bridge face) have a little washer/spacer and a hex nut. The hex nuts were secured tightly in place and the bridge wasnt moving or lifting at all, but there seemed to be a tiny little gap in 2/4 of the screws allowing the washer to rattle and buzz around when vibration was transferred from the top. Since i couldnt get a really good look/angle at what was going on underneath the bridge to perhaps loctite the threads or tighten things up and everything seemed to be stable, i just used my classic tape method to keep the washers from vibrating, and when i strung it back up, voila.. no more buzz.

The neck holes were loose and needed a little toothpick doweling to tighten them up, and i filed some nice tight shallow slots in the saddle to keep the strings from jumping around and get a little more volume from the strings. Plays and sounds absolutely ace now. The neck does indeed feel like a slightly thicker version of a 66 musicmaster neck i played recently, and the body is actually surprisingly loud and has a nice rich tone. It reminds me of an old student line gibson like an LG-1 or something in terms of sound, which is right up my alley.

Interestingly, mine seems to be one of the few examples that got a serial number.. That, or it somehow got a 69 electric guitar neck plate somewhere along the way.

All in all, she needed a little TLC, but im happy to report its a great player and absolutely rips. If you go into these with the right expectations, you can definitely be pleasantly surprised how nice of a guitar you end up with.

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Re: Vintage Bolt-on Fender Acoustics?

Post by Shadoweclipse13 » Thu Aug 04, 2022 7:57 am

copacetic wrote:
Mon Aug 01, 2022 11:08 pm
Shadoweclipse13 wrote:
Mon Aug 01, 2022 9:30 am
That's a lovely acoustic Charlie!!!

Also, that might be a really good way to get a vintage 12-string neck for an electric project ;)
I have thought about that many a times when seeing vintage acoustic necks listed online. unfortunately they have a weird soundhole shaped heel that requires extensive re-engineering and irreversible modification to make them work with an electric body, and even then youd likely have to compromise a lot of upper fret access.

Man oh man, how i would love to find a usable vintage xii neck for that price.. :?
That's too bad. That would've been really cool.

Of course, if you were making your own body, you could cut a custom neck pocket to fit exactly that neck :shifty: ;)
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Re: Vintage Bolt-on Fender Acoustics?

Post by Salfaromeab » Fri Aug 05, 2022 4:07 am

Shadoweclipse13 wrote:
Thu Aug 04, 2022 7:57 am
copacetic wrote:
Mon Aug 01, 2022 11:08 pm
Shadoweclipse13 wrote:
Mon Aug 01, 2022 9:30 am
That's a lovely acoustic Charlie!!!

Also, that might be a really good way to get a vintage 12-string neck for an electric project ;)
I have thought about that many a times when seeing vintage acoustic necks listed online. unfortunately they have a weird soundhole shaped heel that requires extensive re-engineering and irreversible modification to make them work with an electric body, and even then youd likely have to compromise a lot of upper fret access.

Man oh man, how i would love to find a usable vintage xii neck for that price.. :?
That's too bad. That would've been really cool.

Of course, if you were making your own body, you could cut a custom neck pocket to fit exactly that neck :shifty: ;)
I'm pretty sure the Shenandoah has an honest to god XII neck on it, 21 frets and a Strat shaped heel.

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Re: Vintage Bolt-on Fender Acoustics?

Post by Shadoweclipse13 » Fri Aug 05, 2022 5:19 am

Salfaromeab wrote:
Fri Aug 05, 2022 4:07 am
I'm pretty sure the Shenandoah has an honest to god XII neck on it, 21 frets and a Strat shaped heel.

Image
That's awesome! My only suspicion there is that the Shenandoah is more expensive/harder to find due to that fact too though...
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Re: Vintage Bolt-on Fender Acoustics?

Post by Jonesie » Fri Aug 05, 2022 8:03 am

Shadoweclipse13 wrote:
Fri Aug 05, 2022 5:19 am
Salfaromeab wrote:
Fri Aug 05, 2022 4:07 am
I'm pretty sure the Shenandoah has an honest to god XII neck on it, 21 frets and a Strat shaped heel.

Image
That's awesome! My only suspicion there is that the Shenandoah is more expensive/harder to find due to that fact too though...
Just looking at that it seems that the neck goes way further into the body than a standard Fender neck though, so I'd assume that it has the neck mounting screws in a different place.

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Re: Vintage Bolt-on Fender Acoustics?

Post by Shadoweclipse13 » Fri Aug 05, 2022 9:13 am

Jonesie wrote:
Fri Aug 05, 2022 8:03 am
Just looking at that it seems that the neck goes way further into the body than a standard Fender neck though, so I'd assume that it has the neck mounting screws in a different place.
That's a good point. I hadn't thought about that.
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Re: Vintage Bolt-on Fender Acoustics?

Post by camilonava27 » Fri Aug 05, 2022 3:21 pm

Jonesie wrote:
Fri Aug 05, 2022 8:03 am
Shadoweclipse13 wrote:
Fri Aug 05, 2022 5:19 am
Salfaromeab wrote:
Fri Aug 05, 2022 4:07 am
I'm pretty sure the Shenandoah has an honest to god XII neck on it, 21 frets and a Strat shaped heel.

Image
That's awesome! My only suspicion there is that the Shenandoah is more expensive/harder to find due to that fact too though...
Just looking at that it seems that the neck goes way further into the body than a standard Fender neck though, so I'd assume that it has the neck mounting screws in a different place.
You're correct. The flat end on the back of the heel where it's bolted onto the body is pretty long. You would have to dowel the old holes and drill new ones.

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Re: Vintage Bolt-on Fender Acoustics?

Post by camilonava27 » Fri Aug 05, 2022 3:26 pm

I'm not a huge acoustic player, but I do like to write on one. Ive bought a few cheap acoustics here and there, some new Fenders with electric-style necks, some Recording Kings, some Gretschs, but i've never found an acoustic that just feels perfect to me and fits like a glove like my vintage fender electrics do. This love for vintage fender necks eventually led me to pondering a vintage Fender acoustic to potentially find the end-all be-all..

I recall hearing that they were "not great" and just kind of forgettable from a lot of people, but having never played one myself, Its hard for me to imagine why. I think the concept of a thin, fast fender electric style neck bolted on a nice acoustic body is genius. You never have to worry about running out of saddle 'meat', you can always shim the neck to make your action ideal, and you get the benefit of that great neck feel. Sure, i dont expect it to be a booming cannon of a guitar due to the bolt on neck, but i play more fingerstyle, soft stuff anyways so thats not really a concern of mine. All in all, im struggling to understand why these arent more widely used and higher priced!

For anyone interested in possibly snagging one of these affordable vintage beauties, i figured you guys might appreciate seeing some of the best deals i found while shopping around. I'd probably act quickly if you see something you want, i dont expect these to stick around long (especially that Shenandoah! :? )

https://reverb.com/item/58383581-1960s- ... -12-string
https://reverb.com/item/57772969-fender ... 65-natural
https://reverb.com/item/58483086-fender ... 8-mahogany
https://reverb.com/item/51947385-fender ... rce=google

Any fellow vintage Fender acoustic owners on the forums? I'd love to hear some first hand experiences with these instruments and bonus points for insight as to why they didnt take off. Its odd to me that Fender still uses Strat neck shapes/headstocks on many of their acoustics, but seem to have decided against making them bolt-on neck designs. Do people just hate bolt on acoustics and think theyre all cheap junk? :squint:
[/quote]

I used to have a 65 Fender Malibu, just like the one Ray Davies played on the Beat Club. It was by far my least favorite sound acoustic, but the neck was AMAZING. It played wonderfully and was so easy to setup and dial in. Apart from that, it had loads and loads of vibes and character. Congrats on the newporter!

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