Super Thin Neck Contour

One of the great things about being a custom guitar maker is that I get direct interaction with some incredible players. I get to dialog and learn about what feature players want and what features that they don’t have on their present instruments. I also get to see how changes to a guitars design can effect a player’s technique.

When I begin to design a guitar for a client I start by having several lengthy conversations with them. Through the course of dialog, and usually several emails or texts, I begin to develop the design concept that will eventually become their guitar.  One part of this process is our Customer Quote Build Sheet Form. This is a document that the customer fills out and describes in detail his or her ideal guitar. This allows me to create an accurate quote and also list several options the client may not have considered.

Part of the form includes a description of what the client is looking for in a neck contour. If you have done any research at all you will know that there are a myriad of choices in neck contour profiles (That means that there are lots and lots of neck profile choices.) They are truly as unique as every major endorsing artist who endorses a signature guitar.

Whenever an endorsing artist signs a development deal with a major brand manufacturer, the company begins to dial in the exact specs that the artist wants so that his guitar is ideal for unleashing his creativity. There is also a large expectation on behalf of the manufacturer that the artist’s fans will run out in droves and buy the newest signature model.

Typically every endorsing artist will design a specific neck contour that feels comfortable to them. Why wouldn’t they? They have honed their craft and are now being recognized for their uniqueness so of course a custom neck contour seems appropriate. This profile is usually a variance of the existing neck contours that the company offers that has been slightly modified to fit the artists’ preferences.

During my apprentice phase when I was learning with Mike Lipe, I remember him telling me how he worked with Paul Gilbert, Steve Vai, Joe Satriani as well as John Petrucci on their signature models and how he hand carved all of their original neck profiles so that the CNC machines could be programmed to reproduce them in bulk. 

Mike would receive a bulk shipment of guitar neck blanks that were manufactured in Japan that either fit the Wizard of Wizard II profile (One was thicker and flatter than the other but I can’t remember which is which). These profiles had been made famous by Steve Vai and Paul Gilbert when they revolutionized the Ibanez guitar line during the creation of their signature guitars. (By the time Steve Vai released the Jem Guitar Series for his Passion and Warfare Album everybody wanted this new “shred” contour necks.

The neck blanks would come into the LA Custom Shop and Mike would then work with the Artist to understand what they wanted in a profile and then he would carve them to get the exact feel that the player wanted. When the final neck was done, the guitar was sent to the CNC lab and a computer scan was done and the neck was reproduced by machines.

For the artist themselves, Mike would hand carve all of the necks for their guitars according to his templates, but for the “off the shelf” guitar that they Average Joe could buy at your local music store, they were all made by machine.

Not every player gets the opportunity to design their own profile but they should. This is because every player has a different feel and touch and this will ultimately affect how they approach the guitar. We at Pasquale Custom Guitars have the ability to work directly with our clients to dial in their preferences.


One thing that I find incredibly interesting is that when a client fills out our Customer Quote Build Sheet the response that I get more than any other for the neck profile contour is simply “Super Thin Neck Contour”.  I have never gotten a request for a ‘Super Thick Neck Contour” or an “Extra Wide Neck”. The crazy part is that “Super Thin” means different things to different people.

Since every player’s hands are different every players’ version of “Super Thin” is different. I recently did a quote for a 9 year old shredder named Danny Cappelli. He is a very impressive player for his age and I am sure will one day he will one day be a major contender for the title of “Shred Master”.  Of course in his quote he requested a “Super Thin Neck Contour”.   Another one of my clients is Dan Fastuca from the band Jet Black Racing. He also wanted a “Super Thin Neck Contour”. The problem is that Dan is easily 6’6”, and 260 lbs. of pure muscle. He has hands the size of sledgehammers and a grip that can bend steel.  The point is that what is thin to Dan Fastuca is NOT thin to Danny the 9 year old.

This is where neck contours get complicated. A player will say that they want a “Super Thin Neck Contour” but what they mean to say is that they want a “Super Comfortable Neck Contour, Based Loosely on My Favorite Guitar That I Learned to Play On. But I Want It To Be Slightly Easier To Play.”  I figured that out after year of working with professionals and learning to speak “musician”. It’s my job to decipher just what they are asking for and translate that into the final product.

Usually the neck profile has not just to do with thickness but also with shape and continuity as you move up the neck. The thinnest neck that I ever carved came in at a thickness of 47/64 thick. It had a wonderful C carve to it and was finished with our hand rubbed Old World Guitar Finish. It played like a dream.  I loaned the guitar to Eric Bloom from Blue Oyster Cult to play at one of his shows in Warsaw Indiana and he loved the neck contour but when the show was over he told me that he was so used to the thick U shape of his Gibson SG that it seemed odd to him to play a neck this thin. When I asked him for more details he told me that the Gibson neck got fatter as it went up the neck so that it was thicker at the heel. After 40 years of playing an SG he had just gotten accustomed to playing that way which is why a thin neck that was consistent throughout the contour seemed odd to him.  So to state that a “Super Thin Contour” is what a player is after is really an understatement. There is much more to it than thickness.

Typically a neck carve starts with a shape that is either a standard C, D or U shape. The C shape is typical of the Standard Fender profiles. The D shapes are typical of Jackson and Ibanez guitars and the U shape is typical of Gibson and PRS type guitars.

At Pasquale Custom Guitars usually begin with these standard shapes because this is what everyone is familiar with. We then modify them according to the players’ style. Players’ technique has a lot to do with how comfortable the neck will be. For instance if a player typically plays with their thumb over the top of the neck then a D contour can be rather cumbersome because they will constantly be fighting to get their thumb over the high shoulder of the D shape. If they are a more technical player and are disciplined enough to keep their thumb in the middle of the neck, then the D shape is excellent for their technique because it has a smoother feel as you progress up the neck.

The last factor involved in “Neck Thickness” is the width of the nut. The entire “feel” of the guitar is driven by the width of the nut and the spacing of the strings on the nut. If the strings are spaced too far apart then even a thin neck can seem like a thick neck.

I take every one of these factors into consideration during my dialog with clients to make sure that they get exactly the neck profile they want and get the exact guitar that they are looking for.

Contact Pasquale USA Custom

Phone: 312-912-7533

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