The McNaught "SET-THRU" NECK®
Explanation of the Innovation
by David Thomas McNaught
When people hear that McNaught guitars are built with "SET-THRU" NECK® construction, they usually don’t get too excited. After all, they think, “set neck… neck through… I’ve heard it all before.. nothing new, right?”
Well… wrong! Maybe if we changed the name to “incredibly-innovative-all-new-all-different-deep-pocket-augmented-extension-neck-mounting-technique-to-increase-and-improve-sustain-volume-and-tone-like-nothing-you’ve-ever-heard-or-played-before”, they’d get a better idea of what the "SET-THRU" NECK® is all about.
Hmmmm….Somehow “Set-Thru Neck” seems to flow a bit better… I guess there’s a bit of explaining to do.
"SET-THRU" NECK®: in these words lies the secret of a revolutionary technique that has been painstakingly perfected as one of the cornerstones of McNaught quality. It’s so amazingly simple, and at the same time, so intricately dependent on unique experience and specialized skill, that I can tell you all about it here without spilling the beans on what’s actually a trade secret.
Background: a neck-through guitar is one like the original Les Paul (“The Plank”). It’s a full length neck with body “wings” glued on. A set neck on the other hand is simply a neck that’s glued tight into a fitted socket. The "SET-THRU" NECK® is a combination of the set-neck (Gibson, PRS) and the neck-thru (Jackson, ESP). It keeps a whopping TWELVE INCHES of neck INSIDE the body cavity for amazing tone transfer and sustain, without the sound-sapping (and ugly) necessity for the body to be made of multiple pieces of glued-together wood.
When I first began building guitars, they all were built using a standard set neck. I had read an interview with another guitar company that talked about how their neck extended more than 5” into the guitar body. I read another interview with another guitar company that said their neck extended even deeper. However, when I investigated these guitrs, I found a problem. The Gibson Nashville Tune-O-Matic bridge is elevated from the guitar body to such an extent that the neck needs to be angled back up to 6º. To make this possible against a flat body, the deep set-neck guitars of the past were built in such a way that the butt of the neck was unable to make much contact with the body pocket.
Common sense told me that a good mechanical junction of the neck-butt and the body pocket was critical if maximum sound energy is to be transferred between the two primary parts of the instrument. Think of it like this: would you feel more vibration from an engine in if you pressed on the hood of a car with one finger or with your entire palm?
Eureka! My theory was that it would make more sense to somehow get my 12” extension into the body at a uniform depth. To the drawing board I went. After several months of experiments and designs, I was able to come up with a set of custom jigs that would allow me to tool a 12” neck extension at uniform depth through transverse section of the guitar body.
I swear that from this sentence forward, I will speak to you as one guitar player to another. No more shop talk.
The prototype guitar surprised me, because I didn’t imagine I’d hear such a difference before I even plugged it in. I remembered reading a quote years ago in a guitar magazine. Eddie Van Halen said that a great electric guitar would always sound great when it was played without an amp. The truth of that statement materialized for me as the first E chord ever played on a "SET-THRU" NECK® guitar rang out. It was louder. If it means anything, it was more musical, because there was more OF it. My theories were proven true: it sustained for an eternity. It sounded awesome.
Besides more and more and more of what I heard acoustically (killer sustain, powerful volume, and clear rich tone), the juice brought out something that let me know I had reached my destination. The word that comes to mind needs some explanation though, because it’s tossed around to mean so many different things: the guitar had real presence. A McNaught "SET-THRU" NECK® guitar is more musically "present" because it cuts through a band or a mix more than its set-neck predecessor ever could. And it isn’t just about volume (any guitar can get louder, but if it’s ugly when it’s quiet, it will just be amplified ugly when you crank it up). Think of it like stage presence—you recognize a star because you feel something you can't really explain. It's that same kind of guitar "star quality" that projects from an instrument with the "SET-THRU" NECK®. It’s more than tremendous tone. More than the solid feel. It’s in the way it does everything you always wished an electric guitar would.
I suspect that this innovation is one of the main reasons you’ll be as proud to own and play my guitars as I am to offer them to you with my name on every one. That's why I had to spell it out for you here. So next time you hear the words “"SET-THRU" NECK®" think twice before you write it off as the same old same old…
Thanks for your continued appreciation!
David Thomas McNaught