1966 Fender Stratocaster Neck with Rosewood Fingerboard.

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This is a Fender Strat neck made way back in September 1966. It was produced one year after Leo Fender sold his company to the Columbia Broadcasting System, CBS for $13 million.

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The ’13’ refers to the particular model (in this case a Strat) not the date as some people believe. The last letter refers to the neck width where “A” is the narrowest, “B” is normal, and “C” is the widest.

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By 1966 (a year after CBS bought Fender), CBS management had really taken hold of Fender’s production facilities and incorporated many changes. The sum of of all these changes had a serious effect on Fender guitars as a whole. 1966 brought an era of “large” headstocks, less contoured bodies, and much higher production numbers. CBS looked for ways to cut production time and costs, which generally led to much lower quality. Because of this, 1966 and later Fender instruments are considered far less collectible than vintage pre-CBS Fender guitars.

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For contrast, here is a rosewood neck from the year before. You can clearly see just how much thicker the rosewood slab is. The ’66 neck has quite a slim veneer.

Still, it is a very beautiful slab of Indian Rosewood with very little nail wear. The board has a 7.5″ radius (or curvature – the flatter the board the higher the number). 7.5″ is a very comfortable radius for playing chords as the radius follows the curvature of the players hand. It is not too helpful for bending notes as strings can ‘choke-out’ if the action is too low.

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The lacquer checking on this neck is all in one direction and runs right the way down its length. Over time and with more rapid changes in temperature, wood expands faster than the finish and leads to these spider web cracks in the finish.

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1966 was the year Fender introduced this larger headstock shape. Leo Fender still worked for the company after the takeover and personally designed the larger headstock to stand out. There are numerous theories as to why he did this;

-To immediately differentiate between CBS and Pre-CBS instruments and for enabling a larger, more eye catching logo.

-Standardization. Most of their other guitars had big headstocks at the time. From a production (and yes, cost) standpoint, it made sense to standardize.

-Branding. The Stratocaster (and it’s small headstock) had no huge cache (yet) then. It was the Fender brand that was most important in the guitar-boom 60’s and the headstock shape defined this from distance, so why not make it larger like other models. Plus, it gave more room to use the more-modern, much more-readable Bold Italic font, which helped branding also and was easier to produce.

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