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Width of Gibson Necks at nut and heel

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May 16, 2018 - 1:46:20 PM
645 posts since 4/13/2017

Could someone please tell me the measurements of they're Gibson banjo necks at the nut and at the heel? I have a blueprint of a 70's RB-250 neck, but I believe that this is the "clubby" neck, as it is exactly 2" at the heel and over 1.25" at the nut. I would prefer the measurements to be from a 50's RB-100, 150, or 250, because I know these are the non-clubby ones. Thanks

May 16, 2018 - 2:58:37 PM

9194 posts since 6/2/2008

According to the neck contour gauge for a 1970s RB-250  I bought at, the width at the nut was 1.187 (1-3/16) and the width at the 22nd fret was 1.925 (less than 1-15/16 and less than .01 over 1-59/64).

These are not wide measurements.  If those necks were clubby at all, that would come from their front-to-back thickness and their overall shape.  The neck measured for this gauge was 0.760 front-to-back at the first fret and 0.970 at the 15th.

I have the same Gibson neck blueprint you're describing. I have no recollection where I got it. Maybe from Bill Porter's website. Or maybe Greg Rich shared it on the Hangout.  Anyway, I think it's important to note that the 1.281-inch nut width is listed as having changed on January 9, 1979. It was 1.187 before that.

Where that drawing says the heel is exactly 2 inches, there's a note that says "These are jointed dims."  I guess "dims" is "dimensions" but I don't know what the note means in this context, since everything else appears to be final dimensions.

But know this:  I also have (and also can't remember where I found it) a PDF of Gibson's blueprint for the RB-250 fingerboard, dated May 24, 1983, on which the width at the heel end is shown as 1.906 bound (1.826 unbound).

I've never heard or read any comments that Gibson ever made a neck wider than 1-1/4 at the nut or a full 2 inches at the heel. This doesn't mean it didn't happen.

I also have a contour gauge for a 1994 Gibson RB4 reissue, that shows a nut width of 1.197 (only .01 wider than the 70s Gibson neck) and 1.931 at the 22nd fret (not even .01 wider).  Interestingly, this neck starts out deeper than the 70s neck at the 1st fret, but becomes shallower by the 5th!

Good luck.

Edited by - Old Hickory on 05/16/2018 14:59:39

May 16, 2018 - 3:12:45 PM

645 posts since 4/13/2017

What really had me stumped is I have a 70's or 80's Alvarez. I love the sound of it, and until I played two of my teachers Gibsons, I loved the neck. I picked up both of those Gibsons (50s 150 and Granada re-issue) and both felt significantly smaller. Could it just be the thickness from the fretboard to the peak of the arch on the back?

May 16, 2018 - 4:52:53 PM



20810 posts since 7/6/2005

Those old Japanese banjos tend to have rounder,
beefier necks. They can be slimmed down.

May 16, 2018 - 4:53:17 PM

9194 posts since 6/2/2008

Originally posted by bluegrassboy4life

 I picked up both of those Gibsons (50s 150 and Granada re-issue) and both felt significantly smaller. Could it just be the thickness from the fretboard to the peak of the arch on the back?

Thickness is part of it. But so is fullness of the shape - how much vertical edge (or shoulder) there is to the side of the neck before it turns or angles toward the back.  I have a 70s Kasuga-made Ventura neck - same as the bowtie-inlay Alvarez - and it's 1-3/16 at the nut and while it feels ok it's borderline chunky.  I don't have a real Gibson to compare it to and the necks on my three banjos are all over the place.

One neck is a Saga/Golden Gate that's also 1-3/16 at the nut but definitely chunkier than even the 70s Ventura. I don't like it much, but still, I get used to it after playing a few minutes.

Additional info for what it's worth: the Gibson fretboard blueprint from 1983 says 26-1/4 scale length, same as the 1979 neck blueprint.

Also note: The neck blueprint provide front-to-back measurements at two places:  .740 at 1st fret and .840 at 12th fret.

Edited by - Old Hickory on 05/16/2018 16:55:44

May 16, 2018 - 5:06:52 PM

645 posts since 4/13/2017

Thanks for the input guys. I always thought it was about neck width that made some feel slimmer or chunkier than others, but it's depth, not width lol. Thanks

May 16, 2018 - 8:20:16 PM

9194 posts since 6/2/2008

It's depth, width and shape.

Suppose a neck is 1-3/4 inches wide and 0.85 inches deep front to back somewhere between the 5th and 12th frets. (This is for example ony; I have no idea if that combination makes sense)  There are many, many paths you can draw that get you from the outer edges of the fingerboard to the deepest point on the back of the neck at that particular location. These range from straight lines going from point-to-point (a "V" shape more severe than any you might ever really see) to a slower-developing arc (creating more of a "D" shape)   You should be able to see that that one will fill your hand more than the other, even though both are the same width and depth.

I like a shallow, flat oval.  Early Stellings had that.  A first generation GoldStar GF-85 owned by Steve Davis had it.  One of my banjos has that, but the neck is overall too narrow, so it's not as pleasant as it could be.

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