We’ve all been there. Got this Stratocaster that sounds fantastic. Hangs just right, has great balance, is not too heavy, not too light. But the neck, it’s just not…quite…right.
Maybe I should just change the neck! I know, I have this Telecaster I don’t use much, but I really dig that neck. I’ll just put that neck on this Strat! Four screws, strings, and a setup. Done!
But wait, can I put that Telecaster neck on this Stratocaster?
How It All Started
With the introduction of the Telecaster in 1951followed by the Stratocaster in 1954, Leo Fender gave the music world two timeless pieces of guitar art that had a revolutionary construction method that Leo himself probably didn’t realize the future implications of.
The Strat and Tele could each, not only be adjusted and set up according to the wants and needs of each player, but they could also be completely dismantled and reassembled with just a couple of screwdrivers and hex keys, or Allen wrenches as most know them.
It probably wasn’t long before working guitar players were not only maintaining their own guitars, they were changing parts as they needed, or just plain wanted to. They didn’t have to refret a worn neck, they could just replace it with a new one. All of this has added up to our modern world of Partscasters and customized at-home versions of great Stratocasters and Telecasters, including the occasional Stratocaster with a Telecaster neck.
Who Does That?
You’ve probably noticed that you don’t really see many guitar players with Tele necked Strats. But, did you know that Jimi Hendrix used an Olympic White Stratocaster with a Telecaster neck for two shows at Newport ’69? The giant poster of blue-suited Jimi using that guitar caused an awful lot of high school head-scratching, including my own.
It is hard to name even one more famous rock star using such a thing, and you likely won’t ever walk into the local saloon and see that blues guy up there using one either.
Jimi used his custom-built because two of his road crew presented the White Stratocaster with a cracked neck to a California repairman, along with a Telecaster neck they had, and asked him to replace it. Jimi did Jimi that weekend and just played that thing.
Why anybody else would is anybody else’s guess. A great Tele neck is a thing of beauty, as is a great sounding and feeling Strat. Putting the two together seems almost natural. Maybe just to be different, to have a Strat that is like no other in the area.
What’s The Difference?
Visually, the headstock is the most obvious difference, but it has no difference in functionality. Tuning machines, string trees, and the truss access are the same on both, so the headstock is a wash.
The scale length and nut are the same on both necks. Different models of both guitars can have different frets, but it is true that for the most part, the frets are the same on each. Strats and Teles can each have 7.25”, 9.5”, and 12” radius fingerboards, so they are the same in that regard.
The neck shape on both guitars is quite similar, especially for modern iterations. It is true that early Telecasters had a clubby, thicker, U-shaped neck that never graced a Stratocaster, but over their first fifteen years of life, the two necks grew closer. The modern C shape has been found on most models of both guitars for decades.
Ifs Ands & Butts
The thick block at the body end of the neck is the butt, it fits tightly into the neck pocket cut into the body. And if you have a neck of each you can see quickly the single most important difference between the two.
The butt of the Stratocaster neck is curved slightly at the end, and the body wall of the neck pocket is slightly curved to match and mate. The butt of the Telecaster neck is flat, and the body wall of the neck pocket is flat and straight to match.
One or the Other
A Stratocaster neck can always be used in a Strat, and it can also be used in a Telecaster. The butt will fit the pocket and the screws will line up, and it will likely intonate properly.
It will, however, have a visible gap in the corners as the curved edges will not fill the pocket. This also means the pocket corners will not be holding the butt, just the 4 screws. The pushing and pulling on the neck that the average night out with the band requires could cause some movement of the butt with no corners holding it, and over time that could present a real problem.
The Other Way Around
A Telecaster neck can obviously always be used in a Telecaster, but the flat squared butt will not allow it to seat fully in a curved Stratocaster neck pocket, as the squared corners will stop the neck short of the correct seating.
If the Telecaster neck has existing screw holes, they won’t line up properly, and plugging and re-drilling it, or drilling a raw Telecaster neck will leave you with a guitar that does not intonate. The neck is too far from the body wall of the neck pocket, therefore the scale is too long.
Managed to Get It Done?
If you’ve done all that woodwork and accurately fitted a Telecaster neck to your favorite Stratocaster, congratulations! The all too obvious name is StraTele, but whatever you call it you will have a truly unique guitar that is all you, and surely one of only a few.
A Lengthy Conclusion
The long answer is that yes, you could use a Telecaster neck on a Stratocaster, it is possible, but do you really want to? The work would be fairly complex for the average guitar player, even one that maintains and repairs his or her own guitars. Re-shaping the neck pocket on your favorite Stratocaster by taking the corners back into the body, and doing it accurately, isn’t easy. Accurately re-shaping the butt of your favorite Telecaster neck isn’t a bargain either. Paying someone to do it would probably amount to half the cost of a whole ‘nother Strat!
The short answer is just no, you can’t use a Telecaster neck on a Stratocaster. When you consider how easy it is to get a genuine Fender Stratocaster neck these days, there really is no reason to, unless you are skilled and tooled up to do so, which is probably not your average guitar player.
So, if you are needing to change that great-sounding Strat by changing the neck, find one of the many great Stratocaster necks we are fortunate enough to be able to score, and in no time at all, you’ll be back at it, back at playing your Strat and having a ball!
Frequently Asked Questions
Are Fender necks interchangeable?
Two words: Some are. A Tele neck is a Tele neck and not much else. A Strat neck is a Strat neck, and it can be used on a Tele. A Stratocaster neck can also be used on a Jazzmaster, which has a rounded butt also. Precision and Jazz bass necks are interchangeable.
Are Strat and Tele necks the same?
While visually slightly different in headstock shape, functionally they are very the same. They have much in common, from nuts to frets to radius and profiles. A 9.5” radius Stratocaster and Telecaster neck with the modern C shape very often feel and play quite the same.
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