The Charvel neck is the heart of the guitar; there can be no disputing this fact. As mentioned above, very early into the pre-serialized period, there were no necks actually being made by Charvel (Grover Jackson) and they were most often purchased from Lynn Ellsworth of Boogie Bodies (BB). EVH's early black and yellow Strat featured one of these early BB necks.
Production of actual Charvel necks began in approximately March of 1979, and these very early necks are identified by a woodburn proclaiming "Handcrafted by Charvel MFG" on the underside of the heel. Other early features are brass side marker dots, and rosewood fretboard markers. Most often, these early necks featured solid maple construction with a rosewood "skunk stripe" (trussrod route insert) which began near the center of the neck heel, and terminated between the first and second frets.
The very early necks were somewhat inconsistent in both contour and construction; they generally were thicker at the heel than at the nut and featured either standard or medium/jumbo fretwire. Shortly thereafter, production seemed to standardize and the "Charvel neck" as we now know it was born. The former woodburn logo went away, and was replaced simply by handwriting on the neck heel. These necks are known for their feel; generally thin, fast necks with radiused fretboard edges, a relatively flat fretboard contour, and Dunlop "Jumbo" 6100 fretwire. Most of these necks were finished in a light oil, just enough to seal the wood; giving the neck an instant "broken-in" feel. An "old-fashioned" heavy lacquer finish was also available at extra cost.
These necks were most often made of maple, although a small number of rosewood and mahogany necks are known to have been made. Often the maple necks were figured (birdseye or flame), otherwise quartersawn for strength. The maple fretboards featured brass side marker dots (or black/white plastic dots) and rosewood fret markers. These features continued to show up until late 1980. Other fretboard options included thick rosewood or ebony slabs, featuring large-ish round fretboard marker inlays in white or black plastic. One of the strongest authenticating features on any genuine Prepro (or production) Charvel neck are the closely-set 12th fret marker dots; measuring approximately 15/16" from center to center. Another strong authenticator is the presence of the builders' initials, build date, work order number, or other information on the neck heel.
The nuts on these early necks were made of a variety of materials, including bone, plastic, brass, and epoxy. The most common Prepro nut is made of a phenolic epoxy material and appears reddish brown on the sides, and often ranges from dark brown to orange on the top. The sides have a distinctive directional "grain" to them as a result of the cutting process. The most common nut widths for pre-serialized Charvels are 1 3/4"and 1 5/8". Later in 1981 the 1 11/16" nut width began to show up with increasing regularity (this would become the "standard" Charvel production width). It should again be noted that Charvel was a custom shop, and virtually any option for the neck was available.
Fretboard inlays were usually dots of rosewood, or black/white plastic. It is highly likely that some made it out with abalone or mother-of-pearl dots also. I have seen a 1981 Prepro Explorer (left handed!) that featured hand-cut abalone lightning bolt inlays for fret markers. I have also seen block inlays (ala Gibson), and other custom inlays are bound to exist.
Neck heel widths ranged initially from very narrow, just shy of 2 1/8", to about 2 3/16". As production standardized, the neck heel width was approaching 2 3/16" and made for a very tight fit into the neck pocket of approximately the same dimension. This dimension would remain constant throughout production until the "Strat" headstock profile was mostly retired in favor of the Pointy headstock profile; at which point neck heel size increased to approximately 2 1/4".
Charvel headstock shapes were obviously influenced by the popular guitars of the day, specifically traditional Fender and Gibson shapes; the early Fender "Pre-CBS" small Strat headstock was the most prevalent, followed by the Fender Telecaster, Gibson Explorer and Flying V headstocks (much rarer and very uncommon). These early Fender and Gibson-shaped headstocks are by far the most collectible and desirable of all Charvels, as Charvel was forced to discontinue these headstock styles by their respective trademark owners. It should also be noted that the Charvel basses featured similar headstocks; Telecaster, Precision bass, and Explorer among them.
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