Thursday, June 30, 2011

A Neck Reset - The Hack Way

  Let me preface this by saying,DO NOT under any circumstances do this to a valuable or vintage instrument. With that said out front,right where it belongs,let's next cover what's a neck reset and why would I need one? While it's not impossible for a set-neck electric to need a reset,when talking neck resets,we're generally talking acoustics.With (most) guitars being made out of wood,over time,their geometry changes. Weather and temperature changes added to the strings pulling the neck towards the body and the body towards the neck make things change over time. Too much or not enough humidity can trick you into thinking its a neck reset issue when it's not so that's something I need to be very aware of here in the desert.Over time,this leads to the following scenario: the string height at the nut and neck relief are good,but the action is high with no more saddle left to lower. In overly simplified terms,the real way to deal with this issue is to remove the neck,then reattach it after changing it's angle. This is a costly affair that only makes financial sense on some guitars. What to do with that good mid-priced guitar with this issue? Tell the guitar owner to deal with it? Throw it away and buy a new one?
   One way is to change the neck angle by sawing into the neck heel and re gluing the break and reinforcing with a long screw. That's a hack job for sure,but a worthy dirty trick for the right yard sale special or student model guitar. Today's hack job will use a different,mostly abandoned method. Just remember: more student guitars = more guitar students!
Lots of pictures below...

Our action is well above the customers preference but we only have 2/32" at the bass side.We can't lower this without compromising the string angle behind the saddle.

Our treble side is even worse. There's barely even 1/32". Nothing to lower there! Here's where our hack job come in to play. In order to lower the saddle,I'll have to lower the wood around it. With out going into a long explanation,I'll just say that wood is there for a reason. This isn't the "right" way to do this,just the right way for this guitar.

I'll tape some cardboard around our bridge,for protection.

Out comes the block plane! Using a nice sharp plane allows for precise and controlled wood removal.

Here we are,almost done. We'll have to blend in our old and new area,first with sandpaper,then with some 0000 steel wool. We'll also have to re-counter sink our bridge pin holes.

Let's take a moment to lower our saddle.When this guitar came to me, it had been "set up" by the ubiquitous "friend who's been playing for years". There's barely any of the saddle touching the straight edge! How can that saddle transfer string vibrations if it can't touch the bottom? Am I a hypocrite for critiquing someones work,while committing a hack job? Hmm...

Here's our boy,all shined up with some nice counter sunk bridge pin holes,and some nice little ramps for our strings,allowing good downward pressure on our saddle. A hack job? Probably,but it's one that leaves little visual evidence and one that squeezes a few more years out of a decent guitar.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

There is no way I would call this a "hack" -- quite the contrary, it's a crafty solution to the difficult problem of sorting an inexpensive guitar.

Well done.