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FDP Forum / Guitar Mods, Repairs, and Projects / Silly neck finishing question

Mick Reid
Contributing Member
*****

Australia

American-made in Oz!!
Feb 14th, 2018 01:06 AM   Edit   Profile  

I got my replacement neck for my new tele build today. (seller shipped wrong one first time)

This neck is unfinished maple/maple. No sealer, paddle headstock, nut slot cut/no nut fitted, unlevelled undressed frets etc.

Should I do all my fretwork prior to finishing or after?
I can see arguments for both, but wonder what you master builders would do.

(This message was last edited by Mick Reid at 05:57 AM, Feb 14th, 2018)

vomer
Contributing Member
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Broke Down

in the Brassicas
Feb 14th, 2018 01:38 AM   Edit   Profile  

USACG say that they level frets, even to the the extent of putting some fall-away in, before shipping. And my new one looks very nice, but I will certainly check it once it's on the guitar. I'm interested to see if it will need anything doing afterwards. Although I've never built a neck, (and am no master builder!) it seems counter-intuitive to level before it's on the guitar and you can see how it acts under string tension.

Mick Reid
Contributing Member
*****

Australia

American-made in Oz!!
Feb 14th, 2018 03:59 AM   Edit   Profile  

"...it seems counter-intuitive to level before it's on the guitar and you can see how it acts under string tension."

Fret levelling doesn't require string tension.
The first part of the process is adjusting the truss rod so there is zero curvature (no relief) in the neck. Next is checking the relative height fret to fret for evenness or differences.

"USACG say that they level frets, even to the the extent of putting some fall-away in, before shipping."

What USAGC would have done is basically what I described above. I don't know if they plek their frets or do them manually, but either way it would be done without being fitted to a body or strung.


wrnchbndr

New Jersey

I'm back with the otters again
Feb 14th, 2018 10:26 AM   Edit   Profile  

Not actually in disagreement but I like tension leveling. The benefits are anecdotal at best and the extra work and effort is my offering to the guitar gods as a plea for eventual mojo. I use shellac or a vinyl sealer on bare wood. A light coat of shellac first will keep the maple clean as you do fretwork.

vomer
Contributing Member
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Broke Down

in the Brassicas
Feb 14th, 2018 10:37 AM   Edit   Profile  

"Fret levelling doesn't require string tension"

Absolutely, but I would always want to see how a neck reacted under string tension before declaring it ready. There is no guarantee that your flat neck off tension is going to become an evenly curved neck under tension. Or vice versa- a nice relief under string tension may not equal a flat neck off tension, despite truss rod adjustments.

I've worked on a couple of necks which needed some levelling in areas which weren't apparent while not under tension, because they didn't behave as expected while under tension, and vice versa. The last one of those was quite severe and I had a thread about it a couple of months ago.

Peegoo
Contributing Member
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Lassoing

armadillos
Feb 14th, 2018 01:15 PM   Edit   Profile  

"A light coat of shellac first will keep the maple clean as you do fretwork."

That works. I also rune a few strips of blue painter's tape down the back of the neck to keep metal dust from being pressed into the wood as I file & polish the fret wire.

It makes sense to level and polish the frets before the nut goes on. The trick (not really a trick) is to use the truss rod to get the neck as level as possible before you begin, and as you work, use the lightest pressure necessary for the tools to do their job.

If you lean into the work, you'll flex the neck and your results will not be optimal.

There's no fast way to do this stuff.

Mick Reid
Contributing Member
*****

Australia

American-made in Oz!!
Feb 14th, 2018 03:42 PM   Edit   Profile  

Thanks guys. All good points.
And I get what your saying Vomer & Wrench.

"Not actually in disagreement but I like tension leveling."

Wrench, can elaborate?
Do you flatten the neck under tension *then* remove the strings and do your levelling?
I'm having a hard time picturing how that works.

re: finish -
I had thought about a light base coat of something to prevent oils from my hands getting into the wood, so that's good to know I'm at least thinking in the right direction!

Good idea about the tape on the back too Peegoo!
*That* I didn't think of!

I'm still open to any other advice too :^)

Cheers


wrnchbndr

New Jersey

I'm back with the otters again
Feb 14th, 2018 11:36 PM   Edit   Profile  

String up the guitar to pitch.

Use a full length straightedge and adjust the trussrod to achieve its first hint of a single high fret in one of the six string lies -- maybe a little more if the single high is isolated to one remote location and a little tighter trussrod adjustment doesn't result in the straightedge pivoting in more than just the one location

Remove the strings, (the neck will have back bow now) Install the neck by the heel in either my vise or bolt it to my faux body simulation fixture and put that in my vise.

I use a headstock support with a turnbuckle elevation adjustment to stress the headstock until I get the same straightedge indication that I got when the guitar was strung to pitch -- the adjustable headstock support simulates string tension.

Level away. ...and that is another process which a lot of people do in their own favorite manner.

Mick Reid
Contributing Member
*****

Australia

American-made in Oz!!
Feb 15th, 2018 12:06 AM   Edit   Profile  

Thanks wrench. *Now* it makes more sense with the turnbuckle in there.

Unfortunately not I'm set up with one of those rigs. But I think I've been doing alright with the "standard" method Peegoo described for now.


Peegoo
Contributing Member
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Lassoing

armadillos
Feb 15th, 2018 10:53 AM   Edit   Profile  

You can do the same thing wrnch describes, with no special tools:

Clamp the guitar body flat to the bench top. With the strings off, slip a thin, long wedge of hardwood between the bench top and the back of the headstock (keep a guitar pick or similar material between the wedge and the headstock to prevent finish damage).

How far the wedge goes in is what controls the amount of 'lift' on the end of the neck. Lightly tap the wedge in until you get that single high fret wrnch describes above, and you're ready to tension level.

If you want the best wedge for this operation, get yourself a hard plastic felling wedge, designed for use when felling a tree. Get at least a 10", non-barbed wedge. If you get the barbed type, simply sand the barbs off one side and it will work great.

Sand them barbs off.

Cal-Woody

USA/California

Why do I keep fixing things that work?
Feb 15th, 2018 12:56 PM   Edit   Profile  

This is all in the same category as my Stew-Mac neck jig.
I got it from a friend who was learning how to do fret work and I bought it from him. The new version is vastly superior to the one I own because of the strapping options, but it does the job well and can emulate the guitar neck under tension and level the frets accordingly to how the neck behaves while strings are on it.
But for the most part, if it is a bolt on neck, I use both, the notched straight edge and a standard straight edge. Between the two, I get a fairly good idea of how the fret field lies and can trouble shoot the frets and or, if there is any wood issue that would affect the fret field. If I discover any oddities in the way the neck is behaving, I'll decide then if I need to pull the frets or any other approach I might take to address the problem.
What is also nice about the Stew-Mac vise and stand combo is,I can clamp the heel of the neck and adjust the height of the vise stand to allow for me to have the neck secured and can adjust the height of the stand as to where I can lower the neck and have it rest onto the felt lined neck rest. This makes for a very nice setup to work on your neck. It would be nice if you had an adjustable stand with a vise to have and get firm but functional jig for this type of work.
Check the Stew-Mac site and see what I'm talking about and maybe devise a similar setup for your shop.
I have a few qualms about the Stew-Mac neck jig and that's the pin jigs that are supposed to support the neck, once it is jigged up. I wish it had a better system like maybe a long geared shaft that can be seated and locked inplace once you have the neck secured in the jig. The current system is just a sliding pin with a thumb screw, that slips against the chromed shaft and maybe a geared system would be more precise and would maintain its position, especially when you start to sand and level the frets or a bare neck.The dial indicators are especially nice and give excellent readings as to how the neck behaves when you move the jig from the playing position over to the working position, but with a geared system, it would be easier to apply the proper pressure on the back of the neck to realign the level you have rotated the neck into the work position.
For those whom have used this jig, I think you know exactly what I mean! And the headstock jack they give you with the jig, well, it would be nice to have a couple of different lengths to have, as the one given is sometimes to short or too long. This causes me to have to readjust the body clamping and either raise or lower the body to be able to use it.
I'm thinking out loud, but I think these would be of valued use, to All our users and would make the jig less hectic to get right at the work you want to do.
That's enough ranting and was hoping I made some valued opinions on how I go about my fret work.
The notched straight edge and the standard straight edge, are some of the most valuable tools you can own, then follow this up with your fret rocker and you'll get very consistent outcomes.

Peegoo
Contributing Member
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Lassoing

armadillos
Feb 15th, 2018 02:19 PM   Edit   Profile  

The gripe I have about the BeefStewMac&Cheese neck jig is that it applies a force to the guitar neck that in reality--with strings on--does not exist.

The SM neck jig approximates the effects of string tension on the neck, but its not perfect.

String tension does impart a lifting action to the headstock. However, the wood's flexure is due to torsion that's axially in line with the nut (transversely, across the neck).

It's this twisting force near the nut that flexes the neck into an S shape when string tension is applied. The back of the neck near the nut is in tension, and the fretboard is in compression. The nut acts as a fulcrum, under string tension, and that is what pulls relief into the neck between the nut and the ~12th fret.

This is why the PLEK system is a better way to perfectly dial in a neck. The frets are ground and polished based on where they are while the neck is under actual string tension.

The PLEK machine, however, is not plug-&-play; the operator must be very meticulous when mounting the guitar in the machine and taking initial measurements. Without this careful prep work, the PLEK is no better than a kitchen-table guitar hack.

I know that a few thousandths of an inch either way can be achieved simply through changes in temperature and humidity, so my comments are probably "polishing the cannonball" for many techs out there.

I also know there are many guitar techs that use the SM neck jig (and variations of the design) and they get good results with it, but it's not really useful for me and the way I do fret work.

vomer
Contributing Member
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Broke Down

in the Brassicas
Feb 15th, 2018 03:03 PM   Edit   Profile  

I'd wondered that about the S&M jig but never wanted to suggest it in educated company. I'm glad to hear someone else considering it. But as you say Peegoo, the differences may be small. And academic for me anyway as I couldn't afford one, or at least justify the spend.

Back in November when I had an S-shaped neck which wouldn't flatten enough to skim without losing too much fret height I thought I was going to have to skim under tension. Credit to Steve Dallman for the basic idea of blocks to raise the strings. I put this (pic below) together for the headstock end. It's a piece of dowel cut in half and glued to the bottom of a block of wood with string slots cut in it. The curved profile of the dowel snugs up nicely to the strat headstock's sloping section. At the other end there is a plain block which sits in the bridge pickup rout.

This worked well and the strings would tune to concert pitch without slipping off the tuners. One thing I overlooked in setting this up, there was no longer room to use my 24" straight edge, a real d'oh moment. While I waited for an 18" to arrive I took the strings off and hung the guitar on a wall hanger for 6 or 7 days. When I checked it again it was behaving differently and I was able to skim it without needing to do it under tension. So my system should work although I haven't used it yet, and probably wouldn't unless I had another problem neck. As a footnote to this, I have that guitar here again now, and the neck has stayed true to the relief I set it up with. I can only wonder why it was behaving so bizarrely when I first had it.

Edit sp.

Profile pic

(This message was last edited by vomer at 05:05 PM, Feb 15th, 2018)

Mick Reid
Contributing Member
*****

Australia

American-made in Oz!!
Feb 15th, 2018 03:18 PM   Edit   Profile  

Crikey, just when I thought I was getting a handle on fret levelling, you guys introduce a whole new dimension that leads me to think that everything I've been doing up to now is nothing less than inadequate :^(

Soooo much still to learn....


Cal-Woody

USA/California

Why do I keep fixing things that work?
Feb 15th, 2018 03:32 PM   Edit   Profile  

It is a little henky, but it does have a strap that goes around the nut area and has a tension screw to apply downward pressure and the jack is used to push against the headstock, to create the pressure that strings apply to the neck. So, you get a push-pull type of movement to emulate the string tension on the neck or flex. It's amazing how much of a difference you get when moving the guitar from the playing position and rotate it over to the back side to perform your fret dressing/fretboard work. The dial indicators show you the amount of flexation that occurs when doing so. Once you have the neck adjusted flat in the playing position, you rotate it over to it's back and remove the strings. The dial indicators have sliding markers on them and allow you to have those points marked, then when you reposition the guitar over on to it's back, the headstock strap and jack, allow you to use that tension to pull the neck deflection back to the flat position that you created while it was in the playing position. It's a little tricky but the results are spot on, thus, returning the neck back to flat position without strings. My comment was addressing the needs of obtaining a flat neck surface and the need for an upgrade to the neck support pins and headstock jack lengths. That could and should be improved! Another remedy for the neck jig and jack length issue might be, to have the body support table to be able to be adjusted up or down, thus ending the desire to have only one jack height.That would really simplify matters a lot. Otherwise, the body and neck relationship to the headstock strap/lift jack, would be minimized and the setup faster.
It's a neat unit and could be streamlined a little better for quicker use. The one I have has the wood base with brass inserts that the body leveling screws/pads are on and the new one is really nice because it has built in strapping points, where mine has to use tie-down straps that go around the board and body to achieve the same effect.
I'm going on here, way to long! However, the vise and stand combo are really nice!
Woody

FDP Forum / Guitar Mods, Repairs, and Projects / Silly neck finishing question




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