Monday, 30 November 2009

Neck Re-Set

A neck re-set is the usually the biggest thing to happen in the life of an acoustic guitar.
Over the years the string tension can cause the neck to change its angle to the top and make it impossible to get a lower action. The solution is to take the neck out, re-cut the angle and put it back in.
In a previous blog I wrote about an alternative technique for re-setting a neck so this time I'm going to show you the traditional method. Most of my re-sets are done this way.
 Guitars are put together with heat reversible glue, if they weren't then I couldn't do my job. The first step in the removal of a neck is to release the glue on the end of the fretboard - the part that overhangs the body
Acoustic guitar necks are usually glued in using a dovetail joint to give stability.

I gently warm the board until the glue is soft enough to slide an old butter knife under it.
I remove 14th and 15th frets (which are located above the dovetail joint)

I drill four 2mm holes deep into the joint through the fret slots.
 Into these holes I inject steam. I use a steam cleaner with an armoured hose attached and a long hollow needle attachment to blast the steam into the holes. This steam softens the glue and with a bit of effort the neck will come out.

This is a Gibson J45 with the neck half out, it belongs to a player from Christchurch.

This is the neck joint. You can just see one of my holes down the side of the dovetail. As soon as the neck is out I clean any glue off while its still soft.

Here's the body. The warmth from the steam usually softens the lacquer enough for it not to crack.

 This is a Martin HD35 I repaired for a player while on tour from Switzerland. Notice martin have sprayed the finish on the body before the neck is attached.

This is the HD35 neck.

This is a 1969 Gibson SJ which interestingly has a different dovetail shape from the 2005 model J45 I've shown above.

This one's a Guild - it didn't come out as cleanly as some of them.

This is a 1963 Gretsch archtop - note the packing in the side of the neck pocket.

And finally an Ovation - I had to remove the fingerboard first to get at the neck joint with this one.

As you can see I do a fair few neck re-sets and get to dismantle some lovely old instruments.
For me it has to be one of the most satisfying jobs - making old guitars live again



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