Volume 9 - Neck Cracks & Neck Removal

Written by Patrick Podpadec on . Posted in Northcoast Voice



STAY IN TUNE                             vol#9
                                                                                           By Luthier Patrick Podpadec

   Well, were back again. A lot has happened in the past few weeks. I hope that all of you were able to survive the heat and humidity that we all experienced in N.E Ohio last week. I have air conditioning in my shop so that I’m able to control the humidity for the woods that I store in there, so needless to say I was spending a little more time in the shop than normal. I also was flooded with a few more repairs than usual too. That was good!. Here is a few things that I did in the past few weeks

     A guy came in and dropped off an older Alvarez dreadnaught, with a broken headstock. It was broken all the way through to the fingerboard. Lucky for him, the break was a long, clean angular type that glued back together very well. After glueing it, it was hardly even noticeable. Although it looked very good and was probably strong enough to take the pressure of the string tension load, I was still hesitant of letting it go out without a little more support. I then decided to reinforce the glue joint with two woodened “pins” or “cleats”. This a bit difficult to do but the end result makes the joint nearly impossible to break again in that spot. I had to make a jig out of a flat piece of  ¼ “ acrylic stock. I routed out two small capsule shaped holes that were used as guides for my plunge router that was equipped with a small 3/16th straight bit.  I had to very carefully place the jig on the back of the neck and secure it any way possible so that it does not move at all during my routing procedure. It’s hard to explain without drawing you a picture of what I’m doing but I will do my best. ( perhaps when I learn a little more about this computer I  will be able to attach a rough sketch with my procedures) I make sure that my capsule shaped holes are perfectly lined up on either side of where the truss rod comes down through the neck. It would be a major disaster to hit the truss rod with the router bit. Not only for the rod but for the bit too.. I then carefully rout out two small channels all the way down to the fingerboard that span the middle of the crack that I have already glued. After the routing is completed I fill the channels with hardwood “pegs” and then shape them off to be flush with the rest of the neck profile. It sounds a bit tricky because it is. To finish the repair it is necessary to refinish the area with a darker toner or even a solid color stain to hide the pins. Of course I have to then finish the whole area with clear lacquer, let it cure and then buff it out. Generally this costs about 175.00. It certainly is worth the effort for any well made instrument . Without it, all you can do with the guitar is to make a planter out of it .It is possible to repair a broken neck  by just gluing it ,but most of the time it is necessary to do this type of repair to guarantee that it won’t separate in the future.

   Another interesting repair that I did last week is to reset the neck on a 70’s Guild guitar. This is a procedure that requires all of my accumulated experience of instrument repair. It includes removing the neck with the right amount of steam so that you only remove the neck from the body of the guitar instead of removing the sides from the neck block rendering the guitar completely useless! Probably the most difficult part of this repair is to make sure that you put everything back together exactly where it’s supposed to go. There is a very exact position that the neck is to join the body and if you don’t get it right the instrument will never play properly or up to it’s proper playing potential (Peter picked a peck of pickeled  peppers…… How’s that for a tongue twister. I’m just checking to see if your still reading)

    The way you remove the neck is by removing the 15th fret and drilling a small hole down through the fingerboard to reach the dovetail cavity so that you can place a small needle of steam into the hole so that you can loosen the glue joint. After you have successfully removed the neck and cleaned up all of the messy glue, it’s time to remove some material from the neck heel so that the proper neck angle is established Usually this is just a very small amount wood that is very hard to even measure. It takes a lot of patience and trial and error to do this. Please never try this without a lot of experience behind you. There are a few more things to make sure that your doing while you do this so that is why it is so difficult. You have to make sure that you are removing the same amount of wood on either side of the neck so that you don’t end up with the neck being placed at the on the body so that it is not perfectly down the centerline of the guitar. Your strings will look really bad on the fingerboard even if your slightly off. The other thing to pay attention to is the amount off wood you remove from the heel so that the proper angle is established to the body so that you get the right playing action and tension on the strings so that the instrument will play properly. I realize that some of this info may be a bit complicated (because it is) but I enjoy trying to explain what I do if you don’t mind listening. After saying this I realize that to finish explaining the procedure of resetting the necks on instruments I will need a few more pages of space. Being that is not possible here, I will have to try to pick up the remainder of this discussion in the  future article of the Voice. It’s just my way of insuring that you will STAY in TUNE! 

      Patrick from Wood-n-Strings