How to do a top-adjust truss rod on a Fender style neck..

LtDave32

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Hey guys,

MLP member @Pappy58 asked me to put together a "kit" for him that he could finish himself. He wanted a Tele, but had custom neck specifications.

I figured I could squeeze this in between my regular workload and take a few stabs at it here and there to get this kit worked up for him.

He sent me a chunk of tree; a part of a trunk of an American Black Walnut tree. Beautiful wood. So I planed it to a neck blank and we got started.

He wanted a "reverse" effect; a black walnut neck, with a maple skunk stripe and plug at the headstock transition. He also wanted to have it adjust from the top. Fretboard is undyed Katalox, or "Mexican Ebony". It matches well with the walnut.

Now, nobody I know of sells top-adjust truss rods for Fender style necks. Fender has their own Bi-Flex rod, but you can't buy it.

So we're gonna do a trick or two and make a top-adjust truss rod out of a two-way rod. Rod is from allparts, and has a 3/8 depth.

One catch here; you have to flip the rod upside-down and it will adjust in the opposite direction; lefty-tighty, righty-loosey. You have to turn the adjustment the opposite way. No big deal, right?

BTW, the skunk stripe is cosmetic. He wanted that look of a white stripe on a walnut neck. so we went ahead and inlayed a piece of maple into the back.

Now on to the neck.

Here's what we're working with, a long 3/8 brad point bit from Fisch (Acme tools, $10 or so, nice bit) a block of mahogany drilled through with the 3/8 at a 1 degree angle, some maple dowel stock, two way rod from Allparts:


20200529_145158.jpg


You've got to clamp this jig up well, especially at the top of where you are going to drill the hole, right on top of the fret board. It was for this reason I did this operation before I sanded the radius into the board. I need that flat clamping surface. Clamp it down tight, we don't want to blow out the top of the fret board behind the nut slot.

Draw a line from the center of your TR slot through the third tuner from the tip. That's your centerline. Make a centerline on the drilled block and line those up when you clamp the block, the 1 degree angle pointing down towards the frets:

20200529_150805.jpg



Insert your long 3/8 drill bit and give it a good few taps. You want to start this bit right and fight the tendency for it to "climb" up the headstock transition, so pick up a bit on the drill motor end to force the other end down.


20200529_150903.jpg


Okay, we drilled through to the TR channel and checked the depth with a slim screwdriver, and it went right on through. Let's see what she looks like:

20200529_151435.jpg



Well alright! No blow-out of the top. Yep, gotta clamp that top of the FB real tight.

Now, let's see about drilling out that maple dowel. First a small bit, then finish it with a 3/16 bit. That will be big enough for the allen wrench to get in and lock in with the truss rod adjustment end:

20200529_152749.jpg


Be sure to take extra care in lining up that dowel with the bit. We want as straight a hole as possible.

Now let's see how it comes together:

20200529_161147.jpg


Okay, that's going to work out fine.

So, I cut the dowel to length, leaving it a good 3/4 inch sticking out. It will all come together well when we spindle-sand that headstock scoop.

we clamped the FB on the neck, oriented the hole to the hex on the TR end, and made a practice run with the allen wrench. Worked out perfectly.

I did have to do a bit of dremel hogging around the adjuster end under the fret board. it will never be seen, and it was minimal anyway. You need to make sure everything fits and works well before gluing.

So with it all good, we glued it up, dowel and all. then after it dried, we sanded in the transition scoop and the "teardrop":

20200529_180112.jpg


We still have just a bit of spindle-sanding to do, but it turned out fine. Now you can adjust the TR from the top instead of taking the damn neck off or messing around with those "spoke" adjuster rods.

Here's a shot of the back of the neck before I set to carving it:

20200529_180130.jpg


Note* the hole for the plug seems very close to the top of the board. Because it was drilled at a 1 degree angle, the more material I remove from behind the nut slot, the more distance I will have between that hole and the face of the fret board. I've already gained a few thousandths. By the time I get to about 1/8 behind the nut slot, it will be perfect.

Any questions, let me know..
 

valvetoneman

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I did a headstock adjust but used the rod the right way up and drilled a 3mm pilot hole to line up with the channel at a slight angle then just opened it out with a 6mm drill bit for the allen key

Like the filler strip and I might try this way next, how did you route the channel, trying to work out how you did it with the filler strip like that if the rods under the board
 
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LtDave32

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Last night I went and finished up the transition, and also enlarged the hole with a tapered Dremel bit. Be careful you don't wipe out the plug sides or bugger it up, you need a nice, clean access hole.

Here's the finished product:

20200530_102734 (1).jpg


I think that worked out pretty well.

This is how I'm going to do top-adjust rods on Fender-style necks from now on, whenever I get a request to do so. Some folks like the traditional heel-adjust rods, they don't mind pulling the neck. But, some others like the idea of not even having to remove the strings to adjust their truss rods. It sort of bugs me that there are -zero- top-adjust truss rods available in either single or double format to be found. So, here's your workaround!
 

LtDave32

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I did a headstock adjust but used the rod the right way up and drilled a 3mm pilot hole to line up with the channel at a slight angle then just opened it out with a 6mm drill bit for the allen key

Like the filler strip and I might try this way next, how did you route the channel, trying to work out how you did it with the filler strip like that if the rods under the board

VT, I simply put a maple inlay in the back of the neck blank before I routed for the truss rod channel on the other side. The inlay is not that deep, maybe 1/4 inch. It's just cosmetic. When you rout from the other side for the TR channel, it doesn't matter if it digs into the inlay or not. But my rod was very shallow to begin with, only 3/8. As opposed to the taller 7/16 rods. It never did even touch the inlay when I routed the TR channel.
 

LtDave32

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Another note: you will have to take a nut-seating file (1/8 wide, cuts on the side, not the face) and file down the plug where it bumps up into the nut slot. Takes a couple of seconds to get it flush with the nut slot channel bottom.
 

valvetoneman

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Another note: you will have to take a nut-seating file (1/8 wide, cuts on the side, not the face) and file down the plug where it bumps up into the nut slot. Takes a couple of seconds to get it flush with the nut slot channel bottom.

Thanks that makes sense now, here's mine with the rod the right way up

IMG_20200316_164309_copy_1500x2000.jpg
 

Pappy58

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Last night I went and finished up the transition, and also enlarged the hole with a tapered Dremel bit. Be careful you don't wipe out the plug sides or bugger it up, you need a nice, clean access hole.

Here's the finished product:

View attachment 465913

I think that worked out pretty well.

This is how I'm going to do top-adjust rods on Fender-style necks from now on, whenever I get a request to do so. Some folks like the traditional heel-adjust rods, they don't mind pulling the neck. But, some others like the idea of not even having to remove the strings to adjust their truss rods. It sort of bugs me that there are -zero- top-adjust truss rods available in either single or double format to be found. So, here's your workaround!

Yep thats me. Having to pull the neck once it's set perfect is a "hate" for me. When I have to do it I usually clamp the strings and leave them on.

Nice job sir! Looks simply wonderful! :cheers2: :applause:
 

LtDave32

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Thanks Paps!

Wait 'till you see it after I fret it and carve it.

American Black Walnut is a joy to work with. It has handsome grain, great color and it smells wonderful. Cuts easy too.
 

LtDave32

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Turned out really nice.
I like the contrast with the dark neck and light inlays.

Thanks CB. that's the idea we had; a reverse-theme neck. Walnut with maple accents instead of the other way 'round.

American black walnut will make a fine neck wood, especially when it's laminated to something really stiff like katalox.

And it's so damn easy on the tools. I swear it cuts like swamp ash.
 

fatdaddypreacher

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Last night I went and finished up the transition, and also enlarged the hole with a tapered Dremel bit. Be careful you don't wipe out the plug sides or bugger it up, you need a nice, clean access hole.

Here's the finished product:

View attachment 465913

I think that worked out pretty well.

This is how I'm going to do top-adjust rods on Fender-style necks from now on, whenever I get a request to do so. Some folks like the traditional heel-adjust rods, they don't mind pulling the neck. But, some others like the idea of not even having to remove the strings to adjust their truss rods. It sort of bugs me that there are -zero- top-adjust truss rods available in either single or double format to be found. So, here's your workaround!
well done, my friend. nice work
 

cmjohnson

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This is very interesting to me because I have a massive chunk of rosewood that I want to make into a TRUE single piece neck for one of my guitars. And by true single piece, I mean that the fretboard will be carved into the neck blank and there woin't be a single piece cut off the blank and glued back on. This requires me to do a skunk stripe Fender style truss rod, but I want to do it with a Gibson, rather than Fender, style top adjustment nut and recess. And with a Gibson style back angled headstock as well.

The only piece I want glued into the neck is the skunk stripe, and I want that to be made from extra material off the neck blank, which is more than adquate in size to provide that.

Since the blank is rectangular and uncut, the truss rod access cavity can be drilled while the blank is in its current shape, and then slice the headstock angle off after the fact.

But this is one shot. I can't screw it up. I may hire someone else who has experience installing F style truss rods to do the truss rod installation work.

LtDave32, would you be interested in taking this on?
 

pshupe

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This is very interesting to me because I have a massive chunk of rosewood that I want to make into a TRUE single piece neck for one of my guitars. And by true single piece, I mean that the fretboard will be carved into the neck blank and there woin't be a single piece cut off the blank and glued back on. This requires me to do a skunk stripe Fender style truss rod, but I want to do it with a Gibson, rather than Fender, style top adjustment nut and recess. And with a Gibson style back angled headstock as well.

The only piece I want glued into the neck is the skunk stripe, and I want that to be made from extra material off the neck blank, which is more than adquate in size to provide that.

Since the blank is rectangular and uncut, the truss rod access cavity can be drilled while the blank is in its current shape, and then slice the headstock angle off after the fact.

But this is one shot. I can't screw it up. I may hire someone else who has experience installing F style truss rods to do the truss rod installation work.

LtDave32, would you be interested in taking this on?

There is probably a reason you do not see this. G&L rip their necks down the middle and route the truss rod in and then glue them back. That's on a bolt on though. That could be an option. You could do it with a skunk stripe, I guess. If you ever have a problem with the truss rod you're gonna have to pull the neck and probably replace it completely. A shame on a nice rosewood neck. Unless you are doing bolt on??

Regards Peter
 

valvetoneman

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I NEVER do bolt-on necks. It's against my fundamentalist luthier religion!

I used to think like that but have now succumb to the odd bolt on build, they're just different, I'll always prefer a set neck
 

cmjohnson

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We all build 'em the way we want to build 'em. I just don't do bolt-ons myself. It's a perfectly good way to build a guitar but I don't have any interest in making them that way.
 

LtDave32

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We all build 'em the way we want to build 'em. I just don't do bolt-ons myself. It's a perfectly good way to build a guitar but I don't have any interest in making them that way.

Then why even post here? If you have as you stated no interest in bolt-on necks? Then why even open the thread?

Just the other day, you started a thread asking how to work with lacquer, being a poly-only finisher.

I don't work with poly. I, and my customer base prefer lacquer. Still, I offered sincere advice and said nothing derogatory nor turn my nose up about how other people do things.

I build all manner of guitars. Set necks, bolt necks, neck-through's, whatever my customers desire.

This is not the first time I've noticed an attitude problem. In several areas. But it's the time I've spoken up about it.

This sub-forum of this site is the one place where people come together to share knowledge and tips on building guitars. I has a welcome atmosphere, and it's going to stay that way . I didn't have to start this thread, I did it as a favor to others who may have an interest in adapting a two-way rod to a top-adjust style. Nothing more.

So please, with sugar on top.. Please stop with the bolt-on rhetoric.

And another thing; unless you are a vendor here, you cannot have an active link to your business in your sig line, so please remove it.

Have a nice day!
 

LtDave32

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ps, in the spirit of camaraderie here, if you're having a tough time with this truss rod dilemma of yours, show me some detailed pics and a detailed description of what you want to have happen (I vaguely remember a thread on this), and I'd be happy to help walk you through it.
 

pshupe

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ps, in the spirit of camaraderie here, if you're having a tough time with this truss rod dilemma of yours, show me some detailed pics and a detailed description of what you want to have happen (I vaguely remember a thread on this), and I'd be happy to help walk you through it.

I'll do up some CAD plans if you want as well. I'd like to figure something out as well.

Cheers Peter.
 

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