I am NOT in BCR Greg's universe...

Robert Parker

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...or Freddy's or Barnaby's, or honestly any of the other famous guys around here. But I've learned a lot from all of their threads, so when my 93 Studio Lite lost its headstock (again) I decided to take plunge in making a new neck for it. I had asked for some feedback on whether to do a re-attachment with splines or a re-neck. I decided to do the re-neck for 2 reasons. First, this was it's second full-break. The first re-attachment was in 2010 (with splines), but it didn't really take. Second, in looking at the orientation of the grain, there was rather little long grain and a lot of glue residue in the break. Cleaning out the old glue was not gonna be doable, so I decided on trying the re-neck. I really had nothing left to lose, and I felt pretty confident I had accumulated enough knowledge and experience. You'll see as we go that I was (mostly) able to pull it off, though there was one big hitch that didn't reveal itself until the end. I looked at this as a test for myself to see what I really could do on my own, relying on research and prior experience. I'll address some inevitable questions and mistakes as we go along. I hope that this is at least entertaining if not informative and a good list of things to consider (or NOT).

First, I wanted to save the original fretboard and heastock overlay if at all possible. I've had this guitar since it my 16th birthday when I got it new. I knew going in that it would not be worth much of anything financially. It's not even my main player anymore, but I've played it more hours than all my other guitars put together over the last 25 years, and it means a lot. So I wanted to keep as much of the original as I could. I don't have pics of the process removing the fretboard (I have a terrible habit of getting too focused on the work and not taking pics), but I used a clothing iron and a piece of flat steel stock to heat the glue. I scored the finish along the lines of the board/neck joint and laid the steel along the frets and laid the hot iron on top. As the glue got hot, I cut in with a putty knife. It took about 45 minutes, and the only really hard part was cutting through the plastic locator pins that Gibson used on the two fretboard ends. Here is the fretboard separated from the original neck.
fretboard saved.jpg


Next I needed to remove the wasted old neck. That was really pretty easy. I cut off the old neck with a hand-saw (swapping to a hack-saw for the old truss rod) and then hogged out the wasted tenon. I was not sure what expect, but I was a little surprised at how easy it came out. I just drilled out most of it with a forstner bit on the drill press and chiseled out the rest. There was nearly no contact on the bottom, and I thought this was evidence of a poor joint. I later learned this was more likely the result of the "rocker tenon" that Gibson uses (a curved bottom to the tenon allowing the neck to be "rocked" into the proper alignment of the top of the neck in the tenon).
removing waste from mortise.jpg
old tenon.jpg


You'll notice that I scarred the heel transition area with the saw as I cut. It wouldn't be the last time there was cosmetic damage in the process. Here's some shots of cleaning out the old mortise. I got most of it out with a chisel and cleaned up the rest with a small router.
mortise mostly cleared 2.jpg
mortise cleaned.jpg


The last thing I was surprised by here was how thin the back of the old neck was. It was a thin '60s style neck, but I still thought there would have been a little more meat.

thin neck under original truss rod.jpg
 

Robert Parker

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Once the old neck was out, it was time to start working on the new one. I found a nice piece of quarter-sawn mahogany from Shabby Chic on Ebay. I wanted to do a scarf-joint to make the new one stronger than the original. I went with a 15-degree angle (kinda splitting the difference in the different angles that Gibson seems to have used over the years).
laying out truss rod and neck taper.jpg


Here's where I made the first two big errors. The blank was 1.45" thick, so I ripped it most of the way on the table saw so that I would have a 3/4" blank to work from. I had made some layout and measurements where I thought the tenon and heel would need to be, and I stopped the table-saw cut at about where I thought would start the heel transition. Unfortunately, I over-shot and left only about 5/8" of heel block. To add insult to injury, when I cut off the excess with a handsaw, I didn't pay enough attention to my lines and accidentally cut a deeper angle than meant when cutting off the excess at the heel. So, I had to epoxy in a sliver of wood perpendicular to the neck grain and then glue in a wedge to lengthen the heel block. Again, I don't have great pics of all this, but here's a shot of the short heel-block (prior to gluing in the wedge) where you can see how bad I misjudged the length. If you look carefully, you'll see the edge of the sliver I had to glue in to fill the extra cut :rolleyes:.
short heel.jpg

tenon coming along 2.jpg

tenon coming along.jpg
tenon nearly there.jpg


You'll see what wedge and sliver look like after shaping later. But man, was this ugly at this stage. Shaping the tenon was pretty straight-forward. It just took a while, as I went pretty slow getting it to the right length. The scarf joint was pretty easy - I cut it with hand-saw and smoothed the joint with a low-angle block plane. I thinned the headstock with my favorite plane - a no. 6 Bluegrass I got a couple years ago. The joint was glued with UF glue.

planing headstock 2.jpg

headstock clamped.jpg
 

Robert Parker

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Obviously, I had cut the truss rod channel in the midst of all this. No issues there. Once the headstock scarf was glued up and the tenon was shaped, I turned my attention to salvaging the original overlay. I cut off the bulk of the old headstock on the band saw, then used the masking-tape/super-glue trick to attach the overlay to a "handle" and ground off the rest on the ROSS/sanding station.
overlay separated from old headstock.jpg

saving overlay.jpg

overlay salvaged.jpg


Once that was done, I reglued it to the new headstock, reglued the old fretboard to the neck, and dealt with the board. I had inadvertently melted two of the trapezoid inlays while removing the board from the old neck, and two others got pretty warped. Also, several of the frets were in pretty rough shape. Since I needed to pull several frets to effectively replace the trapezoids, I decided to do a full refret. Turns out, doing your first refret on an ebony board might not be the smartest thing ever. It took a few to get the hang of it, and there was a pretty good amount of chipping and tearout.

burnt inlays, very chipped fret slots.jpg


ewwwww.jpg


After filling several of the worst chips, replacing the bad inlays, and sanding it back down to 1000g, it looked a good bit better. You might wonder, "What the HELL is wrong with you, Robert, since you didn't fill all the chips?" (that should not be the first time you ask that question!). The body is pretty well-worn; honest "relicing." What I decided to do all the way through was not to get too worked up about a comsmetically perfect neck (not like I could have done that anyway). I wanted something that was in keeping with the state of the body. I knew I wouldn't ever get something that looked like a 25-year-old neck, but I figured one that looked really new would also look weird. At least, that's how I justified leaving some chipping on the fretboard and a couple other things that don't look really clean.

new inlays.jpg

fretting.jpg

fretted.jpg


I also got the overlay fully shaped and drilled for tuners. Then onto cutting the taper of the neck to match the fretbard (done on the band saw and cleaned up with the low-angle block plane) and shaping the profile (my favorite part of all the builds). I use spoke shaves and then cabinet rasps to get 98% of the material removed. From there I go to card scrapers, a bow sander, and a radiused sanding block (along the length) to remove any low-spots.
shaping the neck.jpg

unfinished treble side heel.jpg
neck profile shaped.jpg


Here you can see up close what that wedge and sliver look like after shaping the heel. They don't stand out too much, and they're only visible when looking at the treble side of the cutaway (i.e., you'll never see them in playing position).

unfinished treble side heel.jpg

unfinished heel.jpg
 

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Robert Parker

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Once the neck was shaped, I did the last bit of fitting the tenon and glued it up. It is here that I think I made my biggest error, though I wouldn't see it for a while. I realized afterward that I didn't have the new neck completely in line with the bridge and tailpiece. I measured and check my alignment before gluing, so I don't know if it moved during gluing (the fit was tight enough to hold the neck in place without glue or clamps) or if I mis-measured (most likely).
clamping time.jpg

glued in neck.jpg


I decided to do the finish in Tru Oil, rather than nitro. One, I love the look and feel of Tru Oil, moreso than nitro. Two, it's just WAY easier. So, I grain filled the neck with the reddish brown that StewMac sells (it was relatively close in color to the back of the body). Here was my next mistake. I attempted a black flash spray paint (yes, I know, I know) on the heel to both blend with the black nitro in the cut-away of the body and to hide the wedge and sliver. Two things here. First, I forgot that the Tru Oil would dissolve the paint and wipe it away. Two, it turns out I kinda liked the look. There was enough paint still in the grain that I liked it having kind of a worn look to it. And it still hid enough of the wedge and sliver. After the grain fill, I scrubbed in the first coat of T.O. with 600g paper, and then did about 15-16 more coats of thinly wiped on over the next few days. It's more of a satin feel, but I honestly thing the wood looks better than with nitro.
Bass side heel.jpg

finished back.jpg

finished treble side heel.jpg


Now, I realize that this is pretty red-necked. Like I said, some of that was on purpose and some was a realization of my limits. So, I kinda decided to commemorate both the work and its limitations. I put the original serial number on the back (with a wood burner....) and a little note.
headstock back.jpg


Finally, it was time to reassemble it and play. And here's where I learned about my biggest mistake. As I said above, somewhere I missed the alignment. Once strung, the
 

Robert Parker

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I won't bore you with a description of fret leveling, crowning, and polishing. Finally, it was time to reassemble it and play. And here's where I learned about my biggest mistake. As I said above, somewhere I missed the alignment. Once strung, the whole thing was shifted so that the no. 6 string was right on the edge of the board while the no. 1 string was way too far inside.
out of line strings.jpg


After I finished panicking and thought more calmly, I knew I wasn't gonna try to reset the neck, so moving the bridge and tailpiece was the only other viable option. It was a pretty easy process, though disheartening to have to do. I made no attempt to hide the filler posts. That was partly because I didn't want to mess with refinishing the top in anyway, and because I wanted a reminder how I screwed this up.
Tailpiece relocation 1.jpg

reseating the posts.jpg


Finally, after it was all put back together, it sounds great and plays beautifully, which was the whole point anyway. I rechristened it "Frank" - as in, Frankenstein's Monster. It's definitely scarred and now is an amalgam of old, new, and odd-ball parts. There's a Zhangbucker bridge pickup I put in 10 years ago, and a SD '59 in the neck (I bought this one from a member here a couple weeks ago - I had "stolen" the Zhangbucker neck pickup from this guitar, swapped in an A5 mag, and put it in the bridge of a different guitar a couple months ago). It might need new saddles - it might not get them. The strings don't line up with the pole-pieces of the bridge pickup, but I honestly cannot hear any difference. It might need some other adjustments. Who knows.

What's important is that A) I got my favorite and oldest companion back; and B) I learned a lot. I'm happy to answer questions. Of course there were mistakes i wish I hadn't made and know how to avoid in the future. If nothing else, I hope someone finds this either useful or at least entertaining.

done.jpg
 

Side Burns

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Wow, well you and “Frank N. Stein” are blood brothers & both scarred.

Flesh heals, but guitars need a little help.

I guess you needed some help too tho.

cool thread!!!!
 

crazygtr

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Blood has been shed, I'm sure as soon as you saw string alignment tears were too, so, in my book....RESPECT.
 

bungle

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Epic journey! Blood sweat and tears..:thumb:
 

Sustainium

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Personally I wouldn’t have had the courage to show that job, but I was entertained.
 

fatdaddypreacher

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all of the threads have value of different levels to different people. don't hesitate to thread your next repair....or better yet...your build
 

Side Burns

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@Robert Parker your theread is absolutely invaluable because it shows the process and will lead you or others to develop a tuner headstock - neck fixture for such repairs.

thank you. If i show you the pine body bass i made it would make your repair look like a stradevarious.:cheers:
 

Barnaby

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Great documentation of a fascinating journey, with a solid result. I agree with everyone else - this is a really useful thread and good work.

I'm really glad your finger wasn't more seriously injured too. That reminds me that I need to sharpen my chisels the next time I get to my workshop. A sharper tool is a safer tool (counter-intuitive as that may sound).
 

Robert Parker

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Great documentation of a fascinating journey, with a solid result. I agree with everyone else - this is a really useful thread and good work.

I'm really glad your finger wasn't more seriously injured too. That reminds me that I need to sharpen my chisels the next time I get to my workshop. A sharper tool is a safer tool (counter-intuitive as that may sound).
Thanks everyone for the compliments.

Barnaby, the really sad thing is that the chisel was sharp. Like, shaving sharp. I was just careless. Turns out that I apparently have to learn the hard way.
 

Barnaby

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Thanks everyone for the compliments.

Barnaby, the really sad thing is that the chisel was sharp. Like, shaving sharp. I was just careless. Turns out that I apparently have to learn the hard way.
Yikes! You and me both - I've been luckier than I deserve more than once. Glad you're OK.
 

emoney

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Kudos. I've got more chisel cuts over the years that I care to think about. It's all part of the fun.
 


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