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Anything to Avoid Resetting That Neck
30 years ago it was commonplace to see complex repairs done in the effort to avoid resetting necks. Removing the neck seemed nearly impossible to many repairers, so they devised "workarounds" and other methods of achieving low action on guitars whose neck angle had changed. I actually heard of a violin maker who removed guitar tops and shaved the sides to achieve a taper toward the end block, and replaced the top, in effect, lowering the bridge by dropping the entire top lower in that region.
Here's a fingerboard I removed from a 1947 D-28:
I have my caliper set to the maximum thickness at the nut. You can see that the fingerboard had been planed down to less than 1/8" which is half its original thickness. At the 14th fret the fingerboard was left at full thickness, tapering back toward the peghead in a effort to avoid resetting the neck.
It must have worked for a while at least, but now look at the bridge:
It, too, has been cut drastically lower. See, it's barely over 3/16" INCLUDING the height of the saddle!
BUT, after a few more years, the action was high again, and there was neither bridge nor fingerboard left to cut lower.
After resetting the neck and replacing the fingerboard and bridge with ones of stock dimension, the guitar once again played well. The best part of the job was the "test drive" because the sound was utterly transformed. With the bridge height restored, the trebles and midrange came out dramatically stronger. This guitar went from 98-lb. weakling to Superman in one week!
Here's one that had me a bit worried. This fellow brought in his
1960s Epiphone Texan, which was made by Gibson during the period they were into pathologically
skinny necks. You know, the ones that are only 1-5/8" at the nut.
He wanted to have a new fingerboard made so his neck would be 1-3/4" wide at the nut, and I told him it wasn't possible. The problem would be that the profile of the neck would come out really strange and the edge of the fingerboard would of necessity have to be quite sharp.
Well, he prevailed and I made him the new fingerboard, almost cantilevered out in space. Just take a look at the nut profile on this guitar:
I figured he'd be instantly unhappy with the feel of the neck, and would want to have it made narrow again.
He's been playing this guitar happily since 1975 when I did the work.
So, here's a case where doing the "wrong" thing worked out right! Neither he nor I have any regrets about "violating" this instrument. At the time, of course, there was never a discussion of the value of "originality" I was just worried he would be dissatisfied with the work and might have blamed me for a custom job that was his idea. In fact, I doubt you could find a better custodian for this guitar or more loving home for it. In his hands the guitar is doing exactly what it was made to do -- making lots of music.
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