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Help me shave down a neck pocket.

redddog
June 25th, 2011, 12:30 AM
I think I need to lose between a 1/16th and an 1/8th out of my neck pocket. The saddles are topped out and the strings are still not clearing the fretboard. Almost but not quite there. I'd rather not have to have to have the saddles cracked up all the way as it keeps the strings too far off the pups and I would think that would effect the tuning stability.

My question is this:

How would you guys go about lowering the depth of the neck pocket? how would you know when it's enough? Level?

It's already finished so chipping the finish is a definite worry. Any ideas would be hugely appreciated.

Neck is a Warmoth and body is a Red Dirt.

Thanks, fellas.

acousticman1
June 25th, 2011, 12:47 AM
What sort of tools do you have access to?

A router w/ table or jig would certainly get the job done.

redddog
June 25th, 2011, 12:52 AM
I do have a router. No table or jig, though. I was thinking a bit more old school like penciling a grid and filing down. Although that would most certainly screw the finish around the edge.

I've not used the router yet. How would you go about it and what type of bit would I need?

Thanks much for the help!

goldguitarguy
June 25th, 2011, 02:36 AM
If your using a fender neck or it's equivalent,any fender licensed neck,the neck should be a maximum of 5/8th deep some one piece neck may not require a neck pocket that deep.Someone else can touch on that maybe.

As for a router bits you might want a top and bottom bearing flush trim bits,which all are very common bits,they range from$5-$50 each,I buy the cheap ones Rona has, they'll last for a little while

Stoked
June 25th, 2011, 03:35 AM
Have you tried using a shim? Putting a piece of thick business card in the front part of the neck pocket between the body and neck will change the neck angle and allow you to lower the saddles to compensate. It might be worth a shot...

JCJCJC
June 25th, 2011, 04:10 AM
This cutter would easily do it:

http://homepage.eircom.net/~jconsidi/guitar/PB070009.JPG

Agree with the other posters - decide how much you need to remove, and be conservative, get there in three very small cuts rather than one that is too much. I got that cutter from a guy called George Hsu on Ebay, search for planer cutter or bottom cleaning cutter. I've bought a few things from George, great trader. I presume you know how to accurately set the depth of your cutter in this situation? if not just ask. The corner radius of the cutter might be slightly different, if so you will be able to fix it with careful chiselling.

looktoyourorb
June 25th, 2011, 06:26 AM
I had the very same problem and I made a shim out of copper tape.

First try a few business cards shim to check the thickness required and see how long you need the wedge to be in order to mask the gap on the sides.

Build up several thickness of copper tape (every new piece shorter than the previous one to achieve grading. Use a precision file to smooth the edges and you will have a shim not only at the right angle but hiding all gaps and looking like a very thin copper plate.

This trick also takes care of eliminating any air pocket and offer total contact between neck pocket and heel.

jefrs
June 25th, 2011, 07:08 AM
Shaving the neck pocket is the alternative to shimming. This alters the break angle of the neck. Simply lowering the depth of the pocket will not achieve what you desire. It sounds like your neck leans back too far (so you need a higher bridge). You will not need to remove as much as 1/16-in because you are altering the angle.

I would use a chisel. This is not a job for a power tool, not even a Dremel.
I would estimate the amount to be removed from the base of the pocket (nearest the pickup) by using a shim at the top, a flat guitar pick works. You should not need to disturb the finish. You need to check the pocket is straight and level, a chisel has a straight edge, you are holding the tool. It needs to be sharp and you can push it or scrape with it, just never, never put your hand in front of the blade! (Hospital job - nasty) Go slowly and check often. Measure twice, cut once!

This is not a difficult job and quite normal to do, such bodies are normally supplied with the pocket a little too shallow to allow fettling because you can remove wood but not put it back on. Do not remove wood from the neck heel.


Btw if you have never used a router, you need to practice with it lots. They are for removing lots of wood, not making little adjustments. The router is actually the power tool equivalent of the humble chisel (or routing plane, a plane is a chisel held in a block). There are a few other tools suitable: the rabbit plane; the violin makers plane; the carpenter's knife; Skarsten scraper; etc.
If you buy new chisels remember to sharpen them, they might look sharp but they're not, and cheap ones loose their edge very quickly so keep the stone handy, it only takes a couple of licks.

jefrs
June 25th, 2011, 07:16 AM
Another thought. Is the neck truss rod too tight?
If the neck is too flat or curved back it will do that too.

guitarbuilder
June 25th, 2011, 07:34 AM
This is where the stew mac router pattern bit shines. You could just use it in your router and run it against the neck pocket to remove some more. You have a couple options.

Take a forstner bit mounted in a drill press and drill out the majority of the wood to the proper depth and clean it up with a chisel. You'll end up with tool marks in the pocket but that shouldn't affect anything.

The other option would be to make a template using the TDowns drawing up above, and then rerout it to the proper depth. Lowes or Woodcraft in Henrietta have the bit needed, although it is 1" long.

Make the template out of something 3/4" thick like basswood or pine and about 3 inches wide on all sides of the cavity. The width is to support your router and keep it from tilting. If you make it extra long, you can clamp it right to the body or use double sided tape. Don't put so much weight on it that it causes the pattern to bend over the body. Maybe you could support the cantilevered part with a piece of scrap too. Make sure to protect the finish during all of this.

Minimum depth is .625. I usually go to to 11/16 deep myself. Practice on scrap before you attempt the body. Don't forget safety glasses too.
You could take the body in and have this done by one of the local repair guys too.

71maverick
June 25th, 2011, 07:54 AM
Have you tried using a shim? Putting a piece of thick business card in the front part of the neck pocket between the body and neck will change the neck angle and allow you to lower the saddles to compensate. It might be worth a shot...

Oh man try shimming and trussrod adjustment first before you use your router for the first time...

I would also email Red Dirt and ask them the best way to install your Warmoth neck on the new body so that it plays properly. They may have some additional information for you.

I have never contacted Red Dirt but their les paul type body cut up for tele parts is gonna show up at my house someday. I wonder if I will have the same problem?

nadzab
June 25th, 2011, 09:24 AM
Another vote for shimming here. A lot less invasive, 100% reversable, and effective.

guitarbuilder
June 25th, 2011, 10:16 AM
Perhaps Reddirt will fix it for you?

redddog
June 25th, 2011, 10:20 AM
I tried shimming but I wasn't really happy with the result. The action was fine down but the nut but got gradually less fine as you approach the 12th. And the shim was noticeable in the pocket.

I do believe that if I was more experienced with the router, I could bang it out in a second but I don't think this is the project to learn on. And with no templates I'm leaning more to the hand tool option.

Or maybe the "bring it to an experienced guitar guy" method Guitar Builder mentioned. (I know it's a cop-out!)

Colt W. Knight
June 25th, 2011, 11:06 AM
I tried shimming but I wasn't really happy with the result. The action was fine down but the nut but got gradually less fine as you approach the 12th. And the shim was noticeable in the pocket.

I do believe that if I was more experienced with the router, I could bang it out in a second but I don't think this is the project to learn on. And with no templates I'm leaning more to the hand tool option.

Or maybe the "bring it to an experienced guitar guy" method Guitar Builder mentioned. (I know it's a cop-out!)

I do not understand the bold statement.

looktoyourorb
June 25th, 2011, 11:12 AM
I tried shimming but I wasn't really happy with the result. The action was fine down but the nut but got gradually less fine as you approach the 12th. And the shim was noticeable in the pocket.

I do believe that if I was more experienced with the router, I could bang it out in a second but I don't think this is the project to learn on. And with no templates I'm leaning more to the hand tool option.

Or maybe the "bring it to an experienced guitar guy" method Guitar Builder mentioned. (I know it's a cop-out!)

A single shim will lift the neck and you will see gaps on the 3 sides, not pretty. If you build up copper tape into a wedge shaped plate of the width of the pocket you'll have no gap, a thin strip of copper will be visible between the neck and heel but it will be very discreet and will fade in time .

http://i738.photobucket.com/albums/xx27/looktoyourorb/Cabronita%20Build/IMG_0388.jpg

redddog
June 25th, 2011, 11:15 AM
The action wasn't consistant down the neck. Near the nut, the action was fine. Down by the 12th fret, the action was high.

When it was shimmed, the shim could be seen and it really bothered me. If the problem was 100% fixed, I coulda lived with it.

The neck angle looks fine to me. It just seems like the pocket depth is a little shy.

looktoyourorb
June 25th, 2011, 11:29 AM
The action wasn't consistant down the neck. Near the nut, the action was fine. Down by the 12th fret, the action was high.

When it was shimmed, the shim could be seen and it really bothered me. If the problem was 100% fixed, I coulda lived with it.

The neck angle looks fine to me. It just seems like the pocket depth is a little shy.

Routing it is then, you could take a little off from the neck heel but it is usually the practice to modify the neck pocket rather than touch the neck.

redddog
June 25th, 2011, 11:33 AM
What do you guys think a fair price would be if I brought it into someone to do?

Not saying I'm chickening out, just wondering.

LightninMike
June 25th, 2011, 11:34 AM
from what you are saying:
IF the action is good by the nut AND the neck is shimmed, AND you are having buzzing at the 12th fret
it would seem to me that your neck is not flat....

what adjustment have you done to the truss rod? but before that, have you made sure that the neck is flat PRIOR to stringing it up?

looktoyourorb
June 25th, 2011, 11:39 AM
from what you are saying:
IF the action is good by the nut AND the neck is shimmed, AND you are having buzzing at the 12th fret
it would seem to me that your neck is not flat....

what adjustment have you done to the truss rod? but before that, have you made sure that the neck is flat PRIOR to stringing it up?

Good point, buzzes around the 12th may be due to too much relief...I had this on a guitar a while ago.

guitarbuilder
June 25th, 2011, 11:56 AM
Well even though it's a two minute job, the set up probably is enough to charge an hour. If I were you.... I'd fire up the router and start honing your skills on some cheap pine. Make the template. You'll find it isn't as hard as it seems.

Some things to remember. Read all your safety rules about routers and personal safety. Keep your hands on the router handles at all times. Make sure the bit comes to a stop before you put it down. Wear safety glasses and maybe even a dust mask. Make sure the stuff is securely clamped down too. Handle the router bit with care when you install it. It'll cut your fingers if you allow it to. Make sure the router is unplugged when you make adjustments and change bits.

Other random thoughts.
The only way to gain experience is by doing the work.

Ask Val at Pittsford Lumber too.... she may be able to do it cheap... you'll never know unless you ask I guess.

You could do this with a chisel.

You could probably do this with a dremel...although I wouldn't myself as I find them pretty useless.

The more I think about this... why not just use a chisel? You didn't say whether you had a drill press or not. If yes... why not use a flat bottomed bit and clean it up with a chisel/sandpaper?

TeleRickster
June 25th, 2011, 12:07 PM
I had the same problem. The router option was overkill for me (and too risky) so I made this little block sander out of some scrap oak. Used my neck as a guide to get the EXACT shape and size, made sure the bottom was dead flat and then glued various grits of wet/dry paper to the bottom using spraymount adhesive. Worked like a charm, and made the neck pocket flatter and smoother at the bottom than when it came from the factory.

Picton
June 25th, 2011, 12:20 PM
Chiseling can take as much practice as routering, and the chisel needs to be both sharp and square.

I think the OP would be most comfortable with TeleRickster's solution.

If it were me, I'd just shim it and check the neck relief. Failing that, a wide, long chisel or a bullnose plane.

guitarbuilder
June 25th, 2011, 12:24 PM
I'm thinking a half inch wide chisel or so. Tap it around the perimeter of the rout and then pare the material out. He only has to take about .125 out and it doesn't have to be pretty....just close to flat....and I bet the factory edge ( not harbor freight though) on a decent chisel would be OK for this. An old stanley router plane would be the ticket.

redddog
June 25th, 2011, 12:38 PM
Sorry. I think I got a little confusing.

The buzzing happens without the shim. When it was shimmed, the action was uneven - it being nice at the nut and high at the 12th fret.

I think telerickster's idea is a good place for me to start and I will commit to getting experience with a router, table and templates in the near future.

Thanks so much for yer help, boys. I'll report back with results shortly.

TeleRickster
June 25th, 2011, 12:47 PM
Reddog,

I forgot to mention, use a fresh razorblade to trim the edges of the sandpaper flush with the sanding block. You want to leave the walls of the pocket untouched. Test fit often, I found the pocket did not need as much lowering as I initially thought.

MrCairo46
June 25th, 2011, 02:20 PM
Just finished having a Red Dirt bodys neck pocket deepened and the neck pickup pocket deepened also. I used Phil Jacoby in Baltimore rather than myself. If not done right and level you are out a feww hundred bucks and your body is now fire wood. You are probably only talking about 1/64 to 1/32 of an inch , and even if you need more, start there, mount and check and then if needed go again. Someone suggested sanding the neck but after discussion with luthier Phil , its better to fix the problem not the symptoms. If you decide down the road to put another neck on you got the same problem and also have a neck that willnot fit well in anyother guitar...

redddog
June 25th, 2011, 03:24 PM
ahh. So it's not just my Red Dirt body.

Gotcha, Mr C. I'll go slow. My plan is to mark a grid with pencil and just sand til all the grid marks are gone. Then check and repeat if necessary.

Does that sound reasonable?

nadzab
June 25th, 2011, 03:51 PM
Sorry. I think I got a little confusing.

The buzzing happens without the shim. When it was shimmed, the action was uneven - it being nice at the nut and high at the 12th fret.

Ahh, that actually good, then. This means that your shim is too thick. With shimming, a little goes an incredibly long way. If your original problem is that the strings were too low, even with the saddles at maximum height, and now after shimming the action is too high, that means you can go thinner with the shim.

What are you using as a shim? I usually start with a piece of a single playing card, and move up from there if needed (it rarely is). Assuming you can go thinner on the shim, this will bring the action down a bit as you go up the neck, and will likely result in an invisible shim.

I find that when I have to shim at the front of the pocket - as I assume you're doing - the shim seldom shows once the neck screws are tightened appropriately, but the shim is still in there doing its thing.

Bud Veazey
June 26th, 2011, 10:35 PM
I may be totally wrong, but I'll put in my two cents anyhow. I not so sure anything needs to be done to the neck pocket. It sounds like too much neck relief. Have you checked the relief? Too much relief can cause buzzing on the higher frets and trying to get rid of the buzzing by raising the saddles makes the action too high. Sounds like your symptoms to me. Shimming will lower the action by changing the neck angle, but it won't solve your fret buzz problem if there is too much relief in the neck.

jefrs
June 27th, 2011, 02:04 AM
The shim did solve the problem but the shim was too thick.
Shimming can raise or lower the action depending on which end you put the shim.

To me that indicates that the neck pocket angle needs to be changed by scraping a little out of the pickup end, less than 1mm. Imo it really does not need routing.
Try some thinner shims before cutting wood.

You do need to check the neck curve first - capo on first and fret at last and still see daylight under the strings.

re saddle height, imo the screws should not protrude from the top of the saddles, nor should they be about to fall out the other side.

redddog
June 27th, 2011, 11:20 AM
Yeah, the saddle screws are at max and I'm still not clearing. The neck angle seems ok (when checking the neck against the top of the body amd sighting down the neck). There isn't any reverse bow at all in regard to the truss rod setting as it is perfectly straight.

I'm not sure how the relief even could be off. Wouldn't that mean that the builder's cnc is so far off that the plane that is the bottom of the neck slot is off? That would be a pretty big discrepancy to my mind.

jefrs
June 30th, 2011, 05:07 PM
Yeah, the saddle screws are at max and I'm still not clearing. The neck angle seems ok (when checking the neck against the top of the body amd sighting down the neck). There isn't any reverse bow at all in regard to the truss rod setting as it is perfectly straight.

I'm not sure how the relief even could be off. Wouldn't that mean that the builder's cnc is so far off that the plane that is the bottom of the neck slot is off? That would be a pretty big discrepancy to my mind.

Well I reckon they leave a little extra meat in there so you can shave it out. You might have fitted a completely different and thinner neck.

If you shave it out parallel with e.g. a router you will have to remove quite a lot of wood. A router can be a brutal tool, it can be unforgiving.

Whereas if you just tilt the neck a little to get the correct angle, as you almost did with the shim, you don't have to remove very much at all. Plus it is quite easy to do.

The neck break angle is the angle the neck makes with the body, it is normal for the neck to lean back, the bottom of the pocket not parallel to the top of the body.

The neck curvature or bow is the truss rod. With the strings on it should bow - concave fretboard, otherwise fret buzz.

MickJaggersTele
June 30th, 2011, 06:04 PM
Shim Your Neck To Tilt The Neck Forward
Do not route or sand your neck pocket!!

First, I assume that you don't, have a "micro" neck adjustment, but if you do, make sure it's backed out so that it does not contact the neck or alter the angle of the neck. You may need to loosen the neck screws to do this.

Second, sight down the edges of your neck and make sure that it is not back-bowed, and adjust the truss rod with the strings in tune accordingly.

If your neck is back-bowed, with the strings in tune, turn the truss rod adjustment hex key counter clockwise. Re-tune and re-check to see if your neck is basically straight or slightly bowed forward, by sighting down the edges of the neck.

Finally, if you still cannot lower your bridge height, detune the guitar so that the strings are loose and unbolt the neck.

Someone above suggested shimming with copper tape or with business cards.
I personally believe that masking tape is a better choice.
Place a 1/4" wide strip of masking tape above the top screw holes on the back of the neck.

http://i1239.photobucket.com/albums/ff518/MickJagger1/2011%20Telecaster%20Build/DSC03806.jpg

Put the guitar back together, tune the strings, adjust the bridge saddle height to the desired level of string action, and check each string at each string for fret buzz. Repeat the entire procedure as may be necessary.

I recommend reassembling and tuning the guitar after each shim of masking tape is added, adjust the bridge and check for desired action and fret buzz. Each strip of masking tape will make a surprisingly large change to the geometry of the neck.

The buzzing happens without the shim. When it was shimmed, the action was uneven - it being nice at the nut and high at the 12th fret.
This confirms that you should not alter the neck pocket in my mind.

Lower the bridge height so that the action is good at the 12th fret.
If you experience fret buzz at the higher frets, increase the amount of shim and tilt the neck further forward in the manner I suggest above.

Raise or lower the bridge height again as needed to achieve the desired string height or "action" at the 12th fret, and check for string buzz at each fret again. Once again, a single strip of additional masking tape will make a noticeable difference in the geometry of the neck. When you have resolved any fret buzz that may be noticable when amplified, adjust the intonation at the 12th fret.

The Mighty Mite body for the above pictured Fender neck, required 3 strips of masking tape to achieve perfect action with a low bridge height, without noticeable fret buzz. Intonation adjusted perfectly.

When I initially assembled the guitar and strung the low "E" string, the string laid flat on the fret board at a reasonable bridge height and approximate string tension. Three (3) strips of masking tape completely solved this problem, while having a very low bridge saddle height.

jefrs
July 2nd, 2011, 10:14 AM
I reckon guitar picks work well as shims. You can get them in a variety of thicknesses like feeler gauges, and you probably already have some.

A soft material for a shim may compress or shift.
I also consider a shim to be a temporary measure, a make-do until you get a round tuit and do the pocket properly.
But always shim before adjusting the pocket. I have used shim for years before getting a tuit of any shape.

MickJaggersTele
July 2nd, 2011, 07:52 PM
I reckon guitar picks work well as shims. You can get them in a variety of thicknesses like feeler gauges, and you probably already have some.

A soft material for a shim may compress or shift.
I also consider a shim to be a temporary measure, a make-do until you get a round tuit and do the pocket properly.
But always shim before adjusting the pocket. I have used shim for years before getting a tuit of any shape.
As may be assumed from my above posting, I respectfully disagree with your recommendations and suggestions.

A guitar pick will not provide a localized shim at the top of the neck pocket to tilt the neck forward (or at the bottom of the neck pocket, as may be required, to tilt the neck backward). These are the types of adjustments that are normally required, not a general raising of the neck in the pocket which a guitar pick would provide.

In addition, even thin picks are too thick to allow for any degree of adjustability. It could only be used in the most crudely formed and ill fitting neck pockets, despite the stories that you may hear from old blues guys.

If you actually use a guitar pick for a shim, I question the actual set-up of your guitar, or in the alternative, the quality of the components, to the extent that they are not "home made."

To the extent that a soft material such as masking tape should degrade over time, all that is necessary is to add an additional strip of tape, or to replace the all of the tape strips. IMO, it is a proper approach and a permanent solution, where string geometry needs to be changed, in this case, shimming the neck so that the nut is tilted forward, so that the bridge can be lowered with resulting proper string action without fret buzz.

A shim like I show above, has no effect on the sound and resonance of the guitar and does not compress or shift after properly bolting the neck to the body, assuming that you are using a reasonable amount of shim, which should actually be quite thin, as it should take very little shim above the top neck screws to effect a substantial change in the geometry of the neck.

In the case of the above neck, three (3) strips of masking tape corrected the problem when mounted to a Mighty Mite Tele body, providing perfect action and set-up.