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Steamed! -- Repairing a broken neck PRS

Discussion in 'Tele Home Depot' started by jvin248, Aug 28, 2017.

  1. jvin248

    jvin248 Friend of Leo's

    Apr 18, 2014
    Near Detroit, MI
    .

    Earlier in the summer I came across an abused PRS SE on Reverb at a fair price given the condition, described:

    "Looking for that sweet PRS Santana sound at a discount? The damage is over 10 years old. I thought I ruined the neck joint "see pictures" but it been that way for 10 years and it still play's just fine. Haven't used it live in 10 years but it sounds good for the studio except the switch is cutting out now so it needs some love."

    I expected more issues than the stated condition at looking over the pictures. Here is the listing image showing the neck damage (cracked all the way around and into the body).
    ozupfhlnbfbl4efxfxhw.jpg

    And here is the listing image of the hacked body edge, abuse inflicted on the guitar probably a result of the neck damage (and other issues I would uncover). The price I negotiated was fair given the situation and what I expected would need to be done to get this guitar playing again. I figured it could be a good summer challenge to fill in between other projects.

    pqnmgngcqvhilhdxftg6.jpg

    I have a soft spot for abused guitars as long as the price is reasonable. Perhaps,.... I got the guitar and factory gig bag for $125 including the shipping to me, probably $35 worth of actual shipping cost given the box size and not too-far distance.

    By the way, the serial number and styling makes it the second year of the PRS SE line (2000).

    The guitar arrived quick, well packed, and I assessed the situation. Plugged it in. Oh, my .... this ... this will be a project!:eek:

    I took pictures as I went along. There were some challenges and notes that may be helpful to some. The guitar is playable now, sounds fantastic, and looks a lot better so there is a happy ending. But some work getting there.

    There is some brutal neck steaming ahead, especially since I contacted PRS technical help team to find out what glue was used and they said "...We do not do neck removal as a repair at PRS..." They did tell me they used 'wood glue' though.

    On to the adventure!o_O

    .
     
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  2. maxvintage

    maxvintage Friend of Leo's Ad Free Member

    Age:
    58
    Mar 16, 2003
    Arlington, VA
    If it's an SE it would be made overseas, no? Who knows what kind of glue they might use.

    Personally rather than try and steam the neck off I'd try to get glue into the joint as is. Maybe try and force the crack wider and inject thinned glue into the joint
     

  3. SamIV

    SamIV Tele-Meister

    354
    May 14, 2011
    South Louisiana
    Why do people treat guitars this way?
     
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  4. pdcorlis

    pdcorlis Tele-Meister

    Hats off to anyone that can restore this old warhorse.
     

  5. harold h

    harold h Tele-Afflicted

    Feb 15, 2004


    That is what I would do as well.

    Steaming the neck off would appear to be overkill on that, wick in
    some glue and touch up the finish and it looks like it would work fine.
     

  6. trouserpress

    trouserpress Tele-Meister

    236
    May 4, 2015
    Leipzig
    That's what I'd try to do too: Injecting a large amount of very liquid superglue with a syringe. Then press it tightly with straps and let the glue ooze out, letting it rest for a day without touching it.

    Would that work out (superglue through a syringe) - has anybody tried that yet?
     

  7. maxvintage

    maxvintage Friend of Leo's Ad Free Member

    Age:
    58
    Mar 16, 2003
    Arlington, VA

    Superglue would probably work, especially the water-thin stuff, but in my experience it's messy to deal with. It sets really fast, which means that some of what you wicked in might be set while it was still open. I suppose you could close the crack and wick it in, but how deep is the crack and how far in will it wick? It might be a good way to go, but I'd be hesitant. I imagine it wicking in 1/4 inch, then setting, blocking any further glue from getting in. But I guess it would depend on the nature of the crack

    If you used warmed, thinned wood glue, like titebond, it will flow freely, set relatively slowly, and be easy to clean up. Some people will fill a syringe with glue, needle and all, and use that
     
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  8. Ripthorn

    Ripthorn Tele-Afflicted

    Age:
    35
    Oct 22, 2009
    Austin, TX
    American made PRS guitars use standard Tite bond type glue. They have a fantastic factory walk through video series on youtube that shows all the stages of construction and finish. As for the SE line, I don't know what they used in the early days, but the current factory is the same one that churns out many other Korean made guitars, like Chapman. From the videos I have seen, it appears to be good ol yellow wood glue, but I can't swear to it.

    As for wicking in super glue, if you flood the water thin stuff in, the glue itself helps keep the glue from setting too quick (presence of more thinners, like if you have a cup of naphtha versus a thin layer), but you will only have several seconds to get it all done. Regular super glue will wick relatively well and give more set time. If you can get the crack open a little more, DAP has a CA glue called Rapid Fuse that has a 3 minute open window and a set time of 30 minutes. I use that on wood bindings and it works fantastically.
     

  9. I_build_my_own

    I_build_my_own Friend of Leo's

    Mar 9, 2012
    New York
    Yes i have tried that. Works but they go pretty quick and even flushing them before the CA hardens with acetone doesn't help much.
     

  10. jvin248

    jvin248 Friend of Leo's

    Apr 18, 2014
    Near Detroit, MI
    The only bit of attachment was the bottom of the 'shoe' of the neck tongue and that cracked into the body. Both sides up the walls at the sides of the neck were disconnected and due to the geometry of the body-neck those walls are really necessary for the joint integrity. Trying to get glue to stick to glue where the joints were sheared apart doesn't work, CA glue might grip old wood glue.

    The wood glue used looks more like that 'gorilla wood glue' than titebond. More of a white glue but toward wood glue.

    .
     

  11. jvin248

    jvin248 Friend of Leo's

    Apr 18, 2014
    Near Detroit, MI
    .

    Pictures of the as-received instrument...

    IMG_20170726_160535.jpg

    The Neck condition
    IMG_20170726_160146.jpg

    The chipped hacks, plus general finish condition.
    IMG_20170726_160045.jpg

    Electronics, conditions which I'll cycle back around to. The stated problem was the switch cutting in/out. There was more in there.
    Cool though is that the pickups have three wires ready for splits. Current SEs are only two-wire (unless there is a model specifically advertised as such, the general ones don't have that).
    IMG_20170726_160256.jpg

    The frets showed signs of playing but not horrible condition (the guitar is seventeen years old and was gigged earlier on and then put away for ten years after the neck damage). IMG_20170726_161952.jpg
     

  12. jvin248

    jvin248 Friend of Leo's

    Apr 18, 2014
    Near Detroit, MI
    .

    Action like a bow and arrow! And it all moved when tuned up. I could fret high notes and in addition to the intonation problems, the neck would wobble. Funky finish something here.

    IMG_20170726_160340.jpg

    Strings off and a better picture of the damaged pickup covers, damaged trim rings, body finish problems again. About to take a pickup out to see what's going on with that neck.... IMG_20170726_162101.jpg
    Good shot of the crack along the glue joint of the tongue. Similar one on the other side. Easy to see where the neck tongue edge is under the uncracked finish. This neck joint really relies upon the vertical walls to either side of the neck to give it strength and resist flexing. At the moment here there is barely any of that. The previous owner really took it for a tumble.
    IMG_20170726_162339.jpg
    IMG_20170726_165727.jpg

    ... Getting out the steam equipment. :eek:

    .
     
    Last edited: Aug 29, 2017
    Barncaster likes this.

  13. tele_pathic

    tele_pathic Tele-Afflicted

    Age:
    46
    Aug 18, 2009
    St. George, UT
    When the factory tells you that "We don't fix necks on our guitars," that tells me how challenging this project is. I mean, basically I read that as PRS saying, "That is a near impossible job, one that is not worth our time or money."

    Good Luck!!!
     
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  14. Barncaster

    Barncaster Poster Extraordinaire

    You got this Jim. Drilling the micro steam needle holes is no issue here because it's all hidden. Maybe use a manifold with 3-5 needles to affect all of the glue zones at once?
    Rob
     

  15. trouserpress

    trouserpress Tele-Meister

    236
    May 4, 2015
    Leipzig
    That looks right beyond my capabilities. I'll lean back and watch. Good luck!
     

  16. jvin248

    jvin248 Friend of Leo's

    Apr 18, 2014
    Near Detroit, MI
    .

    I bought a well used pressure cooker a few years ago to use as a steam generator by hooking soft vinyl tubing to the port. But could I find it now? I looked all over the garage, the basement, and even the cupboards. No where to be found!
    Some zombie-apocalypse-prepping buddies got me into water purification a few years back so I scrounged out that kit so at least I could get steam. Bugs me where that pressure cooker went to as I have an acoustic with a separating neck that needs to be removed and reset which was the reason for the pressure cooker. I have seen people get a garage sale "Mr Coffee" machine and hook that up to get their steam (I've used a French Press for years so that was no help). Anyway...

    I started with this sports ball pump needle at the guitar end of the hose. It fit perfect in the hose I have.
    IMG_20170727_143847.jpg

    I drilled some holes around the neck tongue to fit it. Depth stops on the drill. (those holes on the face to the far right are the pickup trim ring mounting hole). The two holes at the base of the neck go down at a 45 degree angle to get steam in there.
    IMG_20170727_143701.jpg

    Here we go! Hot steam, injected into the holes. I messed around with this for a while without success. The body and neck were clamped up to give a strong lift load once the glue released, the edges of the clamps can be seen here, better pictures of the fixture coming up. Oven mitts and moving the pipe around didn't seem to be getting anywhere. Pipe spits hot water occasionally as well as steam, water droplets accumulating in the pipe, and puddling in the pickup screw sump.
    IMG_20170727_144408.jpg

    Nothing seemed to be going on. Eventually I figured out I needed more zone heat than steam injection for this job. Maybe acoustics need the humidity to separate. I found I needed heat and the needle wasn't going to solve the problem.

    .
     
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  17. jvin248

    jvin248 Friend of Leo's

    Apr 18, 2014
    Near Detroit, MI
    .

    A few pictures of how I clamped up the body and neck to get a square push-out force on the neck, if the glue ever released...

    Here is the basic idea of the clamping system. A board behind the body, two angled boards on top that securely clamp the body. The top boards are taller than the neck and cantilever over the neck side of the body. A cross board sits on these top boards and the lift clamp has a block behind the neck heel. Two-by construction lumber scraps. Harbor Freight wood clamps for the body and my old Craftsman cast iron screw clamp I've had since the 80s.
    IMG_20170727_143718.jpg

    The big clamp was positioned as close to the body as possible so it could lift straight and pre-tensioned.
    IMG_20170727_143737.jpg

    This fancy rig was not getting any results. I liked the clamping as it should provide as square of a lift as I'd ever get. However, I needed to rethink how the steam system was not working and what improvements I could try -- that PRS wood glue might need another angle to get it to release and salvage the guitar. I watched some PRS plant videos (all US location, not where the SEs are made, and I didn't think the other company brands that use that same SE factory showed glue-ups in their factory tour videos).
    I watched some Gibson neck repairs but again they did not or at least were very unlikely to have the same glue -- and I had just tried the 'usual' method (maybe missed some nuances but I think I had the important bits down that I saw in the acoustic neck resets).

    Steam shot out of that needle at a big rate like a locomotive whistle, but I probably needed more heat.

    .
     
    Last edited: Aug 31, 2017

  18. jvin248

    jvin248 Friend of Leo's

    Apr 18, 2014
    Near Detroit, MI
    .

    I gave up on the needle valve and just pulled it and laid the tubing down in the cavity. A lot more steam and heat became available.

    IMG_20170727_172127.jpg

    Then I covered it with a kitchen towel (shhh... that's a Mickey Mouse souvenir from a Disney trip a few years ago)
    I taped up the fretboard to protect it along with more towel insulation. I did find ghosting in the finish to the sides of the pickup pocket clear coat after all was done that has faded now but I'd use more of a shield like foil or a thin steel sheet to keep all the heat in the pickup pocket next time.
    IMG_20170727_150853.jpg

    I really had expected the needle setup to do the trick and this only became a backup second way I had less expectation of working now. So I let it run where I could see it in the kitchen while I sat down with the computer in the other room to do more Internet searches of possible solutions.

    This setup probably ran forty minutes to an even hour. About long enough I was thinking I was going to need to get the pot off the burner and add more water for steam to it. I'd give it a bit more as I could see steam filtering out of the towel.

    "POP" and then another fainter "pop" came out of the guitar. So I went to look and turned the handle on the big tension C-clamp. Very little pressure to turn it now. The headstock wanted to tilt up so I held that down with one hand while I turned the C-clamp.

    The neck was lifting out of the pocket!

    .
     

  19. Barncaster

    Barncaster Poster Extraordinaire

    Success! Let's see it!
     

  20. 2blue2

    2blue2 Tele-Afflicted

    Jul 20, 2013
    Island of Oahu
    An hour of just steaming!
    Wow, I need to learn more patience.
    I thought the basket ball needle was a good idea.
     

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