Asher Guitars WD Music Products Amplified Parts Mod Kits DIY Nordstarnd Pickups
Asher Guitars WD Music Products Amplified Parts Mod Kits DIY Nordstarnd Pickups
Asher Guitars WD Music Products Amplified Parts Mod Kits DIY Nordstarnd Pickups

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
    I had kind of given up hope that I might have gotten too deep into something. PRS technical group note was that they didn't repair necks because maybe the glue was something more than regular wood glue. I kept seeing the acoustic youtube videos of neck steam-offs and they only used the needle (there seems to be more of a cavity down inside the acoustics so the needle would help there.

    Anniballe likes this.

  2. jvin248

    jvin248 Friend of Leo's

    Apr 18, 2014
    Near Detroit, MI

    So here is what I saw when I pulled the clamp and neck off. Right after separation and still steaming hot like a roast pulled from the oven.

    The steam heat had worked primarily on the neck heel so all the glue came off the neck and stayed down with the body. That little cross-bar strip seems to have been a paper sticker, probably a bar code, on the neck placed before glue-up.

    The previous owner's damage to cause the neck break split the slivers at the corners, the wood failed before the glue. The sides of the neck and body show the splits there had glue on both faces - perhaps there was more to their story like a too-wide gap filled with glue was more brittle and when damaged the glue split allowing the heel to take the brunt of the force?

    When I saw how and where the wood was split, I was glad for removing the parts as trying to force wood glue or even thin CA adhesive down the sides of the neck and hope for shooting through those sliver zones to weld it all back together would have been really problematic. I would probably still need to steam the neck off and with partial CA adhesive patches down in there likely more resistant to steam.

    The surfaces that mate together with this design are small. Bottom and sides of the heel, sides up the neck. Not a lot of surface area. And how important the sides of the neck to body glue faces are to the integrity of the joint.

    Now I can start the cleanup process.



  3. jimbo735

    jimbo735 Tele-Holic

    Sep 19, 2011
    She,ll be a player for sure!
    Good job.

  4. SecretSquirrel

    SecretSquirrel Tele-Holic

    Jul 2, 2015
    A sad case, yet exciting! I would have bought it. Someday I want to get another SE like mine, to install lipstick humbuckers.

    jvin248 likes this.

  5. jvin248

    jvin248 Friend of Leo's

    Apr 18, 2014
    Near Detroit, MI

    Expecting that the glue would come off easier now than another day, I went to work cleaning up the neck pocket and neck heel to get most of the large debris out of the way.



    I let the parts sit to dry over night. The next day I set up my work bench outside under a shade tree. I taped up the neck to protect it somewhat and did some fine-grit sanding... and sanding ... Here's the result. I dampened a cloth to wipe off the sanding debris.
    The after condition looks a lot better than the before did! The wood glue would have excellent surfaces to grip into.


    I did a test fit and while a little sloppy knocking around in there it fit. I could do the 'hold the guitar up in the air without glue or clamps' trick but not with a camera, lol. I'd need some shims during glue up, and have some hard birch veneer that would work for that. I was mostly concerned with the vertical walls in the neck pocket to the side of the neck. On this guitar design those small patches give most of the resistance to the string forces -- which is somewhere around 125lbs pull and twist at the middle of the guitar when fully tuned up, how much more when a player really 'hits the strings'? So I knew I would have a great glue grip now.


  6. jvin248

    jvin248 Friend of Leo's

    Apr 18, 2014
    Near Detroit, MI

    I watched this video to find any hints on their glue up process.
    This gives a great overview of how the US guitars are put together. Fun how it happens to be a double cut version too with a similar interface between body and neck to my SE.

    I glued it up!
    I used strings to ensure alignment was correct and measured the height of the neck angle to the bridge as the video did.
    Hard birch veneer strips were used to fill any gaps on the sides of the neck tongue and pressed together, all before the glue might set. Stressful so no in-process pictures. Just the famous clamping scene.

    Mojo provided by the workbench the guitar rests on while glued up and clamped -- it's nearly a hundred and twenty years old.


  7. Dismalhead

    Dismalhead Friend of Leo's

    Feb 16, 2014
    Auburn, California
    Is it just me, or does anyone else cringe when they see "broken neck" in the title?

    I'm sure that's the most beat PRS I've ever seen. Very cool that you're fixing it up.
    boredguy6060, jvin248 and Zepfan like this.

  8. jvin248

    jvin248 Friend of Leo's

    Apr 18, 2014
    Near Detroit, MI
    Me too!

    It's like trying not to gawk at a car crash.

    boredguy6060 and Dismalhead like this.

  9. jvin248

    jvin248 Friend of Leo's

    Apr 18, 2014
    Near Detroit, MI

    After the clamps were on and I tidied the glue drips up I released the strings and started to drop fill and stabilize the body finish damage. Black fountain pen ink and CA adhesive. First the 'thin' variety to wick back into any fractures in the wood and under any finish that might decide to chip if not stuck back down. Then I used the 'thick' version to do fills. I'm using the 'Hobby Lobby' bottles that others on TDPRI tipped me off to on some old threads. Don't try anything with 'Gorilla' in the title as 90% of theirs are designed to 'foam' and end up making a mess.

    I did debate and consider just sanding the whole top back to wood, leaving the sides and back in black finish, and doing some sort of burst on it. I still may pursue that someday but the work here _might_ be less, lol...

    Those crazy machete hacks on the side take several layers of drops (and drips) to build up. The CA adhesive wrinkles when applied heavy. The out-gassing vapor from CA also tends to 'ghost' the surrounding finish but that is just a surface issue, like dust settling on the guitar and can be wiped off. The flat black smudges visible on the second picture is the pen ink on top of the native finish.


    Ugly as a buffalo...


    After a while at this I start to tackle leveling with a razor. The tape is a height gauge to trim the CA with. Sometimes finding under-fill spots that need another dose of CA. The CA is more rubbery at this point and I want to make sure I have it above the original finish so when it cures I'll only need to sand it down not do more filling.


    Whoa! These aren't guitar pictures!
    This is what you do when you wait for the CA to cure, for two weeks (not necessary to cure this long if you try the madness someday). Drove out and camped with the family. Make reservations eight months ahead of time on the campgrounds if you want to go sometime. More time for the cabins and hotel, like a year on the cabins and hotel. A good time was had by all. 3,200 miles or some such from here to there and back again.

    IMG_20170805_094959.jpg IMG_20170806_180208.jpg
    Last edited: Sep 14, 2017 at 9:52 AM
    guitarbuilder and Barncaster like this.

  10. drf64

    drf64 Friend of Leo's

    Jul 24, 2009
    Ada, MI

    Guitars and Yellowstone are 2 of my favorite things! You are living my dream. Can't wait to see the end of this movie.
    jvin248 likes this.

  11. pdcorlis

    pdcorlis Tele-Meister

    I think you found the ultimate guitar steaming source...
    Rock-Ola, jvin248 and drf64 like this.

  12. slinger

    slinger Friend of Leo's

    Mar 7, 2013
    wild west
    man..that is a crap load of work! I gotcha a little somethin'............

    jvin248 likes this.

  13. jvin248

    jvin248 Friend of Leo's

    Apr 18, 2014
    Near Detroit, MI

    After the scraping comes the strip sanding on every little fill location. 600, 800, 1500 grit. Tape the end of my finger to avoid burning off the skin after the hundred drop fills on this guitar. Technique is to hold some pressure over the spot and pull the strip through, do a few directions. Using a small block but still pulling the strip helps keep the cuts level. Don't stick paper to the end of a small sanding block as it tends to gouge at the edges that you don't see until you are all done, even with spongy double-sided tape, the pressure/angle of the corners dig in. I have drop filled a few guitars and tried that already. Pull the strips works best.

    It's not so bad outside in the summer time.

    Do this a while and use polishing compound (Kitt brand) after.


    I also put a little ink and finish over the neck repair in the pickup pocket. Just like production guitars, I couldn't keep the polish compound out of that pocket. Mojo pixie powder?


    And this is the result of all this messing around. The finish won't be perfect in this area, where the machete gouges were, unless I do a strip, sand, and refinish but that gets to be a lot more problematic in its own ways. I did a test fit of all the parts to check out the neck was in the correct expected location and that it didn't fly off when all tuned up! Whew! Success! :D

    Now I can tackle some of the other aspects of this guitar's refurbishment.


    Compared with what I started with, those are splits that would chip off deep if pried on when I got it...


  14. jvin248

    jvin248 Friend of Leo's

    Apr 18, 2014
    Near Detroit, MI
    That is a perfect location for a guitar repair shop. All the steam needed for the most severe projects!

    Actually, that would be a great space for a small guitar builder. The park has four million tourists a year that are already in a vacation spending mode. Putting up a 'watch me make an acoustic guitar' shop would be a strong draw to selling a lot of backpacking ukes and three string strummers in addition to the acoustic guitars. Who wouldn't want an instrument for sitting around the camp fire in the evenings?

    There is a little photography and art store that offers a watercolor painting class. You take the supplies with the instructor and walk over to a meandering meadow stream and paint like the old romantic days, including keeping your eyes watchful for bears.
    The instructor and her husband are park volunteers that work a shift at the store in exchange for free camping hookup for their motor home all summer -- they retired and sold their house a couple of years ago to get the camper and wander with the seasons from the lower East coast to the West.

    Barncaster and pdcorlis like this.

  15. TwangToInfinity

    TwangToInfinity Tele-Holic

    May 2, 2013
    nice work!

    i appreciate the passion you have to resurrect this guitar!

    very inspiring!
    jvin248 likes this.

  16. jvin248

    jvin248 Friend of Leo's

    Apr 18, 2014
    Near Detroit, MI
    Ah, but there were problems in the electronics to be sorted out.

    First obvious problem was the jack.


    Duct tape wrapping the wire

    The jack was it's own little shop of horrors. A nice replacement switchcraft jack had been used, but the nut was glued to the shaft and the plate so removal would have destroyed the plate along with the jack. I'd use a switchcraft jack anyway and the operation of this jack is fine, so I'll wait until the jack is worn out before replacing it. The wiring was all reworked however. Extra jumpers used under the duct tape were removed and wires cut back some so they didn't risk shorting (which is the problem the previous work had), and soldered. Still some duct tape gummy residue left. Not the greatest soldering appearnce since I'm doing it over a lot of sketchy old-work but I get the solder solid and functional and don't leave the wires hanging to short out.
    I plug the guitar in and still some cutting out. I spray the switch with contact cleaner and the crackles disappear but something else is going on... so I poke around the switch some more. Here's a problem !

    Original factory soldering work on the switch shows the shielding was cut too close for the soldering lug. When soldered the white wire was heat damaged so the unit could short out.

    I snipped the ground wire and cut back the outer sheath to reveal how much of the hot wire insulation had been melted at the factory and why the switch was cutting out.

    I tidied up the switch wiring and put that all back for a properly working switch. Rock solid switching now.
    Last edited: Sep 18, 2017 at 8:05 AM
    Barncaster likes this.

  17. jvin248

    jvin248 Friend of Leo's

    Apr 18, 2014
    Near Detroit, MI

    I have another SE, seven years newer and in better shape than this one that I had dismantled the stock neck humbucker to split out both coils that I attached to a push/pull tone pot for single neck side (screw studs) when 'down' and both coils in parallel when 'up' (no series on the neck pickup, parallel is humbucking). I find I like it a lot that way. With the screws staggered I can get a very Strat-like clean and some Quack out of it too when 'up' in parallel mode.

    So since I found this guitar shipped with three-wire pickups already having the extra coil split wire for each pickup taped back and ready to use; I decided I would just hard-wire the neck pickup as a single coil. I adjusted the neck pickup pole screws in a slight Strat-like stagger too.


    When testing and satisfied with the wiring and controls, I play tested some more doing a full setup and the action was just a little too high (much much better than when I got the guitar and now stable not floppy with every touch). A lot of fret buzz and fret rocking all up and down the neck in more locations than the heel -- which if the buzzing was only at the heel I could explain and expect that from the massive work done in removing and reinstalling the neck. The couple of days messing around with the electronics and finish should have given more than enough time for the guitar to stabilize since I didn't get all the above steps done in continuous fashion, a couple of weeks at least. So fret attention was needed now.

    This gave me an excuse to try out my new guitar repair toy ... my Matt Vinson inspired fret leveler. :D:eek::cool:


  18. slinger

    slinger Friend of Leo's

    Mar 7, 2013
    wild west
    I have the power to rebuild him!...[​IMG]

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