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Making 3 shims for guitar necks

Discussion in 'Tele-Technical' started by Voicing 13, Sep 18, 2018.

  1. Voicing 13

    Voicing 13 Tele-Meister

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    Evening everyone,

    I am making 1 shims for the neck pocket. The only wood I could easily find in the right thinness is Balsa (same as credit card). Is it too soft?

    Google tells me it's a hardwood but the softest of the hardwood. I figure it would work but I was curious what your opinion or experience may be with shims.


    Thanks in advance!
     
  2. maxvintage

    maxvintage Friend of Leo's

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    Sure it will work. It might tend to compress a bit over time, but it will work fine

    You can find hardwood veneer at most woodworking stores or good lumberyards. Cut it to shape and layer it for thickness
     
  3. Area51

    Area51 Tele-Holic

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  4. Voicing 13

    Voicing 13 Tele-Meister

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    Thanks guys,

    that's what I thought but just wanted to make sure.
     
  5. schmee

    schmee Doctor of Teleocity Silver Supporter

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    Hobby shops have thin plywood down to about .032". But I have never needed a shim over .015 and use the clear plastic off of product containers most often. Some is .005, some is up to almost .015.
    I suspect balsa is fine as the force is distributed over the whole shim. You can stand on styro foam after all due to that!
     
  6. samuelmorrissey

    samuelmorrissey Tele-Meister

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    I think you can use any material as long as it's not highly compressible (ok, whatever you use, it will eventually compress slightly but it'll be years and possibly decades before you even notice it)

    I had to use one on my Squier tele, and I actually used a sliver of an old bank card, works perfectly! Hear / see stories of guys using all sorts of materials, even some vintage Fenders that needed a shim, when the neck was popped off it had sandpaper shims in there

    For mine, I cut up the bank card and used a small enough piece, maybe 2.5" long x 0.5" wide. I didn't measure it, just cut more than I needed and worked back from there until it fit. I cut and shaped it so it'll tuck right into the neck pocket closest to the neck pickup.

    Try it out and see what you feel. You'll find that even tiny adjustments of that neck angle will make a bigger difference around different parts of the neck. Multiple shims can be used too.

    Be prepared to put the neck on & off a few times before you get it right; I certainly had to. It took a few attempts to get the angle right before it sat well. Best to leave the strings on for this, loosen 'em and get the neck off, add your shim(s), pop the neck back on and ready to tune up, repeat if / as required.

    Hope my 2 cents is worth something! And happy shimming!

    S
     
  7. jvin248

    jvin248 Poster Extraordinaire

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    .

    Classic solutions: 1/4inch strip cut off the end of a regular business card, guitar pick (maybe cut in half to keep it at the heel).

    Unless you have a large issue the standard lift often needed is only the thickness of a business card across the heel of the pocket, so don't get too carried away with cutting your shim. Also, don't get too stressed about the material you use as the universe won't explode if you choose 'something handy'.

    .
     
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  8. Vizcaster

    Vizcaster Poster Extraordinaire

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    "Hardwood" means it's from a deciduous tree as opposed to an evergreen. Has nothing to do with it's suitability for your purpose. But yes, I would expect that balsa is too soft to be trusted as a shim. And credit-card thickness is pretty thick for a neck shim. Just find something around the house (one or two layers of business card should do fine). The only thing I'd say to stay away from is a playing card because the waxy coating on it can leech into the guitar finish and stick itself on there while becoming thinner altogether in the process (don't ask me how I know that).
     
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  9. greysun

    greysun TDPRI Member

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    I got the stew mac shims... you can get a 3 pack for around $30 (includes shipping) and it includes 3 different sizes (1-degree, 1/2-degree and 1/4-degree). I would recommend that route 1) because making your own shim at that thinness could get difficult, and 2) they put even pressure across the entire heel, and not just the very end of it.

    While I haven't experienced it personally, I've seen neck images where the neck actually bends up at the last fret or 2 because of a gap between the heel and body due to an ill-placed and ill-sized shim. Everyone's mileage will vary, but I always try to err on the side of caution. ;-).

    good luck!
     
  10. BorderRadio

    BorderRadio Doctor of Teleocity Silver Supporter

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    Around here, the same place that has balsa also has poplar and maple strips, though those are less common. I avoid balsa since childhood days of making model airplanes.
     
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  11. rich815

    rich815 Friend of Leo's Ad Free Member

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    Business cards or a small square of fine sandpaper is all I’ve ever used or needed.
     
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  12. boris bubbanov

    boris bubbanov Tele Axpert Ad Free Member

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    It is brutal, when the planes crash hard - or simply fly away in a big boomer thermal.

    But I really enjoyed working with balsa. If offers stiffness, combined with ridiculously light weight. Although it comes in various weights and we'd pick through the stocks of it for the density we needed.

    Anyway, it can easily be stabbed through, or compressed from the side.

    I would not use any density of balsa for a guitar shim. The only thing it would be better than is sheet rubber. Balsa attenuates vibrations pretty well. Otherwise our "gas" powered free flight models would've shaken themselves to pieces, if the motor was left to run. Sounds like a recipe for a dead guitar.
     
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  13. schmee

    schmee Doctor of Teleocity Silver Supporter

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    Some entire guitar bodies are made from what is essentially balsa. Paulownia. Similarly, some Gibsons used a center block from Chromyte, which is also very close to balsa.
     
  14. boris bubbanov

    boris bubbanov Tele Axpert Ad Free Member

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    Sadly, I've got some Paulownia volunteers coming up in spots somewhat near The Cabin, and I don't think I can come up with an angle to get those things out of there. If there was some way it could be Balsa instead, I would be incredibly excited - but of course that's not possible.

    The main thing is, Paulownia is a deciduous tree with a conventional annual cycle - and Balsa is not. A tropical wood, it builds out in a fairly different way. The big fibers are all aligned along the same axis, but balsa is much closer to a "composite" substance than Paulownia is. Paulownia, in the simplest possible respect, is an ultralightweight version of ash - but with no dent resistance.

    Paulownia is a very vigorous grower, an easy opportunist even in competition with Tulip Poplar and Sumac, Pine and Locust saplings. If it was of so much use, it would be in cultivation everywhere in Asia. But it isn't. I mean, they find uses for it but it isn't what they really want.
     
    Last edited: Sep 27, 2018
  15. mgreene

    mgreene Tele-Afflicted

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    I agree. If you have dial caliper you will find that various pieces of promotional paper like cards that come as junk mail have different thicknesses. Paper is just wood.

    Something I read when researching shims - many of the most famous rock guitar solos were recorded with guitars that had been shimmed with paper from a business card or the like.
     
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  16. LowCaster

    LowCaster Tele-Afflicted

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    35 years ago, before the internet, a friend of mine came back from a trip to the USA and he taught me what he saw there in a shop: how to shim a neck with a strip of thin cardboard (or thick paper). They did use a piece of the package from cigarettes, a buisiness card is the same thing, I used subway tickets.

    It is not soft paper. It is paper or cardboard that has been laminated: processed between steel rollers under high pressure. It does not compress much more.

    Factory shims are sometimes made from strips of sandpaper.

    The real question is « strip » or « wedge » shim?

    Strip shims works, but some people say it might induce (in the long term) an unwanted relief of the end of the neck (ski jump). I have not experienced this, the one guitar I put a shim on 30 years ago is fine, and I saw others with a ski jump whiteout a shim, but I am curious about what others think about it.

    Wedge shaped shims are a bit « overengineered » to me. I am pretty sure they can do more harm than good.
     
  17. The Angry Possum

    The Angry Possum Tele-Holic

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    You can use business cards, guitar picks, piece of sandpaper or those plastic gift cards that you can get for free at any store. I personally used all of them myself. A thin pick just did it for me on my new tele build. My action was too low so I needed to shim the top of the neck pocket. Worked like a charm. I didn't even have to take the neck off, I just loosened the neck bolts and slid it in.
     
  18. Voicing 13

    Voicing 13 Tele-Meister

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    I was thinking of doing this.

    https://www.premierguitar.com/articles/19686-guitar-shop-101-how-to-shim-a-bolt-on-neck

    I have not been able to get to it yet. It's seems ever time I post thinking, I'm ready to go, need some info but I'm doing this. Life gets in the way.

    I did want to use wood and would rather make them myself. Stew Mac is great put that's more money(consider exchange rates, shipping, etc...) for a little piece of wood in the end.

    I know, credit card, matches pack paper, business card would all work faster and easier. I just don't like the idea of the neck warping in a odd way later down the pipeline. Mind you it does always to happen and the questions also, after how many years does it warp?

    Anyways, I won't be able to get to this for another few weeks it seems now., let you know then.

    Thanks for all the replies
     
  19. Voicing 13

    Voicing 13 Tele-Meister

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    Again, thank you for all the input. Unfortunately, I've had to put this project aside, as work is taking up too much time these days. arg...

    Considering all the information shared, while cleaning the other day I found thin pieces of ash from a thinline top I have made a years back. I have enough from the left overs.

    Would you say this is a better wood choice?

    Thanks
     
  20. LowCaster

    LowCaster Tele-Afflicted

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    Each piece of wood is different. Put a piece of wood A and wood B in a vice or press and see how they resist compression and make your own choice.

    Anyway, since you have no time to make those high precision shims, why not try to use a strip of paper/card?. So when (if) you find time you’ll know what thickness or angle to use for the shim.
     
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