Trials of a Weird Guitar Neck

Posted: April 26, 2016 in DIY, Guitar
Tags: , , , , , , , ,

I have a LTD AX-2E, which was a model available for only one year.  Despite the funky body shape, it’s a beautiful guitar and the U shaped neck profile is nice.  The jumbo fret size makes the strings appear to stand at a gargantuan height from the ebony fretboard, but the point of tall frets is to enable very little pressure to fret a note.  It’s almost a scalloped sort of feel.  Kung-Fu action grip will make notes sharp.

I have dropped my tuning to D-Standard (all strings one whole note flat) and changed my strings to Super Slinky 9s to compensate for being a hardheaded cripple who refuses to stop playing guitar.  I wanted to have some relief in the neck and drop the string height a little to help with intonation from the tuning and string gauge.

neck relief high spotsHere’s the issue I have: the two-way truss rod puts huge gaps at frets 3 and 9 if I loosen it, but the 5th fret and 12th fret don’t follow the curvature of the truss rod.  Sighting down the neck shows that the wood fails to bend at those spots.  It’s bizarre.

Setting the neck to being about dead flat with a precision flat edge gives uniform height across the neck.  It’s almost perfect.  However, the string height has to be close to 2mm to avoid fret buzz.  The nut height is correct, so a tall bridge height makes only a tiny upward angle from nut to bridge, while the frets sit flat down below.  The height seems really tall from the wood, but, as I stated above, the jumbo frets will make it look that way.

Since I’ve changed the tension of the strings by changing their size and lowering the tuning, it really isn’t a big deal to play a flat neck at a normal-ish string height, except that I often can’t properly control the amount of pressure being applied to the strings by my fingers.  I was hoping to get the strings closer so that playing wouldn’t hurt my left hand and the sound of sharp notes wouldn’t hurt the ears of innocent bystanders.  Those high spots defeated this plan……


It ends up there was a warp in the neck on frets 1 and 2 on the bass side.  It was very slight.  I tuned it up to Standard tuning with high action and left it overnight.  Today, I flattened the tuning for the first three strings, and sharpened the tuning for the bottom three strings.  Then I barely loosened the truss rod.  I used a hair dryer to warm the back of the neck, being sure to keep the heat moving to protect the finish.  I warmed the fingerboard sparingly and went back to warming the back of the neck.  It began to bend back into shape after awhile.

I increased the tension on strings 4 through 6 and continued warming the back of the neck.  Once I was satisfied, I stopped and let it cool before handling it further.

At a later time, I tuned it back to Standard and did a “good enough” setup with the truss rod and bridge height.  Ill health prevented me from doing much more at this time, but it needs to sit for awhile to see if it remains stable, anyway.

I need to find a happy medium to be able to play guitar, but not with such light tension that the neck warps.


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