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Wireboy

Headstock Angle / Bridge Height for Dummies

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Hi all!

I am new here, just getting started on my first custom electric guitar and thought I'd ask for a quick bit of advice as I am concerned that I have made some mistakes already.

I am building a guitar from parts that I am getting from a variety of places; a Gibson RD shaped body and a 25.5" scale neck so far. I am basing things on the RD of my youth that I sold for some stupid reason that I can no longer remember.

The first issue I am wrestling with is neck angle. The neck that I purchased has none whatsoever as that was all I could find at the time with the longer 25.5 scale of the original RDs, which I think may have been a mistake since the body has pre-drilled holes for a stop tail bridge.

Assuming the pre-drilled stoptail holes mean I am locked into a tune o magic bridge, does this mean I am going to have to angle the neck, which sits os so nicely right now, so as to get acceptable action? What about string trees for pressure against the nut?

Can anyone recommend a low profile bridge that I can use with a standard Gibson style stop tailpiece which would be low enough to allow me to have acceptable action without angling the neck? If so, is there anything I can do to get the non-angled headstock working? String tree perhaps?

Would I be better off scrapping this neck, writing off the $125 as lesson learned and getting something angled? Please excuse any obviously stupid questions!

Any advice would be greatly appreciated!

Thanks!

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I take it the neck is already fitted to the body, meaning you can no longer introduce a neck angle. As Tim37 suggests you could recess the Tune-o-matic to claw back some of the high action.

Plugging the Tune-o-matic holes is an idea and then fitting a lower-profile bridge, but you'd have to decide how important it was for the look of the instrument to hide the plugs. If you were going to paint the body a solid colour the evidence would be hidden very easily. If you were going to go for a natural timber look and were happy to not add any of the comfort carving on the upper bout you could fit a sheet of veneer over the entire face of the body to cover the plugs. Another option could be to inlay a patch of contrasting timber over the area affected by the plugs and make it a feature.

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If so, is there anything I can do to get the non-angled headstock working? String tree perhaps?

What kind of neck is it? The angle of the neck at the body shouldn't impact the angle of the strings behind the nut, they should be two different and unrelated issues.

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The idea there would be to use the existing stop tail mounting holes, determine the bridge location and then rout out a space to drop the bridge lower into the body so as to allow the action to work? I am having trouble visualizing that. Would it look good?

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Curtisa - The neck is still not attached, I am just planing ahead. It is a bolt on 25.5" scale neck with no angle on the head stock.

The headstock angle issue is indeed unrelated to the bridge question other than that I am having to make decisions based on my specific neck purchase, which may have been a bit hasty it seems. Is a string tree the way to go? Is it always necessary on a neck with no headstock angle?

As my first custom guitar I am piecing together a few things and do not have anything in the way of woodworking skills yet. The neck seems to fit the pocket on the body so nicely I was hoping I could get away without shims to change the angle. Toward that end I was hoping I could find a low bridge that would work without an angled neck and still use the pre-drilled stop tail post holes. Perhaps this is asking too much! :)

I am using a very transparent Wudtone finish so filled post holes would be extremely visible. And again my lack of woodworking chops kind of rules out the veneer on this one. And now that I think of it, the body does have the original RD carved bout so it wouldn't work anyway.

Thanks!

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The idea there would be to use the existing stop tail mounting holes, determine the bridge location and then rout out a space to drop the bridge lower into the body so as to allow the action to work? I am having trouble visualizing that. Would it look good?

At the end of the day that's an aesthetic choice that is entirely up to you. Have a look at some of the pics I linked to in my earlier post and see if a recessed tailpiece is your cup of tea or not. Although the tools and skills required may be a bit off-putting if this is your first build?

The neck is still not attached, I am just planing ahead. It is a bolt on 25.5" scale neck with no angle on the head stock.

Then it is still possible to create your required neck angle. You either need to re-route the neck pocket so that the floor angles downward to allow the neck to tilt backwards once bolted in, or taper the flat surface on the back of the neck where it rests against the floor of the neck pocket to tip the neck backwards once bolted in. Again, the tooling required to execute it properly may be taking things further than you had hoped for a first build.

The headstock angle issue is indeed unrelated to the bridge question other than that I am having to make decisions based on my specific neck purchase, which may have been a bit hasty it seems. Is a string tree the way to go? Is it always necessary on a neck with no headstock angle?

So this is a Strat-style neck where the peghead is on the same plane as the fretboard, but stepped back about 1/2" or so? Then I'd be taking my cues from what Fender does with their headstocks, adding a string tree to the high E and B and possibly the G and D pair too. If it was good enough for Leo...

Without the string trees you may find that the highest strings have a tendency to jump out of the nut slot as there isn't enough downwards force on the string behind the nut to keep it in place. Another side effect of not having enough downward pressure on the string behind the nut (low break angle plus long length of string between nut and tuner post) is the sympathetic ringing of the strings behind the nut as you play, which you may find annoying.

The neck seems to fit the pocket on the body so nicely I was hoping I could get away without shims to change the angle.

If skills and tools are looking like your biggest hurdles to making it work with what you have then I'd suggest going the shim route - cheap, adjustable, requires no special tools and is reversible. The only real drawback is that you may have a slight gap at the back of the pocket, but if it was down to throwing the neck or body away and buying one with the correct angle built in to it, I know which solution I'd be trying first.

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Thank you very much for your input!

I think it makes sense for me to be leaning toward the tune-o-matic bridge/stop tail that I had original planned for.

I gather that the correct way to do this would be to complete my finishing activities and then install the bridge and tuners, bolt the neck on and see how the action is looking?

Once that is done I have the option of shimming to adjust the action and then, possibly, follow that up with neck or pocket adjustments to make the angle permanent? Maybe I can get some local help if necessary once I know more or less what I need based on the angle the shim is giving me.

Are there any options/products I should look into re. string trees? I have always been a Gibson guy with my purchased guitars so I know nothing about them. I am just hoping that the weirdly non-angled headstock, which I completely overlooked and will not do again on future builds, doesn't drive me crazy! :)

Again, thank you so much for all the input!

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Try a dry fit of the neck/shims and body first to see how much angle you need before committing to it. Any gap at the base of the neck may be hidden by the neck pickup surround. Any gap underneath the neck may be unnoticable where it disappears into the pocket (looks like the Gibson RD has quite a deep pocket). If you're happy with how it looks you can probably get away with leaving it as-is.

If you decide to re-route the pocket or re-shape the rear face of the heel after you've finished the guitar you'll need to be super-careful with your work, as your chances of damaging the finish while you're using the tools will increase. Easier to make cuts and adjustments before finishing.

String trees - lots of styles to choose out there for a few bucks each, cheaper on Ebay. Can you post a pic of the headstock, or link to the original purchase page?

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If you are concerned about installing the bushings for the bridge before the finishing for a test fit you can do one of two things: finish it with the bushing in place (put a screw, rolled masking tape or whatever in the holes and you should be fine) or place the bridge on the face of the guitar with a few washers in place of the real studs. Just make sure that the bridge is clear of the face of the guitar and that will be the reference point of the lowest possible action.

I would use a shim for this. As Custisa mentioned it is but way if you're not totally confident in your woodworking skills. Make stack of veneer or get a few different bit os wood with different thickness and place this in the body end of the neck pocket. When you find the action you like with the bridge in place and a steel ruler placed on the bridge/first fret you can measure the thickness of the shim. Then you can make a wedge that taper from that measurement down to nothing and make it fit the pocket perfectly. If you feel for it you can even glue it in place.

Personally I like the synthetic string trees. They are slippery and doesn't grab the strings as a traditional Fender one.

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