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My question is sort of a complex one: It requires a couple of other questions to answer. A little insight into my build will also aid in determining the answer. I want to hear what other builders/luthiers have to say about how to go about designing and executing an angled bolt on neck for my electric solid body builds. I'm sure there are mixed answers to this, as I have already read a great deal of online resources on the subject, as well as on ProjectGuitar.com  That being said, I really do not want to go the route of using angled shims. I am a luthier/shop owner, and want a permanent solution that does not reduce the neck-to-body contact, while maintaining the direction of building bolt on necks.

Since this post is kind of lengthy, I will organize it into categories. The first of which, introduces my build and brings about my first question.

The build:
I am building an electric solid body, "explorer" style. I am building a bolt on neck. Since I am using a tune-o-matic bridge, I will need to angle the neck in relation to the body for proper action. A very important note, is to point out that my body is made of one hunk of Yellowheart hardwood, 2 inches thick and 10 inches wide. I cross-cut the slab and will be gluing the halves together, side by side, to get get the width I need for an "explorer" style body; the "wings" protrude rather long outward. This wood is so dense it almost does not float in water! Please do not question my reasons, I am doing this for tone, which is subjective. Anyway, the reason I am pointing this out, is that the wood is very heavy and I want to reduce the weight. I would like to go with the standard body thickness (1-3/4") but that will be too heavy. So I would like to reduce some of the weight by going with 1-1/2" thickness. Of course considering my cavities and their depths. 3/4" for one humbucker cavity, my electrical cavity not any deeper, and my neck pocket cavity, hopefully at 5/8".

This brings me to my first questions:
What to do about the dimensions of my neck pocket? Do I reduce the thickness of my neck's heel, or do I reduce the thickness of the neck joint where the bolts mount? I would like to have a neck pocket depth of 5/8". My thinking is that the Yellowheart will be strong enough to allow for a neck joint that is only 7/8" thick. What do you guys think? This also ties into my entire post about an angled neck, which brings me to the next category...

Angled neck:
I have seen guys like the pros at StewMac suggest angled shims for bolt on necks, but I do not like that solution. My thinking is to angle the neck pocket. However, one idea I had is to angle the neck heel itself. Right away I can see the con in that. An angled neck heel will be tough to replace. An angled neck pocket means the owner can replace the neck with a standard square heel. What do you guys think? This also leads to another concern: With an angle in the pocket, the neck heel will now approach the bolts at an angle. Should I not square the heel? Rather my thinking is to offset the squareness so that the neck heel fits the pocket at all sides and gives enough room for my bolt holes. I would hate to have a gap at the end of the joint.

How to create an angled joint:
How to go about building an angled neck pocket? Or how to go about some other method? One idea I had was, to support my neck pocket routing template with an angled shim, so that my router approaches the pocket at the desired angle. What comes to mind though is: Do I route from 7/8" on up so that my minimum pocket thickness is 7/8", or do I route so that my maximum pocket thickness is 7/8"? Again pondering if the Yellowheart will be strong enough. I think it will. Of course the height in which the neck rises beyond the body face is most important to string action. This leads me to think that 7/8" should be the maximum thickness for the neck joint. What do you guys think?

Thank you all ahead of time for any suggestions. I rarely seek help and am usually solving problems on my own. Seeing as how this slab of Yellowheart cost me around 120 bones, I really do not want to do anything I will regret. So you guys are saving me a lot of headache on the matter. Sometimes a second opinion can be necessary. Thank you!

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8 hours ago, Xavier said:

Anyway, the reason I am pointing this out, is that the wood is very heavy and I want to reduce the weight. I would like to go with the standard body thickness (1-3/4") but that will be too heavy. So I would like to reduce some of the weight by going with 1-1/2" thickness

Reducing the thickness by 1/4" saves you approx 15% weight. I don't know what a Yellowheart Explorer is likely to weigh but it appears that Yellowheart is twice as heavy as Basswood and about 1.3x as heavy as Mahogany. I predict it will still be a back-breaker even with the thinner body.

Is chambering a possibility? You can get the weight down a lot by performing liposuction on the non-structural parts and still keep your 1 3/4" body thickness if you wish.

 

9 hours ago, Xavier said:

What to do about the dimensions of my neck pocket? Do I reduce the thickness of my neck's heel, or do I reduce the thickness of the neck joint where the bolts mount? I would like to have a neck pocket depth of 5/8"

You need to know what your neck dimensions will be first. You're putting the cart before the horse by stipulating a required pocket depth before knowing what the neck heel size and shape will be and how it needs to interact with the hardware you're going to install.

 

9 hours ago, Xavier said:

I have seen guys like the pros at StewMac suggest angled shims for bolt on necks, but I do not like that solution. My thinking is to angle the neck pocket.

It shouldn't be discounted though. At most you're only going to need a couple of degrees of tilt off horizontal. It's an easy and unobtrusive way of achieving the required angle on a bolt-on. Certainly easier than trying to perform other operations that will give you the required angle. A shim that covers the full face of the neck pocket will still give you full contact between heel and body if you're concerned about any tonal deficiencies that may result (although any tonal issues resulting from the use of shims this would be hard to quantify and prove under normal circumstance anyway).

 

9 hours ago, Xavier said:

An angled neck pocket means the owner can replace the neck with a standard square heel

This would be my preferred option over angling the heel. Your method of angling the router template by shimming is the easiest way to achieve it, and should be easy to manage if the body outline is cut after the neck pocket is done to keep as much square body surface available to shim the template against. As soon as you cut out cutaways and body edges you'll loose a lot of reference surfaces to key against, so in this case it's probably better to cut the pocket first. There are other ways to cut an angled pocket that don't rely on the body face as a reference edge (the Myka Neck Pocket Jig is a good example), but it's a lot more work to create the required jig up front.

 

9 hours ago, Xavier said:

This also leads to another concern: With an angle in the pocket, the neck heel will now approach the bolts at an angle.

A couple of degrees off perpendicular isn't going cause any issues.

 

9 hours ago, Xavier said:

Rather my thinking is to offset the squareness so that the neck heel fits the pocket at all sides and gives enough room for my bolt holes. I would hate to have a gap at the end of the joint.

Angling the pocket avoids the issue of a gap at the back of the pocket.

Although there are ways of disguising any potential gap that can occur by angled shims in a square pocket - a fretboard overhang, having the neck pickup route right up against the neck pocket (Ibanez do this all the time on their S and RG models), hiding any gap with a pickup ring or scratchplate etc

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Curtisa, thank you soooo much for your feedback!  i feel much more comfortable now. You also answered another question I didn't add: when to route, before or after the body is cut. I will be angling the pocket. As for the neck dimensions, I wanted to go with what I consider traditional thickness of the heel: 7/8"... As for the body weight, I 'm still undecided. I really do not want to hollow portions. I might alter the shape a little. But I want that traditional explorer look. Anyway, I am very grateful for your advice. You seem to be very experienced.

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5 hours ago, Xavier said:

when to route, before or after the body is cut

Most of the time it is convenient to route after the body is cut. You can tweak the neck pocket alignment to suit the body before committing router to wood.  But that assumes you're routing a square pocket and only need to rely on the flat face of the unfinished body. In your case, where you want to tilt the pocket to introduce neck angle, it might be easier to route the pocket first and then align the body shape to the pocket. You can also take advantage of the body still being one giant rectangle of wood at this point to locate and/or route the pickup cavities and tailpiece positions. Provided your blank has enough excess it should have sufficient leeway to allow slight shifts of the outline to match the neck pocket.

 

5 hours ago, Xavier said:

I wanted to go with what I consider traditional thickness of the heel: 7/8".

Are you referring to 7/8" thickness of the neck that sits in the pocket, a pocket depth of 7/8" or 7/8" thickness of wood remaining on the body once the pocket has been cut? Depending on your definition of the heel being 7/8", and in combination with your body thickness, this will dictate the remaining two dimensions.

Don't forget that your neck thickness will also include the fretboard on top (+1/4" or so).

 

5 hours ago, Xavier said:

You seem to be very experienced.

Nah. I'm just a hobby builder with just enough experience to be dangerous.

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34 minutes ago, curtisa said:

 

 

Are you referring to 7/8" thickness of the neck that sits in the pocket, a pocket depth of 7/8" or 7/8" thickness of wood remaining on the body once the pocket has been cut?

I am referring to the neck heel. The portion of the neck that makes the joint and not including the fretboard. In my case the portion of the body leftover after the pocket is routed will also be 7/8".

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With a body thickness of 1-3/4" my thickness of the body under the the pocket would be 9/8", but I'm leaning towards a body thickness of 1-1/2".

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On 22/10/2017 at 12:37 PM, Xavier said:

With a body thickness of 1-3/4" my thickness of the body under the the pocket would be 9/8", but I'm leaning towards a body thickness of 1-1/2"

The pre-All Access Neck Joint that Ibanez used to do on their Jem models is pretty slim compared to the depth of the heel.

s329622902108842324_p29_i73_w1745.jpeg

I've never heard of the basswood-bodied Jem being weak at the heel, so in all likelihood your Yellowheart body will survive with 5/8" remaining under the 7/8" deep pocket just fine.

If you're still worried about the integrity of the joint on a body 1 1/2" thick, you can always split the difference and put a 3/4" neck heel into a 3/4" pocket and keep 3/4" of meat on the body underneath.

On first glance, your nominal 7/8" heel actually seems pretty stout. While I don't have any guitars in my posession that might be classed as 'traditional', none of my bolt-on instruments have a neck heel any thicker than 3/4" excluding the fretboard anyway.

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Yeah, I'm going to go with  the body at 1-1/2*, and my pocket depth at 5/8". That leaves me with 7/8" to bolt onto. I think I will be okay. As far as my neck heel thickness, I will make sure it suits the string action. Should be around 7/8". 

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To add, my neck will be made of Cherrywood, which is also a dense hardwood. So I have room to choose a thinner neck heel.

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Proper angle depends on bridge height, desired action, and desired relief.  A little geometric cypherin' to do...

IIRC, there is a good thread on the offsetguitars.com site that details somebody doing an angled pocket.

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