Jump to content

Bolt On To Set Neck Conversion

Recommended Posts

I'm getting started on a guitar 'inspired by' the Rickenbacker 350.

For this project, I want to use a really nice old mahogany neck that I 'rescued' from a Melody Maker copy...but the neck is a bolt on, and the only way this guitar will work will be if I convert the bolt on to a set neck.

I'm hoping you all can comment on the ideas --and offer suggestions for getting a nice solid joint.

Here's the most basic idea (bear with me, tonight was the first time I ever worked with Autocad--note, the drawings are not to scale, I'm not ready for that yet):


Since I'll be making the body, I plan to extend a "shelf" for the neck--the fat Rick-type heel will be part of the body extension, not the neck.

I plan to narrow the heel of the neck into a tenon (you can see that on the smaller inserted drawing) --probably following the existing taper on the neck. Right now I'm thinking I can take 5 mm off of each side (the neck is 54 mm at the body end of the heel, 50 mm at the neck-end of the heel, so that should leave plenty surrounding the trussrod, if that goes all the way to the heel).

The narrow heel will fit into the extension of the body--which itself with be tapered to match the original heel (I might make it slightly wider). The height of the tenon and the walls of the shelf are indicated by the dashed line.

As you can see, the design is complicated by those toaster pickups --the neck is set very high off the body in order to clear them. But this means that the neck isn't set very deep into the body at all.

As a concession, I can set the heel itself further into the body a bit--5 to 10 mm at most. I'll also be sloping the sides of the shelf into the body, mainly because it softens the angle for the router. But that will provide a lot more meat to the sides of the joint (I'll prepare a drawing of a top-view soon)

I thought about gluing on an extension to the heel--I could make it deeper and also added a tenon--but it doesn't make much sense to do that, since glue's glue...either I glue the neck directly to the body, or glue it to an extension which then glues to the body, it's pretty much the same, right?

The other idea would be to sink the toasters into the surface of the body, at least to the depth of the base plates (about 4 or 5 mm with the little rubber feet). That would allow me to lower the neck deeper into the body (and also lower the bridge, but that's a different issue). I'd prefer not to do this though, I like the look of those surface-mounted toasters.

So the main question is: will there be enough support to the joint if I go with the idea in the drawing?

Any other ideas about improving the solidity?

Oh, a final word...I actually think I'm being a little overcautious about this...I keep looking at my Melody Maker's neck joint --it has no tenon, very little wood beneath the joint (although it is sunk deeper into the body than my design).

Link to comment
Share on other sites

hmmmm your idea sounds so....................complicated........i dont understand - probobally becuase i am thick :D

maybe some more pics??

all i am doing to do mine is

Clean up the neck pocket so it is not at a 3 degree angle make it bassically so square that i can just put a piece of mahogany in there and re-route the shape of my body with it in there and put my new top on (flame maple) redo the binding.

then all i do is add a slab to the bottom of the neck heel -recarve it then do the tenon joint, and then do the female part of the joint in the body and wallah im done B)


Link to comment
Share on other sites

Just the same as my plan, idch, but mine doesnt have any angles anywhere at all...

The original idea for me was based off of the neck on an old Teisco I own, which is made much the same way you want to modify your bolton neck, but the heel is nearly twice as thick as a normal bolton.

The shelf cut would be square on its own, not tapered as the rest of the neck is. This would make it easier to get a nice tight-fitting pocket to match. However the way I would do it, would be to sink the pups into the body farther (I like a lower clearance), and then sink the neck and bridge in farther also. This would be alot more safe to try because it would give you an automatic extra 50% or so chunk of neck in the pocket.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Ah, a few hours sleep...and a new idea:


The major difference in this drawing is that I'm adding laminates to the shelf extension--this will allow me to 'sink' the neck deeper into the pocket without having to sink it into the body itself. It should also make the pocket much stronger, since it'll be a laminate now--I'm thinking of a layer of 5mm maple and a second layer of the same body wood (it's going to be painted transparent black, so that should show through...)

Keep in mind that exterior of the pocket will be approximately the same width as the existing neck heel--the goal is that it will feel no different to play.

Problem solved?

This will also allow me to position the neck where it's supposed to be--that top line on the 350 is very important to the overal symmetry of the guitar (my wife the architect pointed out a few things about the 350's design and why it's so pleasing).

I have the option of adding the back wall to the laminate section, or just leaving it open and have the end of the neck show through. If I wanted to get really fancy, I could route the heel so that just a wee bit of the neck touches (and glues down on) the surface of the body.

ZoSo --well, it sounds more complicated than it is! But one of the problems I had was that the neck needs to ride up really high off the body--so without the laminate I didn't have as much body wood to make the joint stable. I prefer to be over-cautious, I don't want the neck to end up failing.

Teisco--yeah, that's a problem with the neck I'm using--the heel isn't very thick at all. As for the square vs taper --I'll be making and using a template to do all of my routing--at which point tapering the heel and the pocket is just as easy as going square. But the taper will be much more solid, I figure.

I DO NOT think adding an extended tenon to the neck serves much purpose--like I said, it's just glued wood...so as long as you're just gluing wood, you might as well build a pocket to match the existing heel.

Anyway, Gibson apparently did away with the tenon in some cases (Melody Maker) or shortened it in others. And some of those guitars are still going strong after 40 years or more!

Link to comment
Share on other sites

A followup question to the laminated pocket idea:

I'm thinking that with the laminates, the pocket will be sufficiently strengthened, and the neck will be as deep into the wood as a normal set neck --so I should be able to shorten the shelf, right?

Right now it's 80 mm long --I should be able to go to 40 mm with no solidity issues.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Hmmmm......that laminate idea sounds good but id maybe consider

filling in the neck join (so the added piece has alot more glueing faces than the laminates) and adding a bit to the top (where youre laminates would be you simply re-route the neck pocket to your set neck specs


Yeah, that's what I'm going to do --I'm just taking a piece of the same wood, gluing it over the 'shelf' part, then I'll route that altogether.

I can also place a piece of maple in between, though I don't know if it's necessary to have different types of wood there.

Right now I'm looking around for a ball-bearing router bit that will fit my router -- 8mm shaft. All I've found is a place in France selling the part for 50 euros! Way too much...

Why can't I buy a set of bearings and a fastener instead?

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Try Ebay man - they have some good ****......

are you talking about bearing on top of the cutter or bottom of the cutter?

The top...so far what I've been able to find over here is a 16 mm bit --that's pretty fat. I'd like to find a smaller bit...

Anyone know of a place in Germany? Shipping wouldn't be too expensive from there.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

So, you want to build up the thickness of the body, at the neck with layers of wood? Think about the loads on the neck where it joins the body. There's a big prying load that wants to peel it off the body. For those built up laminations, that puts the glue line in tension... not a good thing. A glued surface is strongest in shear (the forces trying to slide the pieces along each other).

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Idch, I wonder if you could find bits like that on British sites? Shipping from the UK wouldn't be too bad either, would it?

I've been looking at the UK sites, but either I don't know the right terms for 'bearing bit' in their language or their sites just confuse the heck out of me...

But in general, prices in the UK are even steeper than here in France...

Tirapop ---suppose I build up the height at the neck section with a thicker piece of the same wood but using a scarf joint?

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I was looking at Guitar Frenzy's JV-1 thread in the progress section...especially the way he glued on a heel...

So what's to stop me from doing pretty much the same thing?

Seems damned simple!

But instead of gluing anything onto the existing heel, why not just route the 'shelf' section to the necessary depth and glue the heel into place? (For that matter, why couldn't gear frenzy do the same thing?

If the glue joint truly is stronger than the wood, then why would I have issues with the joint failing?


Link to comment
Share on other sites

Yeah, I'd really like to get an opinion from Rick players on this --because they've been using that design for what, 50 years?

So obviously it pleases some people.

I spent time trying to figure out a way of sinking the pickups and still keeping the look...but just can't.

On the other hand, I already have several guitars with the strings close to the top, so a little variety never hurt, eh?

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Join the conversation

You can post now and register later. If you have an account, sign in now to post with your account.

Reply to this topic...

×   Pasted as rich text.   Paste as plain text instead

  Only 75 emoji are allowed.

×   Your link has been automatically embedded.   Display as a link instead

×   Your previous content has been restored.   Clear editor

×   You cannot paste images directly. Upload or insert images from URL.

  • Create New...