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Best Way To Fix Neck Pocket?

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Everything's been going very well with my first build (Strat-ish, mahogany body, was going to be routed from the rear and have two direct-mounted humbuckers, hardtail bridge), but now I'm having some difficulty with the neck pocket. Not surprising, probably, since it's the first one I've tried to make.

I laid out the neck in its correct position and transferred its outline to the body, clamped up a couple pieces of straight maple, one on either side of the neck, and another piece at the end of the neck, to serve as a guide for the router with a template-following bit.

I routed out the neck pocket and it looked great at first (and still does, mostly), except that the small piece of wood I used as the routing guide at the end of the neck, was only held down with double-sided tape and it ended up coming loose and moving down toward the end of the body about 1/8", and I ended up routing outside of the shape of the end of the neck a little.

So I have three problems now:

1. There's that little 1/8" nick outside of where the neck pocket should be. If this was the only problem, I'd probably just forget about it since it's going to be under the fretboard overhang and I probably won't be able to see it.

2. I should have put a layer or two of masking tape along my routing guides, to make the neck pocket super tight. I didn't, and the neck doesn't sit tightly in the pocket unless I move the neck up (away from the bridge) about a quarter inch. The angles of the sides of the pocket are correct; the neck will fit very tightly if it's moved this way. My first thought was that the finish that will be on the neck and neck pocket will take up some of the slack. And I'd just mount the neck a quarter inch up from where I was going to (there'd still be 2.75" of neck pocket that way), but then there'd be a quarter inch gap at the end of the neck. Any advice here? If all else fails, I'd front route the guitar and put a figured maple pickguard on it, but I'd like to avoid that.

3. The curve at the end of the neck is difficult to match in the neck pocket (I mean I'm having trouble routing out the end of the neck pocket to match the neck), because I didn't plan ahead enough when I decided what type of routing guides to use for the pocket. I don't have a nice curve at the end of the pocket to match that of the neck, and now I'm not sure how to get it (or even if I should try now, due to #2 above). Next time I will make a template from the actual neck rather than trying to get close and then trying to tweak the end of the pocket by hand.

Any advice is appreciated. This one's a big learning experience, so I want to take the time to not only learn from my mistakes, but also to learn how to fix them.

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You have a couple options. Epoxy a block of the body wood (got scraps?) into the pocket and rerout the pocket with more care. You might have to do some cosmetic work on the glue joint, but since the body is mahogany, a reasonably dark wood, you could mix mahogany dust in with the epoxy before hand.

Another option is to fill the voids with a mixture of 2-part epoxy and mahogany dust. I did this with a maple guitar, not as great, because the lighter the wood color the more things show up. But I only needed to fill about 1/16" gaps. Mask over the butt of the neck, the bottom face of the neck pocket and the surfaces of the body surrounding the outside of the neck pocket. Leave the sides and end of the pocket ie. all areas that need to be built up, bare. Melt candle wax over the masking tape covering the butt of the neck and the inside face of the neck pocket and spread it around. Make sure you do not get any wax on the bare wood surfaces. Spread your epoxy / wood dust mixture liberally over the bare areas you want to fill. Insert your neck into the pocket EXACTLY where it needs to be and clamp tight. Immediately clean up any epoxy squeezin's. The epoxy will not bond with the wax and when cured you should be able to pop the neck out of the pocket. Remove all masking tape. The remainder should be a perfect mold of the neck in the pocket.

Edited by Southpa
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Thanks for that!

I'm leaning toward trying the epoxy & mahogany dust method you described.

Before I do that, though, how thick a layer of candle wax do you mean? I'm assuming as thin as possible while still covering the masked areas.

Alternately, I wonder what would be the consequences of moving the neck away from the bridge as I described before (I haven't positioned the bridge or the pickups yet, so everything would move away from the end of the body a quarter inch), leaving the quarter inch gap at the end of the neck and laying in a small mahogany cavity cover. At first thought, it seems doable, but I don't know what the tonal and structural implications of not having the end of the neck contacting the body would be.

I think the epoxy & mahogany dust is probably my best bet; just exploring alternatives.

Thanks again.

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Just a thin layer is enough, spread it around with your finger. Make sure the tape is perfectly flat, ie. no wrinkles etc. But 1/4" is a pretty big gap to fill with just epoxy, I'd only recommend this method with 1/8" gaps or less. Personally, I would use the epoxy / block of wood method and rerout the pocket. It would be to your advantage to get a chunk of mdf and make a proper neckpocket template using your neck as a model. You can then screw (countersunk flathead screws) it right onto the body where you propose to rout your neck pickup, no slipping and sliding and nothing to get in the way of Mr. Router. :D

Edited by Southpa
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Well, the gap between the neck and the *sides* of the pocket, if I don't move the neck up to make it tighter, is very small, maybe 1/32". And in that case, where I don't move the neck, the gap at the *end* of the neck is probably 1/8" except for the one spot where I routed outside the pocket, which is another 1/8".

I'll have to put the neck back in the pocket when I get home and see how big all the gaps actually are rather than relying on memory and then make a decision. :D But if there's more than 1/8" anywhere I'll make a template, epoxy in a block of mahogany, and route it again.

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How about this....

for the sides that need less than 1/32" of filler, glue some veneer into the sides. You should get a very tight join and it's in the direction of the grain so it should be virtually invisible if you use the same wood as the body. Or you could use a contrasting wood and create "accent lines".

You wrote that the other boo-boo would be covered by the fretboard overhang, so you could leave it. Or you could fill it if you want to know that the gap isn't there. Keep in mind that the more you fill the sides, the futher back (toward the bridge) the neck will sit and that gap will get smaller (and of course you'll have to move the bridge accordingly).

Good luck with it whichever way you decide.


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I wouldn't bother with epoxy, but then I hate working with the stuff.

First off, the fact that the neck is a little loose really isn't a big deal. I bet most factory Fenders are loose in their pockets. It's the bolts that will keep the neck held against the guitar, not the pocket itself. Since many--if not most--Fenders end up with shims at some point in their lifetime--hell, Fender's micro-tilt system is just the shim taken to a whole new level-- I think that the tightness of the pocket is relative.

Especially since, given the design of the pocket, that 'tightness' is really only represented by about half an inch of wood. Really, it can't make much if any difference at all.

Still, it's nice to get it snug because we're building our own guitars. If we wanted the flexible specs of a factory built guitar, then we'd be buying their guitars.

Here's what I did: I took a piece of the same body wood, used a router to plane it super thin, used sandpaper to get it even thinner, then glued it against the wall of the pocket. The result is a nice snug pocket and a patch that is not even visible--and will be hidden by the neck, pickguard and paint anyway.

I used ordinary wood glue--it gets into the fibers of the wood and forms a mesh--something I don't think epoxy can do--which helps to make the bond very strong and also because wood glue swells the wood a bit, it helps to make the patch invisible.

Be careful that you don't let any piece of metal touch the glue, since that will turn it a darker color.

You can also patch the little routing bobble you had in the same way. Sure, you probably won't see the gap, but you'll know it's there. If you patch it--just shape a piece of scrap to fit, doesn't have to fit perfectly, because wood glue will cause the wood to swell to match the gap--then no one will ever know it's there.

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  • 2 weeks later...

Thanks, guys.

I cleaned up some unevenness in the end of the pocket and got the fit really close to where it should be. It's still not perfect, but it's within 1/16" now. I'm either going to take the curve out of it and put a block in it and reroute the end, or try the epoxy and mahogany dust method.

The sides are tighter than I thought. They fit perfectly tight with a piece of 220 grit sandpaper between the neck and the side of the pocket. I'm going to put a piece of mahogany veneer on each side of the pocket to tighten that up.

Anyway, the next one will be cut with a template of the neck instead of just straightedge router guides. :D

The pic makes the end of the pocket look worse than it really is; it's partly the shadow of the end of the neck.


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