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One Piece Ebony Neck - Need Advice


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I got a real nice piece of Macassar ebony. I bought it to make fingerboards at first, but I got another idea, and questions that need answers. Or opinions at least;

A one piece ebony neck; fingerboard slotted and radiused on the same piece of wood.

PLEASE!! Don't tell me it's a stupid idea and that ebony weights a ton, and that I should not do that, and that it will blunt my tools and bla bla.. I've been working with wood for the last 15 years. I don't want to hear that. Anybody can make tests with anything we want. Again please, just try to help me out without personal opinions. That is really important to me. I really don't want to be rude, but I know what I'm doing, I know the consequences of what I'm getting into and most importantly, I don't need people telling me what to do, and what not to do.

Now, questions. Truss rod will be inserted from the back, with a wood stripe covering the cavity. But how effective would a truss rod be on a Macassar neck?? Do I really need one? It's stiff as hell... I don't think string tension can bow an ebony neck. In the other hand, I don't think a truss rod is strong enough to bow an ebony neck..

Should I oil the neck? Ebony is not a porous wood. It is silky smooth after a fine sanding. But I don't know how ebony reacts to sweat, and natural exposure after a while. Maybe it's better to protect the wood, but I don't want to alter the feeling and appearance of the wood.

I'm open to any suggestions, or advices. Guitar building is about innovation, new ideas and challenge. And this is one challenge I decided to take, and complete. I don't care if it is successful or not. Hopefully it will, and the experience I get out of it will make my skills better.

Thanks, and sorry for the bad english :D

David

Edited by MescaBug
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If you really want to than go for it. Personally I would cut the fingerboard separate and glue it on just for the ease of building, but thats just me.

I would put a truss rod in to counteract the temperature/humidity changes.

I'd finish it in something (oil is fine) because I don't like to leave woods totally unprotected, but then an ebony fingerboard has no finish, just some food for thought.

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I dont think that you would need a truss rod unless you were making like a 7 string long scale bass.

Ebony should hold up under the stress, and I dont think that a truss rod would do anything to help anyway other than add stability.

Do it as a set neck if you can, that should help.

Make sure that the neck is as straight as you can get it.

Could look nice with come purpleheart or bloodwood accents.

Finish it with boiled linseed or tung oil.

I would love to see pics of it before you start cutting.

Edited by JohnRossitter
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I tought about resawing it. But it's just over 20mm after planning.. remove at least 2-3mm for cutting and replanning, and it's on the thin side. And yes it will be a set-neck. I will snap some pics of the board tonight. It's really beautiful. Very dark with nice brownish streaks. My local lumber yard sell those boards for 50$. They are 1" X 2.75" X 35".

After thinking about it, I'm pretty sure no truss rod on earth will be strong enough to correct neck bow... Seriously, I can't bend it with my own hands. and I'm stronger than a truss rod :D

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Yeah, it was already suggested that it might be easier to build if the fingerboard were separate. Then the question of matching the fingerboard to the neck wood came up.

I was just suggesting that if there were to be two pieces, they could still come from that one piece of ebony.

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I would't question using Mac Eb for a neck (lovely resonant wood, and looks great), it would only be slightly heavier than most rosewood necks(not a big deal). In your case you also know what you are after, and understand how this wood may differ from other woods. This is what building your own is all about :D

I would use a truss rod. Strength or stiffness is not why I would add the truss (a regular Mahogany neck will hold up under string tension). I would use it to make small adjustments if they are needed (very smart insurance). I have absolutely no doubts whatsoever that a truss rod would move an ebony neck. Just my take, FWIW.

Good luck, Rich

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Oh man, good luck, I look forward to seeing the finished product.

What sort of inlays will you be going for? Something subtle, like small dots, or maybe no inlay?

I agree with the truss for small adjustments. Im obviously no expert, but it seems to be a "better safe than sorry" situation, just incase.

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Truss rods are added not only so that you can make small adjustments when starting the fretwork. They are also necessary for stability (which is resistance to deformation over time), and while it is stiff, ebony is not among the most stable of woods. Definitely put in the truss rod.

Be careful with the skunk stripe; ebony is also somewhat brittle, so you don't want to force something in there and have the neck split down the middle.

Most guys who take care of their ebony fretboards use a little lemon oil, should work just fine on a whole neck. For more protection, I've had good luck with Tru Oil on ebony lams in laminated necks.

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I agree with Rich, small adjustments might be needed to dial the setup in perfectly. I would probably use a truss rod but you don't need to. I believe Steve Klein used Guatemalan rosewood without truss rods for necks on his ergonomic guitars. I got to see and play a couple and they were both setup perfectly. So it can be done

I have used cocobolo, madagascar, and indian rosewood for necks and find them to be very stable necks, They are not that heavy and you can design for a better balance and use lighter tuners. I have a cocobolo neck guitar with an ebony fretboard and truss rod that I built about 15 years ago and I have never put any tension on the truss rod and the neck has not moved at all. I made the fingerboard dead flat before I fretted it and that was it. But it could have worked out differently and I may have needed the adjustment ability of a truss rod.

***EDIT***

I just remembered a setail, this cocobolo neck was laminated (3 pieces). I actually do not have any proof of stability of a neck without a truss rod. Only my experience with the Kleins although it was not explained to me in detail how they were made. And I agree with Erik that ebony is not as stable as some of the rosewoods used in making necks.

***END EDIT***

One approach to doing this without a truss rod might be to string up the guitar and measure things before you fret it. Then you can make adjustments to the plane of the fingerboard to match the relief that you want (or don't want). Once it is fretted you can string it up again and you should be very close provided your fret tangs fir correctly into the slots.

I have a nice piece of Macassar that I am thinking of using in the same way. But I will probably use a truss rod.

~David

Edited by Myka Guitars
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The neck will hold up just fine without a trussrod, but I would add one anyway. It's better to have the insurance than not having one at all. Plus, I can barely get a hard maple neck blank to bend in raw lumber form, but once it is carved and strung up, I can get it to flex enough to get a slight tremelo effect. Remember, what you are trying to bend now has a lot more wood to it than once it is carved. I think a bloodwood skunk stripe wood look killer, but once the bloodwood fades to brown it might not be as nice. As for the finish, I would just use smoe linseed or tung oil. The ebony probably doesn't need it, but once again, it is just that little bit of insurance, but won't change the look or feel.

I guess Myka could give a good answer, but how well does the glue joint for those oily woods hold up? There are always people that have trouble getting a fret board to stick and that has no force on it compared to a neck joint.

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Thanks for the advices guys. Really appreciate it.

I ditched the idea of a one piece neck. Why? Because the scarf joint glue line will be visible from the top. That would look a little odd. Especially if it end up close to a fret :D

I decided to use a truss rod. Some of you reminded me that a truss rod is not only for adjustments, but stability as well. So I will build it as a standard neck.

I have not decided yet if I should use a 1st grade, pitch black Madagascar ebony, or a brownish Macassar board... Here are some pictures of the board. I had to use the flash. And I'm totally bad at taking pictures! It looks wayyyy darker than that. It's really a nice piece. Especially for 50$. :D

The design I have in mind is a Jackson Rhoads style; poplar body with quilted maple top. 1 bridge humbucker, 1 vol. Quilted veneer overlapping the Macassar headstock. The headstock on the following picture is not quilted.. The software don't allow me to do that. It will look pretty nice from the back!

What do you think?

Picture005.jpg

Picture004.jpg

Custom_Rhoads.jpg

Edited by MescaBug
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Thanks for the advices guys. Really appreciate it.

I ditched the idea of a one piece neck. Why? Because the scarf joint glue line will be visible from the top. That would look a little odd. Especially if it end up close to a fret :D

I decided to use a truss rod. Some of you reminded me that a truss rod is not only for adjustments, but stability as well. So I will build it as a standard neck.

I have not decided yet if I should use a 1st grade, pitch black Madagascar ebony, or a brownish Macassar board... Here are some pictures of the board. I had to use the flash. And I'm totally bad at taking pictures! It looks wayyyy darker than that. It's really a nice piece. Especially for 50$. :D

The design I have in mind is a Jackson Rhoads style; poplar body with quilted maple top. 1 bridge humbucker, 1 vol. Quilted veneer overlapping the Macassar headstock. The headstock on the following picture is not quilted.. The software don't allow me to do that. It will look pretty nice from the back!

What do you think?

Custom_Rhoads.jpg

Oooohh. Love that guitar. Can't wait to see it done.

truss rod? Put it in just in case.

I have to say though that on most of my guitars, the truss rod is left with no tension whatsoever. The ones I build myself are all with 2 way truss rods which have been set dead center (neutral) and I've had no issues.

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OK I misunderstood.

When you said you wanted to do a single peice neck, I thought that the stock you had was think enough for you to do a cutout headstock on the bandsaw. In that case I would have avoided the truss rod, because I don't think that it would have made any adjustments, but now I see that you have a much thinner stock to work with, so yeah I would use one, and I would use a dual action at that.

One thing you can do to hide the glue at the scarf joint is to use a high contrast accent wood shim between your ebony.

Something like 1/16" maple or bloodwood.

It's a beautiful board man!

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OK I misunderstood.

When you said you wanted to do a single peice neck, I thought that the stock you had was think enough for you to do a cutout headstock on the bandsaw. In that case I would have avoided the truss rod, because I don't think that it would have made any adjustments, but now I see that you have a much thinner stock to work with, so yeah I would use one, and I would use a dual action at that.

One thing you can do to hide the glue at the scarf joint is to use a high contrast accent wood shim between your ebony.

Something like 1/16" maple or bloodwood.

It's a beautiful board man!

John,

You lost me? Scarfed headstock or not would make little difference in the effectiveness of a truss rod? Accenting or enphasising joints with contrasting wood does look cool though :D

Peace,Rich

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Geez.. Never thought about this one. Not a bad idea. Well then, you made me change my mind again! I'm still confused about the truss rod thing. I would be much less complicated without one.. No need to route the channel from the back and glue a damn stripe. Argggh! Need to think about it longer I think...

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Geez.. Never thought about this one. Not a bad idea. Well then, you made me change my mind again! I'm still confused about the truss rod thing. I would be much less complicated without one.. No need to route the channel from the back and glue a damn stripe. Argggh! Need to think about it longer I think...

Regarding the truss rod. The way I think about it. Wood does change dimensionally with humidity (just a fact of life we live with). If you use a truss rod you have an opportunity to make minor adjustments to keep a neck in check with the tight tolerances we expect. If you add a material that is not subject to dimensional changes (or much less subject to), such as carbon fiber, steel, aluminum or what have you. You can control or limit that variance enough to keep things in check with those tight tolerances. You can work in some features (shaping your fretboard, build in relief, etc...) to give you more breathing room, but again if things go beyond tolerance your in trouble. I have had a graphite neck on a bass for years, no truss (although neck angle is adjusted with a set screw) and have never had issues. Mind you the neck is heavily reinforced and wrapped in carbon fiber around rock maple, composite FB. That neck still develops a slight bit of relief under tension, but it luckily is just right with the gauge strings I like. No truss requires a lot of thought, and design considerations. Ebony, although strong, is not going to remove the potential issues. So if you go without a truss, you are taking a path less traveled, it will be more difficult, and will have risks you will need to control.

If it were me, I would be inclined to resaw off a fretboard, add a tasteful lam if you need to develop additional thickness, and drop a nice double acting truss rod in that baby.

Peace,Rich

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id personally put a maple skunk stripe and do it 1 piece style. would make some nice contrast. my quartersawn maple-wenge-quartersawn maple neck with a stripped ebony fretboard hasn't needed any adjustments, and its thin. (thats with a larger steel rod than usual though in a u channel). but id hate to not have it and something go wrong.

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OK I misunderstood.

When you said you wanted to do a single peice neck, I thought that the stock you had was think enough for you to do a cutout headstock on the bandsaw. In that case I would have avoided the truss rod, because I don't think that it would have made any adjustments, but now I see that you have a much thinner stock to work with, so yeah I would use one, and I would use a dual action at that.

One thing you can do to hide the glue at the scarf joint is to use a high contrast accent wood shim between your ebony.

Something like 1/16" maple or bloodwood.

It's a beautiful board man!

John,

You lost me? Scarfed headstock or not would make little difference in the effectiveness of a truss rod? Accenting or enphasising joints with contrasting wood does look cool though :D

Peace,Rich

I may have lost myself on that one.

I had to think it over and I guess scarf or not, would not make that big of a difference.

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