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Hi all,

I'm a shiny new poster although I've been lapping up info from this forum for quite a while.

I was thinking about trying a skunk stripe made from graphite on an upcoming project.

Did some searching but haven't found any examples.

I've seen that you can buy it from some guitar part suppliers in various lengths and thicknesses, presumably for use in nuts and between laminates.

Anyone had any experience in working with graphite?

I'm sure many of you have worked with graphite nuts before, perhaps some of you have attempted a graphite guitar?

Is it workable in terms of cutting and shaping?

Do you use conventional cutting and sanding methods?

I believe it's super strong and durable.

Any idea how it would react to the movement of a neck if in place as a truss rod fillet?

Thanks for reading (the first of many posts I'm sure!)

Tim

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Welcome to PG Southbound. I'm guessing with a name and picture like that you're a Tassie man, yes? :D

Graphite and carbon fibre are ussually used as truss rod "helpers". In other words you inlay two graphite rods either side of the truss rod.

This is mainly because graphite ruins tools due to its ridiculous strength. If you have sharp, high quality tools, it can definatly be done.

There are major bonuses with graphite though, depending on how thick the skunk stripe is, you may not even need a truss rod.

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Welcome to PG Southbound. I'm guessing with a name and picture like that you're a Tassie man, yes? :D

Hey ae3,

actually I'm a Victorian! Got the Tassie Tiger there cos my first guitar is gonna be called the Tassie Tiger (Tiger Myrtle top...yummy!)

so..yeah...just the one head (hehe)!

So any ideas on how sand paper reacts to graphite ...badly by the sound of it. I s'pose spoke shaving would be out of the question too. Any suggestions for shaping it?

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I found hacksaw type blades cut it well. With the carbon fiber type stuff that has more of "grain" to it, being made of fibers, I have a cheap plane that I managed to thin some down with, but as the "grain" changed directions it splintered so it took some care. Did a number on the plane blade, but worked decently enough for large stock removal.

Coarse sandpaper worked as well, and anywhere you need to shape the stuff, that seemed to be the best bet, particularly if you can use a power sander or dremel or something. It doesn't seem to much clog sandpaper up, but it will dull the grit fairly quickly - if it stops working, time to move to another piece of paper.

Word of the wise - the dust is an irritant, and if it splinters at all, those splinters a pain - if you get one in you, they're often very tiny and will break off in your skin. Wear gloves, a mask and goggles! If you're sanding, I've seen it recommended to work wet, as that will keep the dust and particles from becoming airborne, although that's obviously not an option if you're working next to wood.

Also note, if you're working next to light-coloured woods, the fibers and dust can work into the wood and discolor it.

This is based on limited experience, so take it for what it's worth. I would try and get the pieces as close to size as you could, ideally having to do minimal shaping of it. I would also suggest contacting your supplier, they may have more information on this. A google search of non-guitar related places may be helpful, too.

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Hey guys,

thanks heaps for your insight so far...

I honestly do not think your idea is a good one....

Westhemann: I respect you opinon as I read few of you threads and you seem to know your way around a guitar.

Was just wondering, is this not a good idea based soley on the DANGER of working with the substance or are there other issues that make it a no goer?

(just as a side note: I have access to great safety gear including full respirators and clothing (a mate who's daddy owns a safety company :D ))

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Well....the safety hazard is high...stewmac warns against cutting or sanding...

But what I worry about is

A.)the different expansion rates of wood and graphite causing the epoxy line to crack

and B.) the ability of epoxy to stick to the slick graphite at all...this may just be an unfounded worry...but the glue you use inside the neck around the rods is more to "fill the void" around the graphite rather than to stick to it....I have the feeling the glue seperates from the carbon rods before too long in there...

But mostly I don't see the superiority of graphite laminates over walnut,bubinga,or any other alternatives which can be stuck easily and seamlesly with wood glue...

I don't mean to say it is impossible...only that the return may not justify the trouble involved...

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J. Pierce already mentioned the pain of splinters, but I have to stress that one again. Until you get a carbon fiber splinter in your skin, you don't know a painfull splinter. They are worse than any kind of wood or metal splinter. They get in and they itch and burn and usually get under pretty deep. And since they are fibrous, even when you get the main chunk out, it leaves fine hairs in the skin unless you cut the are of affected skin out.

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thanks heaps guys,

sounds like pretty nasty stuff in general.

I think based on what you guys have said I will proceed very carefully.

So key issues seem to:

Nasty Spinters

Irritation of the skin

Dust that is dangerous to the lungs

General unforgiving nature of the material when working with it due to it's rigidity making it taxing on tools

Tendency to stain nearby surfaces with it's fine dust

Reluctance to bond well with other materials (probably the biggest worry in terms of use as a building material...all the others can be delt with by excising extreme care)

I think I'll do some testing with various glues and woods to see how the bonding thing works out.

I'd like to leave some laminates under tension for a good while and try to punish them a bit as if they were part of a guitar that was being taken on the road. I will be intereting to see if they split our loose there adhesion.

On the plus side:

since much of what has been written leans toward negative press for the poor old graphite stick I think the positive points seem to be these:

It's strong...really strong (strong enough to POTENTIALLY do away with those pescky truss rods altogether)

It's durable...so it wont wear out, fatigue, ding or warp like wood can

It's light...really light

It's not overly expensive

It's manufactured to spec so unlike wood it SHOULD be of the same quality every time you buy it.

Not sure of it's environmental impact but you don't have to lop a 100+ year old tree down to get some decent stuff

Given all these pros and cons I think it's worth investing a little time in a few experiments to see if it can become a regular material for my future projects...

Thanks again guys fro all you insight...

Tim

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I have the feeling the glue seperates from the carbon rods before too long in there...

I have a feeling that is likely too.

I remember years ago, I read a warning somewhere that tiny graphite splinters had a fair chance of getting into your bloodstream. Just did a quick Google and didn't really find anything obvious to support that exact warning.

Have an old article where Don MacRostie is adding some embedded graphite pieces into an old spongy acoustic guitar neck, and he's cutting the graphite to shape on an upside down jig saw with a metal cutting blade , and he's not even wearing any kind of dust mask, which seems a bit crazy to me.

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Glad you found all the information you needed, I'd have to agree with all the points made, its not the most pleasant stuff to work with. It does have a tendancy to color woods around it, it even "stained the hard maple I was using a bit and that is very non-porous wood, it took a while to fix the issue. Once you start sanding or planing it also tends to cling when in small particles and can end up everywhere. Personally, I don't even like having to cut the stuff, I just buy it through Los Alamos and they make guitar sized rods and I just drop them in. Some places might be cheaper, but for a perfect sized rod I'll gladly pay the $9 to avoid messing with that stuff. Plus I like the size of that rod. The cool thing about that place is for a $1 they will bend the last inch of the rod at 15 degrees to add extra support to headstock joint areas. It'd be a great idea if didn't like volutes and wanted a bit more support.

Anyhow, what was the intent in having the graphite skunk stripe? Aside from using some dark woods like some ebony or wenge you might be able to find some black dyed woods to use, I doubt in the end the look would be much different. I would still keep the truss rod because they give yuo adjustability, even with two CF rods you can still adjust the truss rod, they just are another preventative measure. Anyhow, best of luck, I'm sure you'll figure something out that looks just as good and you can still add in a couple CF rods for extra support if you so choose. J

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Anyhow, what was the intent in having the graphite skunk stripe? Aside from using some dark woods like some ebony or wenge you might be able to find some black dyed woods to use, I doubt in the end the look would be much different. I would still keep the truss rod because they give yuo adjustability, even with two CF rods you can still adjust the truss rod, they just are another preventative measure.

J,

well the whole idea started out as ainterst in CF. I actually initially thought it might be easy to work with and simple to shape...that's why I asked the question I guess.

Funny you should mention being able to drop the right size peices straight in cos I been looking into suppliers who might provide a square rods in a size that I might be able to drop straight into a channel as a substitute for a truss rod.

I've been looking into what size peice would be able to withstand the tension that super heavy gauge strings might exert on a neck over a baritone style long scale guitar.

In my searching I've looked at a few guitar companies that use graphite and even make solid graphite necks...interestingly I notice Modulus Basses have complete graphite necks and by the look of the photos they also have a truss rod adjustment...surely that neck is going nowhere if its solid graphite. Does anyone think the truss rod is overkiller, I mean would a truss rod be powerful enough to bend a graphite neck anyway?

Tim

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Does anyone think the truss rod is overkiller,

No...the truss rod is a necessary part of a good neck that will last and be playable for your lifetime.

I mean would a truss rod be powerful enough to bend a graphite neck anyway?

A two way truss rod is strong enough to do just that...

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Given all these pros and cons I think it's worth investing a little time in a few experiments to see if it can become a regular material for my future projects...

Thanks again guys for all you insight...

Tim

Given all the pros and cons, I don't understand why you still want to experiment.

All the pros can be achieved by simply inserting CF rods in your neck.

So, all the pros, without any of the cons.

No experimentation needed....

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I've been interested in alternative materials and stuff for a while, but the reservations and warnings should be seriously considered...and what and how you are thinking of using it and what you might expect from it. What others have said is very true and obvious from some thought and or experience.

There are lots of problems with the "skunk stripe" idea...I can see the appeal.

The truss rod is there for adjustment, I know we rarely use it, but it is not there just to provide stiffness, but to control bow and so is very important and necessary.

As for mixing carbon fibre with wood, there are different expansion rates and the whole issue of gluing something that is not fully encased in the neck like reinforcing rods are...the likelihood is that the carbon fiber stripe will pop right out in fairly short order.

Something to consider, that I have considered...is epoxying the fret board onto a neck with a layer of carbonfibre mat between the two parts...boat building type places have such material...although in any quantity, it can get expensive.

Another idea I had was to use a carbon fibre tube or box section with a threaded bolt inside as a truss rod and carbon reinforcement in one.

However, given the expense the real risks and the degree of difficulty with the end result...what seems like it might be a good idea, may only seem that way...I really don't see that you would get any benefit above conventional reinforcement...in fact it would appear to be less with considerable risks for an aesthetic purpose...

Still, no harm in exploring ideas...but I wouldn't even go so far as to experiment to far with it...

pete

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OK OK!!! Geeez...shatter my dreams and trample my fragile ego why dont ya's! (HAHA!!)

No seriously...

I can totally see where you guys are coming from.

It seems that doing things this way would potentially introduce more problems than it would solve.

I like to persist with an idea until I can be convinced beyond a reasonable doubt that it's not worth pursuing.

You guys have convinced me of that.

It's great to have so many knowledgable people at your fingertips...thanks again

I just wanted to clarify something for the record...

I DO understand the importance of the truss rod for its ability to make adjustment to a neck.

More specifically to help maintain a parallel between neck and strings across the entire length of the neck.

Obviously if a neck (made from any material) is subject to bowing, warping, fatigue, twisting or moving from its intended setup position in anyway, the truss rod is an integral part of correcting the problem.

HOWEVER...

"hyperthetically" (or if you like, "in my own little fantasy world")

there are 2 senarios where I can see that a truss rod would be meaningless...

1) if the area between the nut and the bridge were made from material so strong that it would not move no matter what kind of force or tension were applied to it (I know fantasy land right?)

2) if the neck (or at least the part of the neck that resists bowing and twisting) were made of a material so strong that it would not move no matter what kind of force or tension a TRUSS ROD (or even 2) could apply to it (I don't know if that material exists but that was my original thinking behind the CF idea).

I'd be interested to know if something like the Ricky double truss rod setup could exert enough force to bend a 12mmx12mm solid peice of CF.

Having said all that...I see now how other factors particlaurlly the integrity of the glue bonding and the expansion rate factor come into play as significant draw backs even if the CF was that strong.

oh, also you might still be thinking "Why the hell is this guy being so persistent about this stupid idea"

Well,

I come froma manufacturing background and there are 3 costs to making a product: overheads, parts and labour

it's the Leo Fender principle really...

keep the quality but knock down the labour cost (and where possible the number of parts involved) by simplifying the build process.

My original thought:

Eliminate the fiddly part of inserting the truss rod and making the fillet by routing a channel and gluing in a cheap (relative to labour) prefabricated CF rod.

Saving on both labour and parts without compromising quality

you fellas have prove to me the significant risk of compromising quality which makes the idea one for the toilet :D

I know, I know...it's not like I'm gonna be producing a million guitars so what does it matter right?...it's just the way I think.

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Eliminate the fiddly part of inserting the truss rod and making the fillet by routing a channel and gluing in a cheap (relative to labour) prefabricated CF rod.

That is an outdated truss rod concept...the new thing is a two way truss rod like the stewmac hot rod...you rout a straight channel of the proper depth,and you place the rod in and install the fretboard...no fillet or curved channel needed...

No "fiddly part" at all.and you get superior adjustability as well.

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That is an outdated truss rod concept...the new thing is a two way truss rod like the stewmac hot rod...you rout a straight channel of the proper depth,and you place the rod in and install the fretboard...no fillet or curved channel needed...

No "fiddly part" at all.and you get superior adjustability as well.

not sure if I'd use the word outdated but I know what you main and I agree...

see the thing is though (using those manufaturing principles again) adding a seperate fingerboard also adds another step in the process.

A channel though the back means no need to add a seperate fingerboard (no glueing, clamping, drying time, truing up the edges)

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True but there are cons to think about as well. You have to source larger sized woods, you eliminate most types of exotics, unless you feel like tossing loads of money in the toliet carving a one piece neck from a solid hunk of expensive wood. Any mishaps in the fretting or inlay process makes the neck for the trash instead of just the fingerboard. Same for refrets and such. And many more reasons. Plus adding one strong piece in the center of a neck doesn't necessarily mean much, yes the bowing may not occur, but twisting can still happen. Using two CF rods on top of the truss rods helps prevent twisting and bow. So even with a piece of wood that is not extremely stable you offer yourself protection for both short and long term. Its tough these days because there are so very few ideas that haven't been mulled over, guitar have been in production for long enough that you must expect ideas like these to have been tried and tested. I think the glue joint of the fretboard offers more pros than cons, even in production value, but thats just how I evaluate it, others may have much more insight on this.

One more con I just realized that might make the idea moot is what material do you plan on using for necks, if you are thinking of something common and known to be decent like Maple, you end up with a maple fingerboard which will require some type of finish on it. That will take additional work of its own as you have to finish a fretted board which is never all that easy. So add that to the other cons and it doesn't seem worth it in the end in my eyes, again, I'm sure others will have a much better mind for this stuff. Either way, its good to research the ideas and why they would or would not work. I wish you the best. Good luck. J

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Another series of excellent points J.

I'm totally convinced this is a bad idea....

STILL I'm learning so much so I'm gonna keep asking question if anyone cares to keep indulging me!

Incidently I'm looking at Australian woods, imparticular for my projects (mainly cos they are readily available to me)

Anyone (presumably other Aussie builders...or not) listening in know if Blackwood used as a fingerboard would need specific finishing like Maple does?

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The Modulus graphite necks actually didn't always have adjustable truss-rods in them (they *might* have had non-adjustable T-rods in them, though, I don't know). I guess they added an adjustable t-rod to help dial in a perfect amount of relief.

I know with some of my own guitars that have non-adjustable T-rods, I have to compromise and have the string action set a little higher to deal with non-optimal neck relief that has settled into the necks over time.

Some people think the words 'truss rod' mean an *adjustable* rod in the neck, but I don't think thats true. I think it means a reinforcement rod/bar inside the neck to add stiffness. (by the way, when I shorten it by calling it "T-rod", I don't mean a T shaped rod. But there have actually been T shaped metal bars used as guitar neck truss rods)

A trick they do on classical guitar necks, is they rout a T-rod channel and then get a filler piece of ebony at least a few thou longer and force that into the slot (I've heard they backbow the neck while doing this to help get it in there easier).

This will make the neck go into a back-bow without string tension and hopefully be about straight with *classical* guitar strings under tension. Of course that's the *traditional* way. My classical guitar has an adjustable T-rod with the adjustment neck accessible inside the soundhole.

One-way adjustable T-rod is my personal favorite. Set it right during the building process and it should be able to adjust the neck for more or less relief when all is said and done.

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I understand where you are coming from southB...

You should check out some more books on Leo's history and see some of his mistakes...the original telecasters had no truss rod I believe as the whole bolt on neck concept was supposed to be a replacable thing...but they never held up.

Of course many guitars like martins and classicals traditionally had only reinforcement...

The truss rod and bow adjustment is often an important part of the setting up of action to a players preference...

Theoretically, you could make a super still perfect neck that has just enough relief for a given set of strings and player perhaps...

I am not sure if it is the parker, steinberger or something even more exotic with a carbon neck...but there is something that has a flexible wire 'rod' in a tube to adjust bow...

To me, it's the fretting that is the more fiddly, time consuming and important from a manufacturing point of view...I keep coming back to the old Bond Guitar idea of having a stepped board...a fetboard molded with angled segments that rise up and drop suddenly at each fret position, maybe made from carbon fibre...providing the board and a complete accurate fretting out of a mold and a unique look and playing experience. The problem is find a material that will be stable, easy to work with, wont shrink and that will resist wear. I'm keen to work with anyone on such an idea...but research shows that bond had tremendous problems with this feature...still, maybe newer technology of ideas may have come along. They stole this from old lute designs that used ebony I believe. They had an interesting "refretting" solution, under the dots were screws so the whole board could be removed and replaced. I have some other ideas along these lines...

A co idea I had to this, thinking with similar motivations to you...was to make carbon fibre fretboards with molded slots and an integrated trussrod channel...so you rout a groove and the fretboard aligns itself along with the truss rod and is molded with the truss rod, superb reinforcement over the entire neck, camber, slots (or maybe even steps), nut slot, no dead spots...but you still retain the ability to shape the neck as you may wish and use whatever material for the neck you may like as long as the headstock doesn't snap off (in fact, you could extend the fretboard to include a headstock facing even). If molded with some kind of epoxy...it may even be possible to add "inlay" to the resin (or whatever the material is)...opening up new doors there...

Another aspect to consider is that CF is not cheap nor easy to work with...far exceeding the cost and hassle of fitting a truss rod...eliminating the fretting altogether though, and perhaps it woule be worth it for some significant advantages. One thing about Leo is that he did look to the economy as well as streamlining the manufacturing processes.

Anyway...can go on of course...drop me a line, we might even be relative neighbours if you are in melbourne... :D

pete

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