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Trussless Bass Neck.........


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I am mostly done with a solid ebony 5 string bass neck. I intended to skunk stripe it, but as I was working it, realized how dense and solid this board was. It's perfectly quarter-sawn and even carved, I cant bend it at all! I haven't fretted it yet or routed the back for the rod. which leads me to :

A: Truss it?

b: CF bars/trussless

C: trussless and unrouted

What would be your course of action?

I figure I can always route it out later and rod it if I need to, but I really don't think this thing will budge a nudge.

I'm interested in a solid neck, wondering if it will make a difference .........

in the T or S .......

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truss it, a neck without a truss rod can not possibly face string tension on its own and not on the long run :D

So you're saying that before truss rods were invented in the 1950's by Ted McHugh, that guitars couldn't survive without bending drastically?

Thickness of the neck, and taper thickness of the back profile will determine need for a truss rod...remember, that when you fret it, you could induce a backbow that won't be corrected by string tension.

Well thought out design is always mandatory for playability and durability. Good luck with it.

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So you're saying that before truss rods were invented in the 1950's by Ted McHugh, that guitars couldn't survive without bending drastically?

So you're saying that you are not aware that classical guitars have a huge fingerboard thickness when compared to any steel string instruments and most of them have been strung up with either nylon or gut strings which has nothing to do at all physically when it comes to tension - period

Most classical guitar maker of our days reinforce their necks with either a strip of ebony OR a strip of graphite because bow in a neck is inevitable under string tension.

The backbow your talking about after fretting will go away by itself in only a couple of days or months, but it will be gone...

Also if your expecting to make a living out of building guitars and shipping them all over the world, you must also consider climat change and moisture exchange differences which your little neck without any rod will never be able to face, reason why most classical makers use graphite inside the necks of our days :D

edit: a few notes about what you call truss rod:

The first truss rod patent was applied for by Thaddeus McHugh, an employee of the Gibson company, in 1921 [1] , although the idea of "truss rod" can be encountered in patents as early as 1908

and I shall add to this - and also a couple hundered years before 1908, the idea of neck reinforcement has been arround since the early lute days...

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So you're saying that before truss rods were invented in the 1950's by Ted McHugh, that guitars couldn't survive without bending drastically?

So you're saying that you are not aware that classical guitars have a huge fingerboard thickness when compared to any steel string instruments and most of them have been strung up with either nylon or gut strings which has nothing to do at all physically when it comes to tension - period

Most classical guitar maker of our days reinforce their necks with either a strip of ebony OR a strip of graphite because bow in a neck is inevitable under string tension.

The backbow your talking about after fretting will go away by itself in only a couple of days or months, but it will be gone...

Also if your expecting to make a living out of building guitars and shipping them all over the world, you must also consider climat change and moisture exchange differences which your little neck without any rod will never be able to face, reason why most classical makers use graphite inside the necks of our days :D

Oh, its not going anywhere else in the world but here....

... and if I can wallow through the bog of elitism in your post, I'm guessing your opinion is that my "little neck" needs CF reinforcement .

Opinion noted.

I'm going to run it with no rod at first, just to see A: how long it might last and b: what difference it might make to the sound of the neck. and C: if QS ebony needs a rod , or just CF strips...

This one is all one piece, no FB, so all reinforcement has to be from the back.

If it needs it, I will skunk stripe it later.

On the topic of back-bow, I've stated this a few times already, but if you keep your saw handy while you're fretting, you can set a few frets, then 'clean out' a few slots ahead, set a few frets, clean out a few slots.... in wood as hard as ebony, it keeps me from having back bow when I'm done fretting.

Pics soon........

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Upright basses do not use an adjustable truss rod, but have much heavier necks. It is not so much that the truss rod resists the forces of the strings, though it will help. It is more that you can adjust the relief to your liking. Early Martin's used a steel bar, but you could only adjust relief by carefull fretting work. Doing it as experimenting to see any tonal differences could be fun, but if you want it as a daily player the truss rod is a better idea. At least in my house I have to adjust every guitar twice a year as the weather swings if I want it completely buzz free, some more than others.

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i made a solid mac ebony guitar neck recently - its about an inch thick as i like chunky necks. it is very stable - but the truss rod still moves it, i had to dial in a little relief. That tells me that string tension would also have an effect over time if not visable quickly, and that truss rods can also be useful things with very stable/straight necks!

on a longer, and presumably thinner bass neck i would definitely want a truss rod!

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Lets do some deductive reasoning:

While ebony is a strong wood, it is very oily and doesn't accept many finishes. So sealing the wood will be a problem. If you can't seal the wood, then that is going to expose it to the elements. Ebony is also expensive. So if you bow or twist the neck, and it becomes perminant, then you're out a pretty large piece of expensive exotic wood.

I personally would add a truss rod. :D

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more nods for the rods... I can obviously see where a truss rod would come in handy

- howevah -

:D

while doing our deductive reasoning, let us consider that a truss rod doesn't do a thing about twisting in a neck , strictly forward and backward bow, unless we are double-trussing, which we're not. So if its gonna twist, a rod aint gonna help it.

also...

oily wood that will resist finishes will also resist the elements to the same degree.

With all that in mind, I think I will definitely add in two CF bars in strips , leaving enough room between them to add a rod, should that ever be necessary.

It may still get a TR, I'm just toying with the idea of trussless and looking to discuss the pros/cons. non-adjustability is the big downfall, while a solid neck/FB with no glue might be a big plus .

I say might because I don't think anyone really knows........

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oily wood that will resist finishes will also resist the elements to the same degree.

dunno about everyone else but i have seen more problems with cracks and shrinkage in ebony than any other wood. Its quite common to see a few issues with a vintage ebony fretboard on neglected fretboards

I can say quite happily that ebony is not very good at resisting the elements, unless well looked after.

I did do a solid mac ebony neck, but i would not have done one out of the black stuff... the main difference being the size of tree, and therefore size/quality of lumber available! My mac ebony was perfectly quarter sawn, slightly, but consistently flamed with most grain running the entire length - and it was long enough for two fender style necks (I still have the second). Try and find a piece of gaboon like that and you will struggle

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while doing our deductive reasoning, let us consider that a truss rod doesn't do a thing about twisting in a neck , strictly forward and backward bow, unless we are double-trussing, which we're not. So if its gonna twist, a rod aint gonna help it.

also...

oily wood that will resist finishes will also resist the elements to the same degree.

lol

:popcorn:

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oily wood that will resist finishes will also resist the elements to the same degree.

just to clarify, to the same degree.

sweat isn't going to penetrate any better or worse than teak oil will. As long as its cared for properly and not left to soak up the sweat of a gig, it'll hold up fine. I own a few 20 + year old ebony boards that aren't deteriorating. but, good care is the key to ANY instruments life.

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some twisted flight of fancy i was having... I locked down both ends tonight and applied 100 lbs of pressure to the center of it.

It moved.

a good 3/8 of an inch.

So.....

It will be getting a truss rod, 2-way, of course.

:D

now, ebony, purpleheart, or maple for a stripe?

purpleheart - has a similar grain and finish, plus nice contrast.. IMO :D

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Ok Patrick, I would like to congradulate you on reading wikipedia and quoting almost verbatim. Next time do some real homework, so you know that a compression truss of metal inside wood has been used in building since the inception of metals.( Se roman aquaduct construction). As for the neck reinforcement, most "classical" builders use graphite in their necks these days because Quartersawn wood is more costly than adding a $4 piece of graphite, so can the classical guitar crap, guitars are made as inexpensively as possible for maximum profit potential. As for the thick fretboard arguement, seperate fretboards were only employed on the most expensive guitars pre 1890 and as for extra thick fretboards, this was a building style generally attributed to the German and Austrian builders of the time. The Italians who were the preimminent musical builders used very thin boards and used a more triangular neck shape to keep their necks more stable in the warm seaside climates.

All of this notwithstanding, the question was about a bass guitar(not a classical guitar). With an ebony neck. You put an opinion out there without any reasoning as an absolute, and you cannot do that without trying to give the querry some representation of evidence. Just tossing an opinion without reason is like trying to feed a great white, sardines by hand and retaining all your digits.

Btw....when you were 5 yrs old, I was working at Gibson. So go easy with the feigned indignance. I wasn't belittling you, just wanted you to elaborate on your opinion...which I do agree with.

So you're saying that before truss rods were invented in the 1950's by Ted McHugh, that guitars couldn't survive without bending drastically?

So you're saying that you are not aware that classical guitars have a huge fingerboard thickness when compared to any steel string instruments and most of them have been strung up with either nylon or gut strings which has nothing to do at all physically when it comes to tension - period

Most classical guitar maker of our days reinforce their necks with either a strip of ebony OR a strip of graphite because bow in a neck is inevitable under string tension.

The backbow your talking about after fretting will go away by itself in only a couple of days or months, but it will be gone...

Also if your expecting to make a living out of building guitars and shipping them all over the world, you must also consider climat change and moisture exchange differences which your little neck without any rod will never be able to face, reason why most classical makers use graphite inside the necks of our days :D

edit: a few notes about what you call truss rod:

The first truss rod patent was applied for by Thaddeus McHugh, an employee of the Gibson company, in 1921 [1] , although the idea of "truss rod" can be encountered in patents as early as 1908

and I shall add to this - and also a couple hundered years before 1908, the idea of neck reinforcement has been arround since the early lute days...

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Ok Patrick, I would like to congradulate you on reading wikipedia and quoting almost verbatim. Next time do some real homework, so you know that a compression truss of metal inside wood has been used in building since the inception of metals.( Se roman aquaduct construction).

Btw....when you were 5 yrs old, I was working at Gibson. So go easy with the feigned indignance. I wasn't belittling you, just wanted you to elaborate on your opinion...which I do agree with.

Congrats for trying to show me your infinite superiority for working at Gibson when I was 5 years old. And so what?

Would be a little bit more interesting and honnest to talk about your function at Gibson as an employee instead since you are using their name to add more credibility to yourself :D

Funny that you talk about reaserch and homework otherwise you would have not started your arrogant quote by saying that Thaddeus McHugh invented the truss rod :D

Elaborating my comment? I dont think so, check back at your post. Next time dont start a quote with such arrogance as you can see that it brings nothing at all, just another page of bashing fest which is indeed soooooooooo productive and interesting. I wasn't belittling you either, just reacting to your "so your telling me that..." B)

most "classical" builders use graphite in their necks these days because Quartersawn wood is more costly than adding a $4 piece of graphite, so can the classical guitar crap, guitars are made as inexpensively as possible for maximum profit potential.

Not at all, they buy flatsawn stock, cut out the necks, flip them over, and glue them together so that they become quatersawn.

Quatersawn stock is just as cheap as flatsawn if you buy it first as flatsawn stock and use this technique ... B)

Here a diagramm to visualise. Could have also been a 3 or two piece neck...

image011wd.jpg

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Sorry - I haven't read this entire thread through all the posts, so I might be reiterating what has already been said (or cutting across the grain!):

Necks that are far too stiff to resist string tensions and do not move won't possess the correct geometry for reasonable action. The fundamentally parabolic motion of a vibrating string (not elliptical - got to say that) requires a little space between subsequent frets to avoid buzz and choking. This can either be achieved by taking advantage of a neck's pliability or by installing a dual action truss rod to dial in more relief.

In general, a neck that is too stiff shouldn't ideally have relief dialled IN using the rod because 1. it isn't ideal and 2. it isn't always consistent. Resisting existing neck bow on a neck with some movement is far more likely to dial in smooth even relief than forcing it in after the fact.

Example 1 - Brian May's "Red Special" has a neck with a MASSIVE profile pretty much the same as baseball bat necked vintage Fenders. The wood is massively OLD growth Cuban Mahogany which itself possesses excellent resistance to string tension. This resulted in a neck which hasn't bowed under string tension for almost 50 years of constant use. The shorter 24" scale and light string gauge contributes of course, but you see the idea here. It is known the the Red Special has fret buzz in certain positions because of this fact, and doesn't possess as low an action as it could otherwise.

I've made necks which resisted tension before, and frankly I didn't like them in terms of both sound and playability. If I can't move a neck into the right geometry for playing, the neck might as well be junk. Overly stiff is a category very close to rubber necks ;-)

There you go. My overly opinionated and likely flawed explanation. :D

Edited by Prostheta
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My overly opinionated and likely flawed explanation.

At least you admit it.All opinions on this topic can be described this way.For example

Just tossing an opinion without reason is like trying to feed a great white, sardines by hand and retaining all your digits.

Now we have to bolster our opinions with logic and reason?And everyone has to have it make sense in perfectly written English even though it may be a second language for some?(and by "some " I mean "a lot" on this board...one of the things I love here is it's diversity) :D

truss it, a neck without a truss rod can not possibly face string tension on its own and not on the long run

While I also believe this in a "90% of the time(or so)" basis,still I don't think it is impossible...especially with light strings and really,really stable wood....Still,it is an opinion and the words "can not possibly" make it a statement of fact,which always gets you in trouble with the pedantic percentage of the board...in this day and age,we are all forbidden from using absolutes in an opinionated rant...oh how soft the world has become :D

I think a lot of the "arrogance" you guys attribute to Huf may just be caused by his abrupt usage of English.Admittedly he does use exclamation points in the strangest places B)

Oh and lest anyone start a line by line "counter post"

The preceding is an opinion only and should not cause a twisting of anyone's undergarments

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I have no problem with statements of fact when they are backed up with reasoning. Blandly stating "facts" often snowballs baseless opinion into apocrypha, ready for the next person to blindly re-state.

In that respect, I uphold the time honoured traditions as set by MAD magazine and Private Eye; taking commonly shared accepted absurdities and pointing the finger at it whilst laughing loudly at it. I'll happily acknowledge the elephant in the room, and likely have a loud conversation with it.

We all have our foibles and beliefs in guitar making, and many of them help us aspire to better things by upholding values and establishing our personal plateaus and benchmarks. That said, we do need to open our minds or the craft will stop developing. In my personal development, I am hoping to use more sustainable and readily available woods when I start building again and to push the envelope in a positive direction that way.

Rant over. I'm running a fever and probably yattered several bells of bollocks there. :D

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I appreciate your assumptions about superiority Pat, but it's a poor guestimate and even worse assumption, as what I do and what you do are 2 completely different disciplines, and only scantly related by industry.

Briefly... I started at gibson as a sweep and cleanup kid, moved to a line helper for a few months as I began to learn, worked the line for a year as an assembler, moved to finishing for. About a year, and then to fitting, by the time the move was complete in 84, I was offered a position in Nashville, but chose college and grad school instead, and working for the special repair and restoration group during the summers until it was dissolved in 88. So you can understand my functions. Also, Opened my first repair shop in 1983 and built my first complete guitar in 84, and my first 9ello and violin in 86.

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I'm not convinced that quarter sawn is stiffer than flat sawn!

Read an article about it somewhere. Will have to try source it again else I will refer to a higher authority some structural engineers of my acquaintance.

Keith

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Well, start your death clocks, this thing is strung. :D

In the name of science, curiosity, and just to have actual fact present,I went ahead and put strings on it.

This is a first for me in 3 ways.

1: Its the first 5 string bass I've done ( big whooptie-do, I know... )

2: its the first trussless neck I've done. Might be the last one too. :D only time will tell

and 3: I converted a bolt-on body from Carvin to accept my neck with a dove-tail joint that is seperate~able.

Yup, a bolt-less bolt on or removable set-neck, whatever you wanna call it.

So, without even finish sanding the back of the neck, or installing pups/electronics, I assembled body and neck . attached bridge and tuners and strung her up.

.... and I'm either the luckiest man walking or just that good, but this thing has just the right amount of releif to it ( right now at least ) with the strings up to tension. The action is good, not guitar string action, but its close enough to do hammer-ons and trills.

I'll keep you informed on its progress, or deterioration. If it should ever need a truss rod, I'll be sure to state it here, just to have a record of its life-span as a trussless, truly 1-piece neck.

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