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Re-Tapering A Fretted And Set Neck

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This is a repost from my question in In Progress section, but it might be more appropriate and helpful over here.

I have an issue with my build:

The neck is slightly too big and about 1/16" too wide on each side. I'm sure that I can just thin the neck out from the back, but can I use a file to retaper the neck at this point? As you can see, the extra space on either side of the E strings is pretty constant down the neck, and it's just too much. If I could just shave some off the edges of the neck this guitar would be a dream. If I do that I need to figure out how to transition from a skinnier neck to a thicker neck at heel.

Is it possible to retaper a fretted, set neck?


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I thought about that, and that would fix the nut end, but the bridge end is too narrow as well. To fix the bridge end I would need to remake a bridge base so that the posts stay the same but the saddles spread out. That seems more difficult than filing down some wood and frets.

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The neck itself shouldn't be much of a problem. You'd have to redo a few steps, but that's no big deal. I think the hard part would be the body transition. You routed your neck pocket for that width. I'm not sure how you'd make that work.

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Turret mill would make short work of it. :-)

Guessing you don't have access to one.

You could build a router jig/sled to hit it from the top?

Even a carefully secured template could work.

(attatched to the top of the fretboard). Maybee set up like a caul to hold the frets tight.

Could clamp at headstock and screw thru pup cavity?

Tapered an old P-bass neck down to Jazz width. The mill cut through the board and frets like butter. Still had side dots showing.

Might want to make a test pass on something fretted to make sure your cutter doesn't "grab" the frets.


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Pop the high and low E strings out of the nut slots and move them further apart and see if the extra width at the nut works with the existing neck taper and bridge setup. It'd be a shame to bring out the big guns on the neck if widening the nut slots worked afterall.

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For future reference, here's what I ended up doing:

I had nightmares of a router bit grabbing a fret end, so I went with a handheld belt sander. First I marked off the taper I wanted with tape:


VERY carefully clamped the guitar and slowly used the handheld belt sander to bring the fretboard edge to the tape line. This was really controllable and went pretty quickly. The only drawback is that I can't get all the way down the neck due to the horns. I'm sure some type of industrial or benchtop belt sander would have allowed this. Anyway, this worked well. I recommend only sanding so that the paper pulls the frets down.


Then I used a file to clean up the transition from thin board to wider board.


It is much less noticeable without the tape lines to guide your eyes towards the taper. All in all, I'm glad I did this. The guitar plays much better and I can easily wrap my thumb around to the low E now.

As clean up work, I need to:

1. Resand/file the back of the neck a little.

2. Rebevel the frets and polish the ends.

3. Replace three side fret markers that I sanded completely through.

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Glad you got it done!

Belt sanders scare me for precision work.

Since I had another P-bass neck here that needed a re-fret. Went commando and clamped a straight-edge to demonstrate how it would work;




This whole thing took a little over an hour. Including re-shaping the neck. Still needs a little more fine tuning.

Carbide bit cut the frets like butter. Could have removed the frets first.

When I set the last one up on the mill, took almost an hour to set-up for the first pass. (fixtures, stand-offs checking measurements, etc.

This was much quicker.

Wore eye, hearing protection and a resperator.

"bad idea"?



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I've done this by first marking the new taper on the fretboard then using the edge of a file, at the end of each fret, to take the fret and the wood down to the taper line.

Once that is done a router or plane can be used to bring the rest of the wood down to the line, followed by re-beveling the frets.

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  • 2 weeks later...

Cutting tools are just that. The tool has to be harder than the material you are cutting. If you are uncomfortable, or unfamiliar with their usage. By all means.' do not try this at home'. Have used pattern bits,(mid-level ), NOT Harbor Freight stuff),to chase 100's, if not 1000's of lin. ft. of 6061, 7075 and 7005 aluminum from 1/4 to 3/4"thick. First trimming on the band saw like you would a body w/template. The Fraued brand bits last quite a while. Have tried Amana and CMT and they don't last any longer but cost more. Also wear safety gear! Using a belt sander will not yield an accurate or straight cut. IMO, the fretboard should be dead straight and not "tapered into the body" It also looks like the string spread could have been wider at the bridge to line up over the pole pieces?

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That's just fancy talk...router bits chip on wood sometimes as well,regardless of the bit being harder than the material,but another huge danger is that the frets will catch and chip out surrounding wood...

Refardless,It's not a good idea and it's not what the tools were made for.

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