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so... what do you know about lam necks?


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so for my "TeLes" and perhaps my other tele, I'm thinking I might try making it out of a laminate of some flamed maple and wenge.  So far, what I know is that I might want to alternate the end grain. 

I have some (semi-rough) flamed maple that's 7/8" and some wenge that is finished 4s that is 3/4"... two pieces of flamed maple and one center strip of wenge should get me close enough to 2 3/16" if I'm careful... cutting too close?

In terms of prep... how important is perfectly flat here?  IE - since you are going to clamp it up... how concerned are you about bow (obviously a big bow would be problems but what about 1/16" bow)?  I would normally use my router plane to get a flat fretboard surface... but running this on the two flamed pieces would be a lot of work (plus sanding out the ridges) and am thinking of just running it through my planer a few times.

Clearly one has to watch out for obvious defects in the wood (don't want any voids) but other than that... what are the pitfalls of doing a lam neck?

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32 minutes ago, mistermikev said:

what are the pitfalls of doing a lam neck?

For what I've experienced and seen the other hobbyists in our group do:

Glued veneers are slippery! It's very easy to slant the pack. Of course you can re-square it by planing but that will both waste material and cause other unevenness. So be cautious to stack the veneers properly aligned. A couple of bolts or dowels at each waste end of the pack will help. A pinch of salt over the glue can help as well. If you add 0.5 mm veneers in between for added contrast the slipping problems will multiply but the result will be stunning.

Another thing to be cautious about is gaps. Even pressure is crucial but you still may end up having a deep gap between the veneers. In such case the only hope is that the gap is only on the surface and will go away when carving the neck! I can tell that's scary...

Perfectly flat is a must. You don't want to create any disorientated tensions into your neck which will most likely happen if you force the planks to bend together. If you can pinch a gap close with two fingers it's good enough. The abovementioned 0.5 mm veneers can also forgive minor unevenness.

I've built a three-piece and two five-piece thru-necks. One of the five-piece ones also had four 0.5 mm enhancing veneers so make it a 9-piece neck, the other one can be counted as a 7-piece. The 3-piece one was by far the easiest - actually pretty much the same dimensions as your woods, a 7/8" center block with 3/4" sides. The 9-piece was slippin' and slidin' all around but with some luck I could find enough solid material in the center. Bolts or dowels or even salt might have saved me from lots of frustration!

 

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Small bows are not a problem. Alternating radial grain direction (flipping the ends) is a good strength and stiffness enforcer. You do want well prepared gluing surfaces so a fat glue line doesn't show up during the shaping. Gluing multiple lams at the same time is tricky--they want to slip and slide in all directions. Be sure to have a plan for that.

SR

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2 minutes ago, ScottR said:

Alternating radial grain direction (flipping the ends) is a good strength and stiffness enforcer.

I was thinking about that as well. In my thinking that's true if the pieces are sort of bookmatched. But if the pieces slide so that they're not symmetrical any more? Would that cause a twist? My logic says yes but I may be wrong, or the twist may be too minor to affect stability.

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22 minutes ago, ScottR said:

Gluing multiple lams at the same time is tricky--they want to slip and slide in all directions. Be sure to have a plan for that.

Easy preventative measure for that is to make the neck blank a few inches longer than you need, drill a hole through all the lams before gluing at the extreme ends and insert a dowel through the holes like a shishkebab. Apply glue, clamp up and cut the dowelled ends off when the glue dries.

 

18 minutes ago, Bizman62 said:

I was thinking about that as well. In my thinking that's true if the pieces are sort of bookmatched. But if the pieces slide so that they're not symmetrical any more? Would that cause a twist? My logic says yes but I may be wrong, or the twist may be too minor to affect stability.

You still need to choose your laminations appropriately for grain direction and orientation. I wouldn't expect a few random offcuts of timber to result in a stable neck if laminated together, just as I wouldn't expect a highly-figured single piece of maple to result in a twist-free one-piece neck.

I've seen one piece maple necks relaminated and flipped into a multi-laminated neck just to maintain the \\\-|||-/// end grain pattern for additional strength.

Considering this grain pattern above for a multi-species laminated neck, theres nothing stopping you using the \\\ and /// laminations ripped from a single piece of timber. The central ||| piece can be whatever contrasting timber you want (strength permitting) as long as the grain is 'more straighterer' than the others and the net pull of any distortions is nulled out by the two \\\ and /// pieces.

Want a 5-piece laminated neck? Just insert two more mirrorred pieces in between. Keep going for 7/9/11 etc pieces. Add as many veneer slivers between the lams as you like - being so slim they'll have no impact on strength and are only there for cosmetic reasons.

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43 minutes ago, Bizman62 said:

For what I've experienced and seen the other hobbyists in our group do:

Glued veneers are slippery! It's very easy to slant the pack. Of course you can re-square it by planing but that will both waste material and cause other unevenness. So be cautious to stack the veneers properly aligned. A couple of bolts or dowels at each waste end of the pack will help. A pinch of salt over the glue can help as well. If you add 0.5 mm veneers in between for added contrast the slipping problems will multiply but the result will be stunning.

Another thing to be cautious about is gaps. Even pressure is crucial but you still may end up having a deep gap between the veneers. In such case the only hope is that the gap is only on the surface and will go away when carving the neck! I can tell that's scary...

Perfectly flat is a must. You don't want to create any disorientated tensions into your neck which will most likely happen if you force the planks to bend together. If you can pinch a gap close with two fingers it's good enough. The abovementioned 0.5 mm veneers can also forgive minor unevenness.

I've built a three-piece and two five-piece thru-necks. One of the five-piece ones also had four 0.5 mm enhancing veneers so make it a 9-piece neck, the other one can be counted as a 7-piece. The 3-piece one was by far the easiest - actually pretty much the same dimensions as your woods, a 7/8" center block with 3/4" sides. The 9-piece was slippin' and slidin' all around but with some luck I could find enough solid material in the center. Bolts or dowels or even salt might have saved me from lots of frustration!

 

Right on BisMan, that's a good tip I've seen it myself but forgot about it thank you for reminding me!

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42 minutes ago, ScottR said:

Small bows are not a problem. Alternating radial grain direction (flipping the ends) is a good strength and stiffness enforcer. You do want well prepared gluing surfaces so a fat glue line doesn't show up during the shaping. Gluing multiple lams at the same time is tricky--they want to slip and slide in all directions. Be sure to have a plan for that.

SR

Some great advice here too, yes I think I will try to use a nail at either end of the glue up to mitigate slippage. Thank you for chiming in!

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I think the fact that there are multiple glue joints running the entire length of the "sandwich" renders the point moot. Any kind or twist or turn of the neck requires the pieces to move lengthwise in relation to the piece next to it. The fact that they are glued together pretty much keeps that from happening. Add in the thinness of the laminates in relation to their length also diminishes the amount of force any one of them can exert against another..

I'm not saying it cannot happen, but using multiple laminates greatly reduces the odds.

SR

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8 minutes ago, curtisa said:

Easy preventative measure for that is to make the neck blank a few inches longer than you need, drill a hole through all the lams before gluing at the extreme ends and insert a dowel through the holes like a shishkebab. Apply glue, clamp up and cut the dowelled ends off when the glue dries.

 

You still need to choose your laminations appropriately for grain direction and orientation. I wouldn't expect a few random offcuts of timber to result in a stable neck if laminated together, just as I wouldn't expect a highly-figured single piece of maple to result in a twist-free one-piece neck.

I've seen one piece maple necks relaminated and flipped into a multi-laminated neck just to maintain the \\\-|||-/// end grain pattern for additional strength.

Considering this grain pattern above for a multi-species laminated neck, theres nothing stopping you using the \\\ and /// laminations ripped from a single piece of timber. The central ||| piece can be whatever contrasting timber you want (strength permitting) as long as the grain is 'more straighterer' than the others and the net pull of any distortions is nulled out by the two \\\ and /// pieces.

Want a 5-piece laminated neck? Just insert two more mirrorred pieces in between. Keep going for 7/9/11 etc pieces. Add as many veneer slivers between the lams as you like - being so slim they'll have no impact on strength and are only there for cosmetic reasons.

Right on some good info there. I don't have a lot of extra material so I'm thinking a decent nail would be a nice substitute for dowels. Going to have to find some veneer somewhere cuz I don't have much stock on that and that would be a nice touch.

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7 minutes ago, ScottR said:

I think the fact that there are multiple glue joints running the entire length of the "sandwich" renders the point moot. Any kind or twist or turn of the neck requires the pieces to move lengthwise in relation to the piece next to it. The fact that they are glued together pretty much keeps that from happening. Add in the thinness of the laminates in relation to their length also diminishes the amount of force any one of them can exert against another..

I'm not saying it cannot happen, but using multiple laminates greatly reduces the odds.

SR

I would think the fact that they're laminated at all would mitigate any Boeing of course that is contingent on the bow being fairly small to begin with. I don't know how straight the green is on my wenge, the centerpiece, going to have to look at that this weekend.

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17 minutes ago, ScottR said:

You guys must type faster then me...

One other thing to be aware of Mike. Sanding contrasting colors of wood in such close proximity will cause you to fight snding dust contamination.

SR

He he not typing speaking into my phone! That's why there's so many words spelled correctly! I guess I'm going to 86 the laminate idea but you make a good point especially if you're dealing with ebony!

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If you're worried about contamination don't use sandpaper. Use a scraper instead! And if/when you need to sand, go along the grain/stripe. My Maple-Cherry-Walnut-Cherry-Maple with 0.5 mm birch in between looks just fine, as does my Maple-Walnut-Maple neck - also where they go through the roasted Alder body.

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It's not the end of the world if the lams aren't completely flat, if you had a maple neck blank and you slice it down the middle to make 2 bookmatched outer laminates, if there is any bowing, just align them so the hump is in the middle. When you're glueing up lots of pieces, be mindful of the laminates slipping under the clamps, it's really easy for that to happen, especially if you've got veneers between the lams, so it's worth making everything oversized, just in case. 

The most awkward thing I found with lams was getting the neck blank perfectly flat and square again after glue up, easier if you've got a joiner, but it's wise to knock off the high spots with a hand plane before jointing/thicknessing, because while you will end up with a square piece of wood, it's easy for the strips in the middle to go off square with the sides/top of the neck blank.

As for alternating grain. If you've bookmatched a piece of maple and put in a wenge centre strip, you shouldn't really need to do any flipping, the wenge piece should counter any movement from the maple. 

Laminates make the most stable necks IMO, I just prefer using one piece 1. it's much less work, 2, the people that will be ordering them have it in their heads that one piece is better.

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5 hours ago, Bizman62 said:

If you're worried about contamination don't use sandpaper. Use a scraper instead! And if/when you need to sand, go along the grain/stripe. My Maple-Cherry-Walnut-Cherry-Maple with 0.5 mm birch in between looks just fine, as does my Maple-Walnut-Maple neck - also where they go through the roasted Alder body.

will have to experiment with that next time i do that but in the case I had issues with it it was an ebony fretboard with maple dots... and it required finish sanding.  what I ended up doing is just using compressed air freq.  still... that ebony dust penetrates quite well.

2 hours ago, ADFinlayson said:

It's not the end of the world if the lams aren't completely flat, if you had a maple neck blank and you slice it down the middle to make 2 bookmatched outer laminates, if there is any bowing, just align them so the hump is in the middle. When you're glueing up lots of pieces, be mindful of the laminates slipping under the clamps, it's really easy for that to happen, especially if you've got veneers between the lams, so it's worth making everything oversized, just in case. 

The most awkward thing I found with lams was getting the neck blank perfectly flat and square again after glue up, easier if you've got a joiner, but it's wise to knock off the high spots with a hand plane before jointing/thicknessing, because while you will end up with a square piece of wood, it's easy for the strips in the middle to go off square with the sides/top of the neck blank.

As for alternating grain. If you've bookmatched a piece of maple and put in a wenge centre strip, you shouldn't really need to do any flipping, the wenge piece should counter any movement from the maple. 

Laminates make the most stable necks IMO, I just prefer using one piece 1. it's much less work, 2, the people that will be ordering them have it in their heads that one piece is better.

some good points there.  something I hadn't considered (strips going out of square when planed).  I will use my router sled to plane it and will take care to ensure I setup the blank with the strips parallel when I do that.  thanks for that.

I hear ya on the stability.  Not something I'd want to do on every neck just because I love the look of a single piece and it's a lot more work... but for bass/baritone neck... def worth it.

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