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Neck Pocket - How Tight???


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Hello All,

Yet another question from the newbie on his first guitar build.  I am going to do a bolt on neck (even though I am using a plan for a PRS Custom 22 which is set).  You already answered a neck question for me but I was thinking about it and I can see how the neck can be adjusted for the angle with a shim under the neck if necessary.  What do you do if you end up slightly out of center; meaning, the neck would need to rotate up and down do that you get it perfectly aligned so the strings essentially "stay in their lane"?   Should the neck pocket be just slightly wide so you can adjust that or is it one of those do it right the first time kind of things.   

Thank you for the great answers you've given me so far.  I probably overthink and worry more than I should but screwing it up is expensive and I really want to take my time and get it right.

 

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1 hour ago, KeysNGuitar said:

Hello All,

Yet another question from the newbie on his first guitar build.  I am going to do a bolt on neck (even though I am using a plan for a PRS Custom 22 which is set).  You already answered a neck question for me but I was thinking about it and I can see how the neck can be adjusted for the angle with a shim under the neck if necessary.  What do you do if you end up slightly out of center; meaning, the neck would need to rotate up and down do that you get it perfectly aligned so the strings essentially "stay in their lane"?   Should the neck pocket be just slightly wide so you can adjust that or is it one of those do it right the first time kind of things.   

Thank you for the great answers you've given me so far.  I probably overthink and worry more than I should but screwing it up is expensive and I really want to take my time and get it right.

 

You don't want the neck pocket slightly wide if you can help it. You can always remove material from one side of the pocket and shim the other if you find yourself in that situation you described.

A better way is to locate your neck before you locate your bridge and your pickup routes. cut your pocket and bolt the neck on.  Draw lines on the body that follow the outside edges of the neck. Find the center-line of that Which will tell you if you set the neck on the center-line of the body or not. It's good to know but not really critical if the center line is of a little. It is much more important to line your bridge and pickups with the neck. If you know the spacing of your nut slots and have your bridge you can draw in the string placement  and locate the bridge with that info plus the scale length. Some builders go so far as to placing the outer two machine heads and string up  the outer two strings to locate the bridge placement.

Laying out things in this order means you can make you neck pocket as snug as you like without fear of misalignment.

SR

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The neck pocket should be tight, sideways adjusting is the last trick in the book when there's nothing left.

As has been often said, a continuous centerline is the key to guitar building. As this world isn't perfect we sometimes have to improvise. It often happens that there's a minor sideways angle where the neck meets the body and that is the reason for leaving the installing of the bridge until the neck is firmly in its place. That allows for locating the bridge with the strings rather than an inaccurate line. No one can see if your bridge isn't spot on the centerline of the body, but everyone can see if the strings fall off the neck on one side.

@ScottR you beat me again with your lightning fast fingers!

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The way I'll answer this: The centerline (as said above) is always the master key. You (should) always have a centerline present during the build. Then you should have a neck pocket router template (of some description, you can make one yourself) to use that has a centerline also. Even if you're only going to use the thing once, its easy to make and keeps you on the ball. You just line up the centerlines, put your router template down over it, and route the pocket. And, like magic, the neck is true to the bridge.

As long as you line up your bridge during your bridge installation to the same centerline...because the centerline is always present during the build. All matters of alignment all hinge off of that centerline being there and working from it.

I always have my bridge installed and usually run two strings down the length when I'm drilling the holes for the neck. Just sayin'...

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8 hours ago, Drak said:

I always have my bridge installed and usually run two strings down the length when I'm drilling the holes for the neck.

Wow, never thought it could be done that way as well! But yes, the logic is similar to drilling the holes for the bridge after the neck is set, keeping one or the other end loose for potential adjustments.

The reason I haven't installed the bridge first is that I've been building thru-necked guitars since the first Tele which was built using the templates provided by the Master Luthier of the course.

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If you fix the neck first, then mount the outer tuners and use a couple strings with your bridge, you can adjust the exact position and scale length.

You can still be accurate other ways, but two things you can really fine tune are: 1) space between outer strings and edge of fret board, and 2) scale length / adjustment range of your bridge. Sometimes those can be tricky because of string gauges, bridge style, multi-scale, etc. This is also a place where you can really check and fine tune the overall relationships of the neck height/angle, string height/action, bridge saddle adjustment. Hopefully it's all good at this point, but it's a good "safety net" step.

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7 hours ago, komodo said:

If you fix the neck first, then mount the outer tuners and use a couple strings with your bridge, you can adjust the exact position and scale length.

You can still be accurate other ways, but two things you can really fine tune are: 1) space between outer strings and edge of fret board, and 2) scale length / adjustment range of your bridge. Sometimes those can be tricky because of string gauges, bridge style, multi-scale, etc. This is also a place where you can really check and fine tune the overall relationships of the neck height/angle, string height/action, bridge saddle adjustment. Hopefully it's all good at this point, but it's a good "safety net" step.

Everybody has their own way, and I'm sure they all work. But to say 'you can be accurate other ways' implies some kind of lesser accuracy or less-than-dom, and I would disagree with that. Simply because both ways work equally as well as the other in the hands of someone who understands the concepts in front of them. There is nothing you can achieve by one way that you can't also achieve just as easily by the other. It's totally dealer's choice.

I always install the bridge first, and I know exactly where my scale length/saddle adjustment range is before I ever install it. That goes for TOM's and flat-mounts, it doesn't matter to me, I've done all the math and pre-calculating before anything gets mounted, as everyone should. I have just as much access to neck height/angle and saddle adjustment as someone putting a neck on first would.

AAMOF, I would find that way actually hindering and limiting, ...but that's because I do it the 'other' way, haha!

AAMOF, I look at the neck pocket as the place where the safety net lives.

Once you install a bridge, it's there to stay, but you can ameliorate a neck pocket a hundred ways to Sunday.

So leaving the neck install as last builds in more insurance for adjustment if you need it, not less. The neck pocket allows you, if you need it (I rarely do but acknowledge the insurance in that pocket) to do just about anything you want. You can deepen it, you can shim it, you can move the neck forward, backward, raise it, or lower it. All the insurance (safety net) lives in the neck pocket, so why would you commit to that first?

If we're talking about safety nets...to me, the neck install saved for last is the biggest safety net you could ask for.

But that's only because I have my way, and you have yours, and its all good and it all works as long as your brain is working.

🖖

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4 hours ago, Drak said:

Everybody has their own way, and I'm sure they all work. But to say 'you can be accurate other ways' implies some kind of lesser accuracy or less-than-dom, and I would disagree with that.

ZERO implications here!

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Great info, Friends.   Thank you!  I wasn't thinking about placement of bridge last to compensate for a slightly off center neck.  I have been tried to learn as much as possible before starting but as you all know, I am sure, there is always something you don't think of; especially for your first build.  For me.... there are lots of those things I didn't think of.  :( 

Thanks again for the help.  It is appreciated!

 

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6 hours ago, KeysNGuitar said:

For me.... there are lots of those things I didn't think of.  :( 

That applies to most of us here. Questions like this can trigger the thinking process to re-evaluate our own 'known good' methods as well so asking is a way to improve the skills on both sides! 👍

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So, to answer both the left-right alignment and up-down (TOM) alignment all in the same breath...This is the neck pocket template I've been using ever since I started 30 years ago. I still have and use the original one, dinged up as it is, tho I did buy a replacement somewhere along the line. I found the replacement was 'slightly larger' than my original and I didn't care for that so I continue to use the original. I believe they did that to allow for the very 'slop factor' you're asking about, the whole reason for the original post.

So guys who didn't get it dead-on the nuts had a little wiggle-room to maneuver. So basically, they already did it for you in the template. I'm sure they get feedback all the time over the years and decided to make the newer model adaptive (slightly larger) to beginners. I like a very tight fit, which the original gives me.

On to the TOM angle. The template is long enough it overhangs the back end of the instrument. I built several thin shims so when I do a TOM, I add shims to the back end (and then to the middle for support) to 'build in' the TOM angle. To raise the back end so the template is already sitting at the angle I want for a TOM. Whatever it happens to be, I can adjust for it.

So the angle is built right into the pocket when I route the neck pocket. This is all very straightforward and easy, and I'm always all about the easy (usually). The 'other' template cutout is for a bass neck. And the very long outside edges are great when you need to route a straight line anywhere, so it does double-duty.

Even if I'm doing a carved top, the neck pocket still comes first, with the proper angle already accounted for and adjusted for. So I can get the neck pocket routed while the instrument is still flat, before I begin shaping the top.

One more note: Usually, the neck pocket is one of the very first functions I do, its right up front right after the body is routed to shape.

But the neck install itself is at the very tail end, its one of the very last things done.

When the neck actually gets installed and drilled, the guitar is within an hour of being done and strung.

Does this help any at all?

neck-pocket-routing-template-for-fender.

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So I thought I had a few pics from back in the day to show, sometimes a single pic is worth a thousand words. Probably have a better one, but this is the first one I came across. The shim I was using here isn't the shims I made specifically for doing this, and if I were doing a TOM it would be a bit higher.

I think I was doing a recessed Floyd install on this one, so its a thin little shim, but it gets the point across of how the angle for a TOM is built into the pocket.

If you are working from a centerline, which you should always be doing, and your template has a centerline etched into it (or you made your own and put one there), you can't be off-center, you just can't. That's why the centerline, really, is the answer to the original question. If you establish a centerline and work from it, you can not be off center, everything will be in alignment. When it comes time to install the bridge, the bridge will be placed right on the same centerline. Its all about having the centerline in place for accuracy.

You can see the centerline in place, because the centerline rules everything that happens. And you can see that the only other thing that has happened is the body has been routed to form, the neck pocket is way up front in the process.

45cxd8B.jpg

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On 3/1/2021 at 1:55 PM, KeysNGuitar said:

What do you do if you end up slightly out of center; meaning, the neck would need to rotate up and down do that you get it perfectly aligned so the strings essentially "stay in their lane"?   Should the neck pocket be just slightly wide so you can adjust that or is it one of those do it right the first time kind of things.   

Here's another pic I found that just drives this point home, which I believe is the answer to your fear of being out of alignment: The Centerline.

This is a pickguard template I made, and look what's there (because it always is) The Centerline.

XcoyW8W.jpg

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I'm going to reply without having read the previous comments so I'm not influenced by them....I have opinions....

A bolt-on neck should be reasonably tight. Not so much that the neck can pick up the body without the bolts installed. Unlike Fender - who pioneered the bolt-on neckas part of their mass munufacture - home gamers make one-offs and shouldn't really need that built-in ability to adjust the necks and bodies built on seperate processes. We have the ability to pair a neck to a body and specifically tailor that body's neck pocket to be most appropriate for that individual neck. The centreline should always be your ultimate reference.

I've never liked the idea of being able to rotate a neck slightly in the pocket. It feels hacky, like fixing a lazy mistake in the design. If possible, I'd avoid building that in and spend time getting the neck pocket snug and as appropriate for your neck as is possible.

If the body doesn't have an obvious centreline or symmetry (say, a bookmatched top or a flying V) then it is possible to fit the neck first and then move the bridge and intervening stuff slightly to account for any misalignment. That is far from ideal, as really everything should be perfect with respect to the centreline. I don't like neck adjustment strategies, so clamp a couple of straightedges to your neck and use those to help develop a perfect neck pocketing location (or whatever technique) and everything is golden.

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