"Compound radius" Your opinion? Construction?

Discussion in 'Luthier's Guitar & Bass Technical Discussion' started by amper, Mar 22, 2006.

  1. amper

    amper Member

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    What's your opinion on the utility of a "compound radius" fretboard? For those of you who use them, what's you preferred configuration (10-16", 7.25-12", other)? For those of you who have built them, what do you think is the easiest way to do it?

    Personally, while I can clearly see that the actual shape of the strings on an instrument forms a cone, not a cylinder, and that the idea of a "compound radius" (really a conical section) should be quite obvious, I've never had any problems with any of my simple radius guitars. I've never owned a compound radius guitar, though, so maybe I'm missing out on something?

    I'm designing a line of guitars and basses, so I'm curious as to whether or not I should even bother, and futhermore, if I did, how would I do it? I've got a couple of ideas, but they seem a bit difficult to actually accomplish.
     
  2. Fuzzdawg

    Fuzzdawg Member

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  3. John_M

    John_M Member

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    if you are making guitars, you should grab your algebra book and make it happen. The idea is take the nut width, string spread at the bridge and the scale length and then apply some formula.

    I like the 10-16 but that would make the radius at the bridge something like 20" - so it's not exact. A Floyd is 10". I believe some of the other builders have the right formula - - 10-14 maybe? with something other than a floyd.
     
  4. amper

    amper Member

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    Math is not a problem for me. What I'm wondering about is the real-world practical aspects of the compound radius, in terms of playability and construction. Ever try to carve a conical taper over 18" of fretboard that's only about 1/4" thick? Not the easiest thing to do accurately...
     
  5. Robotechnology

    Robotechnology Supporting Member

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    I can only offer my opinion of how they feel... I have 4 guitars with compound radii and love them. I think I like my Yamaha Pacifica 921 neck's feel the most out of the 4 (was made by Warmoth). Maybe you could get your hands on a Warmoth compound radius neck for ideas.
     
  6. John_M

    John_M Member

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    I have no idea how it's done. I'd assume for maximum accuracy you'd need some automation. I think PLEK can do it, or even take tall frets and make a compound radius in the frets, not the board. Suhr PLEKs all his guitars, but the machines are big $

    I'm pretty sure if doing it by hand with radius blocks, it would be a super PITA and add a lot of time to the bottom line.

    Split the difference and go with a 12" radius - - good for G&L and SRV
     
  7. K-man

    K-man Member

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    I have a Warmoth which is 10-16, but IMO the compound radius doesn't really add anything over a constant 12". Probably because I don't really play bar chords. Personally I would just go with the 12" radius.
     
  8. Luke

    Luke Senior Member

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    I agree with the constant 12", I've had a few Warmouth necks with the compound radius. I did not notice a difference at all under usage. When the concept first emerged it seemed so logical that I assumed every manufacturer would eventually enbrace it. Reality has turned out comepletely different and the compound radius seems to be a great idea the world did not need nor want.
     
  9. Brion

    Brion Supporting Member

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    I have a strat that I put together that has a 10-16 compound radius. It plays nice. The only reason it has this radius is because I bought it from warmoth's bargain bin that way. I would not buy or pass on a guitar specifically because it has a compound radius or not. Anything 9.5 and above works for me. If I were carving/sanding necks and fretboards I wouldn't mess with a compound radius as it seems as if it would add a lot of labor for a minimal change in overall feel/function.
     
  10. stratrat2000

    stratrat2000 Member

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    A flatter radius lets you get the action down lower without buzzing. Many players also prefer open chords on a smaller radius, but single notes on a flatter radius. It's not essential, but it's nice for clean bends with a low action.

    AFAIK, there are two common radii being used for replacement parts these days. Warmoth and their 12"-16" (think Gibson to Jackson) and USA Custom Guitars who use a 7.25"-9.5" (think vintage to modern Fender).

    I prefer the smaller radius for a few reasons - first and foremost, I like vintage and modern Fender necks, and while I'm also happy on a 10 or even a 12" fingerboard, a 16 is too flat for me. Also, if you have single coil pickups with staggered polepieces the string to string balance is better on the smaller radius.
     
  11. jhale667

    jhale667 Member

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    I got stuck on the Warmoth Compound radius in the late '90s and now it's all I like. The advantages (particularly with a Floyd) are lower action and wider (like 2 1/2 step) bends with no fretting out. If you're making your own, I noticed Stewart-Macdonald offers a set of graduated radius sanding blocks...no guesswork required. www.stewmac.com
     

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