correcting neck bow w/ a fret dressing

Discussion in 'Luthier's Guitar & Bass Technical Discussion' started by merkaba22, Jun 8, 2008.

  1. merkaba22

    merkaba22 Member

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    I just picked up a rare 1987 Gibson SG-Z ... turqoise green mahogany body with pearloid pickguard, 25.5" scale ebony 24 fret fingerboard w/ split diamond position markers on a mahogany neck -- strings are secured body-through with a eyelets in a diagonal pattern. Its not mint at all and the volume and tone pots are not original; but it seems to have been played a great deal and still has that bar/cigarette smell in the wood and has an unbelievable tone:)

    There is a slight/mild concave (corrected) neck neck bow from the 4/5th fret to the nut that the adjusting the truss rod will not correct -- the truss rod seems to work well but changes mostly around the 12th fret -- its significant enough to keep the guitar from being setting up with a low action which I prefer.

    When you look down the neck you can see where the bow starts on the back of the neck, along the fingerboard binding as well as on the the fretted surface of the fingerboard.

    I can think of three potential remedies to address this issue (not being a repairman):

    1) dress the frets (since they are high enough) and accept that they will be low near the nut ...

    or

    2) do a complete re-fret and resurface the fingerboard to compensate for the bow -- I am concerned with this approach since you could be taking away even more wood which would otherwise be necessary to keep the neck as straight as it can be;

    or

    3) do a complete re-fret and replace the binding with, say, ebony to improve structural integrity and reinforce that area of the neck.

    if such a condition is worth addressing -- or is it better left to another player who would otherwise be happy with a higher action?
     
    Last edited: Jul 5, 2008
  2. bobmeredith

    bobmeredith Member

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    By the sound of it a fret dressing will not fix this problem. The fingerboard will need to be planed, refretted, dressed and binding replaced. etc. BIG JOB.

    I think CONCAVE is the word you mean.

    CONCAVE: the bend goes down
    CONVEX: the bend goes up. (like the lens in a magnifing glass.)

    Replacing and refretting a fingerboard (plus rebinding) will be expensive and might not fix it if the neck itself is U/S. The fingerboard will probably rise at the 12+ frets as well.

    A plek job might get it playable; only you know what action is acceptable to you.

    You definately need a quote from an experienced repairer. This will help you decide whether to sell it or not.
     
  3. walterw

    walterw Gold Supporting Member

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    geez, why replace the binding? pull the frets, level the board, refret over the binding (no nibs), rock on.
     
  4. David Collins

    David Collins Member

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    It all depends on the severity. In mild cases this can be remedied quite easily with a fret dress, but if it's too much the just level the board and refret exactly as Walter said.
     
  5. Gary Ladd

    Gary Ladd Member

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    Don't waste your money on a dressing, go all the way if you want to keep the guitar & refret, plus if you get it done with stainless steel frets & properly store the guitar to protect it against harsh humidity levels it'll probably last you a lifetime!
     
  6. David Collins

    David Collins Member

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    If it is a very minor problem, I wouldn't consider an $80-$100 fret dress a waste of money, and would consider a $300 refret overkill. On the other hand if it's more than a minor curve, yes the fret dress would be a waste, and the appropriate approach would be either the refret or getting rid of it to find another.
     
  7. merkaba22

    merkaba22 Member

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    Well, the degree of severity is the question -- the neck thickness at the first fret is .79"; so there is the concern of how much one can take off the fingerboard to compensate.

    I measured between the strings and the frets when I held down the strings at both the 1st fret and the 7th fret and the bow creates a gap of .020" when the rest of the neck is set up to have a very slight concave adjustment.

    What is the recommendation under these conditions?

    Further, you can apply hand pressure to the back of the neck where the warp is and correct -- the idea was that by replacing the binding with a stiff wood like ebony (and perhaps removing some of extra wood so that the binding pieces could be larger and more effective) and gluing it under pressure, the bow can be remedied -- has anyone tried this successfully yet?
     
  8. The Pup

    The Pup Supporting Member

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    I just used one of these and two heat lamps to fix a classical with the same problem:

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    Be carefull to stay less than 220 F!
     
  9. merkaba22

    merkaba22 Member

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    Looks promising -- does anyone have any idea how much this would cost by a pro, say Norik Renson in LA, for example?
     
  10. merkaba22

    merkaba22 Member

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    I appreciate the reference but I am in LA and it seems as good as the refferal is there must be someone in the LA area who can do this right -- any other referrals?

    Thanks again:)
     
  11. David Collins

    David Collins Member

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    I can't say from your measurements what it needs - measurements are much more subjective than most would like to think. It should really be evaluated in person to get a professional opinion. As far as relying on new binding to reinforce or straighten a neck, I don't think that would be a very reliable approach. Heat treating has it's drawbacks as well, and may not always yield the most stable long term results.

    You'll just have to take it in for professional evaluation, then make your decision whether this instrument is worth proceeding with repairs or if it is better to get a replacement neck, or just sell it an look for a new one. As to where to take it, I don't personally have any references for you in the LA area, but I'm sure there are plenty of people here who can point you in the right direction. You may want to start a new topic like "Repair Shops in LA Area?", and I'm sure you'll get no shortage of recommendations.
     
  12. Dana Olsen

    Dana Olsen Gold Supporting Member

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    Lotta good repair types in LA. Mike Tuttle at Best Frets has some great looking work - he's in Saugus, up I-5 a little ways past Magic Mountain.

    http://www.bestfrets.com/flash/index.htm

    Jim Foote at Southbay Music Works on Artesia in Lawndale is also excellent.

    Good Luck, Dana O.
     
  13. The Pup

    The Pup Supporting Member

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    I should also mention that I had to use a "compression" re-fret technique on a few of the frets to get the neck to behave. The neck's basic geometry was sound...it just need a little coaxing (no truss rod obviously).
     
  14. merkaba22

    merkaba22 Member

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    I took the guitar to Norik Renson who is a great reparirman/Luthier and after the first try of heating and using a jig got the concave neck neck bow from the 6/7th fret to the nut to decreased from .020" to .015".

    A second much more prolonged effort (second week, 4 days) reduced the bow further down to .008" -- I took it home last night and let it be overnight fully strung and today its still bowed about .008"

    It is not clear why the problem exists to begin with; for example, is the mahogany soft or perhaps the glue itself is inadequate in some way....

    1) Given that the neck thickness at the first fret is .79", would a limited re-fretting of the affected area alone, where the replacement frets (which will be initially higher relative to the height of the rest) can be dressed accordingly until a full re-fret is required be preferable to doing the job now of pulling all the frets and planing the fret board to eliminate the .008" bow and re-fretting?

    2) One earlier poster thought stainless steel frets would be a great long term solution -- is the jury still out on the tone of stainless?

    3) Also, I read somewhere that for the Gibson SG-90's and V-90's (singles and doubles) with this 25.5" ebony board that carbon graphite was used to reinforce the neck -- is this info accurate?

    4) Will replacing the binding w/ ebony strips in a re-fret assist (I really don't like binding) at all?
     
    Last edited: Jul 5, 2008
  15. merkaba22

    merkaba22 Member

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    On further examination, I can get the neck straight with a slight concave arc as I would prefer until the 1st and 2nd fret where there still exists a slight bow.

    Would there be a preference to leveling the fret board and/or frets in this area or continuing with the heat/jig approach focused on this remaining area?
     

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