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Have any of you reshaped a neck?

#1 User is offline   johnnyvn 

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Posted 10 April 2016 - 07:04 PM

Hey all,

I bought a super sweet Gibson ES-330 VOS 1959 reissue off of eBay a year ago. I just fricking LOVE the guitar. Just the most awesome thing ever!

BUT, there is one problem.

The neck is simply too large for my hands.

I ran into a luthier here in Southern California. A very highly respected guy here in town, and I talked with him about it. The first thing he asked was how old the guitar was. He said that he would never recommend such a procedure for a vintage guitar. When I told him it was a 2005 reissue model, he asked whether I had bought it as an investment or to play actively. I told him the latter. While I wouldn't say that I don't care at all about the guitar's value, I'm in my 60's and just want to play this thing for the rest of my life. I didn't buy it with investment in mind at all.

He then said that he reshapes necks for people all the time, and if the neck's current shape makes me play it less (it does), he encouraged me to bring the guitar by his shop so we could take a look together.

I know, I know...some of you probably think I'm nuts. Because the thing is simply a thing of beauty visually. Yet, it's just too big for my hands.

So, has anyone ever done this? Am I nuts for even thinking about it? Actually, no, I don't think I'm nuts because I love this guitar and simply want to play it more.

But does anyone have experience for such a procedure turning out amazingly or becoming a nightmare?

Thanks in advance for your comments...
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#2 User is offline   bobouz 

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Posted 11 April 2016 - 03:22 AM

Having the neck modified seems worthwhile.

Personally, I value playability a tad bit higher than tone. If an instrument doesn't feel good in hand, it'll probably stay in it's case much of the time - no matter how good it sounds!

When purchasing my 2012 ES-330 VOS, I fortunately had three to choose from. Two of them had necks that were significantly thicker than the third. If I hadn't lucked out with the thinner profiled example, I could never have lived with the other two.

Hope it all goes well for you.
> Gibsons: '22 "A" Mandolin / '66 ES 125T / '90 Tennessean / '00 J-100 Xtra
'02 J-45 Rosewood / '02 SG Faded-moon / '06 ES 335 / '09 ES 339
'10 ES 330L / '11 ES 335-P90s / '12 ES 330 VOS / '12 LP Special
'12 J-185 / '13 LG2-AE / '13 Midtown Kalamazoo / '14 J-15
> Epis: '66 FT45n Cortez / '00 AIUSA-John Lee Hooker 1964 Sheraton
'05 McCartney 1964 Texan (Terada-Elitist) / '09 Elitist 1965 Casino
> Martins: '00 OOO-16 / '01 Custom Rosewood D / > Ibanez: '81 M-340
> Guilds: '73 F-30R / '74 F-40 / '76 G-37 / '92 D-6 / '94 JF-30 / '97 Starfire
'14 Savoy A-150b / > Breedlove: '10 American Series OO Mandolin
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#3 User is offline   stein 

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Posted 11 April 2016 - 05:24 AM

I have had good luck having necks re-shaped, particularly on one occasion.

They were Strats, though.

Just two things to point out: It WILL change the sound. How much depends on the guitar, and how much the neck shape is changed. It could change a little or a lot, but just know, you can't expect it to sound the same.

Also, it's a real good idea if you can provide a guitar with a neck you like, rather than just go by descriptions. It doesn't even have to be your guitar, it could be one of his or something in his shop. Having a neck physically there makes chances of having the end result what you want real good. Finding a neck you REALLY like makes chances of you liking the end result real good.
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#4 User is offline   johnnyvn 

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Posted 11 April 2016 - 06:41 AM

Thanks, guys. Bobouz, yes I recall your having a choice of three necks...it's amazing to think of finding three of these all in one place! As I think I have written before, mine is a rare bird...a sunburst model with factory installed Bigsby (which is only "supposed" to be on the cherry model). Apparently they made a small run of Sunburst Bigsby units.

Stein, very interesting about sonic perspectives. I'm going to talk to the luthier about that, because one of the things I like most about the guitar is its tone. Hmmmm. As far as neck profiles, yes, the luthier suggested I bring a guitar with a neck I love so that he could match it completely. Fortunately, I have two such guitars. One is a strat, but the one that I think is the best example is my Casino Elite. The strat being a Fender makes me think we'd have better luck with the Casino being an Epiphone. Although, I think I prefer the Casino ever so slightly anyway...

Thanks for your thoughts...
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#5 User is offline   jmendoza 

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Posted 11 April 2016 - 03:49 PM

It really gets down to if you are a player, or a collector. Players will typically care more about how well a particular guitar suits them and have no problems doing mods towards that end. Look at Les Paul, Johnny Smith, Eddie Cochran, and others, they all had modified their guitars to suit their particular needs.

If properly done, it will be very hard to impossible to tell the neck was re-shaped. One way to tell if the neck is a good candidate for reshaping is to push very gently on the back of it under the nut while playing a chord and see how easily it bends the notes in pitch. If you can alter the pitch noticeably just by pulling and pushing with your left hand while holding a chord, it's a flexi neck that should be left alone as it's already too flexible. If the neck is really stiff, then it can be slimmed down a bit without compromising it's rigidity. So, it really gets down to how stiff of a piece of wood you have for the neck, and how rigid the fingerboard is as well. Every guitar will be different in this respect, so they have to be evaluated on a case by case basis.

In my opinion, the VOS Gibsons are never going to be as valuable as an actual original model Gibson they are patterned after. And as mentioned, if the quality of the work done to them is such that it is not detectable, but improves the playability, it's a plus, not a minus. You should ask to see some of the guitars the luthier in question has shaved the necks on to determine if the workmanship is of a professional caliber, and more importantly, if it is obviously detectable. Lotsa guys buy Epis with the intent of modifying them, because they are not collectable, but still very good guitars, some of which can benefit from a modification or upgrade.

If you are worried, or in doubt as to the efficacy of having your VOS neck re-shaped, you can always send it to Gibson for a custom neck, they do fantastic work and you will not be disappointed.
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#6 User is offline   bobouz 

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Posted 11 April 2016 - 04:11 PM

View Postjohnnyvn, on 11 April 2016 - 06:41 AM, said:

Thanks, guys. Bobouz, yes I recall your having a choice of three necks...it's amazing to think of finding three of these all in one place!

Actually, two were in one store (a red Bigsby & a sunburst), while the one with the narrower neck profile (natural finish) was at another store. Played the first two & then went to the other store & was amazed by the difference. All were 2012 models.

Certainly proves that they're not a cookie cutter product!
> Gibsons: '22 "A" Mandolin / '66 ES 125T / '90 Tennessean / '00 J-100 Xtra
'02 J-45 Rosewood / '02 SG Faded-moon / '06 ES 335 / '09 ES 339
'10 ES 330L / '11 ES 335-P90s / '12 ES 330 VOS / '12 LP Special
'12 J-185 / '13 LG2-AE / '13 Midtown Kalamazoo / '14 J-15
> Epis: '66 FT45n Cortez / '00 AIUSA-John Lee Hooker 1964 Sheraton
'05 McCartney 1964 Texan (Terada-Elitist) / '09 Elitist 1965 Casino
> Martins: '00 OOO-16 / '01 Custom Rosewood D / > Ibanez: '81 M-340
> Guilds: '73 F-30R / '74 F-40 / '76 G-37 / '92 D-6 / '94 JF-30 / '97 Starfire
'14 Savoy A-150b / > Breedlove: '10 American Series OO Mandolin
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#7 User is offline   jdgm 

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Posted 11 April 2016 - 04:44 PM

These 330 reissues did have very fat necks indeed; I played one in my local shop around 10 years ago, couldn't believe how big it was.
I know someone with an early 60s 330, neck far slimmer.
Sounds like you have a good guy to do it anyway.
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#8 User is offline   johnnyvn 

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Posted 11 April 2016 - 06:25 PM

View Postjmendoza, on 11 April 2016 - 03:49 PM, said:

It really gets down to if you are a player, or a collector. Players will typically care more about how well a particular guitar suits them and have no problems doing mods towards that end. Look at Les Paul, Johnny Smith, Eddie Cochran, and others, they all had modified their guitars to suit their particular needs.

If properly done, it will be very hard to impossible to tell the neck was re-shaped. One way to tell if the neck is a good candidate for reshaping is to push very gently on the back of it under the nut while playing a chord and see how easily it bends the notes in pitch. If you can alter the pitch noticeably just by pulling and pushing with your left hand while holding a chord, it's a flexi neck that should be left alone as it's already too flexible. If the neck is really stiff, then it can be slimmed down a bit without compromising it's rigidity. So, it really gets down to how stiff of a piece of wood you have for the neck, and how rigid the fingerboard is as well. Every guitar will be different in this respect, so they have to be evaluated on a case by case basis.

In my opinion, the VOS Gibsons are never going to be as valuable as an actual original model Gibson they are patterned after. And as mentioned, if the quality of the work done to them is such that it is not detectable, but improves the playability, it's a plus, not a minus. You should ask to see some of the guitars the luthier in question has shaved the necks on to determine if the workmanship is of a professional caliber, and more importantly, if it is obviously detectable. Lotsa guys buy Epis with the intent of modifying them, because they are not collectable, but still very good guitars, some of which can benefit from a modification or upgrade.

If you are worried, or in doubt as to the efficacy of having your VOS neck re-shaped, you can always send it to Gibson for a custom neck, they do fantastic work and you will not be disappointed.


Thanks, J,

Yes, some great points there. I didn't buy it for any sort of "collection". I bought it simply to relive my Beatle days with it (I know, they were really using Casino's, but I read such great things about the Memphis VOS 330 reissues that I just had to try it...and yes, it's amazing and still VERY Beatles!). I agree about it not holding its value like "the real thing", but again, I just want to enjoy the guitar and will probably never sell it while I'm alive.

I'm going to try the neck push/pull idea...great thought there. And yes, I'll see if the luthier in question, Bill Asher (asherguitars.com) has some samples on hand. The guy was super nice in talking with him, and by the last day of NAMM (where we met), all of his guitars had SOLD signs on them. About 20 guitars at least.

But do you really think Gibson does this? I mean, do you think they would reshape the neck of one of their "already-built" guitars? The one nice aspect of doing it here locally in SoCal is being able to take him my Casino to copy.

Thanks for your great thoughts!
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#9 User is offline   johnnyvn 

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Posted 11 April 2016 - 06:36 PM

View Postjdgm, on 11 April 2016 - 04:44 PM, said:

These 330 reissues did have very fat necks indeed; I played one in my local shop around 10 years ago, couldn't believe how big it was.
I know someone with an early 60s 330, neck far slimmer.
Sounds like you have a good guy to do it anyway.


Yeah, you're right!

When I first opened the case of the guitar, I gasped from its just jaw-dropping beauty. I mean, simply stunning stunning stunning.

But even the first time I picked it up, and before I even got it into playing position, I could tell just holding it that the neck was large...much larger than I've ever played in my life, and I'm afraid that my hand is simply not big enough to handle it.

The guy who I'm considering is named Bill Asher (asherguitars.com). He builds for David Lindley, Lindsay Buckingham, Ben Harper, Jackson Browne and bunch of west coast cats. When I asked him if it was a crazy idea, he says he does it all the time for those guys, because they want their necks JUST RIGHT. His wife later pulled me aside and told me that Bill is simply as passionate as can be about his work and that he'd be the kind of guy who would put as much love into my guitar as I would! I know...she's his wife, for heaven sakes, but she's Japanese, and I know from experience that the Japanese are often very passionate about workmanship, so I felt that her opinion had value.

My first step would be to take him my guitar along with my Casino and let him evaluate the situation. I'm fairly certain after speaking with him that if he didn't feel it was the right thing to do, he'd tell me.

One more thing...when I was a teenager, I had a red 335 which my Dad bought for me and which I sold along the way in life (before I realized my stupid ways of youth!). And that neck was quite thin. In this case, the guitar has beautifully rolled binding along the neck, so I won't or maybe can't even make it thinner...but I'm hoping the "depth" of the neck can be made more shallow. But Bill will measure my Casino and see if it's possible to match...

Thanks for your comments!
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#10 User is offline   johnnyvn 

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Posted 11 April 2016 - 06:40 PM

Here's the beauty in question!

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#11 User is offline   jazzkritter 

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Posted 18 April 2016 - 04:06 PM

hi johnnyvn

Joined the forum just to let you know that I had the neck reshaped on my 1989 L5 CESN. After an injury getting my thumb around to the 6th string was hard and the 5th impossible. Took it to an extremely reliable luthier in central New Jersey (Raritan Valley Guitar Repair) along with an Ibanez AFJ151 with a thin neck I could play. They shaved and reshaped the L5 neck and as a result it's quite playable for me. Is as thin as the 151? No, they were concerned about shaving too much off the neck as well as the impact thinning it too far would have on durability. The finish is as good as new. Thank you Kyle and CJ!
So my point is do the homework and get someone with the best reputation you can find and go for it. As to the player/collector battle, I'm a musician not affluent enough to stable many special guitars....I just wanted to be able to play my L5....and I've never regretted it.

A guitar in a case is like a Irish Setter locked in an apartment...they're both meant to play not hide :)


Best of luck!
dave
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#12 User is offline   johnnyvn 

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Posted 20 April 2016 - 12:31 PM

View Postjazzkritter, on 18 April 2016 - 04:06 PM, said:

hi johnnyvn

Joined the forum just to let you know that I had the neck reshaped on my 1989 L5 CESN. After an injury getting my thumb around to the 6th string was hard and the 5th impossible. Took it to an extremely reliable luthier in central New Jersey (Raritan Valley Guitar Repair) along with an Ibanez AFJ151 with a thin neck I could play. They shaved and reshaped the L5 neck and as a result it's quite playable for me. Is as thin as the 151? No, they were concerned about shaving too much off the neck as well as the impact thinning it too far would have on durability. The finish is as good as new. Thank you Kyle and CJ!
So my point is do the homework and get someone with the best reputation you can find and go for it. As to the player/collector battle, I'm a musician not affluent enough to stable many special guitars....I just wanted to be able to play my L5....and I've never regretted it.

A guitar in a case is like a Irish Setter locked in an apartment...they're both meant to play not hide :)


Best of luck!
dave


Dave, sorry for the very delayed response to your awesome post! I've been visiting my 90yo+ parents for the last several days and didn't have much free time.

And thank you for joining just to inform me of your experience. I really appreciate it! I also hope you enjoy your time here!

I really appreciated your perspective on nearly every point you made. One of the things I've been concerned about is whether the guitar would look like some bastardized piece of wood upon completion, so your statement that "the finish is as good as new" is quite reassuring. The person I'm thinking of having do the work is, I feel, a complete professional, and I'm sure he'll tell me whether he would recommend undertaking the process or not once he has seen my actual guitar.

Like you, I'm not a guitar "collector" and certainly did NOT buy this guitar with "collecting" or "investment" in mind. Rather, I bought it because I want to play the thing every day and if I thought there were exercises I could do to actually increase the size of my hands, I would do them. But I'm in my early 60's and doubt that my hands will be growing larger anytime soon. I've got the same problem as you...can barely reach my thumb to the 6th string and there would be NO hope of reaching the 5th. And even on the 6th, then I'm having troubles keeping the 1st and 2nd strings ringing clear. It's frustrating. But the look, feel, and especially SOUND of this guitar is everything I could ever hope for. AND, the fact that it is a sunburst model with factory installed Bigsby means I probably won't ever find another (Mike Voltz, who oversaw the manufacture of these guitars in Memphis, told me that they probably only made 20-40 sunburst with Bigsby before finally settling on offer the Bigs only on the cherry color.

One last question...might you wish to share how much the procedure cost in your case? I have NO idea, but I'm presuming that it would be $500 - $1000 to have it done properly and well. I hope I'm in the ballpark.

Anyway, thanks again so much for sharing your experience. Much appreciated!

John
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#13 User is offline   ksdaddy 

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Posted 20 April 2016 - 01:21 PM

In 1984 I bought an old Kay solid body and reshaped the clubby neck. I didn't destroy it but I don't think I did it any favors.

In 1986 I bought a Hopf Saturn 63 and the neck was weird...almost squared off. I shaved it down using much more care and caution this time. It worked out well but given that this neck does not have an adjustable truss rod, I can only use 10-46. I suspect if I had left the neck chunky I could put 12s on it.

I doubt I'll ever try it again.
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