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UPDATE on Neck Curving Back And Forth


capmaster

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Since there are several Gibson models featuring Richlite fretboards, I post this here instead of the SG subforum. I guess it is more a Richlite than an SG thing - all of my other SGs are fine.

 

Most of my guitars and basses have necks consisting of mahogany or maple and fretboards made of rosewood, maple, or baked maple. The neck adjustments of all of these are very stable.

 

Then there is my SG Supra with a mahogany neck, 60's asymmetrical shape, topped with a Richlite fingerboard. Since the day I own it in March, 2013, I am able to tune the guitar through adjusting the neck. No, that's not funny as such, adjusting the neck should affect string pitches on all guitars. The very thing is that I MUST do it this way on that guitar for achieving a correct setup. No joke, it's a matter of fact. [scared]

 

About two hours ago, I put the guitar out of the case and found it was tuned waaay sharp. Same time there was bad string buzz. So I removed the truss rod cover - there have been weeks and months before I had left it off - and tuned the guitar by adjusting the neck relief. As expected, it worked well, but it took turning counterclockwise about 60° which is a hell of a lot to my experience. The guitar had been fine just a week ago, temperature rose just from 21 to 23°C this time, and humidity from 64 to 68%. Nothing dramatic, none of my other guitars suffered any remarkable changes, most of them were even in no need of tuning.

 

Well, there is no other guitar featuring an asymmetrical neck among mine, but I guess the whole thing has to do rather with Richlite than with the neck profile. I never had to deal with such an unstable neck relief - it's driving me nuts. [crying]

 

At least, it is still fine two hours later... [rolleyes]

 

Has anybody experienced similar persisting trouble before?

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No offense Cap, so please don't take any.

 

It's just a guitar. The t00ners are for tuning it, not the truss. Have you tried just tuning it with the machines?

 

And again, no offense, but micrometers and orbit based measurement systems have never been needed for guitar necks and never will be. If you take it out of the case, put it on, feel it, and it feels fine but it is out of tune, chances are really good that it is just out of tune and the machines will work just fine.

 

I'm not saying you are overthinking it, but I think you are overthinking it. That guitar notices three degrees temperature change exactly as much as you and I do, which isn't much.

 

Just trying to help out here. It has been my experience that those that move the truss end up always moving the truss. Those that don't, like me, own guitars for 20 years at a time without ever even looking at the truss. I own and use 11 guitars. Last time I touched a truss had to be prior to 2008, because I think of time as whom is President. And I probably didn't even have to move it then, but I had changed gauges and thought it appropriate, and it was my Strat which is like my step child guitar so I didn't care.

 

Good luck with it. As always, if it continues to give you trouble, trade it!

 

rct

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Using the tuners leaves the guitar with a neck bent backwards, bad string buzz, and poor intonation. When it occurs the other way round, it causes too much neck relief and buzz due to extreme action, and poor intonation as well.

 

I've done it all several times, I tried this and that. No solution in sight. It throws me into despair. :(

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Then it sounds to me, in my experience and I'm not a luthier, like the truss is not functioning correctly, is functioning correctly but is in a channel that has problems(too big more than likely), or it is one of the bi-direction trusses and it is kaput in some way.

 

I'm with you, shouldn't be like that. I would have that in to the local Gibson Authorized Repair Centre and plan on not seeing it for a few years.

 

rct

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Then it sounds to me, in my experience and I'm not a luthier, like the truss is not functioning correctly, is functioning correctly but is in a channel that has problems(too big more than likely), or it is one of the bi-direction trusses and it is kaput in some way.

 

I'm with you, shouldn't be like that. I would have that in to the local Gibson Authorized Repair Centre and plan on not seeing it for a few years.

 

rct

For a few years... [biggrin]

 

All kidding aside, it's a quite normal truss rod, any adjustment immediately works the proper direction, but there obviously is no way of achieving a steady state.

 

Most of my guitars and basses have an extremely stable neck relief. I didn't touch the truss rods of my older ones for more than a decade when I had changed string gauges. Therefore the behaviour of this mahogany/Richlite neck is far beyond everything I ever experienced.

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No, and I wouldn't bother. I would take it to them, tell them the deal, let them handle it for a few days to see what you mean. You could even participate if it is someone close enough. Once they see what it is doing you will have a warranty problem. A guitar should not need the truss moved every time it is tuned. Period. Well, I wrote it after a period and punctuated it, so period Period period.

 

rct

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Sorry for adding my point of understanding, please correct me in case I'm wrong.

 

My thought is that when a fretboard is suffering more of a moisture expansion relative to the neck below it, neck relief would decrease, and vice versa. In case the entire neck expands, relief would decrease, too, since the rod's force would grow. In turn, it should apply the other way round for shrinkage through drying out.

 

It also is about a guitar going out of tune due to changes in neck relief, not the other way round, and I think this is rather unusual. [confused]

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I think that in a normal home, with normal environment settings, the changes in relative humidity would be so minimal and so fleeting as to be nothing in the life of a guitar.

 

I think the primary thing here is that tuning the guitar to pitch puts tension on the neck. The truss rod does absolutely nothing but counter that. If you tune it to pitch with the same gauge strings as last time, nothing happens, right? If you tune it to pitch, same gauge strings, and it sits a few days in the case and comes out sharp, the strings have shortened, the truss has not countered the pull of the strings, effectively lifting the strings higher off the fretboard and sharping them as they shorten. You are now moving the truss, re-tuning, and after some time it is not tuned correctly again, right? Something is up with that truss trying to counteract the pull of the strings by very passively simply resisting them. If you get it set, all seems well, couple days pass and it is out bad enought to notice, something is up with that truss.

 

If Gibson told me that the fretboard would cause me to have to move the truss every couple days I would demand a refund and not buy any of their guitars again. I have plenty of guitars that don't concern themselves with the fretboard material as far as setup and tuning goes.

 

Good luck with it because it sounds like you are in a pickle.

 

rct

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FWIW, I have a Hagstrom that has a composite fingerboard which is similar to or exactly like Richlite. The mahogany neck is the MOST stable of my guitars.

Thank you for your comment. This probably supports Rct's suggestion.

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Just a thought, I bought a used guitar one time with a pretty severe bow in the neck. I tried to adjust it out by turning the truss rod about 1/4 turn, tune it, and let it sit untill the next day. I kept repeating this every day until I ran out of truss rod. At that point I figured the guitar was done and just put it away. About a month later I got it back out and to my surprise it had a back bow to it now. I started the process again only this time loosening the truss rod and let it set for a couple of days before checking it. Eventually I got it right on and it's a great playing guitar. I am just wondering if the wood in your neck is just slow to adjust and your 60 degree turn is too much. Maybe turn it about 30 degrees and leave it alone for a week and see if it settles down. Good luck!

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Just a thought, I bought a used guitar one time with a pretty severe bow in the neck. I tried to adjust it out by turning the truss rod about 1/4 turn, tune it, and let it sit untill the next day. I kept repeating this every day until I ran out of truss rod. At that point I figured the guitar was done and just put it away. About a month later I got it back out and to my surprise it had a back bow to it now. I started the process again only this time loosening the truss rod and let it set for a couple of days before checking it. Eventually I got it right on and it's a great playing guitar. I am just wondering if the wood in your neck is just slow to adjust and your 60 degree turn is too much. Maybe turn it about 30 degrees and leave it alone for a week and see if it settles down. Good luck!

Thank you very much for your tips.

 

Several times in the past, I experienced exactly what you reported on other people's guitars and basses, obviously always due to being out of proper maintenance for a long period. However, in my case it is about a guitar I bought brand-new, and it has never been off beyond adjustment. For over fifteen months I also tried several step-by-step adjustments, i. e. deliberately correcting just a fraction of the deviation and awaiting days or weeks. Up to now, a steady state seems to be unobtainable. <_<

 

By the way, before I put my SG back on the shelf half an hour ago, I had to turn just a few degrees back, i. e. clockwise, to obtain proper adjustment. I checked tuning, it was slightly flat, and checking the relief confirmed my assumption like always. No need to mention it turned out to be in tune when the relief was correct. But who knows for how long? [unsure]

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No, and I wouldn't bother. I would take it to them, tell them the deal, let them handle it for a few days to see what you mean. You could even participate if it is someone close enough. Once they see what it is doing you will have a warranty problem. A guitar should not need the truss moved every time it is tuned. Period.

rct

 

This.

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I'm not sure what you're trying to accomplish, Cap, but you still have to tune your guitar using the tuners and adjust the relief using the trussrod. If that's not working, the guitar's messed up. Turning the trussrod back and forth to tune it may constitute abuse of the guitar under the warranty.

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It sounds to me as though you have a neck which is hypersensitive to humidity, or in this case, possibly even temperature sensitive.

 

With traditional neck and truss rod construction, neck shapes can move similar to a bimetal thermostat reed. Traditionally this is not so much due to differences between the fretboard and neck (longitudinal expansion with humidity is usually not too great a difference), but rather between the wood and the truss rod. As the neck / fretboard material swells, the vast majority of it's influence is above the truss, so as it wants to expand and the truss rod is holding more steady toward the back of the neck, it goes in to backbow.

 

This is why traditionally necks need their truss rod loosened in humid summer setups and tightened as the winter dryness sets in (here in Michigan anyway). Not all guitars react the same though. A very small percentage actually shift the opposite way, often due to different truss rod designs (many self contained or dual action rods react differently from the Gibson style compression rod), or perhaps in some cases due to differences between the neck and fingerboard material.

 

I've worked with a lot of Richlite, Stratabond, and other phenolic composite fingerboards, and in spite of the impression that synthetics should be more stable to environmental changes, this is not always the case. With many of the Martin phenolic fingerboards for example, I tend to observe much more drastic seasonal shifts than in their counterparts with wood fingerboards. Not saying this is a universal rule, but seems a rather consistently observed trend.

 

Rosewood and ebony may be less stable along the tangential and perpendicular grain axis, but the longitudinal stability can really be hard to beat. In addition, they are extremely resistant to dimensional change over a broad range of temperature. Phenolics like Richlite may beat most woods' perpendicular and tangential stability, but I suspect it may actually be more responsive than rosewood/ebony's longitudinal grain. Furthermore, wood cells can continue to harden their walls for many years after being dried (a very real difference between dried and seasoned), in turn stabilizing more over time. Phenolics have less chance of getting much better with age.

 

Then we have temperature. With wood this is not a problem, but with phenolics this can be a real issue. Could be like te days of Travis Bean aluminum necks, where it would shift and go out if tune as it warmed up to your hand, or if you went from a cool setting to under hot stage lights you could strike a chord and pretty much hear it go flat in real time.

 

So that's likely the source if your problem. Wish I had a solution for you, but unfortunately I don't as of yet. I will say that if I were building out of a material like this I would change my neck design to include things like carbon reinforcements, or some similar means of countering the dimensional volatility they seem to display.

 

As to how you adjust for it, I would recommend against the current method of tuning with your truss rod. It may be a reasonable gauge of returning to straight after the neck shifts, but certainly not entirely reliable. If your neck is unstable and requires frequent adjustments, it should always be adjusted to the reference of a straight edge or using a "string straight edge" as a guide. If it returns to normal pitch after adjusting to this reference that's great, but pitch alone should not be used as your primary guide.

 

Good luck, and I wish I had more reliable solutions beyond getting used to frequent adjustments.

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I'm not sure what you're trying to accomplish, Cap, but you still have to tune your guitar using the tuners and adjust the relief using the trussrod. If that's not working, the guitar's messed up. Turning the trussrod back and forth to tune it may constitute abuse of the guitar under the warranty.

Doing this way makes it all just one step.

 

I know the correct procedure would be the following but take a multiple of time, here for a loss of relief or backbow:

 

Through the neck bending backwards, pitch is going sharp. After tuning correctly, the back bow is even worse and causes lots of buzz. Then I adjust the neck which makes the strings go flat. Then I graudally retune and adjust the truss rod.

 

However, even with good luck it just works for the particular day... [unsure]

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It sounds to me as though you have a neck which is hypersensitive to humidity, or in this case, possibly even temperature sensitive.

 

With traditional neck and truss rod construction, neck shapes can move similar to a bimetal thermostat reed. Traditionally this is not so much due to differences between the fretboard and neck (longitudinal expansion with humidity is usually not too great a difference), but rather between the wood and the truss rod. As the neck / fretboard material swells, the vast majority of it's influence is above the truss, so as it wants to expand and the truss rod is holding more steady toward the back of the neck, it goes in to backbow.

 

This is why traditionally necks need their truss rod loosened in humid summer setups and tightened as the winter dryness sets in (here in Michigan anyway). Not all guitars react the same though. A very small percentage actually shift the opposite way, often due to different truss rod designs (many self contained or dual action rods react differently from the Gibson style compression rod), or perhaps in some cases due to differences between the neck and fingerboard material.

 

I've worked with a lot of Richlite, Stratabond, and other phenolic composite fingerboards, and in spite of the impression that synthetics should be more stable to environmental changes, this is not always the case. With many of the Martin phenolic fingerboards for example, I tend to observe much more drastic seasonal shifts than in their counterparts with wood fingerboards. Not saying this is a universal rule, but seems a rather consistently observed trend.

 

Rosewood and ebony may be less stable along the tangential and perpendicular grain axis, but the longitudinal stability can really be hard to beat. In addition, they are extremely resistant to dimensional change over a broad range of temperature. Phenolics like Richlite may beat most woods' perpendicular and tangential stability, but I suspect it may actually be more responsive than rosewood/ebony's longitudinal grain. Furthermore, wood cells can continue to harden their walls for many years after being dried (a very real difference between dried and seasoned), in turn stabilizing more over time. Phenolics have less chance of getting much better with age.

 

Then we have temperature. With wood this is not a problem, but with phenolics this can be a real issue. Could be like te days of Travis Bean aluminum necks, where it would shift and go out if tune as it warmed up to your hand, or if you went from a cool setting to under hot stage lights you could strike a chord and pretty much hear it go flat in real time.

 

So that's likely the source if your problem. Wish I had a solution for you, but unfortunately I don't as of yet. I will say that if I were building out of a material like this I would change my neck design to include things like carbon reinforcements, or some similar means of countering the dimensional volatility they seem to display.

 

As to how you adjust for it, I would recommend against the current method of tuning with your truss rod. It may be a reasonable gauge of returning to straight after the neck shifts, but certainly not entirely reliable. If your neck is unstable and requires frequent adjustments, it should always be adjusted to the reference of a straight edge or using a "string straight edge" as a guide. If it returns to normal pitch after adjusting to this reference that's great, but pitch alone should not be used as your primary guide.

 

Good luck, and I wish I had more reliable solutions beyond getting used to frequent adjustments.

Thank you very much, David, for your experienced comments and insights.

 

Today I called Thomann's Master Luthier, and he said the problem is rather uncommon. In seventeen professional years he had to deal with it just once. It was, or better still is since the guitar is at Gibson since several months, about a 335-S featuring a maple neck and granadillo fretboard.

 

I will go to Thomann next week and try to kill two birds with one stone, and according to our call today chances are good it will work. And you may even guess the other bird: On a second Fender Nashville Power Telecaster of mine one piezo sensor went bad... [crying]

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  • 3 weeks later...

Still I am a bit reluctant to cheer and jubilate, but I think it could turn out this time as it should have been from the start.

 

I had called Thomann's Master Luthier on July 18th, and he instantly offered me assigning their last SG Supra in stock for me as a replacement. For a moment I thought I had misheard, but before I had a chance to ask back he said a replacement would help to avoid months of waiting, and possibly dealing with unavailability in case my SG Supra isn't fixable. So he obviously made a serious offer - I was impressed. The Thomann service is really great. [thumbup]

 

Finally we made an appointment for July 23rd. That day I was shocked for the first moment since the new guitar's case lid's bump was badly misaligned. Then I opened it up - and was smitten. I had to keep my chin from falling onto the guitar top. :o Both top and back, specified as AAA respectively AA, rather appear being AAAA+ on this guitar. Since she is much less weight than the faulty one, I guess they could have made more money using these gorgeous maple blanks as Les Paul tops... :rolleyes: However, they did not. [biggrin]

 

In the end I went with the new guitar and my previous case. I restrung my new SG Supra switching from the stock .009" - .046" Gibson Brite Wires to Optima Chrome .011" - .050" the next day. Another day later, I had to perform a last subtle correction of truss rod adjustment, and it is solid since then, twelve days meanwhile. Now I also guess it wasn't a particular Richlite problem with the other one.

 

For one week I played this guitar exclusively and beat the first string set to death within three days. The E6th's and A5th's windings rattled like hell. I hadn't experienced this for years. It was sheer playing fun. :)

 

I will have to get entirely acquainted with the weird, too nice look, and it is slowly getting better. My original one was a rural belle with wildly undulating flame and a crazy grain showing several dark brown streaks. In contrary, both graining and flame of the new one are incredibly consistent. It is a raving beauty full of elegance, charm and grace I didn't see up to now in person on a guitar. [wub]

 

When I'm really sure that this is it I will post pictures. For now I think chances are good, but as a burnt child I prefer being calm and conservative.

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  • 1 year later...

So can we see it? Sounds like an amazing guitar….

[crying] Oh my God, I'm so sorry, I must have missed your post then and just got into it while revisiting my topic [blush]

 

Here she is - the TP-6 finetuning tailpiece is my favorite retrofit:

 

Front_2_zps2f1a3415.jpg

 

Top_2_zpsc0ab18c4.jpg

 

Controls_zps497ddc53.jpg

 

Back_2_zps1e694e7b.jpg

 

Peghead_zpsad4026e7.jpg

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