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Beware ! You're in Kamikazie here. Not many pro luthiers around, more often brave souls experimenting in their kitchen.

Neck Removal Talk

MisterSov : I hear you guys like pics, so here's a peek into my latest reset, just after steaming off the neck. I've seen several Sovs with gobs of glue in the neck pocket like this, and it serves no purpose there. Cleaning out all this mess and fitting the joint back properly with mahogany shims, really has a positive effect on the tone. Wedging in the little popsickle stick shims, and pouring that much glue into the joint, was likely a result of assembly line construction and the speed with which these Harmonys were built.

Harmony lutherie : removing neck techniques

Blue in VT : WOW what a mess!!! thanks for sharing that...as I am about to start down this road myself for the first time I, for one, would love to see any more pics you have...or read any more descriptions you have of your process. Looks like fun !

MisterSov : Blue, I encourage you to give it a try and if you have any questions, ask away.
Back to the picture above, you can see that steam from my inflation needle cleared out some of the hide glue, just below the 15th fret access hole. Before I started, the entire tenon would have had almost 1/8" glue covering it. The melted glue ran down to the bottom of the dovetail in the neck block. Most of the glue cleans up easily while it's wet & warm, by scraping it off with a putty knife or a chisel.

François : I had found a lot of glue inside this H56 neck joint too (more about it here) There was no shims but more than 1/8" of glue on the whole tenon surface.. It loks messy but I see it as more or less normal, as it just fills a non structural empty space... Btw, this H56 neck came almost completely separated by itself, from years of dryness, I didn't had to steam it...

Harmony lutherie : removing neck techniquesHarmony lutherie : removing neck techniques

Blue in VT : Thanks for the encouragement...I've got a H-162 waiting for me on the bench...just still trying to screw up the nerve to fire up the steamer...

MisterSov : Come on Blue, you can do it and you can go slowly, with help along the way buddy. You've got the steam machine, inflation needle on a hose, 5/64" drill bit, plenty of rags,.... no time like the present !

Blue in VT : What do you guys use as a neck removal device...do you have one of those fancy jobbies with the screw to push out the neck or do you do it more low tech? That would be the last thing I need to figure out before I jump in.

MisterSov : Here's the jig I made for this and you can see by the strings that it's not an action shot. But, there's no need to get all fancy, you can lay a 2X4 on your bench or the floor, and grab the top shoulders of the body while pressing the heel bottom on the board. When it gets enough steam, it will release it's hold and sorta pop upwards, less than an inch usually.
You could also wrap one arm around the waist, and wiggle the neck side to side until it's loose, and then pull upwards. I don't recommend hitting the heel with a hammer, since the warm glue needs steady pressure, as opposed to a blunt strike.
I'm telling you Blue, you can do it!
btw, I graduated from the pressure cooker to an old cappuccino machine.

Harmony lutherie : removing neck techniques

Geo : Sov, a member here, norm, had the opinion that a pressure cooker was a better steam generator than an expresso machine, but youve gone in the oposite direction, could you elaborate ?
Ive bought two spresso machines at the thrift and they seemed to produce copious ammounts of water from the brewing section and not much steam.So just when I figure Ill get a pressuire cooker instead you write you went the other way.Help me decide here, its time to rip a few guitars apart !!!

MisterSov : I've always said "there's more than one way to skin a cat", and I figure that steaming off a neck can be done with whatever steamer and jig that works for you. I started with a pressure cooker, in the kitchen and I wanted to move to the shop, without buying a hot plate. I was lucky to find that my sis-in-law had this old Mr Coffee cappuccino machine that had been retired. The hose is a fuel line from the auto parts store, so that it will withstand the heat. Now that I've used it, it's quicker to start, I put in only 2 oz. water, with plenty left over. The best feature is the knob on the left side that turns on the steam, and also regulates the pressure. I drop the needle in a 5 gallon bucket next to my bench, and when it's hot, I test spray inside the bucket to get rid of any air that might need to come out. Then I turn it off, insert the needle into the 15th fret hole, and turn the knob back on to where I remember that the pressure is just right (I can tell by the sound too)......not too weak and not too strong. I use a glove on my right hand to hold the hot hose, and slowly twist the hose to ensure that the double barrel spray of the needle hits every spot. I already have the big clamp in the pic above, tightened. Sometimes, the neck pops up without any more tightening, but usually I tighten the clamp very slowly, and I don't force the issue. The joint always give up and lets go within about 10 to 20 seconds and never more than about 45 seconds, then I immediately pull the needle out. Of course 4 hands would be usefull at this point, because I have a loose neck and a loose clamp that need to be laid aside. I would bet that these older cappuccino machines are better than new ones (like most things), but they'll all get the job done. Good Luck, MisterSov

Harmony lutherie : removing neck techniques

fanfab4 : Very informative . I like the idea of the knob being able to regulate the steam pressure . Nice.
Using a cappuccino machine allows you to do it anywhere compared to a pressure cooker that needs a stove or as mentioned the addition of a hot plate . Self contained .

Simon (SeaChamp) : MisterSov, I was just puzzling over capuccino machines yesterday. I got this machine at the junk store for $6.50 :

Harmony lutherie : removing neck techniques

It works just like George's. All the hot water just bubbles out of the hole where the coffee grounds are supposed to go, and no recognizable steam comes out of the steam hose. However, the valve on the steam hose is only an open/close valve, and it looks like the one you got from sis-in-law has a selector valve. I bet George and I have to go back to the junk store and upgrade.
I think I'll try one thing first, though. I'll clamp a steel cover and a rubber gasket over the coffee end.

Harmony lutherie : removing neck techniques

See if I can get all that steam to come out of the hose. That little cast aluminum pot sure does get water hot !

François : I am at the same point, still figuring how to make my first neck removal... Then I'll have some dozens more...
I have a capuccino machine very similar to yours, bought it for the job, paid nothing at a garage sale.
And I was wondering the same as Simon : do we have to close the coffee output to get steam from the side ? How is this supposed to work ?

k1w1 : Francois, I used a coffee machine too (see it there), no modification needed, just a high temp hose (I used silicon) and a needle. The steam outlet is separate on the one I had so I just used that. I think all machines are the same, the steam outlet is used to froth milk. Mine had the same as Mr Sov, a dial to regulate the steam. Even sold the machine at a profit after I had done the steam off.

MisterSov : Francois I'm not a cappuccino expert, never even made one, but here's how my Mr Coffee steam machine works. The control knob has 3 positions: The center marker is off, turn CCW to make coffee (expresso), turn CW to send the steam out of the frothing spout, and it's a variable valve so the pressure can be regulated.
After steaming off a neck, I can turn the knob CCW to dump the hot water quickly into the carafe, or I can simply turn it off, wait for it to cool and turn it upside down to empty the water.
So Francois, I don't know if yours and Sea Champ's machines operate like mine or not, and I suppose there's always the possibility that they've quit working properly. Like champ said, that little pot gets super hot and holds dangerously high pressured water... note all the threads on the cap. If you have one that isn't working correctly, I'd be inclined to discard it, rather than experimenting to make it work. YMMV.

Simon (SeaChamp) : I did a simple mod to my machine, and I'm still not impressed.
You wouldn't call that 'clouds of steam', and the little white dots above the needle are spurts of water. That can't be good , can it ?
The going's getting tough. I think I'll go shopping.

Harmony lutherie : removing neck techniques

MisterSov : You sure that clamp is big enough? heh heh, but if anybody could've made it work, it would be you Sea Champ. Definitely time to cut bait on that rig.
I've wondered if a hand held steamer would work. MisterSov

Harmony lutherie : removing neck techniques

Geo : I went to the hsn site and watched the video on this.Although there were several bad reviews by buyers, I think it ma :think: y be usefull for our purpose.Im going to buy one and will report on it after I try it.

fanfab4 : George how would you attach a hose to that Bissell Handheld Steamer ? Watched the video and don't see how it could be used in removing a neck joint . Also as you mentioned the reviews were mostly terrible on it .
Two Expresso Machines may go cheap on ebay : [links]

Geo : Dave Ive bought two used spresso machines and it was waterwater every where and not a drop to steam.I think ths little devil is gonna be the BOMB.

Simon (SeaChamp) : I went shopping at the Sally Ann. There were two cappuccino machines. I bought the black one because it had a switch on it with an icon that clearly showed a cloud of steam. Five bucks. I took it home and put it on a piece of black roll roofing for contrast, poured in some water and turned it on :

Harmony lutherie : removing neck techniques

STEAM!!! Holy tamale, look at that! And I can turn the knob on top to control it with perfectly graduated precision. A quick twist and it's off, twist and it's on, off, on, off, on... WOW. What a machine! I turned it over to see what it is :

Harmony lutherie : removing neck techniques

Well, no wonder...it's made in Italy! Didn't they INVENT cappuccino? I am such a lucky son of a gun: second machine I buy and it turns out to be the Maserati of cappuccino machines.
But if I can stop crowing for a moment, I will say that if I hadn't had this good fortune, I'd have bought the Bissell. I'll be really interested to see what you can do with it, George. And the coolest thing is, when you're done with the gits you can clean the house. Inside the fridge, your wife's jewelry, the whole thing! And if you get tired from doing all that, c'mon over for a cappuccino. It won't be any wussy Walmart blend, either. I'll buy a pound of Lavazza and brew up some of the real deal drive your scooter into the fountain Italian stuff. Two cups of that my boy, and you'll be running home to detail the engine compartment of your Chevrolet.
BTW, what color steamer did you order? The lavender sounds attractive

Geo : Honestly Simon, I dont know if your a drinking man or not, but Id rather we got stinking drunk first, and then have the cappachino in the morning!!!

Blue in VT : I bought 2 Krupps espresso machines this summer at garage sales...one was like those that didn't out out steam...it required a special insert to block of the main coffee steamer and redirect steam to the nozzle... :what: tossed it! the second one I got is even smaller and is more like the one MrSov describes...it has a nob with which you can select steam and thats all it does.... ;)
I find the argument between pressure cooker and espresso machine to be a funny one....really there is no difference....the espresso machine IS a small preasure cooker...thats the whole idea! I think people that do alot of these...sometime all at once have the presure cooker going and can do a whole series without having to refill....for me its one at a time any way!

MisterSov : Remember, by applying heat to the 15th fret with a soldering iron, the barbs will actually sear their way through the wood, when you remove it. Otherwise, you might have chip-out that will show, after reinstalling the fret.

Harmony lutherie : removing neck techniques

Simon (SeaChamp) : That's a great picture MisterSov. The thing I notice about it is how neat it is....there's no chip-out. I'd like my first effort to look as much like that as possible. Are there any specific techniques you can pass along? How do you judge when the fret is hot enough to withdraw? And how do you get such a neat hole? Starting a drill bit in a slot is often tricky, as the bit wants to walk sideways and tear the wood.

MisterSov : Thanks Sea Champ and I'll be glad to tell you how I do it, but I'm probably a little picky about cosmetics, and do more work than required to get the job done.

I use an 80W Weller, like the one in the pic below (not my pic). A 40W would work fine, and you can pick them up in Sears or Home Depot. I take a small round file and make a groove in the tip of the iron, so that it sets steadily on top of the fret, without slipping off. You might also want to tape off the sides of the fret, because if the iron slips and touches the wood, you have an unsightly burn. I'd guess that my 80W only takes 5-6 seconds to heat the fret enough for the barbs to burn their way out of the slot. There's is a short learning curve, and I practiced removing frets on a junk fretboard, until I could tell when it was hot enough to remove. Also, the fret removal tool is a small pair of nippers, with the face ground flat, and the edges smoothed out. This tool actually holds the wood down while pinching underneath the fret crown and lifting the hot fret up. Then you slide along and work your way across the fret, repeating this a few times, until the fret pops out...........While you're heating the fret, watch the wood closely and if you see the wood smoking or changing color, get off of it quickly.

For those who don't want to get the fretting tools, I'd say tape off the 15th fret and use a knife to run under the fret crown and gently pry it up, working across the fret slowly. The old wood will likely chip-out, but the fret will cover up a lot of it........the rest can be glued back in with super glue and sanded.

Oh yes, when you reinstall the fret (easier while the neck is off), you can reverse it's direction to insure that the barbs will grab a new position in the slot. Or, crimp a few more barbs in the tang with a fret tang crimping tool (another homemade fretting tool). StewMac sells all this stuff, and they're VERY expensive, but they're easy to make if you have a bench grinder.

Before drilling the hole, I take an ice pick and put the point into the fret slot and rotate it around and around, which compresses the wood outward, without splintering it. I make this pilot hole just large enough for the 5/64" bit to go through without contact. This way, I only drill from the bottom of the slot, down and into the neck pocket. When I feel the drill bit enter the neck pocket, I reverse my drill and slowly remove the bit. The steam leaves the hole damp and causes the hole to begin closing up, and sometimes I put a drop of water around the hole to help it heal. When you reinstall the fret, the hole is usually covered. You could also use a glob of the RW & glue mixture that you'll get when you scrape the warm glue from the underside of the fretboard extension, to fill the hole.
Sea Champ, I wish you luck and I'll be here to help, if needed.

Harmony lutherie : removing neck techniques

Simon (SeaChamp) : Thanks for the great tips MisterSov. Especially the groove in the soldering iron. I drove my big 120w iron "off the rails" when I first started messing with guitars and it seriously eroded my confidence. It set me off on a course of building jigs and aids for the lame, instead of taking the necks off sovs.
I bought a 40W Weller today.
Tomorrow I'm headed out past the end of the internet for a couple of days. Some of the time will be spent staring at the ocean. Good time to go over these processes in my mind. On Sunday I plan to take the neck off one of my 1260's.
One thing I'll be puzzling over is how much steam to inject into the hole. I've got hair trigger control with that Gaggia, and I'm sure I could blow the injection needle right out of the hole if I ran full throttle. Any ideas on what I should expect ?

MisterSov : Sea Champ, there's so many variables, it's hard to give a specific answer to this. With my rig, using a flow scale of 1-10, I run at about 4-5. With your hotrod Gaggia, maybe less. Let the steam flow for 15 seconds or so, to heat up your hose and clear out the air. When you see and hear a steady steam flow, without any spitting, it's ready. You want heat and moisture in that pocket, but you don't want it to look like a steam locomotive, and blowing hot hide glue out of the seams. Also, a flow to strong would mean a lot of water going into your guitar.
I stuff an absorbent towel inside the guitar, and press it around the neck block. I lay another small towel underneath the heel, to keep melted glue from dripping on my bench. Have another towel handy, just in case it seeps from under the fretboard, but you should still have tape in that area, from seperating the fretboard extension. I also put a coat of wax on each side of the heel, and then put a couple inches of tape on each side of the body, right up next to the heel. This will prevent any escaping steam from scortching the finish.
Champ, you'll have so much fun doing this, you'll be looking over your herd and deciding which one you can do next. ; -)

Blue in VT : Alright...here's another question... ;) In several of the descriptions of neck resetting that I have read on the web...and seen in Dan E. video...they have a formula for roughly estimating how much material you have to take off the heel...which is based in the difference between where the neck angle is set now and where it should be...ie where a straight edge hits the bridge (or top.. :ouch: ) and where it should land on the top of the bridge...what these descriptions arn't clear about is wether you take these measurements with the strings to tension or not??
Or in simpler terms...how do you determine the amount of material to take of the heel?

Geo : Blue I havent done one yet, but Im gonna take a little off, dry fit, if I have to take a little more untill I get there.Im mostly gonna be doing archtops so you doing flatties are gonna be aiming for a different landing.

k1w1 : This what you thinking of Blue http://www.liutaiomottola.com/formulae/Reset.htm

François : Great Formula ! Thanks Laurie ! I'm not sure how it works in real life, but it will help to cool the nerves during the operation...

Blue in VT : Wow how cool is that...that is the formula I'm talking about...or at least a variation of it...I like this one cause I don't have to do any Math myself....I'm a liberal arts major afterall...
And that page is great...cause it mentions that the measurements should be taken when strung up...just what I was asking about.
I've never seen that site before...I'll spend some time poking around there....I'm constantly amazed at the amount of info available out there on the web...I thought I had found most of this stuff but...here is another great resource...thanks for the pointer !

MisterSov : Geo, that's what I do and I actually string it up in my simple temporary jig. The calculator that was posted, is good for getting you close to the correct neck angle, but you never know exactly what string tension will do to the neck, body, bridge belly, etc. Master luthiers probably don't need to do this, but I like to check my progress, at least a few times, before being ready to glue it.
Below is a pic of my jig, which is basically a long bar clamp, laying on the bench. Since taking this pic, I have improved the caul on the heel (styrafoam wasn't stable), and I made a couple of sand bags from old blue jean legs, to replace the pillows. The caul against the end pin hole, is a piece of oak with cork glued onto it.
I've found that a Sov with a belly, will rise just a tad with string tension. The ones with flatter tops seem to rise less. This jig takes the guess work out of it.
Here in this pic, I am dry fitting and checking the straightness of the neck, to a line I marked on the tape behind the saddle, before beginning.

Harmony lutherie : removing neck techniques

Blue in VT : I'm a little confused...
Am I correct in thinking that your jig reaches from the end pin to the neck heel...there by holding the dovetail in place while you string her up and check the angle... Is that right ?

MisterSov : Yes, Blue that's correct. Here's a recent pic that shows my jig more clearly. Judging from the clamps and cauls laying around, I was getting ready to glue things back together. The little yellow caul for the heel, is a piece of hard plastic that I borrowed from the work bench in the background. I filed it to fit the Sov heel a little better, and glued 2 pieces of leather into the V. Both the heel and end caul are glued to the clamp with gorilla glue, the heel caul swivels when it needs to. The sand bags flatten out nicely for protecting the guitar, but when clamped, the guitar actually sets above the bags.

Harmony lutherie : removing neck techniques

If anyone wants to try a neck reset, but is discouraged by not having a jig like this, don't let it stop you because this is not a necessary step. Some guitars come out just fine, if you trim the heel until a straight edge laying on the top of the frets, skims the top edge of the bridge, unstrung. I hesitate to recommend this, but if I did it without my jig, I'd probably want the straight edge to be slightly above the bridge, maybe 1/16", to allow for a little change under tension.

I'm looking forward to hearing from Sea Champ when he begins his neck reset, and anyone else who wants to give it a go. If you run into any difficulty, I'm gonna try my best to stay with this thread, along with the others who will have advice to help you through. BTW, pics are worth a thousand words, when it comes to this stuff, so as long as Francois has enough bandwidth for us to do this stuff, posting a pic with your questions is very helpful to all.

Simon (SeaChamp) : I got my first neck off today! It went exactly as planned. Whew.
I used a Harmony maple fretboard as a practice board and pulled a few frets, then pulled the 15th fret of the Sovereign. The rosewood is more forgiving than maple, and using your techniques MisterSov, my results were as clean as yours.
I had decided to use the quickest and cheapest jig I could think of to press off the neck, and this is what I came up with:

Harmony lutherie : removing neck techniques

I glued the wedges to the 2x4 at a slight angle
I clamped the two legs of the "U" frame to the end of the bench. I hope this pic explains the rest :

Harmony lutherie : removing neck techniques

The two paint cans are there to prevent the 2x4's from landing on the guitar. There is a piece of string tied to the neck so it can't fall when it separates. You can see the Gaggia waiting at the patient's shoulder.
Here's a closer pic:

Harmony lutherie : removing neck techniques

There is a nice big piece of cork on each side of the top of the guitar. The pressure from the 2x4's is over the sides of the guitar, and the heel is resting on a cork protected spacer. The body of the guitar is about 1/4" above the plywood, and I slipped a sheet of cardboard under it before I turned on the steam.
I used my left hand to insert the needle and twist it, and my right hand to operate the steam valve when I needed to, and with my right forearm I pressed on the pair of 2x4's. Not very hard, maybe 5 or ten pounds.
After about a minute nothing was changing, so I turned the steam up to 'full' for 10 seconds. There was a sudden "clack" as one of the 2x4's hit the paint can and the body dropped 3/4". No mistaking what had happened.

Harmony lutherie : removing neck techniques

No harm was done to the guitar.
It was interesting to see the track of the needle: it angled through the neck block.

Harmony lutherie : removing neck techniques

The inside of the joint was loaded with glue and it had very small shims

Harmony lutherie : removing neck techniques

And here's something that got me thinking: There was no truss rod in this neck. With the neck off you can see right down the truss rod channel

Harmony lutherie : removing neck techniques

to orient this picture - the neck is upside down, the blurry white band is the binding at the end of the fingerboard, and the pyramid shape is the tenon and the neck. The tiny blue dot in the center of the photo is the sky, where the truss rod cover should be. How about if you slid a hollow tube down the empty truss rod hole and blew steam into the joint that way ?
[update : experimentation done now : See it here]

Anyway, my fingerboard looked pretty good after I refitted the fret.

Harmony lutherie : removing neck techniques

I'da felt much better about it if I hadn't nicked the finish of the heel when I inserted the fret. Realized I hadn't quite thought that move out. In fact, I hadn't given any thought as to how I'd handle this guitar once it became two parts. I can't even find a safe flat place where I can keep these slippery pieces. Maybe in towels in a guitar case...
And I'm going to have to start thinking about some strategies to hang onto the neck while I do the cleaning and reshaping. What do you do MisterSov?

fanfab4 : Nice going Simon . Very inventive way of pressing the neck off and great job replacing the fret wire . :up: :cheers: It has no truss rod but it is an adjustable neck . So you're gonna put one of your homemade rods in there?
Oh and excellent photos .

MisterSov : BRAVO Sea Champ !
I knew it would go well, and it doesn't surprise me to see that you invented a whole new way of doing it. I had to sit and ponder your jig for a while and I still don't quite grasp it, but you do and that's what counts. Hmmm, a tube inside the truss channel to steam the neck joint? I've never heard of that and you might be onto something. Nice clean fret work too, and that hot Weller surely helped.
After cleaning up the glue, and letting it dry out for a while, here's how I clamp the neck to work on it. The long caul is a homemade 2X4 that's rounded out and has cork in the valley. The small caul is a piece of a Stewmac fretboard caul. This holds the neck very solid for the upcoming steps.

Harmony lutherie : removing neck techniques

Geo : Im watching, learning, and gaining momentum ,fellas, great posts and good wook.

>>>[quote] : How about if you slid a hollow tube down the empty truss rod hole and blew steam into the joint that way? François : WOA... THIS is a great idea... In the case you can easily pull the trussrod off the neck, and this sometimes can be done esaily, then steaming from there is a great idea, and it should be easier and more efficient than the inflating needle trick...

k1w1 : Hmmmm, looking at it that way, firstly, if you get a jammed truss like in my H19, the headstock gets damaged (if you are cack handed like me).
Secondly, I don't think enough steam would get deep into the neck joint at temp to loosen the glue, especially down deep, that direct injection at temp seems to be what does it. Injecting along that long a channel......I think would cool the steam too much, but hey you guys are engineers :d Like Simon, when I did mine .....nothing....nothing...turn the steam up....and bang.
Oh and Simon and Blue, holy crap, you guys have to be the master of innovation, those rigs are "let me take another look at that" impressive but hell yeah, effective. :thanks: :thanks:
Simon, if you want that truss rod I made for the h19, just yell out, the old one is holding fine (assuming the Sovs used the same). Free to a good home.
PS: And you must have the nicest view from a guitar workshop I have seen....looks a lot like Auckland

Simon (SeaChamp) : Laurie, I'm guessing the steam should still be hot....it's only 13 inches longer than the usual steam hose. But there's no engineers here mate, my resume reads more like Blue's. And you got it man, the view is superior. I don't go down there without acknowledging what a lucky guy I am. A pal of mine visited from Alberta last month. "Workshop porn" said his wife.

MisterSov, thanks for the kind words and your confidence in my ability. I still need to think long on any moves before I make them, and it looks like jig time again. Yours looks as simple as can be. Does it lock the neck totally immobile so you can file or cut the heel joint? How did you round out the valley? "After cleaning up the glue"...tell me more about that. There might have been a minute there when it was soft, but I was so excited by the drama of the beheading that I missed the opportunity. Now it looks like molten glass, and I'm scared to try chipping at it till I get the neck locked into some type of jig. I'm cack handed too!

k1w1 : Simon, I still think the direct injection will penetrate better, but would stand to be corrected. And it does come out at pressure from the needle which helps, you would loose a lot of that. I blew my hose off the machine a couple of times, didn't tighten the hose clamp quite tight enough.
And wouldn't there be some risk of loosening the fretboard unless you have a way to get your hose and needle down the slot?

For the residue, part of what I did was heat a palette/plasterers knife gently and use it to scrape the glue off, I was smoking at the time so just a quick heat over my Zippo was enough. It never got hot enough to burn the wood but was enough to loosen the glue. Or hit it with steam??

MisterSov : Sea Champ, round out that valley in the 2X4 by notching out the material with a table saw, or circular saw. Make some cuts lengthwise in the center, maybe 3/4" deep and close enough together that you only have maybe 1/16" pieces between your cuts. Then make shallower cuts on each side the ones you just made, and so on and so forth. Then knock out the pieces with a hammer and chisel. I smoothed out the center by using the round end of my belt sander. Lastly, glue cork in the valley. The other caul in the pic below, is a Stewmac hardwood caul for the fretboard, but you could make one of these too.

It's best to scrape off the glue immediately after popping off the neck, but then we wouldn't have your neat pics, would we? After you get your neck clamped up tightly, see if a sharp chisel will break off the hide glue, and you can also sand that stuff when it's hard. If it doesn't come off easily, you might be in danger of damaging your neck or end block. In that case, I'd fire up the cappuccino machine, and soften it again, so that it will scrape off.

Once you get the neck clamped to your bench, you can mark it and start removing wood with a chisel or file. Of course, you'll finish up cutting the heel by pulling sandpaper through the joint, but it's better to remove most of the wood, before you start that process.

Harmony lutherie : removing neck techniques

Simon (SeaChamp) : I manage to clear the decks this week for about four hours work on the 1260.
I pushed a 2x4 through the table saw out in the garage.

Harmony lutherie : removing neck techniques

To account for the taper of the neck I made the hollow larger than the heel end of the neck, then I troweled in some thickened epoxy

Harmony lutherie : removing neck techniques

I wrapped the neck in plastic kitchen wrap, clamped some 1/8" sheet cork tightly to the neck and pressed it into the goo

Harmony lutherie : removing neck techniques

When the epoxy dried the next day, I pushed the caul through the table saw to clean it up.
Down at the boatshop I pulled a paint scraper along a piece of teak to make a fingerboard caul

Harmony lutherie : removing neck techniques

I laid some cork onto the f/b caul and clamped the neck between the two cauls

Harmony lutherie : removing neck techniques

I clamped my Guillotine to the edge of the workbench, secured the sov body, and clamped the neck in its cauls beside it.

Harmony lutherie : removing neck techniques

Ready to go.
I fired up the hot knives. A nice start, Kiwi, but things began to move v e r y s l o w l y ...and I reckoned that maybe a good stiff drink would be a better way to steady my nerves. I upped the ante and pushed the little Weller into the glass hard glue, but even this was slow going. The glue dried behind the hot Weller almost as fast as it melted, and as the hot iron touched the bare wood there was an awful moment between bare wood and burned wood. No place for impaired drivers either. I plugged in the cappuccino machine.

Harmony lutherie : removing neck techniques

I had been nervous that the hot steam would damage the lacquer finish, but this did not happen. The steam softened the glue, and the hot water that the steam hose intermittently spat seemed to keep the glue in a gummy and leathery state long enough to shovel it off with a chisel

Harmony lutherie : removing neck techniques

Soon I had the neck slot clean

Harmony lutherie : removing neck techniques

and the tenon clean too.

Harmony lutherie : removing neck techniques

I put the neck back into the body, and the bottom of the fingerboard came to within 1/8" of the top. Good enough. After it's dried for a few days I'll sand it to make a better fit.
It went pretty well, but I learned some things for sure. Like I can't have enough protection. Look what happened at the end of the night as I dismantled - see the arc of the big G clamp that was holding the neck :

Harmony lutherie : removing neck techniques

as I held the neck in my left hand and slacked the clamp with my right, it swung neatly into an unprotected part of the neck.
I hate when that happens, and the whole objective here is to learn how to reset a neck and leave the guitar looking EXACTLY the same as it was at the start.
I've got a bit more cleaning to do, and some time here to think about the next moves.

k1w1 : Nice work Simon. I guess my advantage with the knife was I didn't have nearly as much residual glue.

fanfab4 : Simon your photos were great in helping explain the process . Using steam to soften the glue worked really well . Thanks for your experimentation . Now we all know an alternate way of removing the hide glue from the neck slot and tenon .

Billieg2 : Simon, You are really an old Dawg.... reminds me of us old Harley guys that do it with whatever you can attitude... I'm amazed at your skills and innovations...

MisterSov : Nice cauls Simon! As usual you have your signature "my way" improvements, here & there.
You've gone to a lot of trouble to remove glue, but you won't have to do this again. After steaming off your next neck, you will have plenty of time to easily scrape it off while it's gummy.
Yes, that unexpected slip of the neck can frazzle the nerves, but it won't happen again.
I'm just thinking that you'll be amazed at how much easier your 2nd reset will be. You are a real problem solver, and I'm looking forward to hearing and seeing your progress through the next steps.

Simon (SeaChamp) : Ah thankyou, thankyou very much...
For my next number, here's a little ditty called "Cut the New Neck Angle". I've never performed this song before, so excuse me if I take a little while tuning up. And audience participation is welcomed...I want to hear you all sing.
Laurie, I looked at the neck angle formula link you posted a while ago. It's certainly the heart of the matter; it's the geometry. There are two things that it brings up. One is that for the formula to be most successful, the saddle must be at its optimum height when 'action 1' is measured. So often with these old sovs the saddle has been filed down to its lowest possible height to keep the guitar playing. The other thing is that in my case, I skipped step one: I never did measure the action before I launched into step two :p
So the direction I'm headed is to decide the neck angle with the straight edge on the fingerboard. The debatable question is 'how high should the straight edge be above the bridge, or should it rest on the bridge?'

MisterSov : I can't magically tell you what your action was, before you started. But, you could string it up with a temporary "string up" jig, long enough to take a measurement, if you wanted to use the formula.
Then you could do one of 2 things about the short saddle.

  1. Remove it and stick in a temporary saddle with the height you like, before using the temporary jig to measure the action.
  2. Do the math. If your old saddle height is 2/32, and your action at the 12th fret is 5/32. Then, let's say you want your new saddle to be 4/32, your action at the 12th would be raised to 6/32, or .1875 after you convert it to decimals, for the formula.
IOW, whatever amount you increase the saddle height, the string height at the 12th fret will be increased by exactly 1/2 of that.

If you forego all of the above and use a straight edge, shoot for making the straight edge just skim the top edge of the bridge, then put it in a temporary jig to fine tune it. If you choose to be braver than I and take what you get, after getting the straight edge on top of the bridge, my experience tells me that a 1/32 to 1/16 gap between the straight edge and the top of the bridge would be good. DISCLAIMER!!!!! A BIG YMMV, on that last sentence.
btw, when using the straight edge, make sure your fretboard extension is out of the way. Clamp it to the guitar's top, which will be lower as you progress at cutting the heel.........a Kyser capo is perfect for this.

Simon (SeaChamp) : Thanks MisterSov. That gives me some things to ponder.
I'm not sure exactly what I'll do, but it seems clear that I'll need need two items in order to proceed: a heel caul and a saddle.
The heel caul, I'll start by cutting a hardwood block on the bandsaw. I'll make a female mold of the bottom of the heel, and I'll protect it with leather. I should be able to use it with the guillotine to make a string-up jig.
The saddle, let me ask you your opinion...what is the optimum height of a saddle for a sov? I've only ever made one saddle - I cut it out of some ugly gray corian. It stayed ugly. This time, I'll make a bone saddle. Any tips on removing the old one?
Your saddle math is understood, thanks for that. Also the tip on the capo...perfect! I have a Dunlop clamp style capo, and I can see how it would be an excellent tongue clamp that would not interfere with the strings.
And a Disclaimer!!! Got my attention! Do you mean I can skip a step if I'm willing to take a chance? That always appeals to me!

MisterSov : I remove the old saddle with heat from a hair dryer or a heat lamp. Cover the bridge with cardboard, leaving the saddle exposed, and heat the whole saddle because it is glued in. After it gets warm, I use a dental pick to pull upward on one end. Sometimes they start slowly lifting as the glue melts, other times they break out, piece by piece, since they're old and brittle. Clean the glue out of the slot while it's warm, and get it all. I wipe out the residue by poking a hot wet rag in the slot with a screwdriver.
The subject of optimum saddle height is a subject that I would like to hear other comments on. I've experimented and figure that Harmony had it about perfect, for this unique bridge. I think they were built with 3/32 in the center, and 2/32 on the big E side. I suggest that you aim for at least 1/8" in the center, to allow for your final setup.


august 2009

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