Erik Bogaards - 02 / Feb / 2022

Don't be afraid of a neck reset!

Guitars are constantly under tension and can warp over time, which affects playability. That problem can be fixed with a neck reset. For the luthiers in our workshop, that's like changing tyres on a car: nothing to be afraid of!

Don't be afraid of a neck reset!
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Is there something wrong with my guitar if it needs a neck reset?

No, and whether or not a guitar needs that, does not say much about the quality or the price of a guitar, either. As much as we love these precious instruments, guitars are in a way flawed devices that are constantly trying to destroy themselves. This is due to the string tension. With a force of about 50 kilo’s, it pulls on one side on the bridge / belly of the body and on the other side on the head and neck of the guitar. The result: due to the tension, the guitar slightly folds and the strings slowly but surely get further and further away from the guitar.

Image: Haze guitars

How fast this process happens, depends on many factors: the humidity, the flexibility or the ridgidity of the wood used, the thickness of the strings, the reinforcement of the neck, whether or not a guitar sits neatly in a stand or not: it can all play a role in this process. Some, lightly built guitars with thicker strings on them, need a neck reset after about 10 years. Sometimes even sooner and among them are some expensive guitars. Other guitars stay straight for decades and sometimes these are cheap guitars.

Will a neck reset decrease the value of my guitar?

No, not at all! If we sell a second-hand or vintage guitar that has had a neck reset, that is important to know and we always mention that in the description. We sometimes notice that customers respond somewhat reluctant. Is this a 'weak' guitar that needs another neck reset later? Is there something fundamentally wrong with it? We can completely understand these questions, because a neck reset looks quite intense, because a guitar is completely taken apart. That feels like some sort of open heart surgery to some guitar lovers, but it really is not. In the workshop of The Fellowship we have already performed dozens of neck resets and we compare it more with a tire change in the pit lane: after that you can go full throttle again!

Just listen to this Gibson Dove from 1969, because after a neck reset it plays like a dream and sounds awesome.

A well-executed neck reset ensures that a guitar is in perfect shape again and because the wood is has aged, there is a good chance that such a guitar will stay in perfect shape longer. Never say never, but acoustic guitars rarely need a second neck reset. So if you're in doubt about a neck reset: you don't have to be afraid of it! You really get a much better guitar in return.

How do I know if my guitar needs a neck reset?

This is usually measured with a long ruler over the neck to the bridge. If that ruler falls against or even under the bridge, then that is a sign that something is not quite as it should be.

Image: Frets.com

Before you buy a long ruler: this method is not full proof because the curvature of the neck is not always sufficiently taken into account. Another good indicator for a neck reset is the playability higher on the neck. Is it bad because the strings are too far away from that from the 10th to the 12th  fret?

There is a quick fix, which we do not prefer because it can effect the tone of your guitar, but you can lower the bridge a bit.... is the bridge already at its end?

Then you know without a ruler that a neck reset will be on the horizon. So poor playability due to high action + low bridge = possibly a neck reset. Not sure about a neck reset? Feel free to contact our workshop. We have a lot of experience with neck resets and possible alternatives.

How much does a neck reset cost?

The price of a neck reset differs as guitars with a dovetail connection between the body and the neck (Martin, L'arrivee, Santa Cruz and many others) require a bit more work. This glued connection must first be steamed off very carefully and then finetuned where necessary. That takes time, requires craftsmanship and special tools and at The Fellowship we have all of the above in-house. Because some guitars still get a finish that runs between the neck, the fretboard and the body (Gibson and others), sometimes some extra retouching of the paint is needed. All this combined means that a neck reset with a dovetail starts at about 600 euros. That is not cheap, but you get a much more playable instrument in return, and we often see that the owners fall in love with it all over again.

Good to know: if you have a neck reset done at The Fellowship, you will always get a clear indication of the price in advance. We usually know what to expect, because it is a 'standard' repair for us.

Does an acoustic guitar have a bolt on neck?  This technique makes a reset a lot easier. Taylor, Atkin, Furch, Bourgeois and Collings, among others, have such a connection.

It may differ a bit per brand, but a neck reset with these guitars is usually slightly less labour intensive, so will cost something like a hundred euro's less.

Can I do a neck reset myself?

When it comes to dovetail, the answer is a simple: no! Because it is really better to leave that to the professionals.

With a bolt on neck it is sometimes perceived  that you could give it a try, Taylor has the easiest system by far, but it is a precise job and you will need their ‘shims’ to do it. These are only supplied through their dealers.  So it is probably best to just have a professional do it for you. He or she will also look at the fretwork, intonation et cetera, so you can be sure your reset guitar 'on those new tyres' will give you years of fun!

Want to know more about neck resets? Feel free to contact us via chat, mail or phone. We are happy to help you!

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