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Thread: Speed Neck

  1. #1

    Default Speed Neck

    Newbie question: What is a speed neck on a mandolin? I've been looking at mandolins and occasionally I come across the term speed neck in the mandolin description. I searched the forum, but I didn't come up with an answer.

  2. #2
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    Default Re: Speed Neck

    A true speed neck has most or all the finish removed on the back of the neck from about the first to the ninth fret.
    Makes it easier (for some) to move/slide hand around when playing

    Google 'speed neck mandolin' and select images

  3. #3
    Registered User Mandobart's Avatar
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    Default Re: Speed Neck

    If you ever look at the neck on a fiddle you've seen a speed neck. I really dislike the feel of a glossy finish on the neck of any instrument. Note that it's not necessary to sand off all the color to bare wood as shown in some pictures - I just use 0000 steel wool to remove the gloss.

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    Default Re: Speed Neck

    instead of nitro, varnish or urethane you can use something like tung oil or linseed oil to protect the wood from getting dirty, along with some kind of stain/coloring. This avoids any gloss or summertime tackiness.

    I do what mandobart does, synthetic steel wool, light circular motions will give it a pretty smooth feel even if your hands are sweating. Then buff out scratch marks with course fabric like Adidas sweatpants.
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    Registered User Ivan Kelsall's Avatar
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    Default Re: Speed Neck

    This is the 'speed' neck on my Ellis "A" style. I don't know if it was made like this or the original owner did it - i bought it 'used'. The finish starts & finishes where you see. The lighter coloured area is simply finished with an oil finish. I use Teak oil every now & again to clean it up & re-fresh the 'speed' feel.

    As mandobart correctly says - it's the 'glossy finish' that makes a neck feel 'grippy'. Remove that by using either steel wool,or wet & dry paper 6000 or 7000 grade & then apply a tiny drop of beeswax furniture polish to it to remove any 'dusty' appearance, & you'll have a neck as slick as you'll ever need & the protective finish & colour will still be there,
    Ivan
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  7. #6

    Default Re: Speed Neck

    Quote Originally Posted by Mandobart View Post
    If you ever look at the neck on a fiddle you've seen a speed neck. I really dislike the feel of a glossy finish on the neck of any instrument. Note that it's not necessary to sand off all the color to bare wood as shown in some pictures - I just use 0000 steel wool to remove the gloss.
    Thanks - always wanted to do this to my Loar but imagined it would be a much more complicated … sticky … procedure. Mandolin is smooth as silk and smelling slightly of beeswax - win-win.

  8. #7
    Registered User William Smith's Avatar
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    Default Re: Speed Neck

    Anyone can do their own neck, just don't get a little overzealous and really go to town-ya wouldn't want to get into the truss rod like someone well known in the grass circle did in the 70's!!!!!, You also don't need to seal the bare wood, I was talking with Lou Stiver and he told me your natural oils are good enough and no harm will come from not putting sealer/or something other than ones own sweat on the neck! I believe him, I never put nothing on my Loar Buster and that thing is like lightning fast!
    I however did another one of my F-7 conversion necks and was in a hurry so I do have some scratch marks on the finish toward peghead and by the base of neck- I hurried-DON'T hurry! It can be fixed I just gave it to my dad so he'd have something killer to play. I was real sick when I did it and wasn't paying much attention but hepatic encephalopathy will do that to ones mind! If you know what that is it's no joke! I also scooped the extension at the time and well botched that as well, didn't account for the pickguard pin but wasn't in a real good frame of mind. so thank the big man upstairs because I'm much better health wise nowadays after my open heart surgery! Again don't HURRY!

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    Middle-Aged Old-Timer Tobin's Avatar
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    Default Re: Speed Neck

    Quote Originally Posted by bluegrasser78 View Post
    Anyone can do their own neck, just don't get a little overzealous and really go to town-ya wouldn't want to get into the truss rod like someone well known in the grass circle did in the 70's!!!!!, You also don't need to seal the bare wood, I was talking with Lou Stiver and he told me your natural oils are good enough and no harm will come from not putting sealer/or something other than ones own sweat on the neck! I believe him, I never put nothing on my Loar Buster and that thing is like lightning fast!
    I would respectfully disagree with Mr. Stiver on the finish. Some people may not have any issues with bare wood, but others have skin chemistry that will be problematic over time. Sealing the wood with a simple oil finish is a good way to protect and preserve the wood, even if it's just to protect the color. Otherwise, the wood will turn grey and ugly over time, as my fiddle necks have done.
    Keep that skillet good and greasy all the time!

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    Registered User William Smith's Avatar
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    Default Re: Speed Neck

    Well mine is fine? But yes everyone's skin chemistry is different, I've had new strings on mandolins before and handed it to someone to play and when they gave it back a few min. later, well dead strings!

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    Default Re: Speed Neck

    Surprised nobody has asked how much scraping the finish of the neck knocks off the value of an instrument. I got a great deal on a Santa Cruz TR in the later years of the last century which someone had given a speed neck and it didn't cost me that much to have it reversed.

  13. #11
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    Default Re: Speed Neck

    Quote Originally Posted by Ray(T) View Post
    Surprised nobody has asked how much scraping the finish of the neck knocks off the value of an instrument..
    That only matters if you intend to sell it.

    I got a Lou Stiver mandolin and the previous owner had speed necked it and wow it makes sliding up to the nose bleed frets really easy fast and fun. One is almost encouraged to move up the neck.

    And while I got a good deal for the mandolin, it was negotiating and back and forth that did it. I really don't think the speed neck had much affect on the price.

    But again, in any case, too much attention to the worth of things you are not selling allows yet to be named future people too much influence over the fun you can today. IMO.
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  14. #12
    Mandolin user MontanaMatt's Avatar
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    Default Re: Speed Neck

    I had my new mando built with the speed neck, and Ratliff sealed the wood with a light coat of shellac. He masked off the neck during finishing. My Weber was scraped at Weber when it was built, if I remember they said it was first finished, then scraped down with a microscope slide before buffing and polishing.
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    Middle-Aged Old-Timer Tobin's Avatar
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    Default Re: Speed Neck

    Quote Originally Posted by Ray(T) View Post
    Surprised nobody has asked how much scraping the finish of the neck knocks off the value of an instrument.
    A speed neck can decrease value or it can increase value, depending on what the buyer is looking for. I will say this, though: a crudely done speed neck job is never a good thing. Some folks tend to scrape the finish off in a very utilitarian manner, leaving abrupt ends with no feathering or blending, and it really throws off the visual aesthetics of mandolin curves.

    Some builders incorporate a speed neck into their instruments from the start (like Tom Ellis). They are functional and look great from the start, so it's a win-win for value and playability.
    Keep that skillet good and greasy all the time!

  16. #14
    Registered User foldedpath's Avatar
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    Default Re: Speed Neck

    Quote Originally Posted by Ray(T) View Post
    Surprised nobody has asked how much scraping the finish of the neck knocks off the value of an instrument. I got a great deal on a Santa Cruz TR in the later years of the last century which someone had given a speed neck and it didn't cost me that much to have it reversed.
    That could be a concern for someone in the throes of "catch and release" mandolin buying. But if you're not doing that, if you have a "keeper," then it's just a personal decision. I've only ever bought one mandolin, which I still play. I didn't remove the neck finish until I had owned it for a couple of years, and knew I'd be keeping it.

    I used sandpaper to get down to the bare wood. It would have gone faster with a scraper, but I wanted to sneak up on it, and feather the edges so it looked more like natural wear, instead of a hard transition to the lacquer finish.

    The bare wood was sealed with two applications of Tung Oil to keep dirt and hand gunk out of the wood. Light sanding between the coats because the first coat raises the wood fiber. Give each coat plenty of time to dry, because Tung Oil takes a long time to dry and polymerize. I added a few drops of amber stain (ColorTone Vintage Amber from stewmac.com) to the Tung Oil, to tone down the bare white appearance and give it a jump-start on yellowing down. It's now a few shades darker after exposure to light over the years.

    I like the look and the feel of the neck. It's been something like 7 years now since I removed the finish, and I haven't had to re-apply the Tung Oil. The neck still looks clean with a "bare" appearance, no noticeable finish and a very dry feel, so I can recommend that as a sealer coat.

  17. #15

    Default Re: Speed Neck

    I'm thinking of reshaping the neck of my MK from the chunky U shape to a slight V. So when I get the shape to my liking, I can oil the finish or not as I see fit?
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  18. #16

    Default Re: Speed Neck

    Those darn F-12 necks with that black paint get very sticky with any kind of sweat or summer humidity. I had to do it in order to make this mandolin playable. The only finish on the bare wood is my own body chemistry.

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    Len B.
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    two t's and one hyphen fatt-dad's Avatar
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    Default Re: Speed Neck

    after removal, I use boiled linseed oil.

    I think Lou Stiver suggested that, not to start something. . .

    f-d
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    Registered User JimRym's Avatar
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    Default Re: Speed Neck

    Regarding speed neck: If you are doing it yourself, I suggest taping off the upper and lower areas just below the headstock and just above the heel so it looks like a professional effort. -Jim
    "Small strokes fell mighty oaks"
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  23. #19

    Default Re: Speed Neck

    Quote Originally Posted by Br1ck View Post
    I'm thinking of reshaping the neck of my MK from the chunky U shape to a slight V. So when I get the shape to my liking, I can oil the finish or not as I see fit?
    I made that modification to my $199 MK Br1ck. I wanted it thinner with slight V shape too. I chose to stain the neck, sand and wax as Ivan suggests. I'm sure whatever finish you want (or none) will be fine. Like Tobin mentioned...no finish may take on a dingy look.

    I think the only mistake you could really make would be to remove too much wood. Go slow. The finish on those things is thick and just about bulletproof. Takes a lot of work to remove it. Once it's gone though, the wood sands away surprisingly quickly.
    Last edited by FLATROCK HILL; Jun-05-2017 at 2:08pm.

  24. #20

    Default Re: Speed Neck

    Quote Originally Posted by JimRym View Post
    Regarding speed neck: If you are doing it yourself, I suggest taping off the upper and lower areas just below the headstock and just above the heel so it looks like a professional effort. -Jim
    Well, I took half of your advice:

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    I kind of winged it with the upper area towards the 12th fret. It's a lifetime keeper so the aesthetics please me very much. Glad to be rid of the Kluson tuners as well.

    Len B.
    Clearwater, FL

  25. #21
    F5G & MD305 Astro's Avatar
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    Default Re: Speed Neck

    Speed necks look a little weird but I would never own another mandolin without doing it. I waited a good while on mine because the sunburst finish was carried out beautifully even on the back of the neck an I didnt want to change its originality because I didnt know how much it would help.

    To me, helped a lot. Well worth the cosmetic compromise.
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  26. #22
    coprolite mandroid's Avatar
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    Default Re: Speed Neck

    I don't have Speed fingers, so It Does not Matter.
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  28. #23

    Default Re: Speed Neck

    Quote Originally Posted by mandroid View Post
    I don't have Speed fingers, so It Does not Matter.
    OH, but you COULD!

    I just speed necked my MK. Yes, the finish is industrial. I took a minimal amount of wood off the neck.The neck feels so much better. Had some tung oil, so that is what I used. Really brought out the flame. The hard part is done, so if I want it a little thinner, just get out the sandpaper.
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