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Thread: Neck Bow

  1. #1
    2TonCommon
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    Default Neck Bow

    Good evening everyone.
    I was wondering if there was such a thing as "too much bow" in a neck.
    I like and play my mandolins with the truss rod at full relief leaving a noticeable bow in the neck. (kind of like a shallow puddle). It gives me great bass with no buzz or rumbling and low action for the first 7 frets which is where I play almost exclusively. Plus, I play very hard and this allows for a low bridge setting. Could this much relief cause harm to the instrument?

    As always, thanks for your time and opinions.
    Joe
    Last edited by 2TonCommon; Aug-07-2019 at 7:04pm. Reason: Grammar
    "Of all the harm that ere' I've done,
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  2. #2
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    Default Re: Neck Bow

    It is possible, even probable, that given enough time the neck will acquire a “set”. Right now there is relief because the string tension is pulling the neck into a bow shape. One day, when you’re changing strings, and the bow doesn’t go away when you loosen them, you’ll know you’ve done it! If you like your action like that, that’s one thing. A future owners will have to deal with that now permanent bow. Heat pressing is usually only a temporary repair, as the wood wants to go back to the way it was. Either a compression refret or a fretboard plane and refret will be necessary.
    Don

    2016 Weber Custom Bitterroot F
    2011 Weber Bitterroot A
    1974 Martin Style A
    Fender Octave Mandolin c.2004-2008

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  4. #3
    2TonCommon
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    Default Re: Neck Bow

    Thanks for the info Don. I'll be keeping these particular mandolins until they bury them with me:-) But I appreciate and understand your insight and expertise.
    Joe
    Quote Originally Posted by multidon View Post
    It is possible, even probable, that given enough time the neck will acquire a “set”. Right now there is relief because the string tension is pulling the neck into a bow shape. One day, when you’re changing strings, and the bow doesn’t go away when you loosen them, you’ll know you’ve done it! If you like your action like that, that’s one thing. A future owners will have to deal with that now permanent bow. Heat pressing is usually only a temporary repair, as the wood wants to go back to the way it was. Either a compression refret or a fretboard plane and refret will be necessary.
    "Of all the harm that ere' I've done,
    Alas, it was to none but me."


    Goodnight and Joy be to you all!

  5. #4
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    Default Re: Neck Bow

    I have no bow and low action and can play as hard as I want with no buzz. It doesn't need it if it is setup correctly.
    THE WORLD IS A BETTER PLACE JUST FOR YOUR SMILE!

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  7. #5
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    Default Re: Neck Bow

    I’m confused now. In your original post you asked quite clearly if your set up with maximum relief would cause “harm to the instrument”. I assumed from the wording that you were concerned with the possibility. But then, in your follow up post, you seem unconcerned with the bow becoming permanent because they are going to “bury you” with them. It’s really hard to tell from the post if you mean that quite literally or if you are engaging in humorous hyperbole. I find it hard to believe that you meant it literally, although I have read stories about people being buried with their cars and so forth. So I suppose it’s possible. But if there is the slightest possibility that these instruments will eventually end up in someone else’s hands, you should be concerned with the neck bow. After all, at least to my way of thinking, none of us really own anything at all. We are just caretakers.

    Also, I’m with Pops that a properly set up instrument doesn’t require excessive relief. Unlike guitars, most factory set ups from major makers of mandolins call for a dead straight neck. I myself prefer to dial in a hair of relief, but just a hair, certainly not enough to cause any issues. If you can’t play buzz free with a dead straight neck then you have some other issue going on that needs attention. Frets that need leveling, neck twist, frets popping out of slots, something. Do you do your own set ups, or do you have a luthier who does it for you? You may need to re-think your set up in either case.
    Don

    2016 Weber Custom Bitterroot F
    2011 Weber Bitterroot A
    1974 Martin Style A
    Fender Octave Mandolin c.2004-2008

  8. #6
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    Default Re: Neck Bow

    Increasing relief increases the action, particularly near the middle of the truss rod. The downside is that fretted notes in the middle of range tend to buzz. Players sometimes mistakenly believe greater relief is necessary for volume and agressive playing. I have not found that to be true, on guitar or mandolin. Assuming the frets are good and all that, set the nut slots at fret height, relief under 0.005", and then adjust the action height at the bridge. In the case of an archtop mandolin that's very simple. Just lower it until you get buzzing with normal playing, then raise it until that stops. Adjust to suit from there.

    I've had many players pick up my mandolins and expect buzzing because the action is relatively low, only to find out they can hit the strings pretty hard and still be clean and clear. My action isn't super low, but it's very comfortable for me.

    There are other considerations to action to getting the desired sound and response - lower action for a smooth transition between notes, or higher action so that your left hand kills sustain quickly as your left hand moves, but the setup I noted above is where I'd start.

    To answer the OP's question, I don't expect any longterm harm from using a significant amount of relief. But don't expect me to ask to play your mandolin often. If you've heard me play, that's probably a good thing!
    Todd Yates

  9. #7
    2TonCommon
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    Default Re: Neck Bow

    Quote Originally Posted by multidon View Post
    I’m confused now. In your original post you asked quite clearly if your set up with maximum relief would cause “harm to the instrument”. I assumed from the wording that you were concerned with the possibility. But then, in your follow up post, you seem unconcerned with the bow becoming permanent because they are going to “bury you” with them. It’s really hard to tell from the post if you mean that quite literally or if you are engaging in humorous hyperbole. I find it hard to believe that you meant it literally, although I have read stories about people being buried with their cars and so forth. So I suppose it’s possible. But if there is the slightest possibility that these instruments will eventually end up in someone else’s hands, you should be concerned with the neck bow. After all, at least to my way of thinking, none of us really own anything at all. We are just caretakers.

    Also, I’m with Pops that a properly set up instrument doesn’t require excessive relief. Unlike guitars, most factory set ups from major makers of mandolins call for a dead straight neck. I myself prefer to dial in a hair of relief, but just a hair, certainly not enough to cause any issues. If you can’t play buzz free with a dead straight neck then you have some other issue going on that needs attention. Frets that need leveling, neck twist, frets popping out of slots, something. Do you do your own set ups, or do you have a luthier who does it for you? You may need to re-think your set up in either case.
    Hi Don. Thanks for the follow up interest. I'm dead serious about the keeping these 3 particular mandolins. Each has a story behind it and they will always be with me. That said, I may have over-stated the depth of the bow. The Diamondback was set-up by Weber(probably Bruce himself) and the bow is so slight you can barely see it. Maybe 1/128 of an inch. It plays like butter and sounds fantastic. The Eastman 805 PGE Blue as set-up at the Mandolin Store and like-wise has a very slight bow - just enough for low action smooth playing. The particular mando I was referring to(apparently not very clearly, sometimes my communication is suspect) was a Loar 700LM I bought as a factory second/blem etc. It needed a little tweaking as well as a "floridectomy" which I performed myself. Surprisingly, it turned out quite well. The extension may have been the blem as it was totally unplayable, too thin to be scooped and just plain ugly. However, at 579.99 it was worth the experiment. I raised the bow up a bit last night and things are sounding and playing nicely thus far. At the deepest part of the bow it may measure around 1/64 gap at most. It is a heavy mandolin and the bass is like a cannon - which I like when playing in the key of D particularly. The action is low as is the bridge which is the way I've been playing guitar, banjo and mandolin for the past 50 years. (Not well enough to quit my day job, but no one has ever died from listening to me play). I hope I cleared things up a bit, I never seem to be able to express myself clearly; could be I'm getting too old:-) Thanks again for your interest and insight, it is very much appreciated,
    Best wishes,
    Joe
    "Of all the harm that ere' I've done,
    Alas, it was to none but me."


    Goodnight and Joy be to you all!

  10. #8
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    Default Re: Neck Bow

    Thank you for clarifying. The amount of relief you are talking about on your Weber is negligible, and shouldn’t cause any harm. It’s really about the same I use. I know Bruce sets them up dead straight though, and the relief may have naturally developed. Bruce himself has said that it’s necessary to tweak the truss rod from time to time. It makes sense, Wood just moves, for a variety of reasons. As for the Eastman, maybe Dennis does set them up with a touch of relief, I just don’t know. In any case, the point is that if you like it that way, a tiny bit doesn’t hurt anything, not as long as it can easily be taken out with a rod adjustment. In the case of the Loar, well, you really can’t compare the workmanship on those with Weber or even Eastman. The build quality on the Loars can be politely described as variable, and you have a blemish at that. You describe it as heavy, and that has been my experience with them. All of the wood is way too thick. And it is plausible that the Florida may have had an upwards scoop causing problems. 1/64 still sounds like a bit too much relief. I’ll bet it needs a fret level and dress. I mean, when you think about it, they have to cut some corners to meet their price point. Labor intensive things like leveling frets would be a great place to cut costs.

    Incidentally, I have found it much more useful to express action and relief in 1/1000 inch increments. It’s easy enough to measure with an inexpensive set of feeler gauges, available for minimal cost at auto parts chain stores. This give you much more accuracy and one or two thousandths makes a bigger difference than most people realize. And I’m not sure if you’re measuring correctly. You need to measure relief at the 7th fret under a precision straight edge. But al it of people don’t have a precision straight edge. They are expensive. However, if you capo the first fret and hold down the string at the other end of the fret board, the string itself acts as a virtual straight edge. Then you can use the feeler gauges at the seventh fret to measure relief. I hope this helps.
    Don

    2016 Weber Custom Bitterroot F
    2011 Weber Bitterroot A
    1974 Martin Style A
    Fender Octave Mandolin c.2004-2008

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    Default Re: Neck Bow

    As Don says, relief in thousands. Even a guitar only has a couple thousands of relief, 1/64" I would definitely adjust the truss rod.
    THE WORLD IS A BETTER PLACE JUST FOR YOUR SMILE!

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  14. #10
    2TonCommon
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    Default Re: Neck Bow

    Quote Originally Posted by multidon View Post
    Thank you for clarifying. The amount of relief you are talking about on your Weber is negligible, and shouldn’t cause any harm. It’s really about the same I use. I know Bruce sets them up dead straight though, and the relief may have naturally developed. Bruce himself has said that it’s necessary to tweak the truss rod from time to time. It makes sense, Wood just moves, for a variety of reasons. As for the Eastman, maybe Dennis does set them up with a touch of relief, I just don’t know. In any case, the point is that if you like it that way, a tiny bit doesn’t hurt anything, not as long as it can easily be taken out with a rod adjustment. In the case of the Loar, well, you really can’t compare the workmanship on those with Weber or even Eastman. The build quality on the Loars can be politely described as variable, and you have a blemish at that. You describe it as heavy, and that has been my experience with them. All of the wood is way too thick. And it is plausible that the Florida may have had an upwards scoop causing problems. 1/64 still sounds like a bit too much relief. I’ll bet it needs a fret level and dress. I mean, when you think about it, they have to cut some corners to meet their price point. Labor intensive things like leveling frets would be a great place to cut costs.

    Incidentally, I have found it much more useful to express action and relief in 1/1000 inch increments. It’s easy enough to measure with an inexpensive set of feeler gauges, available for minimal cost at auto parts chain stores. This give you much more accuracy and one or two thousandths makes a bigger difference than most people realize. And I’m not sure if you’re measuring correctly. You need to measure relief at the 7th fret under a precision straight edge. But al it of people don’t have a precision straight edge. They are expensive. However, if you capo the first fret and hold down the string at the other end of the fret board, the string itself acts as a virtual straight edge. Then you can use the feeler gauges at the seventh fret to measure relief. I hope this helps.
    Hi Don(and pops).
    Thank you for the post - it helped a lot. Can do with the measurements, thousanths it is. You are 100% correct about the Loar. It is a comparatively poor made mando comparaed to the other 2. I bought it knowing this, but wanted something to use as a beater and experiment with. Probably not worth the money to send it away for maintainence. It really does play well even with the exaggerated bow. I'll use it for "Roadhouse" playing and hot, humid outside gigs. It sounds good, is comfortable to play and can take a beating.
    I really appreciate the time and expertise from everyone here. Great bunch at the Café!

    Kindest regards,
    Joe
    "Of all the harm that ere' I've done,
    Alas, it was to none but me."


    Goodnight and Joy be to you all!

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