Page 1 of 2 12 LastLast
Results 1 to 25 of 34

Thread: Straighten a Neck - No Truss Rod

  1. #1
    Registered User Kevin Briggs's Avatar
    Join Date
    Aug 2005
    Location
    State College, PA
    Posts
    2,371
    Blog Entries
    1

    Default Straighten a Neck - No Truss Rod

    Hi, Everyone:

    I have an old Kay acoustic from I believe the 1960s. Awesome guitar for what I paid ($100), and I've written a number of finger-pickin' tunes on it. :-)

    After having it a ear or two, the neck is definitely a bit boed, causing the action up the neck to be quite high. I've controlled the humidity for the most part, but I suppose it's old, doesn't have a truss rod, and has gone through a few rounds of seasons.

    I'd like to try to straighten it at home as opposed to taking it somewhere. How would you go about it, or at least where can you refer me?

  2. #2
    Lurkist dhergert's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jul 2012
    Location
    Blue Zone, California
    Posts
    1,176
    Blog Entries
    1

    Default Re: Straighten a Neck - No Truss Rod

    If the neck is actually bowed and there is no truss rod, probably the best way to straighten the neck would be a re-fret with wider-tang frets. The wider tangs would basically pry the fingerboard slots wider, which would straighten the neck.

    That said, you may actually have neck joint and/or heel problems, in which case you may really need a neck re-set.

    Either of these jobs should probably be done by an experienced repair person or builder. With that, the cost may prove to be more than the value of the guitar.
    -- Don

    "It is a lot more fun to make music than it is to argue about it."

    2002 Gibson F-9
    2016 MK LFSTB
    1975 Suzuki taterbug
    (plus a large assortment of banjos, dobros, guitars, basses and other noisemakers)
    [About how I tune my mandolins]
    [7/29/2019 -- New Arrival!!!]

  3. #3

    Default Re: Straighten a Neck - No Truss Rod

    Read through frets.com or youtube videos demonstrating neck resets/repairs to see if it's something you're up to. It's a perfect instrument to practice on since it's not really playable and it's not really valuable.
    There have been plenty of rigged solutions done over the years, all of which will make life more difficult when someone decides they want to fix it for real. So either learn to play slide and enjoy it how it is, or take a whirl at properly disassembling it. Once disassembled, it's pretty straightforward to flatten and re-assemble. You can even add a truss rod or CF reinforcement while you're at it.

    There are other tricks, like compression refrets or partial disassembly and pre-stressed re-assembly, which pros may use to get it fixed with a minimum of time and effort, but that would be a pro's call on whether they think they can make those things work after inspecting your instrument.

  4. The Following 2 Users Say Thank You to Marty Jacobson For This Useful Post:


  5. #4

    Default Re: Straighten a Neck - No Truss Rod

    First determine is the neck itself is bowed or if the neck is straight and has pulled up from its neck joint or the neck joint is loose. Both will result in high action.

    On an inexpensive guitar with a slight bow, I would live with the bow and try to get the action down by lowering the bridge or bridge saddle (or both!)

    If it is loose in its joint, the guitar needs a neckset, which means removing the neck, shaving the heel slightly, then gluing the neck back on at the correct angle (resetting the neck.) This is a very complicated procedure, mostly done by professionals, but can be done at home if you are very patient and have a good understanding of what is going on.

    Otherwise, a guitar neck without a truss rod can be straightened two ways.

    One is to remove the frets, replane the fingerboard straight, then refret -- again, a lot of work, but good practice if you like doing such things.

    Another way that sometimes works (and sometimes doesn't) is to straighten the neck with heat and reclamp it in a better position and let it cool, hopefully straighter. The theory is that you can reheat the glue between the fingerboard and the neck, allowing it to be straightened. Like I say, sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn't depending on the glue originally used and the fact that wood has "memory" which means it wants to go back to its original shape -- so you kind of have to "overcorrect" it hoping it will dry close to what you want it to be. Some experience and guess work involved. I usually take before and after measurements at the 12th fret and the saddle to see if I was able to improve it. Sometimes it takes more than one attempt.

    Good luck and have fun!

  6. #5

    Default Re: Straighten a Neck - No Truss Rod

    Pictures might help.....

  7. #6
    Registered User
    Join Date
    Jan 2009
    Location
    S.W. Wisconsin
    Posts
    5,110

    Default Re: Straighten a Neck - No Truss Rod

    I don't like to plane the fingerboard as it simply weakens it. Heating and straightening the neck us usually only temporary. I prefer to remove the fingerboard, plane the neck if bow is excessive or simply clamp the neck flat and reglue the fingerboard if it is slight bow. Part of the strength of the neck is the fingerboard and some glues creep over time allowing it to bow. Watch what strings you use when done, I like lighter strings with a heavier low E string. Seems to sound good without extra pull of heavier strings. Good luck.

    The compression fretting can work if the bow is not excessive.
    THE WORLD IS A BETTER PLACE JUST FOR YOUR SMILE!

  8. #7
    Registered User fscotte's Avatar
    Join Date
    May 2010
    Location
    Zanesville, Ohio
    Posts
    2,467

    Default Re: Straighten a Neck - No Truss Rod

    Strong candidate for fretboard removal, and installation of carbon fiber rod.

    Easy peasy.

  9. The following members say thank you to fscotte for this post:


  10. #8
    Registered User Kevin Briggs's Avatar
    Join Date
    Aug 2005
    Location
    State College, PA
    Posts
    2,371
    Blog Entries
    1

    Default Re: Straighten a Neck - No Truss Rod

    I'll check into it, fscotte. I like teh sounds of that approach.

    Also, everyone, it's a Silvertone. My bad!

  11. #9
    Registered User jim simpson's Avatar
    Join Date
    Sep 2002
    Location
    Wheeling, WV
    Posts
    4,915

    Default Re: Straighten a Neck - No Truss Rod

    Harmony did make Supertone, later changed to Silvertone for Sears so you were good.
    Cabin Fever String Band, Bill Gorby and the Musical Mercenaries

  12. #10
    Jerry Cobbs jerrycobbs's Avatar
    Join Date
    Apr 2019
    Location
    Decatur, Alabama, USA
    Posts
    41

    Default Re: Straighten a Neck - No Truss Rod

    I have an old Harmony Roy Smeck from the early 50's. It was my uncle's guitar so it was probably worth more to me to restore it than it would have been to someone else, although I have seen the identical model offered for a pretty nice price on eBay and Reverb. I took it to a luthier who specializes in restoring old Harmony/Kay/Silvertones. He reset the neck and also heat treated it twice to remove the bow. So far it looks and plays beautifully, and I have both a classic instrument and a family heirloom.
    -- Johnson MA-100 Mando
    -- Eastman MDO-305 OM
    -- 3 Seagull Merlin dulcimers (2GDG, 1DAD)
    -- 1952 Harmony Roy Smeck guitar
    -- Ortega Lizzie Ubass
    -- Leigh Campbell electric violin
    -- Pfretzschner violin
    -- Glaesel viola
    -- Ibanez acoustic/electric guitar
    -- Misc: a cello, 2 cigarbox guitars, charango, djembe, slide dulcimer.

  13. #11

    Default Re: Straighten a Neck - No Truss Rod

    The problem with cheap Kay student models from that era is that they were never designed to be heirloom instruments. They were dirt cheap made from materials that were very poor quality and also dirt cheap. Once you get started, you can open Pandora's box polishing a turd...

    The cheap neck wood with no trussrod bows along with the cheap off quarter fingerboard, so you stiffen up and straighten and refret the lame neck and then the even more lame tulip poplar or Douglas fir neck block self destructs and then the lame fingerboard extension (on the archtops / presstops) falls apart and then the lame arches and cheap topwood fall apart next to the lame block and extension and then....you've got $1800 invested in a $300 instrument and you just wasted two years of your life NOT learning anything useful unless you want to become the $#!t guitar repair jedi ....

  14. The following members say thank you to grandcanyonminstrel for this post:


  15. #12
    Kelley Mandolins Skip Kelley's Avatar
    Join Date
    Sep 2002
    Location
    North Carolina
    Posts
    2,833

    Default Re: Straighten a Neck - No Truss Rod

    Kevin, I had a Gibson A model from the 20’s in the shop last year that had a bowed neck. The owner was considering a truss rod but, I suggested a carbon fiber rod. We went with that. The neck is perfect. You can’t tell it has ever been touched. That’s what I would do.

  16. #13
    Registered User
    Join Date
    Sep 2007
    Location
    NC
    Posts
    3,659

    Default Re: Straighten a Neck - No Truss Rod

    LMAO, James, you always tell it like it is! Respect, man! Kevin, good to hear from you again!! Let us know what you decide and how it progresses, and good luck!

    Personally, Iíd give it a go, but be fully prepared to go buy a Recording King or cheaper Takamine to replace it...or search out another great deal and hope it fares better...consider it experience, but be fully prepared mentally for it to turn into a fluster cluck, as James suggests...

    Edit: Skip and I were typing at the same time...keep in mind that he has some ridiculous skills and experience. (My current baby is a Kelley A5 thatís set up as perfectly as anything Iíve ever played, including Red Diamond, Giacomel, and real Loars). Also keep in mind that he and several other luthiers on here would probably be willing to offer advice to you. Some of these guys/gals are amazingly generous with their knowledge...but beware the fluster cluck!!
    Chuck

  17. The Following 2 Users Say Thank You to CES For This Useful Post:


  18. #14

    Default Re: Straighten a Neck - No Truss Rod

    'Just trying to offer a realistic perspective rather than the eternal optimist. Remember that I say those words from decades of old Kay experience, as one of my businesses is www.kaybassrepair.com, so I've pretty much got a vintage Kay torn apart on a workbench every day of the year.

    The main differences with the upright basses is that they sell for more money, so there are better margins to be had. The other huge one is that most people that I know who own an old Kay upright are gigging all of the time, so they always have a pocket full of money. My heavily roadworn, flood damaged survivor 1947 Kay has made me approx. $15,000 in gig $$$, so I don't mind spending good money on it, but I can't say the same for any of the 100s of old delapidated Kay guitar owners I know....ymmv...

    Here is a before, during in the vacuum press, and after Kay repair I did for another very well established shop that didn't think it was salvageable. The entire inside layer was replaced at their request:


    Click image for larger version. 

Name:	DSCN5924.jpg 
Views:	56 
Size:	446.8 KB 
ID:	179313Click image for larger version. 

Name:	DSCN6285.jpg 
Views:	58 
Size:	565.7 KB 
ID:	179311Click image for larger version. 

Name:	DSCN6150.jpg 
Views:	57 
Size:	801.7 KB 
ID:	179312
    Last edited by grandcanyonminstrel; Aug-27-2019 at 11:18pm.
    Spruce dork

  19. The following members say thank you to grandcanyonminstrel for this post:


  20. #15
    Moderator MikeEdgerton's Avatar
    Join Date
    Mar 2007
    Location
    40.191N -74.2W
    Posts
    22,838

    Default Re: Straighten a Neck - No Truss Rod

    If you have a Kay with a solid neck joint you should be doing a happy dance. By the way, Kay did make some of the Silvertone instruments. You can't assume it was made by Harmony.
    Attached Thumbnails Attached Thumbnails Click image for larger version. 

Name:	SIlvertoneByKay.JPG 
Views:	10 
Size:	48.1 KB 
ID:	179319  
    "Bargain instruments are no bargains if you can't play them". These are the words of J. Garber.

  21. #16
    Confused... or?
    Join Date
    Dec 2008
    Location
    Over the Hudson & thru the woods from NYC
    Posts
    2,301

    Default Re: Straighten a Neck - No Truss Rod

    Quote Originally Posted by grandcanyonminstrel View Post
    ... cheap neck wood ... cheap off quarter fingerboard ... lame neck ... lame tulip poplar ... neck block self destructs ... lame fingerboard ... lame arches ... cheap topwood ... lame block ... you just wasted two years of your life ...
    Nicely said!

    Are you sure that the "bow" is ALL in the neck"? Being an old Kay guitar (I assume flat-top?), there's a good chance of body distortion as well, where the end neck block has rotated toward the bridge, and the neck side of the soundhole has sunk, maybe 1/8" or so, toward the back of the guitar.

    BTW, my (still working but w/ these symptoms) '63 Kay is marked with "Steel Reinforced Neck". That was Kay's effort at recycling lame used hacksaw blades into some actual purpose - that purpose being to claim it was a "steel reinforced neck", even if there was zero to negative (they DID have to remove wood) reinforcement going on.
    - Ed

    "What our group lacks in musicianship is offset by our willingness to humiliate ourselves." - David Hochman

  22. The following members say thank you to EdHanrahan for this post:


  23. #17
    Moderator MikeEdgerton's Avatar
    Join Date
    Mar 2007
    Location
    40.191N -74.2W
    Posts
    22,838

    Default Re: Straighten a Neck - No Truss Rod

    I always appreciate real conversations about these instruments. I was one of the people buying the Harmony and Kay instruments in the 50's and 60's because it was all we could afford and the only budget instruments available. Martin's and Gibson's were but a dream. I always crack up when people talk about the mojo. The truth is they were awful instruments. If they had been that good the imports wouldn't have eaten their lunch.
    "Bargain instruments are no bargains if you can't play them". These are the words of J. Garber.

  24. #18

    Default Re: Straighten a Neck - No Truss Rod

    First I'd heard about the used hacksaw blades, Ed! Thanks for the morning laugh! I could have told 'em last time I checked hacksaw blades FLEX...........

  25. #19
    Jerry Cobbs jerrycobbs's Avatar
    Join Date
    Apr 2019
    Location
    Decatur, Alabama, USA
    Posts
    41

    Default Re: Straighten a Neck - No Truss Rod

    FWIW I'm under no illusions that my Harmony is on a par with a vintage Martin or Gibson. It is an heirloom because it was my uncle's guitar. It might be slightly more valuable because of the model and the fact it was in good structural shape other than the neck work, but yes, it's basically a ladder braced, mass produced instrument that's almost 70 years old. I was told early on that if I was looking to resell it, there was no use having the work done, but if I wanted to restore it for sentimental value, that it could be made to play again and give me years of enjoyment.

    I say all that to say to the OP, when you're deciding what to do with your Kay, take all the factors into account. How much do you like it and how much does it mean that it's your "songwriting guitar," or would you get more enjoyment out of repairing it yourself and taking some risk?
    -- Johnson MA-100 Mando
    -- Eastman MDO-305 OM
    -- 3 Seagull Merlin dulcimers (2GDG, 1DAD)
    -- 1952 Harmony Roy Smeck guitar
    -- Ortega Lizzie Ubass
    -- Leigh Campbell electric violin
    -- Pfretzschner violin
    -- Glaesel viola
    -- Ibanez acoustic/electric guitar
    -- Misc: a cello, 2 cigarbox guitars, charango, djembe, slide dulcimer.

  26. The following members say thank you to jerrycobbs for this post:


  27. #20
    Moderator MikeEdgerton's Avatar
    Join Date
    Mar 2007
    Location
    40.191N -74.2W
    Posts
    22,838

    Default Re: Straighten a Neck - No Truss Rod

    What I would do to make a family heirloom guitar playable is totally different than what I'd be willing to do for a guitar I bought used. There is value in emotion. I said this in another thread recently that I just restored a similar guitar to one I had in high school knowing full well it wouldn't bring me that much money if I sold it. Where there is emotional attachment the rules go away. On the real world side if you play a 30's Kalamzoo mandolin and a 30's Harmony mandolin you'll find a huge difference in the neck and the sound. As you move into the 60's where the output of the Harmony and Kay factories were at their peak they were simply pumping out a commodity with little regard to anything other than quantity at a price. I seriously doubt that sound was ever discussed at the factory. I'm pretty sure what passed for playability was really a loose idea. The guys testing those instruments (if anyone really was testing) must have had fingers of steel and callouses beyond anything I ever developed.
    "Bargain instruments are no bargains if you can't play them". These are the words of J. Garber.

  28. The following members say thank you to MikeEdgerton for this post:


  29. #21
    Lurkist dhergert's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jul 2012
    Location
    Blue Zone, California
    Posts
    1,176
    Blog Entries
    1

    Default Re: Straighten a Neck - No Truss Rod

    Quote Originally Posted by MikeEdgerton View Post
    ... The guys testing those instruments (if anyone really was testing) must have had fingers of steel and callouses beyond anything I ever developed.
    Yes! They probably also tested new Kay basses! (Which incidentally, also usually suffered from a lack of maintenance-free longevity.)
    -- Don

    "It is a lot more fun to make music than it is to argue about it."

    2002 Gibson F-9
    2016 MK LFSTB
    1975 Suzuki taterbug
    (plus a large assortment of banjos, dobros, guitars, basses and other noisemakers)
    [About how I tune my mandolins]
    [7/29/2019 -- New Arrival!!!]

  30. #22
    Moderator MikeEdgerton's Avatar
    Join Date
    Mar 2007
    Location
    40.191N -74.2W
    Posts
    22,838

    Default Re: Straighten a Neck - No Truss Rod

    Strictly for educational purposes I published this string height gauge many years ago here.
    Attached Thumbnails Attached Thumbnails Click image for larger version. 

Name:	string_height.jpg 
Views:	116 
Size:	54.3 KB 
ID:	179324  
    "Bargain instruments are no bargains if you can't play them". These are the words of J. Garber.

  31. The Following 3 Users Say Thank You to MikeEdgerton For This Useful Post:


  32. #23
    Mando-Accumulator Jim Garber's Avatar
    Join Date
    Mar 2003
    Location
    Westchester, NY
    Posts
    26,340

    Default Re: Straighten a Neck - No Truss Rod

    Quote Originally Posted by pops1 View Post
    I don't like to plane the fingerboard as it simply weakens it. Heating and straightening the neck us usually only temporary. I prefer to remove the fingerboard, plane the neck if bow is excessive or simply clamp the neck flat and reglue the fingerboard if it is slight bow. Part of the strength of the neck is the fingerboard and some glues creep over time allowing it to bow.
    If it is at all like my jumbo Kay, it has a baseball bat neck and can easily be thinned to straighten it out. And if the fretboard is off anyway, it might makes sense to put a steel rod or even an adjustable truss rod in for the future. My Kay actually sounds great, almost as good as a Gibson.
    Jim

    My Stream on Soundcloud
    Facebook
    19th Century Tunes
    Playing lately:
    1923 Gibson A2 black snakehead -- '83 Flatiron A5-2 -- Brentrup A4C -- 1915 Frank Merwin Ashley violin -- Huss & Dalton DS -- 1939 Gibson L-00 -- 1936 Epiphone Deluxe -- 1928 Gibson L-5 -- 1937 Gibson L-Century -- ca. 1890s Fairbanks Senator Banjo -- ca. 1923 Vega Style M tenor banjo -- ca. 1920 Weymann Style 25 Mandolin-Banjo -- National RM-1

  33. #24
    Registered User
    Join Date
    Jan 2009
    Location
    S.W. Wisconsin
    Posts
    5,110

    Default Re: Straighten a Neck - No Truss Rod

    Jim, if I were to thin the neck I would definitely add a truss rod. The original baseball bat neck most likely doesn't need it. It may need another fretboard reglue in another 50 years.
    THE WORLD IS A BETTER PLACE JUST FOR YOUR SMILE!

  34. #25

    Default Re: Straighten a Neck - No Truss Rod

    Since this is a cheap guitar to begin with, you may want to try the the "reheat and clamp" method mentioned by Jeff Mando. I did this many years ago on a low value instrument. I used a length of 2" steel tubing and a regular clothes iron sitting on top of it. The trick is to get it good and warm until the bottom of the neck is quite warm to the touch. You then leave the steel clamped to the neck while it cools overnight. I don't remember if I just went with flat or shimmed over the ends of the fretboard to induce a backbow, but it worked and the instrument was much more playable. I believe Ross Tiegen has done this (or at least recommended it) on old Martin D35s that are from the pre-truss rod era. If it doesn't get it where you want it, you can always remove the fingerboard and install CF or a truss rod (provided the instrument sounds good enough to you that it's worth the time/effort/$$).

Tags for this Thread

Posting Permissions

  • You may not post new threads
  • You may not post replies
  • You may not post attachments
  • You may not edit your posts
  •