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I Could Really Use Some Help (fretboard to body distance)

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I Could Really Use Some Help (fretboard to body distance)

Postby Scott Freeman » Fri Sep 30, 2016 4:01 pm

I bought a Carvin NT6 neck (neck through) awhile back. I just thought "Well, I'm going to cut out the wing design and attach them -- easy right?" That part was easy, but now I realize that there is only about 1/4" from the fretboard to the body on the sides and about 5/16" in the middle.

I'm concerned that it's not enough height. I'm worried that even the shortest hardtail bridge would still be too tall with that distance. Now, the thickness of the neck/wings of the body is a little over 1 5/8". I'm thinking that I need to plane some off the top. I need some rescue advice.

Questions:
1. Is their any bridge that could work for this height that you know of?
2. If I plane the top of the body, how much can and/or should I reasonably take off?
3. If planing is needed, is this something I can do myself?
4. Are there any other solutions you can think of?

As an aside, I need to order pickups, but don't know what size humbuckers to get as I don't know the string spacing. Is there a way to incorporate the width at the nut and the 24th fret to determine the string spacing I need at the bridge and for the humbuckers?

A lot of questions, I know. Be assured I truly appreciate any advice you can provide.
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Re: I Could Really Use Some Help (fretboard to body distance)

Postby Michael Lombardi » Fri Sep 30, 2016 6:03 pm

your strings are not down on the frets, the height you have plus the height of the strings above the the frets should give you enough height for a normal ab bridge. to get the string spaceing just draw a line down the neck from the nut slot on the low and high e string to were the bridge will sit, measure the distance between the two lines and that's your string spaceing. any normal pup should work. I through my first build on the burn pile more than once, but my wife would go and get it and shove it at me, finish it! and so i did. came out great.

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Re: I Could Really Use Some Help (fretboard to body distance)

Postby Freeman Keller » Fri Sep 30, 2016 10:34 pm

You can get all the specifications for all the bridges the sell from manufacturers or vendors like StewMac. Make a side drawing of your guitar with the critical measurements - scale length, amount the neck stands proud of the body, upper and lower limits for the saddles. Draw a line representing your approximate action - say 0.060 for the high E and extend that to the bridge. Your saddle will want to be 2X that above the fret plane, about 1/8 inch. For the low E you might have an action of 0.090 so the saddle height will be about 0.180 (3/16). The middle strings will be higher because of the f/b radius. Can you get there with the adjustment of the saddles?

A thru neck doesn't allow you the luxury of adjusting the neck angle or shimming it so your choice is going to have to be at the bridge itself. Planing, routing, a different bridge are all options - without actually seeing the guitar its hard to say. Btw - Melvyn Hiscock has a great section in his book on building electric guitars on how to think about your neck geometry and bridge.

String spacing will be set by the bridge you select (usually 2-1/16 or 2-1/8) - you can lay out a top view with scale length, nut and bridge spacing and pickup locations. That will give you the pole spacing but with humbuckers it isn't that critical
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Re: I Could Really Use Some Help (fretboard to body distance)

Postby Freeman Keller » Fri Sep 30, 2016 11:10 pm

If you decide you have to plane the body, you asked how you should do that. In my opinion that is exactly what the Wagner Safe-T-Plane was designed for. Get your bridge, do a little mock up on your guitar, calculate how much you need to take off and set the Safe-T-Plane to take part of it - work your way down with skim cuts and trial installation of your bridge until you are happy.

The Safe-T-Plane requires a flat back and you won't be able to get right up next to the f/b but you can clean that up with a chisel. I suppose you could also build some sort of sled for your router but the Safe-T-Plane would be my tool of choice.

(btw - I approve of your name)
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Re: I Could Really Use Some Help (fretboard to body distance)

Postby Scott Freeman » Sat Oct 01, 2016 5:12 am

I really appreciate the help guys. This is very useful.
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Re: I Could Really Use Some Help (fretboard to body distance)

Postby Dan Smith » Sat Oct 01, 2016 11:05 am

Another option for milling down the top would be to construct a router sled.
I made one to mill down figured wood that I cannot run through my thickness planer.
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Re: I Could Really Use Some Help (fretboard to body distance)

Postby Freeman Keller » Sat Oct 01, 2016 11:35 am

As you think of planing the top don't forget that the pickup height screws are usually 1-1/4 long. If you use a 1/4 ring (which will put the top roughly level with your f/b plane - then you need at least 1 inch into the body for the screws and little tabs on the ends of the 'buckers. Make it a bit deeper so the screws don't hit the bottom of the cavity. The pickups themselves are much shallower but the routes for the ends have to be at least that deep.
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Re: I Could Really Use Some Help (fretboard to body distance)

Postby Freeman Keller » Sat Oct 01, 2016 12:29 pm

One more thought - I took a quick look at Hiscock's book and one of the instruments he builds is a thru neck bass. He does comment that the neck needed to be angled slightly to the body to make the geometry work out - he doesn't say how much but that its less than a set neck (which is usually 3 to 4 degrees).

I build mostly set neck carved tops so my geometry is completely different than yours but the critical thing is the same - the bridge has to have enough adjustment to provide both the highest and lowest action you will ever want. With a ToM bridge I find that if the fret board plane just hits the saddles at their lowest position (the little blocks simulate the mounting posts) then I have enough travel and I know I'll never want to go lower than this

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Re: I Could Really Use Some Help (fretboard to body distance)

Postby Alexander Higgins » Sat Dec 17, 2016 12:59 pm

I came up against this issue on my Rickenbacker 4001 clone build. The stock Ric bass bridge is pretty tall, requiring the fingerboard to be just shy of 1/2" above the body plane to work correctly. I made the whole neck thru beam the height needed to get the FB that high, then milled a way the part of the beam attached to the wings with a router sled. The top neck face ended up 1/8" above the body plane.
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Re: I Could Really Use Some Help (fretboard to body distance)

Postby Gordon Bellerose » Sat Dec 17, 2016 1:53 pm

My last neck through build had a finger board height above the body of just 9/32.
It worked out fine with a lower profile bridge.
I got the bridge from Babicz, Full Contact Hardware, but you can certainly look around.
The next one, which is now getting tuners, has a height above body of 5/16. Should be perfect.
I do not think you should have to plane the body.

Lower the saddles on your bridge to the lowest point and measure the height. Almost any hard-tail or tremolo electric bridge should go to a height lower than 3/8 which would be the lowest you should have to go and still have low action.

If you are using a Gibson T.O.M. type bridge, then definitely you will have to plane the top. Do not drill any holes until you get your bridge!!
I need your help. I can't possibly make all the mistakes myself!
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Re: I Could Really Use Some Help (fretboard to body distance)

Postby Jason Rodgers » Sun Dec 18, 2016 1:31 am

As Gordon suggests, get or know your bridge before proceeding. If you're going with a typical hardtail bridge, you might be ok; a TOM is going to need a bit more clearance.

If your neck is in plane with the body face (which it sounds like it is), a 1/4" fretboard needs to be about 1/8" above the body face for the strings to hit a typical hardtail bridge at about 7/16".

If you're really happy with the face of the guitar and body thickness and don't want to plane material off, you can always recess the bridge.
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