How do you set your neck geometry

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How do you set your neck geometry

Postby Freeman Keller » Wed Nov 02, 2016 1:36 pm

Chuck's question about his thru body geometry leads me to a question that I've been struggling with on each of my electric builds. With an acoustic guitar it is kind of a rule of thumb that if a straightedge laying on the frets just touches the top of the bridge then the neck angle is considered "correct" and you will have enough, but not too much saddle sticking out when you do the final setup. That is always my target as I set a neck on a new acoustic - I tape the bridge in place and work the angle until the fret plane just hits the top. All of the little details of setup - the thickness of the bridge over the top, the dome shape of the top, nut slots and relief, are all either out of the picture or seem to be taken care of with this geometry.

My method for all of the electrics to this point (which includes flat topped Fender style, carved top Les Paul style and arched topped 335's) is to make the fret plane hit the top of the bridge when its adjusted as low as it can go. My argument is that (1) I never want the action lower than that, (2) relief and nut slots will raise the strings slightly, (3) most bridges have more than 1/8 adjustment so I can get the action high enough for playability. On Fender style guitar where I usually have more F/B radius I make sure that I can go low enough on the outside strings and high enough on the center ones to get my target action. (I also know on Fender style guitars that I can always shim the pocket if things don't work out LOL).

So my question here is how do each of you calculate that geometry while building the guitar? Do you have an arbitrary angle that you just set the neck to and know that your action will work or do you do some process during the build to check it as you go?

Here is an example - it is an archtop electric with a fairly significant dome to the top. The neck angle is 3-1/2 or 4 degrees (per Gibson). The neck stands proud of the body by a small amount now but can drop into the dovetail as I floss it (I'll put a wedge under the extension as needed). I'm using an archtop ToM bridge which is set as low as it will go (and is the same radius as the F/B). I've got 5 business cards on the F/B at two locations simulating the frets (about 0.050 total thickness). Can I glue the neck in?


Freeman Keller
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Re: How do you set your neck geometry

Postby Dan Smith » Thu Nov 03, 2016 7:50 pm

I do a mockup and set a straight edge between the end of the fretboard and the third saddle.
Pretty much same as you.
I copy this angle with a bevel gauge, and use the gauge to set the neck pocket angle.
I think this is more accurate than trying to use a small protractor, and I do not have a digital level.
I put a pretty extreme angle on this one, probably around 5-6 degrees to match a jacked-up bridge.
Ever-body was kung fu fight-in,
Them kids was fast as light-nin.
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Dan Smith
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Location: Texas

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