Thinking of building an LP-style with a bolt-on neck

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Thinking of building an LP-style with a bolt-on neck

Postby Steve Sawyer » Mon Jan 08, 2018 4:22 pm

I'm experimenting with some new techniques for my next build, which was going to be a Tele-shaped body with humbuckers. However, I'm running into some issues with my initial plans, such that I'm re-thinking making use of one of the two alder body blanks I have, and instead going with a mahogany or QS sapele body. The top will not be carved (trying not to take on too many new techniques with this build), but I was thinking that there's no reason not to switch to an LP body shape instead of the Tele. My original plan was to do a bolt-on maple neck, but as long as I'm picking up some mahogany/sapele, I could also do a matching neck rather than the contrasting maple. I could also go with a 12" FB radius, and thus make use of one of the TOM bridges I already have in the stash.

I know that Gibson did some bolt-on LPs at some point (maybe Japanese-built?), and I seem to recall seeing others doing some builds this way.

Anyway, just wanted to run this up the flagpole here to see if there were any strong arguments against this path. I'd like to do a full LP copy some day with a carved top and set neck, but I'm trying to take on just a few new techniques on this build.
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Re: Thinking of building an LP-style with a bolt-on neck

Postby Dan Hehnke » Mon Jan 08, 2018 6:26 pm

I don't see any reason not to do it. My favorite part about bolt on necks is that it's easier to apply a finish to a separate neck and body, especially if you plan on using two different finishes. For example using an oil finish on the neck for the feel, but gloss lacquer on the body.
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Re: Thinking of building an LP-style with a bolt-on neck

Postby Randolph Rhett » Mon Jan 08, 2018 8:41 pm

The second guitar I ever made was an LP Jr thing with a Fender style bolt on neck. The design was fine, the execution was lousy. I did a Strat style hard tail bridge, so there was no need for a neck angle. If you use a TOM you will need to rout the pocket at an angle. I believe 4deg, but mock it up first.
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Re: Thinking of building an LP-style with a bolt-on neck

Postby Freeman Keller » Mon Jan 08, 2018 11:34 pm

There is a discussion at the other lutherie forum right now about neck joints for a thin body. There is no reason not to use a screw on neck and certainly there are some advantages. You don't have to get the geometry as spot on when you build - you can always shim or angle the pocket until you get it right. As Dan says, you can finish them separately.

In my opinion a set neck is much more elegant - you can make it flow into the body and of course you can finish it to match the body. It requires much greater skill to execute, particularly with a carved or arched top.

My humble advice would be to lay out the side view of your guitar with the neck angle, overstand, pickups and bridge all carefully measured and drawn. Make sure your geometry works with the ToM and that you will have enough adjustment when you get done. The four degree neck angle that Randolph refers to is the normal setting angle for a Les Paul with a carved top - you might find that you need no angle but will use some overstand instead. Also make sure that whatever tailpiece you plan to use has the right break over for your bridge - stop tailpieces are adjustable but might not work on a flat guitar.
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Re: Thinking of building an LP-style with a bolt-on neck

Postby Gordon Bellerose » Tue Jan 09, 2018 12:39 am

I have built 2 guitars with a flat top and a T.O.M. bridge.
They have both been 25.5 scale. On these I found my neck pocket had to be routed at about 3 degrees.
One was 2.8, and the other was 3.

Scale length has a small amount of influence on angle because of the shorter distance between the base of the neck, and the bridge.

DSCF2533.JPG
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Re: Thinking of building an LP-style with a bolt-on neck

Postby Beate Ritzert » Tue Jan 09, 2018 8:30 am

Although i like the above guitar, i would also consider to use a good, adjustable wraparound bridge instead on such a design.

Especially in the project we are just discussing; it comes closer to a Les Paul Junior.

BTW; Epiphone makes Les Pauls and Juniors with bolt on necks. These are entry level instruments, not necessarily bad ones. But anyway, since here is a connection "Les Paul bolt on = entry level" You should take care to make Your instrument explicitly distuinguishable from those. Maybe by not using a simple plate holding the screws but using "pretty" ferrules instead, maybe by thoroughly designing (rounding, smoothing) the neck joint. Telling the customer that this is a well designed feature and not primarily a measure to cut down production cost.

Technically i do not see any objection against bolt on necks.
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Re: Thinking of building an LP-style with a bolt-on neck

Postby Brian Evans » Tue Jan 09, 2018 9:30 am

Hagstrom Swede (particularly the original edition) is an example of a seriously high end solid body guitar with a bolt on neck. Don't dismiss the idea of putting some contour into the top. It's actually very easy and rewarding to do, and mahogany type woods carve very easily compared to maple.
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Re: Thinking of building an LP-style with a bolt-on neck

Postby Steve Sawyer » Tue Jan 09, 2018 1:43 pm

Thanks for all the great thoughts everyone.

Freeman - I was definitely going to do a full set of drawings. I am expecting to not require any neck angle, but the drawings will tell the tale. I may end up with geometry similar to Gordon's stunning example.

Beate - I was planning on doing a "plateless" design for the reasons you mention.

Brian - I'd do the carving but already have a beautiful piece of pommele sapele veneer that is going on the top. I've assembled a "mockup" with the veneer and edge-banding and am in the process of putting the finish on. I know that carved tops can be veneered, but will leave trying that to a future build.
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Re: Thinking of building an LP-style with a bolt-on neck

Postby Steve Sawyer » Tue Jan 09, 2018 1:46 pm

Gordon - I was just admiring the pickup rings on that build. Did you find those somewhere or did you make them?
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Re: Thinking of building an LP-style with a bolt-on neck

Postby Gordon Bellerose » Tue Jan 09, 2018 7:40 pm

Steve Sawyer wrote:Gordon - I was just admiring the pickup rings on that build. Did you find those somewhere or did you make them?

I believe those are stewmac rings.
They have them in flat top, and carve top.
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Re: Thinking of building an LP-style with a bolt-on neck

Postby Freeman Keller » Wed Jan 10, 2018 12:55 pm

Steve, here is another idea. This is an LP shaped guitar but I used a 1/4 inch thick drop top plate for the top so I couldn't carve it as much as a standard LP. However its not an LP Jr either because they are flat tops. This one has a set neck with no overstand so it does have some angle - I can't remember how much but it was calculated based on the thickness of the top and the bridge before I started building. It would be very easy to make this with a screwed on neck. You can see a little of the recurve at the waist in this picture

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Re: Thinking of building an LP-style with a bolt-on neck

Postby Steve Sawyer » Wed Jan 10, 2018 1:06 pm

That's real nice, Freeman. I have some really nice curly maple in the stash that I was considering for a cap, but it's only skip planed to 4/4, so I could probably only resaw it to 3/8. Wasn't sure if that would be enough to carve, but obviously I could make that work based on your example.

Also - can someone enlighten me as to the meaning of "overstand" and how it's measured? Web search isn't helping much...
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Re: Thinking of building an LP-style with a bolt-on neck

Postby Barry Daniels » Wed Jan 10, 2018 8:29 pm

I think he is using the term to describe how much of the neck extends above the body at the upper end of the fretboard. Zero overstated would mean the neck is even with the body and only the thickness of the fretboard is raised above the body. Some guitars have a lot more height here which requires a lot more neck angle.
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Re: Thinking of building an LP-style with a bolt-on neck

Postby Peter Wilcox » Wed Jan 10, 2018 10:22 pm

So if I understand overstand, the higher the overstand the less the neck angle, and there is height of overstand for an individual guitar where the neck angle would be zero, at which point any further overstand would necessitate negative neck angles. So in the solid body Fenderish guitar world, an overstand of about 1/8" coupled with the usual bridges, allows a zero neck angle.

Of course, an understand would cause a greater neck angle. :)
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Re: Thinking of building an LP-style with a bolt-on neck

Postby Barry Daniels » Thu Jan 11, 2018 12:26 pm

That sounds about right.
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Re: Thinking of building an LP-style with a bolt-on neck

Postby Freeman Keller » Thu Jan 11, 2018 1:29 pm

We were talking about the amount a neck stands proud of the body at another forum and someone defined it as "overstand", said the term came from violin building. I thought if it was the correct term in lutherie I should use it.

There are lots of ways to get the strings in the right place at the saddles - angle it, make it stand proud of the body, even recess the bridge (I saw that somewhere), or a combination. We have a rule of thumb with acoustics that a straight edge on the tops of the frets (which I'll call the "fret plane") should just touch the top of a normal thickness bridge - then if you add about 1/8 of saddle plus a tad of relief plus a skitch of first fret action you'll end up with reasonable playing action up and down the fret board.

I like to think of the same thing when I'm building an electric guitar - somehow I want the fret plane to just touch the tops of the saddles when they are in their lowest adjusted position. Some time ago I asked if this was how others look at their geometry but got very little response so, since it seems to work, I continue to do it.

In fact, thats how I lay out the side view of a new guitar - establish the fret plane and scale length, measure down the minimum height of the bridge which sets the top at that point. Decide what I want the top to be doing at the neck - flush or standing proud, and how much angle I want between the neck and body, then connect the dots. Or the other choice is to copy an existing design - flat top, carved top, how much carve , then measure up from the top to the string plane which sets the neck angle.

I spend a lot of time while I'm building a guitar fussing over the neck angle - particularly with a set neck because I want the heel to look good and because I can't change it once its set. Here the neck is clamped on the guitar and a straight edge is resting on the frets. The bridge is sitting on little shims that are the thickness of the studs and adjusters at their bottom position. This would of course give me zero action at the 12th fret (or any where else). I know from simple geometry that relief and nut height will give me a little action and I know that I will be able to adjust the bridge up from here to get my final value. This guitar has no overstand, its all in the angle.

Image

Here is doing the same thing with a screwed on neck and flat body, the saddle screws are backed all the way out

Image

That one has no angle but the typical Fender overstand of 1/4 inch or so. Here is one more, an archtop thing with both angle and overstand. Doing the same thing - the board hasn't been fretted so I have a little stack of cards at both ends to simulate frets and the floating ToM is adjusted to its lowest position.

Image

This guitar has a dovetail joint and a funky little piece under the f/b extension

Image

Another thing to remember about this geometry thing is that bridge will be higher in the center to match fretboard radius. With a ToM its pretty easy because they are usually 12 inch and most of the time I make my fretboards also 12 inch. With Fenders you often have 7 or 9 inch radius fretboards which requires the center saddles to be much higher. So when we talk about overstand of 3/8 inch at the edge of the board the center is going to be much higher (and thats where I'm resting the straightedge).

I'll add my final thought about Fender style screw on necks - even tho most plans show the pocket having a flat bottom relative to the top (ie no angle) in practice a lot of them end up with some sort of shim in the pocket - a match book cover or pick or one of those fancy StewMac laser cut shims that both raises the neck and puts some angle into it. Good old Leo and the genius of his designs
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Re: Thinking of building an LP-style with a bolt-on neck

Postby Steve Sawyer » Thu Jan 11, 2018 6:54 pm

Thanks for the explanation - and Freeman, thanks for the details. Somewhere around here (maybe it was even a post you made) I ran across the straightedge-across-frets-defining-minimum-saddle-height approach, and that just seemed to be so geometrically intuitive that I had that approach in mind for drawing the profile for this build.

Thanks again all!!
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Re: Thinking of building an LP-style with a bolt-on neck

Postby Freeman Keller » Thu Jan 11, 2018 9:02 pm

My thinking is that if you start with zero action at the 12th fret (I do all my measurements at 12, some do not). Add 14 to 18 thou of nut action, you are up to lets say 0.007-8 at 12. Add 4 or 5 thousands of relief, that adds maybe 2or 3 at 12 so now you are at 0.010. I like my action somewhere around 0.060 on the high E and maybe 0.080 on the low, that means I have to raise the bridge about 0.100 to 0.140 - that is easily within the range of every bridge I've worked with. I know that with age the neck angle might change, the action will go up, I still have lots of adjustment to take it down.

You can get good dimensional drawings at most manufacturers web sites but there is nothing like actually holding the bridge in your hand.
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Re: Thinking of building an LP-style with a bolt-on neck

Postby Gordon Bellerose » Mon Jan 22, 2018 3:23 pm

I most definitely want the bridge in my hand before setting neck angle and height.
I always rout the neck pocket just bit shallow too, so that I have room to maneuver in depth, and or angle.
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Re: Thinking of building an LP-style with a bolt-on neck

Postby Steve Sawyer » Mon Jan 22, 2018 3:53 pm

I learned the hard way on the last build that "building to the hardware" is the way to go.
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