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current thinking on headstock angle?

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current thinking on headstock angle?

Postby Brian Evans » Tue May 02, 2017 12:18 pm

So, Gibson went back to a 17 degree headstock angle on some guitars anyway (and some people who favor this also say it increases string tension...), Ken Parker says he uses a 4 degree angle on his six on a side headstock, others suggest 9 to 14 degrees is "normal", I've been using 12 degrees on my archtop necks. Assuming a scarfed head joint per the excellent discussion in my last thread, is there any new thinking on the best headstock angle for strength, tuning ease, tone production, or anything else? As I go out to glue up a neck blank and start on a scarf joint tablesaw jig, I wonder what angle I will use? FWIW, I am leaning towards less is better until it isn't better, as a guiding light... :)
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Re: current thinking on headstock angle?

Postby Barry Daniels » Tue May 02, 2017 12:32 pm

Gibson has never been a good source for headstock standards.

My calculations show that 11° 22 '14" is optimum and I round that off to 10° ;-)
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Re: current thinking on headstock angle?

Postby David King » Tue May 02, 2017 1:41 pm

I recreated Barry's calculations and came up a couple of seconds short. I suspect this might be "fake news".
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Re: current thinking on headstock angle?

Postby Brian Evans » Tue May 02, 2017 1:47 pm

Especially with my grade school protractor that might be readable in half-degrees, IF I can find my up-close glasses... :) I was thinking 10 degrees, too, to be honest.
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Re: current thinking on headstock angle?

Postby Randolph Rhett » Tue May 02, 2017 8:37 pm

Real luthiers go all the way to 15! ;)
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Re: current thinking on headstock angle?

Postby Bryan Bear » Tue May 02, 2017 10:49 pm

I stick very strictly to whatever angle I happen to get when I'm finished planing the rough cut joint flat.
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Re: current thinking on headstock angle?

Postby Beate Ritzert » Wed May 03, 2017 5:39 am

The headstock angle should depend a lot on the thickness of the headstock itself and on how much the tuners stick out? So any estimate should start from the necessary string angle, shouldn't it?

A few other ideas:

the headstock (actually string) angle might have an impact on the necessary amount of nut compensation - the larger the angle, the more compensation, shouldn't it?

the construction of the neck / headstock joint depends somewhat on the headstock angle - a scarf joint is not very economic with small angles due to its huge overlap? Whats better in those cases? A V-joint?
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Re: current thinking on headstock angle?

Postby Christ Kacoyannakis » Wed May 03, 2017 11:58 am

I read the first part of the Fretboard Journal's interview with Ken Parker with great interest. I am keen on reading the second installment in the next issue. One thing I did notice is that Ken Parker stated that he is very concerned with making his instruments very light. There is a video on his site with Tommy Emmanuel and another player (perhaps Martin Simpson) playing his guitars, and Tommy Emmanuel comments on how light it is. Ken Parker mentions that if he makes the instrument very light and the top pretty thin (compared to other archtops), then he can reduce the string break angle over the bridge, because he doesn't need as much downward pressure to drive the thinner top. This also may be a reason why his headstock angle is so shallow.
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Re: current thinking on headstock angle?

Postby Barry Daniels » Wed May 03, 2017 12:46 pm

I saw a presentation at Healdsburgh by Ken on this archtop. He also stated that the arch on the plates was lower, somewhere around 3/4" rise instead of the normal 1". It had a tone somewhere between a full archtop and a flattop.
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Re: current thinking on headstock angle?

Postby Alan Carruth » Wed May 03, 2017 12:56 pm

Beate wrote:
"the headstock (actually string) angle might have an impact on the necessary amount of nut compensation - the larger the angle, the more compensation, shouldn't it?"

That could be a can of worms, with the answer depending on a lot of different variables.

Trevor Gore says that setting up the headstock to give 'straight pull', that is, the least amount and number of bends over the nut, reduces the need for compensation. The idea is that some of the tension change in the string is taken up by the after length of the string between the nut and the tuner, presumably with the string sliding just a little in the slot to allow for the movement. Thus, in theory, reducing the break angle over the nut, which would help to lower the friction, could reduce the need for compensation, at both ends. In practice polishing the nut slots and lubricating them with graphite might work as well.

I learned about polishing nut slots when I took a course on lute design. Those things use a headstock angle close to 90 degrees, so if the strings don't slide easily over the nut they're impossible to tune. The grooves in the nut are not much more than scratches to guide the strings, to avoid any chance of pinching them. You polish them with a length of cotton string and rottenstone. Wet the string, pick up some rottenstone with it, and saw in along the slot a few times. Clean out all the abrasive. If you don't have rottenstone, toothpaste might work. Be careful not to round over the edge of the slot on the fingerboard end. I've never had any problem with that, since the abrasive is so soft and fine, but I suppose it could happen.
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