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Removable neck acoustic instrument ?

Removable neck acoustic instrument ?

Postby rob bowen » Mon Dec 22, 2014 4:55 pm

New member here. I'm in the infant stages of creating something fun and different for me. I've always wanted to scratch build a unique acoustic guitar/harp/lute "esque" creation. I am hoping to make the neck removable. Has anyone seen a removable neck? Thanks very much, Rob.
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Re: Removable neck acoustic instrument ?

Postby David Falkner » Mon Dec 22, 2014 5:37 pm

Lots of guitars have removable necks, including Taylor.
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Re: Removable neck acoustic instrument ?

Postby Rodger Knox » Tue Dec 23, 2014 1:14 pm

Search the library, clay schaeffer has a design where the neck come off and fits inside the body.
edit:
http://www.mimf.com/library/Clay_Schaef ... -2008.html
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Re: Removable neck acoustic instrument ?

Postby Bryan Bear » Tue Dec 23, 2014 1:39 pm

Rodger beat me to it. Clay is still active around here too, so he will probably check in. You'll be able to ask him questions about his set up.

If you do a bolt on neck (there are several iterations of them) and have easy access to the bolts through either the sound hole or access port, (just about) any instrument can have a removable neck. Are you thinking removable for ease of transport/storage or to allow for different types of necks to be used for the same body? Sounds interesting, I can't wait to see what you come up with.
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Re: Removable neck acoustic instrument ?

Postby rob bowen » Tue Dec 23, 2014 3:23 pm

Thank you for the responses gentlemen ... most appreciated. Thank you for the link to Clay Schaeffer's build Rodger! Bryan, I am creating a removable neck for a couple reasons ... I would like to try the neck with different bodies, and I am reluctant to glue the neck in in the event I want to reverse my steps. I decided to start with making tuning pegs from walnut. The neck is made from laminating mahogany cut from a plank. I don`t have access to a shop, so everything is done mostly by hand ... a coping saw, palm chisels, elbow grease. Just having fun here....I am not a luthier.
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Re: Removable neck acoustic instrument ?

Postby rob bowen » Tue Dec 23, 2014 3:25 pm

A few more pics.
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Re: Removable neck acoustic instrument ?

Postby Bryan Bear » Tue Dec 23, 2014 3:37 pm

Those are lovely carved ends for your tuning pegs! As I said before a bold on neck arrangement makes neck removal simple. I use a bolt on butt joint with hangar bolts. I'm sure there are threads here on that; do a quick search.

I had guessed that you wanted to swap out necks, I hadn't considered swapping out bodies. . . this might be a bit more challenging. Certainly so for my methods of instrument making. I fit the neck to the body during my process. Making several necks would be easy for me; I could just keep fitting new necks to the body. Doing it the other way would be a nightmare for me. I would have to think long and hard about how to construct the body to fit an existing neck without altering the neck. All the final fie tuning and fitting of that joint would have to be done to the body instead of the heel. I'm sure it can be done, you just need to develop a process.

I am very much a hobbies and my bodies don't come out 100% perfect in every dimension. That is not really a big deal because the mating surface of the neck heel is adjusted to set the neck angle and ensure the neck lines up with the center-line of the body. I suggest spending effort devising a way to make the neck mating surface of the bodies as fool proof and adjustable as possible.
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Re: Removable neck acoustic instrument ?

Postby rob bowen » Tue Dec 23, 2014 3:48 pm

Thanks for the reply Bryan! My plan is to build the neck block around the heel of the neck, then build the body around the neck block. My plan is to secure the neck with a tight fitting hardwood dowel.
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Re: Removable neck acoustic instrument ?

Postby Bryan Bear » Tue Dec 23, 2014 3:51 pm

Looks liek you uploaded some more pics while I was typing. . .

You have already established your neck angle by cutting the heel of the neck. Have you already planned for fingerboard height, bridge height and string height over the soundboard in your body design. Please don't take offense at these questions, I ask because you said you are not a luthier (neither am I) but I take that to mean you haven't made any instruments before. My advice is to take a step back from working on the neck and start drawing your designs out full scale from the side. There are a lot of factors that go into neck angle that are not inherently obvious the first time around. Drawing it out can show you some problems before you encounter them in 3D after spending a lot of time and materials. . .

A list of things to consider (probably not an inclusive list):
- is there going to be an arch or dome in the top?
- What will that do to the angle between the top and the sides of the body where the neck mates?
- How tall is the fingerboard (and frets if fretted)?
- How high does the string action need to be above the neck at the 12th fret (or middle of the string if not fretted)? This will probably be different for nylong strings than steel. . .
- How far above the soundboard do I want the strings at the saddle (eg. a steel string guitar is around 1/2")
- How tall does my bridge need to be to have sufficient break angle (an instrument with a tailpeice might need to be quite a bit taller than a bridge with strings attached)?

I mention these things because if you intend to make drastically different body types for the same neck you will need to figure out how to get the geometry right. Rather than adjusting the neck angle by fitting the heel, you could alter the angle between the soundboard and sides (where it joins the neck) but you will need to plan that out for each body.
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Re: Removable neck acoustic instrument ?

Postby rob bowen » Tue Dec 23, 2014 4:48 pm

Thanks Bryan....that is great information! The soundboard will be flat, and made from poplar. The back will be the same material. I am planning on making the bridge a floating one, and the fingerboard about 1/4 inch thick. I am struggling with an alternative to installing typical frets. I have seen online people talking about "staple" frets made from heavy piano wire. I am also considering stacking metal or graphite plates with wood spacers between to achieve the fingerboard.
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Re: Removable neck acoustic instrument ?

Postby Bryan Bear » Tue Dec 23, 2014 5:14 pm

If I may offer a bit of advice. .

When I first started this as a hobby, I had no delusions that I was going to make "real" instruments. I was just playing around and having fun doing experimental stuff. As such, I spent a lot of time thinking of ways to design around various aspects of instrument making that intimidated me or seemed beyond my skills. As time went on, I began to take my projects more seriously. While I don't have delusions selling top of the line handmade guitars, I do strive to make nice (and yes "real") instruments. I have learned a lot of lessons since I made my first longneck dulcimer with no real plan beyond whatever step I was doing. One lesson I learned over and over again was that I would have been better off learning to do various steps in one of the "mainstream" ways instead of designing around it. I always ended up learning the technique anyway and I had piles of wasted time to show for it.

I mention this to encourage you to buy some actual fretwire. It is not expensive or hard to find. Your results will be better and probably cost you less in time and money in the long run. Do a little reading about fretwork now and start learning by doing. FIND Wfret HERE IN THE MIMF AND USE IT. to get started you don't need a fretting saw from the luthery supply places. I got my start using a cheap flush cut pull saw that cut a thin kerf; look around you will find a suitable one. Check harbor freight, they have a small Japanese flush cut saw that will probably work.

Wfret allows you to print out your fret locations on paper. I tape the template (after double checking for accuracy) down to the fretboard. Make sure you have one straight anD square side. I place a knife point into the fret line printed on the template and slide a square (referenced off the straight side) against the knife. I clamp the square down and hold the saw up to the square as a guide while I saw the slot. Doing it this way all the slots will be correct relative to each other as long as you do the process exactly the same for each slot. Any offset from the knife thickness and saw thickness will be the same each time. . . It is a bit tedious and every time I do it, I swear that the next time I am going to set up to do it on the table saw but I never do. . .
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Re: Removable neck acoustic instrument ?

Postby rob bowen » Tue Dec 23, 2014 6:59 pm

Hi Bryan, I am very much just having fun creating. Much like you mentioned, just being creative. I am really enjoying the process, and if something nice comes out in the end, great. .I am learning lots as I go, and I am sure I will make mistakes. I expect to learn from this piece, then apply what I have learned to the next one.
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Re: Removable neck acoustic instrument ?

Postby Bryan Bear » Tue Dec 23, 2014 8:26 pm

You will have a wonderful time too. Be careful, this is addictive. I think you and I are starting from simmilar footing, although you obviously have woodwork my experience where I did not. My first instrument (the one I mentioned above), was never intended to be a finished instrument. I bought some chisels and some oak from Home Depot. I knew I neede to first learn how to use the tools. I didn't even know I was supposed to sharpen the chisels. She nce I was practicing using tools, I figured I might as well practice by making various parts. Somehow, those parts ended up fitting together into a playable instrument. All of it was completely experimental and it ended up working despite the fact that I had no plan and did almost no research. It was a blast. I immediately designed another, this time with forethought. I was able to plan around all the things I thought I couldn't do but added a few different new things. This time it not only played in tune but sounded pretty good! You are in for a ton of fun, keep posting your progress.
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Re: Removable neck acoustic instrument ?

Postby rob bowen » Tue Dec 23, 2014 10:01 pm

Bryan, I am having so much fun I can hardly stand it. Very similiar beginnings here I would say, as I had a hankering to get my carving chisels out and I picked tuning pegs as something decorative and simple to have fun with, with the thought that it may lead to a full instrument. I don't much money to spend on this project, so I am proceeding by picking wood that the local supplier has on sale. I picked up some poplar planks - 32" x 5.5" x 1/4" being sold at $1.49 each, so I bought half a dozen to try to create the soundboard. I have been reading about soundboards for the last hour, and nobody has said "don't use poplar" ...hahah. I am considering what you said about the frets and I should probably learn the right way.
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Re: Removable neck acoustic instrument ?

Postby Jason Rodgers » Tue Dec 23, 2014 10:42 pm

Erm... don't use poplar for a soundboard.

Where you at on the planet? Find something in the softwoods section - spruce, pine, Doug fir, hemlock... - with narrow, vertical-ish grain and take it down to 1/8" for starters.

Get ye to the hardware section and find some "knock down" bolts for your neck swapping: 1/4" bolt with wide, flat hex heads, 1-1/2" to 2" long, screwed into an insert of some sort.

Listen to Master Bear and draw things full-scale, especially the side profile (that's called the "elevation," right?). Don't f@#k around with finding your neck angle!

Google "fretfind2d" and print out a fret template (select "actual size" when you print it out). You can incorporate this into your full-scale drawing, and print out an extra to glue onto your fretboard for a cutting template. This does not diminish your creative mojo, but confirms it. As much as you are enjoying "just creating" right now, there is a point at which time + effort = firewood will actually piss you off and discourage future creation.

Oh, and by the way... those Celtic knot peg grips are WAY cool. Do more stuff like that!
-Ruining perfectly good wood, one day at a time.
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Re: Removable neck acoustic instrument ?

Postby Bryan Bear » Wed Dec 24, 2014 1:47 pm

I forgot to comment on your dowel pinned neck joint. That sounds similar to what is recommended in Cumpiano and Natelson's book. It was proposed as a way of simplifying the neck joint for beginners. Cumpiano no longer recommends this joint. Google to find the barrel nut hardware neck joint he recommends now. This will be much easier for you to remove.

While I'm at it, I'll say "don't use poplar." If that is your only option, go for it, but I bet you can find suitable softwoods for your top. Look around and you will start to notice reasonably quarter sawn softwoods that can be made to work. Western red cedar is often found in fairly wide sections and fairly well quartered. In addition to being better suited for soundboards, you will have an easier time getting it down to thickness (assuming you are doing it by hand).

I used to have a few sticks of fretwire that I had lost track of the size. I was never sure if it truly matched my other wire so I kept it separate. I may have enough for your fretboard. If I get a chance to go down in the shop in the next week, I'll look for it and send it to you.
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Re: Removable neck acoustic instrument ?

Postby rob bowen » Wed Dec 24, 2014 3:24 pm

Hi Jason, thanks very much for your comments, much appreciated. I am hoping to add more "celtic" styled carving to this piece. I have drawn the similiar design on the headstock, and am planning on applying it to the bridge and tailpiece. Poplar....I bought it because I thought it was a distant cousin of spruce...shows what I know. I have read online where it's virtues are extolled in soundboards for dulcimers. I've read where it has been used on guitars but not favoured due to the greenish hue...I don't care about color really, as long as it does the job. The body will be independent of other parts, so if I don't like the tone at all, I can re-do it in another wood. Bryan, I thought up the dowel joint idea as an alternative to using metal hardware. I understand I may be shooting myself in the foot here, but I can't resist it. Old world craftsman used tight joints with hardwood dowel...worth a try I think. Alas, I am the newbie, I am expected to make mistakes. Bryan you are too kind to offer me your fret wire, but I don't you to be out of pocket. I am going to learn how to install proper frets....but I am also looking at alternatives. I was reading last night that in the renaissance, frets were tied around the neck with cat gut? Apparently, this is still widely practiced today. I am interested in a method that will be strong and unobtrusive, so, I will only be tying around the fingerboard if I decide to go that route. I am considering brushing on an epoxy over the tied frets or some type of rock hard resin.
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Re: Removable neck acoustic instrument ?

Postby Bryan Bear » Wed Dec 24, 2014 10:34 pm

Actually tied frets would be really cool with what you have now. There is a special way to tie them and, I'm sure, a good method for locating them. If you go that rout, I'd be interested to read about how you do it.
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Re: Removable neck acoustic instrument ?

Postby rob bowen » Thu Dec 25, 2014 1:23 pm

Thanks Bryan ! I'm kinda intrigued about the idea. I am doing my research on it and will keep you posted for sure ! Oh, and by the way .... MERRY CHRISTMAS !!! All the best to you and yours in 2015 ! - Rob
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Re: Removable neck acoustic instrument ?

Postby John LaTorre » Thu Dec 25, 2014 5:18 pm

In case you missed it, here's William Cumpiano's write-up on the bolt-on neck:

http://www.cumpiano.com/Home/Articles/S ... block.html

And happy holidays back atcha.
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