Lester neck thickness

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Steve Sawyer
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Lester neck thickness

Post by Steve Sawyer »

Just thinking out loud in public here, so no replies needed unless I'm missing something or if someone has any advice contrary to or refining my thoughts here.

I plan on "stacking" the heel. The plans don't call it out, but my calipers show a neck thickness of 0.593 at the 1st fret and 0.639 at the 12th, which, allowing .187 (3/16) for the FB, would yield an overall thickness ranging from 0.780 to 0.826 respectively.

My first build (a Tele) - neck carved until it "felt right" - has a thickness of 0.916. My MIM Strat is 0.827. Both play really nice, but the thicker neck makes the Tele a bit more comfortable when doing a lot of chording, while the thinness of the Strat neck has an edge when playing lead. I'd like this Lester to be closer to the Strat.

So, despite the small taper indicated in the plans, I'm going to dimension the blank to a uniform thickness of 0.625 (5/8) which will give me a max thickness of 0.837, which will probably dip a scrunch lower than that in carving.

Thanks!
==Steve==

Gordon Bellerose
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Re: Lester neck thickness

Post by Gordon Bellerose »

In every neck I have made except one, I have a slight taper from the 1st to the 12th.
Not huge, about 1/16 or 3/32.

The one I made with no thickness taper feels a bit weird to my hand. It still plays nicely.
I need your help. I can't possibly make all the mistakes myself!

Freeman Keller
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Re: Lester neck thickness

Post by Freeman Keller »

Steve, I currently use a set of templates that I took off a vintage gold top, but my StewMac plans show the thickness thru the first fret as 0.896 total (includes fretboard but not fret, measured to the center of the radius) and 0.982 at the 11th fret (which is where they start the heel). My template is very close to that and every one who has played a guitar made from it comments on the neck.

When I made the templates I put a line where the top of the f/b would be but also another one 1/4 down, which corresponds to the seam between the neck and f/b. Since I do most of the carving before the f/b is glued on I use that second line as a reference. This is in progress, as I remove wood from the sides the templates drop down onto the neck.
IMG_1595.JPG
I have been tapering my necks by putting a shim at the nut end and running the back of the neck under a Safety planer, at least to get close.

ps - I like that LP gold top contour so much that when I built a tele this fall thats what I used. I'm sure a Fender fan would cry "heresy"

Freeman Keller
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Re: Lester neck thickness

Post by Freeman Keller »

After posting that I went back thru my pictures and notes. It looks like the Gold top neck was a little thicker than the '59 burst in the SM plans. Here is a picture taking the contour and my notes.
IMG_1486-1.jpg
IMG_1488-1.jpg

Bill Raymond
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Re: Lester neck thickness

Post by Bill Raymond »

I don't think a taper in the thickness of a neck is necessary, unless you like the feel of the taper. I've made necks both ways and have no complaints about playability--they feel much the same to me.

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Bob Gramann
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Re: Lester neck thickness

Post by Bob Gramann »

To muddy it up a little: I always thought that a slight taper controlled truss rod movement and thus the relief profile. Would we want a constant curve from the 12th to the 1st fret?

Brian Evans
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Re: Lester neck thickness

Post by Brian Evans »

My neck fretboards taper from headstock to heel, basically 1 3/4" at the nut and 2 3/16" ish at the 12th fret. My neck thickness tapers also so that the neck shape remains the same. It gets a little bigger closer to the body, but the shape/contour is the same. I think that is pretty important to getting the feel that I want - consistency up and down the neck. If you taper the fretboard without tapering the neck thickness, then you have a deep C (or whatever you call your shape) at the nut and a shallow C at the heel joint. I think that's wrong.

Brian

Freeman Keller
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Re: Lester neck thickness

Post by Freeman Keller »

I agree with Brian. My necks taper in both width and thickness, but the curve or contour remains the same. If you take my 12th fret template and start at the nut it rides smoothly on the neck all the way to 12, but it sits lower at the nut (if that makes any sense)

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Steve Sawyer
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Re: Lester neck thickness

Post by Steve Sawyer »

Thanks for all the thoughts. I think I'll go with my original thinking, slabbing out the neck at 0.625. Freeman - good suggestion re the Safe-T-Planer to add a taper. Given that everything I play now is a bolt-on Fender-style neck, it will be interesting to see how that taper feels to me. I might put a bit of a "tail" on the heel-stack to allow that taper to continue all the way to the 12th fret, keeping the constant profile as you suggest.
==Steve==

Freeman Keller
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Re: Lester neck thickness

Post by Freeman Keller »

Steve Sawyer wrote:Thanks for all the thoughts. I think I'll go with my original thinking, slabbing out the neck at 0.625. Freeman - good suggestion re the Safe-T-Planer to add a taper. Given that everything I play now is a bolt-on Fender-style neck, it will be interesting to see how that taper feels to me. I might put a bit of a "tail" on the heel-stack to allow that taper to continue all the way to the 12th fret, keeping the constant profile as you suggest.
Here is the neck I'm currently working on. You can see a 1/8 inch shim under the nut end - its held on with double stick tape. I clamped a piece of MDF to my cheap drill press table so I can slide the neck under the planer - started a the heel end and worked towards the head taking very shallow cuts (I bring the table up a hair each cut). I stopped short of the final thickness but got fairly close and saved a heck of a lot of work.
IMG_4928.JPG
Obviously that is an acoustic neck which, like all my necks, is tapered from the heel to the head slightly. In the past I have tried to band saw that thickness but without making some sort of fancy jig it would be pretty much by eye but my saw (and my eye) aren't very good so I ended up with lots of hand finishing. Also, in the past I have had trouble keeping the back of the neck a straight line as I carved it - the Safety planer sure helped with that.

Chris Richards
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Re: Lester neck thickness

Post by Chris Richards »

From memory the Beauty of the Burst book, which is cover to cover '58-'60 Les Pauls has a page at the back with a bundle of dimensions from a number of Les Pauls from this era that give thickness of the neck at the 1st and 11 fret also nut width, they quoted 11th fret depth since at the 12 fret the neck starts thickening-up for the heel. Basically over the years the LP neck got thinner and noticeably so for 1960. For Les Paul necks up to early 1960 the truss rods were set in the neck quite deep with no curve and deeper at the heel, by later 1960 the truss rods were set on a curve so Gibson had a little more wood to play with to carve a thinner profile.

Brian Evans
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Re: Lester neck thickness

Post by Brian Evans »

When I am carving I measure at 1 and 10. Getting real close with the STplaner is a real time saver. I carve after the fretboard is on but before the fretboard radius is set, so I have a flat surface to clamp but I can measure thickness directly from the fretboard (no guessing or estimating). When you use a double acting truss rod you set it in a straight channel directly under or even slightly set into the fretboard, and it's quite a shallow groove, so you have a lot less chance of getting into the truss rod while carving. I did a deep set single truss rod and really worried about that.

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Steve Sawyer
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Re: Lester neck thickness

Post by Steve Sawyer »

I'm using a low-profile double-action rod, so not worried about having enough "meat" to work with.

Thinking about doing a taper in the blank, I was concerned about the scarf angle, but realized all I have to do is index the angle from the face of the neck blank, not the (tapered) back, and the headstock piece should line right up.

One of those digital tilt-gauges with a tenon jig on a table saw works great for cutting neck scarf joints.
==Steve==

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