So disappointed, neck reset failed again

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So disappointed, neck reset failed again

Postby Brian Evans » Thu Aug 11, 2016 7:39 am

I consider myself a builder, not a repair tech, so when my 1946 Epiphone Zephyr archtop needed a neck reset after 68 years I took it to the most highly recommended luthier specializing in repairs that I could find. He did the neck reset, and it failed after 6 months. The joint pulled out at the base of the heel, the neck rotated up out of the joint. I took it back, he said that a shim had slipped when he glued and clamped it up, he had glued the shim in at the same time as he fitted the neck. He redid the work, glued in the shim (he mentioned that he used ebony for the shim, which I questioned silently as he described what he had done) and then fitted the neck and glued it in as a second step. 10 months later it's failed again, exactly the same as the first time. I'm going to say he probably used water based glue, and it didn't bond well to the ebony. FWIW this guitar is strung with .011 - .049, with an unwound G string, so very low tension for an archtop. Bridge height was set to 1".

So what do I do? Even if this guy is willing to do the work again for free (second try was free, first try cost $600) I have no faith in his skills or work ethic. He works very hard, he says he is very busy, but I know that my guitar hit his bench the day after I called to say I was coming down to pick it up. Last time he had hadn't even had time to string it up and tune it when I got there to pick it up, so in my opinion he really rushed the job both times. I also wonder if all the work he's done has either masked some fundamental issue that he hasn't caught, or has screwed up the joint beyond normal repair. My instinct is to take the neck off myself, fix whatever I find, eliminate the ebony shims and use maple or mahogany, and add a bolt/insert.

What say you all? Advice would be much appreciated.

Brian
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Re: So disappointed, neck reset failed again

Postby Dave Weir » Thu Aug 11, 2016 11:53 pm

My first and really only repair project was a 1945 Gretsch. The fret board was worn complete through and it and an unplayable bow. I installed a fret rod and new board and tried to set the neck. I didn't have much confidence that it was right, and didn't want to steam it apart again, so I drilled a couple holes in the block and put some inserts in the heel. I had to buy like an 18" long screw driver to put it together. I wouldn't recommend this, but it worked out fine. Hasn't moved a hair and plays very nice.
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Re: So disappointed, neck reset failed again

Postby Brian Evans » Fri Aug 12, 2016 8:00 am

I guess I'll know more when I take it apart, which will be in the fall. I expect to find one of two things - the heel block or neck tenon is cracked, or the glue joint to the ebony shims failed. I will convert it with a reinforcing bolt and insert, almost certainly. Luthier got back to me, basically said "sometimes neck resets fail".

Brian
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Re: So disappointed, neck reset failed again

Postby Barry Daniels » Sat Aug 13, 2016 9:40 am

I think it is time you found a better repairman. Please reconsider converting to a bolt-on as that will surely effect the instrument's collectible value.
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Re: So disappointed, neck reset failed again

Postby Stephen Neal Saqui » Sun Aug 14, 2016 10:18 am

Brian,
Look up Patrick Quinn. He works at Taylor Guitars in their repair department but also has a shop at home. He is excellent and will become a friend as well. Call The Blue Guitar in San Diego and ask for his phone number. He's also on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/patrickquinn11

Tell him I sent you, he's a dear friend and a hell-of-a-good luthier.

Stephen Neal
Salmon River Guitars, Idaho

Do Not convert it to bolt on! Get it fixed properly.
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Re: So disappointed, neck reset failed again

Postby Stephen Neal Saqui » Sun Aug 14, 2016 10:30 am

I would also ask the guy for your money back. Don't yell at him just say that he's not capable. The worst damage you can do to poor workmanship is to spread the word. Guitar repair is far more difficult to do than making guitars. I do both and there's no comparison.
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Re: So disappointed, neck reset failed again

Postby adam johnson » Sun Aug 14, 2016 6:06 pm

From the standpoint of someone who did the repair game for to long.

I would go to him with no expectations and make no demands, tell him what you are considering, ask him what he thinks and ask him what you did not ask before, why ebony vs matching the wood of the neck? See what he has to say and leave with no resolution. Mull it over for a few days and let him do the same and than go back. See what comes, you might be surprised.

If he is reasonable, keep him invovled in whatever path you take, he can not help himself from making a mistake he does not know he is making. He may also be able to give you or the new luthier valuable information, he did have it apart twice after all.

If you do it yourself you will find the shims unglued, in my experience they always come off when you take the neck off again, even epoxied patches come off sometimes. I learned to do a neck reset by doing the same one over and over till perfect, those shims almost never stay attached after a steaming.

I had a neck reset like that once, took three tries and was the bane of my existence for over a year. I asked the advice of everyone I knew, we all assumed it was me not getting the fit right. After taking the neck off the third time I stuck it in a corner and forgot about for a few months, and went at it one winter night and it worked out this time, still holding years later. In retrospect I suspect the neck block had not dried out completly after steaming the neck off. After glue up it slowly gave up the excess moisture and loosed up the joint.

We all have blind spots created by our habbits, none of us have done every possible permutation of a neck reset, do not assume he is just incompetent or lazy, give him a chance to make things right. He may, he may not, but who cares it is free to try.
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Re: So disappointed, neck reset failed again

Postby Stephen Neal Saqui » Sun Aug 14, 2016 9:19 pm

Come on! Two tries, two failures and you think he's worth another?
I'm still at it after 47 years at the bench and have never had a reset failure. Give it up...let the guy practice on somebody else! If you have habits that turn into blind spots, shame on you. The customer deserves your very best, no matter who he is.
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