Acoustic guitar neck reset

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inverseroom
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Acoustic guitar neck reset

Post by inverseroom » Thu Feb 22, 2007 5:24 am

The other day, I got an old Yamaha acoustic for $40 on Craigslist. It's a red label FG-75 from 1970, and it sounds FANTASTIC. It needed a lot of cleaning, and more importantly I had to tighten the truss rod significantly, and sand down the saddle.

The action is totally acceptable now, but it's still medium-high, and if I ever want it any lower I am going to have to have the neck reset, eventually. This is a $200-$300 job, and I don't want to pay that. But this guitar sounds amazing, and I would really like to take care of it.

I did some online research on neck resetting, and it looks sort of within my ability, if complicated. Has anyone here done it? Do you know of a good instructional book that makes it clear? Should I give it a shot?

My local tech rolled his eyes at the prospect of having him do it. "These guitars are basically disposable" is what he said...but...but...I wuv it!

What do you recommend?

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Post by getreel » Thu Feb 22, 2007 5:44 am

Don't know much about neck setting. I have an old Yamaha FG-160E that's super cool so I know about those guitars. They are truly very nice sounding. Mine has the pickup mounted up above the sound hole just like the Gibson J160E. I always wondered if the FG stood for "fake Gibson". Probably not. ha!
Good luck with it and tell us what happens.

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Post by inverseroom » Thu Feb 22, 2007 6:13 am

getreel wrote:"fake Gibson"
:lol:

I had been in the guitar shop because the truss rod was frozen and I didn't want to break it...and while my tech was working on getting it loose, he had a 1935 Gibson L-00 on the bench. Which I picked up and played.

Now don't get me wrong....it was freaking amazing. But when he handed me back the Yamaha I was NOT sitting there thinking how much more wonderful the Gibson was. (And it definitely isn't 80 times better, as the price would suggest.) There really is something to the idea that these Nippon Gakki era guitars were special, IMHO...same goes for Japanese Fenders.

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Post by ??????? » Thu Feb 22, 2007 7:30 am

Get both of Dan Erlewine's book, and check out www.frets.com

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inverseroom
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Post by inverseroom » Thu Feb 22, 2007 8:37 am

I've got his Guitar Player Repair Guide thing...is there another more detailed book?

The one I have is totally indispensible...

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Post by honkyjonk » Thu Feb 22, 2007 8:42 am

Those ARE awesome guitars.

Don't let any fuck reset the neck that doesn't think it's a privelage to do so on a 70's Yamaha FG series.

My girlfriend's dad had one that he bought new in Vietnam (as a soldier) when he left, it traveled to Seattle, then down to CA. He had it for a long time and gave it to his daughter who took it to China on exchange. I guess she got rushed upon departure back to the states and forgot the guitar at the house of a friend in China.

While on the plane, lamenting the loss of such a great guitar, she started telling the story to a Chinese businessman sitting next to her who traveled quite a bit between China and the bay area. He said, no problem, he'd go pick it up and bring it back. Just give me your phone # etc.

She thought, okay, sure, it's a nice gesture, but the guy actually did it, and she had to go pick it up in S.F., but it's in front of me now and I play it practically every day. It's like the Red Violin.

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Post by getreel » Thu Feb 22, 2007 10:33 am

"These guitars are basically disposable"

Yeah, that statement is pretty much worthless and untrue. I love my FG YAmmy. I have held onto it longer than any other guitar I've ever owned.

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Post by inverseroom » Thu Feb 22, 2007 10:43 am

Well, what it comes down to is, I either live with the high action for a few years, or I pay three benjamins to reset it, or I do it myself and risk messing it up.

Maybe I should cast around for another tech. I never heard of this place:

http://fingerlakesguitarrepair.com/

...which is in my town, but they ask 390 for a reset. There's also a guy named Guy, but to get to Guy I gotta go through this other guy who works at another guitar shop, and I just know he'll scoff at the Yammy too.

Ah, snobbery! :D

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Post by JustinHedrick » Thu Feb 22, 2007 12:02 pm

i have a white label one. it is a nylon string that my mom got at an estate sale for $20. it had high action. so i took out the plastic piece onthe bridge and now the strings are sitting on the wood.....not "proper", but it sounds nice. and i'd never sell it.

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Post by bmack » Thu Feb 22, 2007 7:23 pm

http://www.frets.com/FRETSPages/Luthier ... eset1.html

This is a step by step tutorial on how to reset an acoustic guitar neck. It is mostly basic woodworking skills. The tricky part is getting the neck off and this involves making a tool out of an old espresso machine, a hose and a basketball ball needle. Pretty cool.
I bought a beat up parlor guitar and used these instructions to bring the neck back to where it should be. Being patient helps a lot and make sure you have very sharp chisels. I munged up part of the neck heel untilI got them sharpened.

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Post by kayagum » Thu Feb 22, 2007 8:08 pm

You're probably hell-bent on lowering the action, so nothing I say on the subject will change your mind.

I have a FG from the early 80s that actually sounds great, and only in the relatively recent past did I actually get the proper tech work on it.

I actually think the higher action is part of its sound.... and it may suck for easy bar chords, but it's great for my fingerpicking.

What I would say is get a second, third or fourth opinion for the tech. I think a neck reset is open heart surgery for a cold (OK, a nasty flu). Proper setting is not easy, and even competent techs may not get it right. My current tech is amazing, and he is a great luthier, and even he only gets it right 75% of the time.

Sometimes it pays to leave things to professionals... DIY is not always the answer.
"Advice is what we ask for when we already know the answer but wish we didn't." ~ Erica Jong

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inverseroom
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Post by inverseroom » Fri Feb 23, 2007 5:45 am

kayagum wrote:You're probably hell-bent on lowering the action, so nothing I say on the subject will change your mind.
If that were the case, I would not have posted here.

As it happens, I DO like high action, and don't mind playing with it. I also have a little bit of play left in the saddle, and can get the action down a tad more...and if I keep the guitar properly humidified I should be able to keep playing it this way for a couple of years. So I'm actually leaning toward no at the moment.

However, I have pretty much decided not to do it myself, if I do it...even though I actually have an espresso machine. I'm good with DIY but I'm also impatient...and there are times when my impatience is useful, and times when it's a real liability...and I think a neck reset job is where it would be a real liability.

I wonder though--I know there are techs who don't ever like doing a neck reset. What are the other options, for a guitar that's way out of whack? Are there long-term techniques for teasing the wood back into shape, for instance--like applying judicious pressure to the neck when not playing it, or something?

And no, I'm not going to try something like that just for the hell of it. :wink:

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Post by douglas baldwin » Fri Feb 23, 2007 7:21 am

My first decent acoustic was a Yamaha FG-180, back in 1970/71. I have recordings of that guitar. It was excellent. I understand your passion.

I'm assuming you've done the measuring and you are absolutely sure that a neck reset is the only way to bring the fretboard to the same plane as the top of the bridge.

Have you considered shaving down the bridge and deepening the saddle slot?

Also consider playing/buying two or three more old Yamahas and see how they compare to the current love of your life before dropping the $$ for a reset.

Also consider going to the BEST luthiers in the world to have the work done. A really good, world class repair tech will understand what you hear in the guitar, might provide alternate solutions, and will cheerfully do the work, quickly and cleanly, in a relatively short period of time, for a reasonable price. Or will direct you to someone else who can.

I've done perhaps a half-dozen resets in the past, and I've chosen not to do them anymore. I found I had to "keep my game up" in order to do them well and efficiently. A good neck-resetter will do at least one a month, and a really good resetter will have done hundreds before doing yours.

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inverseroom
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Post by inverseroom » Fri Feb 23, 2007 7:39 am

douglas baldwin wrote:Have you considered shaving down the bridge and deepening the saddle slot?
Yeah, I sort of have...do people generally shave off the top of the bridge while it's still on the guitar, or do they steam it off and shave from the bottom? The latter would prevent one from having to deepen the bridge slot, but I've never tried to get the bridge off an acoustic before and would be afraid of harming the top.

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Post by Nineteen Billion » Fri Feb 23, 2007 7:54 am

They way I see it, one thing comes first: this guitar you adore and its sound. I would approach it like I do many of my gear-buying decisions: Ask yourself, "After I get the guitar back from one of the best luthiers I can find, and I've parted with the money, will I regret it when I play that guitar?" Judging by your statements (and how I would imagine myself in that scenario), you would not regret it at all. Besides, if you took the time you spend repairing the neck (which would be three times as long as you would expect given that you'll have to figure stuff out and then backtrack when you make a mistake) and made some mixes instead, you'll have paid off a significant portion of the repair and come out with some work done.

Moreover, if you take it to a great luthier that loves his job, he'll be more than happy to show you what he does and a couple of his techniques (though many can be secretive about their well-honed personal tricks).

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