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I've got a 1954 Gibson J-185 in my shop right now that needs a neck reset. Badly. I assumed this instrument would have a traditional dovetail neck joint, and began to act accordingly. After my first unsuccessful attempt at releasing the neck (no harm done to the instrument, I promise), I discovered that the truss rod appears to from the neck all the way through the heel block, so that it's bolted at both ends. I unbolted it at the heel block, but the neck still doesn't want to release.

Is anyone familiar with this model of guitar, or this type of neck/truss rod setup?  I'd like some advice removing the neck before I attempt to proceed.

Thanks,
--D. Scott Nettleton

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I hope someone chimes in with more helpful advice. Gibson has used odd neck joint methods which I'm sure seemed reasonable at the time. Some guitars have the top glued on over the dovetail joint, preventing the neck from lifting out as you'd expect. I'm sorry, I don't know what years are involved. This is one reason I have always avoided Gibson resets.
I can't really help with this particular situation but I've seen a old Gibson that had a truss rod that came through the dove tail with a nut in a recessed hole. The nut could clear the head block so it was reset in the standard manner.

Thinking about it, what you describe sound like it would mean that the neck must lift away from the shoulders rather than lift upward from the top of the guitar. Are you sure this isn't some odd reinforcement attempt, as in a rod screwed into the heel, threaded for a nut or perhaps the rod is loose enough in the slot to be removed once one of the other nut is removed?

I'm assuming you tried to steam the joint but you didn't actually say what you tried. If you steamed the joint, does it feel even a little loose?

Ned
I have indeed tried steaming the joint. It doesn't feel loose at all; in fact, I can't really even get it to budge. I have removed the nuts from both ends of the threaded rod, and I couldn't get it to slide out. I've gone in with a palette knife and separated the neck from the body along its edges as much as possible. The bottom third or so is completely open, but it gets tighter as I go higher up (towards the fingerboard). The top two thirds have an obstruction part of the way through, which does seem consistent with a dovetail joint. As for the possibility that the threaded rod at the heel block is not, in fact, part of the truss rod, I suppose I really can't say for sure...
I could try using my multimeter to test for continuity, now that I think about it, but I can't say how relevant that information would become.

So if the top is glued on over the dovetail joint, any ideas how I could fix it? As much as I'd like to stray away from a neck reset on this guitar, there really is no other option for it.

--D. Scott Nettleton
If no one comes up with a better idea you may have to remove the fingerboard or cut off the extension to see what you've got in there.
Saw this trick somewhere: Drill a hole through a fret slot above the dovetail tenon and watch the wood particles. If you see white spruce. Bob's not your uncle.
Randy Hughes once told me he takes problem neck joints to a veterinarian friend of his who takes X Rays for him.
Maybe you could find a sympathetic vet. I think the actual cost is not that high. All the Gibsons I ever reset had traditional dovetails and the standard Gibson rod.. I can't be of any help with this year and model.
Please let us know how this concludes .
Good luck!
probably going to have to remove the fingerboard. But for starters...when you drilled through the fret slot did it feel like you hit an open cavity or was it solid? sometimes you have to play with the angle at which you drill to find a void where the steam can do its job....if your just inside the male fitting of the dovetail all the steam in the world wont help. actually might swell the male joint and effectively tighten the joint..just a guess.
I have had some progress on the neck; I steamed the heck out of it and finally broke the glue joint. Unfortunately, I can't pull it up because of the truss rod and I can't pull it out because of the dovetail. The truss rod is too long to "shimmy" out of the heel block, so I believe I will have to remove material from the neck without actually being able to fully remove it.
I have incidentally determined that the threaded rod going through the heel block is, in fact, the truss rod, and that the top is not glued on over the dovetail joint. The truss rod seems to be my only problem, but I can't think of another way around it (I can't get it to budge, and think that it might be glued or threaded directly into the wood).
Would it be possible to pull the fingerboard and notch down through the back of the neck block, behind the dove tail slot to make a slot for the rod to come straight up with the neck? You would have to glue in a filler if you replace the neck with that truss rod but it would have the added benefit of giving you some room for the rod to tilt as you recut the heel.

Ned
Somewhere in my murky past I've hit this issue but I really can't remember what the guitar was - not a Gibson and not once I'd learned more about instrument repair (electronics is my forte') - but I remember pulling it through from within the instrument once I got a really good grip on it and the way I did this was to JB Weld a little "T" handle on it so that I could put my hand inside and grip it hard enough for a really strong pull while a friend held the body of the instrument. The rod would slide inside almost all the way out - enough at least to let me slide the dovetail up enough for it to come out the dovetail itself. But this is one of those instances where the instrument wasn't worth that much and it was either "this works or I trash it." And, if I remember correctly I never reassembled the guitar - and instead gave it to another repairman friend when I moved - but since this worked it could have been repaired I just had "other fish to fry" at the time (new job, move, divorce, etc.,).

But I second the X-ray idea if you insist of finishing this yourself. Udderwise I'd find an experienced repairman who you can afford and leave the headache to those with the tools, jigs, fixtures, and experience cuz this is one of those situations where the untimate cost in your time and frustration might not be worth it unless you anticipate doing this several times in the future. Sorta like investing in a high end head milling machine when you're only going to rebuild one auto engine in your life.

Rob
If this indeed a truss rod with a nut on both ends, other than some rust or a little spot of glue it should come out. Having a nut on both ends, I assume theres no anchor. 1st, with the inside nut off, turn the outer nut clockwise to see if the rod itself will turn or come towards the tuners.If it does, you could drill and tap a small piece of rod and tread it onto the trussrod and pull it out. If theres room in the pocket.
Just wondering how you solved your problem.

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