As a newcomer, it's nice to be here. I'm a self-taught novice builder and completed my first dreadnaught this past spring. The only components I didn't craft myself were the linings and the maple bindings (no kits). I even made my own bending jig. It could have been beginners luck, but somehow I was able to produce an instrument with excellent tonal quality and sustain. But unfortunately I set the neck angle too narrow and will never achieve the low action and playability most skilled guitarists would desire without a reset, myself included. In building this instrument I used 3 different books, 2 sets of blueprints and an untold number of articles and videos from the web, absolutely none of which give clear instruction in setting a proper neck angle. Everyone speaks of its importance but no one seems to be able to clearly demonstrate how to go about it, or if they do, it's made out to be more complicated than it really is. More importantly, no one addresses the simple relationship between the top of the fretboard and the bridge.
Here is my question for any builders or setup experts who might care to respond. Is there not a simple rule-of-thumb for aligning the top of the fretboard to a specific height at the front of the bridge? For example, if I were to place a straight edge on top of my unfretted fretboard (no relief) and extend it across the top of the soundhole to the front of the bridge, how far below or above the top of the bridge should that line ideally intersect? I understand that bridge and fretboard heights can vary, within limits, depending on the builder and design, but it seems to me that on any steel stringed guitar, that point of intersection should be fairly consistent to maximize setup. My limited experience tells me that it should be around 1/32 to 1/16 below the top of the bridge at normal humidity?
I just finished the body of my second D with a better structural understanding and will not be making the same mistake twice. My actual mistake was not as much in setting the neck angle as it was in properly contouring the top/front of the rim and block.
Thank you. Hope I haven't wasted your time.
Hi Larry - Thought that I would weigh-in here again in an effort to help you out or at least that's the goal.
First congrats on your first and it's great to hear that you are happy with the resulting tone.
When I built my first for a while, until the second and third... I was very pleased with the tone too. Still am and this was before I learned that it's not difficult to build an acoustic guitar that sounds every bit as good (or better...) as some of the iconic f*ctory instruments. When I started trying to understand why some of the answers were pretty easy to understand.
First we have the advantage of hand selecting specific materials that we believe, for better or worse, may have tonal advantages. F*ctories often are using what they have and it's that simple too - no real thought or objective materials selection process happens, they simply build with what they have. Gibson was most notable for this as evidenced by the bastardized offereings that we see from the past that really don't fit the bill for any specific model at times and from year to year. They used what they had.
Second when you or I build a gutiar we may have a generic client in mind that may be an adult, a responsible sort with some knowledge of instrument care, and hopefully not prone to abusing instruments. Or, at least, we will get a shot at educating them if we deem them worthy to be a "current steward" of one of ours.
OTOH Martin and others have to build with future warranty claims and the resulting long-term liability that this creates for the organizations in mind. As such they need to build at times as if the prospective market out here/there are freakin idiots prone to leave the instrument in the trunk of a black car in the long-term lot at LAX for 2 months in the summer.... So they over build by design at times wishing to minimize future liability resulting from user error and abuse.
Regarding bolt-on necks IMHO they are much easier to fit and work with than a dovetail. The dovetail is a thing of beauty in it's simplicity but a pain in the ass come reset time.
Now your Guild may be doing fine in the reset department but I will bet you that in 10 years or so this will not be the case. I just passed my 1977 Guild D-25 to a new current steward and it was indeed marginal for a neck reset.
Something that became as important as build quailty and/or tone to me with my instruments was the notion of servicability. We build our wares to be servicable because servicability represents real value to our prospective clients in so much as they will have the option, always...., of being able to have something that we built serviced wihout any unnatural acts (or resulting increased expense) resulting when it is time for a neck reset.
We do Taylor and Martin warranty work and although I won't get into exact numbers the reimbursment that we receive from Taylor is a small fraction of what we get from Martin for doing warranty resets. Why so much less from Taylor? The bolt on design is a joy to work with, very clever, and far less invasive to service with neck removal than a traditional dovetail.
Tonally that debate raged over a decade ago and most who have real experience in the trade would not discount any bolt-on neck becuase it's a bolt-on.
And moving on.... I noticed that you have some defined goals for the next one and my hat's off to ya again - that's what I did too being careful to only introduce a very few changes/varriable with each new build so that I could issolate any resulting positive benefit from the changes.
Consider servicability including what glues you use and where and ask yourself the question will this part of the instrument ever need servicing and if so am I doing all that I can to make that a painless endeavor.
Also at some point consider the importance too of some of the basics that many builders never really get an opportunity to peel back the layers and take a good honest look. Fret work, nut making, studying speaking length of the strings, compensation, relief, etc. All of these things are part of the "user interface" to the instrument and if we get any of this wrong the entire experience may be not as positive as it could have been for our customer (friends, family, yourself, etc.).
Hope that something here helps and perhaps inspires you to go for the next level my friend.
Thanks Hesh. You are "the man". Your interest is inspirational, and taking the time to pass on so much experience and insight is invaluable, not to mention generous.
Craftsmanship and sound quality are my ultimate goals, but serviceability needs to become more of a consideration. And I am peeling back some layers, and will always be looking for a more accurate, efficient and... loving method for sculpting these instruments. It's built in. (Don't look too closely at my guitar or you'll see that the 6th fret is about 1/64" out of square.)
Like you, I'm going to make some subtle changes in the guitar body as I move forward. For example, I have a particular affinity for Osage Orange (maclura pomifera) and intend to experiment more with its use, as it does have good tonal qualities. I used a piece of ancient osage for my pegboard veneer on my first neck (see photo) and am using it this time around for the bridge plate,too. I'll have osage supporting the strings at both ends and will be most curious to hear any sublte changes in tone, especially in sustain. I'm hoping that the sustain is as good, preferably better than rosewood or maple. I'm not doing this without some subjective experimentation. I made three 7" x 3" x .10" bridge plates, one each of maple, rosewood and osage and listened to their tap tones over and over. I know I'm biased, but I swear the Osage was most pleasant. Is that crazy or what? In the near future I'm going to use it for the fretboard and bridge. Too heavy, I think, for a neck. It might not be the most attractive at first, but darkens and becomes most beautiful with exposure to ultravoilet light. One of the problems is in acquiring straight grained pieces of any size and length, properly sawn. The tree just doesn't grow straight.
I've noticed too, Hesh, that folks mention Martin, Taylor, Gibson, etc., and not always in the highest of esteem. I have to admit that I watched a Youtube tour of the Martin factory and found it kind of scary. Where would they be without laser and robotic technology? The only hand work seen is in the embellishments.
Thanks again, Man. And if you haven't already considered it, I think you should consider writing a book. You're a good writer and responded to me in minutes with information that would have taken me a week.
I want that book too.
AS always Hesh has made a very good job of explaining him self and the pros. and cons of the building and repairing of the Guitar. Thanks for that. Bill........
Hey Mark, am I allowed to change my mind? I've been investigating bolt-on neck design at your suggestion and decided that it's not too late to give it a try with the neck I'm working on now. I just need to find the proper hardware. I'm going to use a cross-dowel method because it works with the work I've already completed. And since I used mostly HHG in the body, I'll use that on the fretboard above the 14th.
Thanks Buddy, for the suggestion. If you know of a good source for hardware,please pass it along. There's a Rockler Store here in town that should have what I need.
I like this idea.
HHG for the fretboard extension is not as easily released with heat as PVA. If you want to make it easily removable with the bolt on neck I would use something weaker.
LMII's site has a list of materials for bolt on necks. See the TNI2 set for acoustics.
I know for a fact that Rockler has the required hardware. Ace Hardware stores also have all the parts you need in their uber wide single hardware parts section .
Thumbs up for your future endeavors :)