I want to obtain a neck heat press device like the one in the pictures in the link. Does anyone know where to buy one? Or, does anyone know where to find plans to build one?
Heat Press Pics:
i've been using a steel rectangular tube with a heat gun as heat source and some U clamps. And, I'm thinking of buying a fretboard heating blanket and doing it that way. But, it would be nice to have one of those old units.
LMII used to carry them a long while back... I bought one and it's caused me nothing but trouble! Oh sure, the unit itself does what it's supposed-to (which is to simply get hot & heat a neck) but the results haven't been worth the price of a bag of M&M's.
Here's what it's taught me: (a). If you're trying to heat a neck to straighten it, the neck will invariably return to it's previous condition within 2 weeks of being restrung. (b). while making the futile attempt to straighten the neck, the melting of plastic inlays and binding are truly a sight to behold.
On the plus side, it's pretty good for removing fingerboards.... that's about it. My better half's clothes iron works equally as well. I can see why LMII dropped 'em like a hot rock. I keep it around mostly to remind myself that there are no magic tools.
Thanks Mike.....I might just give up on this one. Everyone says the same thing......they just don't work, long-term.
I'm here to agree with Mike on the subject of heating necks to straighten them - my old books on heating necks to bend them to a better configuration all deal with classical necks which are thick-ish brutes with low string tension and I guess it works for them.
However, and I acknowledge there is a thread running at the moment which will disagree with my observations, the practice of heating electric and acoustic guitar necks and placing the fingerboard/neck glue joint (which by the very process under discussion is using inherit creep under tension and temperature for most yellow production glues. HHG is a different subject) in tension to counteract a movement in the neck wood is contradictory to everything I know about applied woodworking and glue technology.
Wood takes a set for a number of reasons but the principle one we know best is that steam/ and pressure will bend wood and keep it bent, which is not what is happening in this procedure. Wood will cycle with the seasons and generally goes where it want to go, simply placing a yellow glue tension strap (fingerboard) on one side is unlikely to stand the test of time unless the condition is minor. Certainly, heating a yellow glue until it breaks bond and creeps significantly is detrimental to the glue joint integrity when it cools anyway.
If one was to pre-tension the neck and epoxy the board in place I would agree with the procedure. Same goes for removing the board, planing the neck flat and reglueing the board.
Scott Freilich here. Until my recent retirement I owned and operated Top Shelf Music for 35 years. I was a factory authorized repairman for Martin, Fender, and Gibson since 1979.
I've been successfully using a heat press iron to straighten necks that don't respond to/don't have a truss rod. When my heat press iron had the permanently attached cord ripped out, I was crushed. The tool had saved me countless hours and made thousands of $$s for me, and I didn't know what I would do without it. I tore mine apart and repaired it, but knew that I needed a spare. After an extensive web search, I found a unit by Aria at a cost of $1,100.00. I bought it, and to be charitable, it sucked. It had some stupid thermostat in it that didn't allow it to get hot enough to work. Since I still needed a spare, I decided to do the necessary research to make my own. I bought one of those heat sensors and took temperature readings off of my existing unit every 3 minutes for an hour at 3 points along the length of the iron. Using that info, info about the aluminum used, and the wattage and voltage requirements listed on the unit I had, I was able to build an improved neck heat press iron as a spare. My improved unit is longer, deeper, and wider than my original, and most importantly, has a detachable line cord. After using my home made prototype for a year, I started getting requests from other luthiers for units like mine. After retirement, my first order of business was making a batch of neck heat press irons for those who requested them. I also figured that I'd make a few extras and market them to the lutherie community. I sell these units with complete written instructions and a power point CD showing step by step all of the procedures I've successfully used to straighten necks with the tool. I sell my heat press iron for about half of what Aria wants for theirs. If you are interested in obtaining one, contact me at email@example.com.
I don't think you need one of those. In my opinion... a waste of time and money. Unless you are trying to separate the fingerboard from the neck. But for that I also use a heating blanket.
I agree that not everybody needs a neck heat press iron. There are several other methods that achieve similar results. For me, the neck heat press iron has been a very successful tool that allows me to perform repairs for my clients in an efficient and cost effective manner. It takes some experience to use it properly, but after close to 40 years of messing with it I pretty much have it down. From what I have seen, most of the guys who talk the device down have not taken the time to figure out how to properly use it.
I got factory authorization repairman from Mike Longworth at Martin in 1979. At the time, as is still the case, they would not approve a warranty repair performed with a heat press. When I was honored with a private factory tour of the Nazareth plant a few years back, I spoke with the head of repairs at Martin regarding the use of a heat press iron in the repair process. They admitted that it was a viable option, but it was still not going to be on their list of approved processes. Meanwhile, while Martin necks without adjustable rods rarely have problems, I have successfully repaired the few that have with the heat press iron. I have also taken out humps at the body ends of Fender necks, and put relief in necks in cases where the truss rod is loose and the neck either has no relief or is crowned. Fender does allow for heat pressing uncooperative necks. I have about a 95% success rate using the heat press iron on the procedures I use it for. From my experience, the repairs are effective, inexpensive, and long lasting. Keep in mind that that this is coming from someone with lots of experience with the tool. I have had employees use it with sometimes disastrous results that ranged from minor finish damage to necks going on fire.
Scott, could you give us a step by step for your process with the neck heat press iron? I'm curious about how much back bow you would clamp a trouble neck in and also approximately what temps and how long you leave it in the press.
Every neck is different, and the amount of change I need to make in a neck is a judgement call based on general experience, the type of woods used in the neck, the degree to which the neck is distorted in the wrong direction, and weather the neck has a functioning adjustable truss rod or not. I just did 3 necks over the last 2 days. The first was on a custom made neck through the body all mahogany solid body that had a bit too much relief in the neck. I have no idea if the neck was truss rod re-enforced, but it was not adjustable. In this case, I added just enough clamping pressure to slightly crown the neck. It responded perfectly. The other instrument had a severe back bow with the adjustable truss rod totally loose. The neck was maple with a bound rosewood fingerboard with block pearloid inlays. I clamped this one with quite a bit more pressure because the problem was severe and I knew that tightening the truss rod would give me some wiggle room. Again, success on the 1st try. The 3rd guitar, A Kasha classical, is still in clamps. I won't know if I had success until tomorrow. The nice thing about using a heat press is that the process is both reversible and repeatable. If I went to far or not far enough, I could redo it or go the other way. I place my heat press iron in a clamp that mounts in my bench vice. Since heat rises, I clamp the neck, fingerboard facing down towards the press on top of the appropriate cauls, above the press. I haven't used a temperature probe to check the back of a neck being heat pressed. I've only used it on the tool itself to determine what kind of materials I needed to construct additional tools. I generally put a neck in the press and check it every 10-15 minutes or so. I would say that on average, a neck can take as short as 20 minutes to heat and as long as 40, depending on the materials and thickness. I would guess the ending temperature of the back of the neck at about 110 degrees F.
Thanks Scott. I think I understand your set-up. Any chance you could post a picture?
Here's a shot of a neck being heat pressed. Let me know if the file shows up. If not, email me directly at firstname.lastname@example.org and I'll attach a photo.