Hi All,

 I've had a few neck re-sets through the workshop recently (lucky me). I always take a photo of the join once it's apart in case I do one the same again. It's handy to know what angle/depth to drill the streaming holes.

Does anyone else do this?

Is it possible to have a gallery page on this forum to show them all? - might be a useful resource for us.

Just a thought


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Good result, sometimes you just get lucky! If you go down that route, one possible danger is the heel separating from the neck at the joint.  I've seen that happen on Epis from general use and abuse, not even steam.

1990'so Gibson J30

1946/47 Gibson LG2

Hi Doc, nice removal job on the two Gibsons. Two questions-

- how did you manage to remove the J-30 paddle joint so cleanly?

- on the LG2, what is your method to separate the heel shoulders from the sides(wide heel, bare wood, of sides)?


Hi Dave,

   Thanks for the kind words!

   I tend to use a similar method when removing most necks. The method involves two access holes through the fingerboard into the neck joints (it may be a hokey notion but I think it let's the steam travel a little better) , the use of a vise large enough to clamp the neck and something akin to the StewMac neck removal jig. On Gibson's or similar instruments where there is a lacquer joint covering the neck/body joint, I'll always first lightly paint the joint area with a little lacquer thinner and then cut the joint with a fresh bladed Xacto or similar.

   For the J30 and instruments with the neck extension paddle, it's really up to letting the steam get entirely throughout everything. While steaming, I have the instrument clamped in the vise and I'll lightly work the body from side to side, loosening that glue bond. You can feel when that gives. Once I feel that give, then I'll hook up the removal jig, return to the steaming and get the neck up and out.

   If I understand your question about the LG2 correctly, I used the same method as above and when using the removal jig, there is a triangular hard plastic tab that is used for wider heels. There is no glue bond between the bare walls of the sides and wide heel.

The steaming of the J30 was considerably longer than the LG2 and I relate that to the paddle.

Hope that was a helpful answer.

Best wishes,


I'm glad to see that those paddle joints will come apart! I've not been asked to work on one yet, but it could happen.

Regarding the LG2, and Gibsons(or Guilds) of that type( wide heel), I had believed that the bare wood between the heel shoulders and bare wood of the sides was a glue joint, which complicated their removal( steam not being able to reach any glue in there....). I take it that you have not found that to be true?

The 'triangular hard plastic tab' you mention on your removal jig- does that simply distribute the pressure across the wide end of the heel?

Thanks for your replies!

Hi Dave,

   It's been a while since I've had a Guild in for a reset so I'm going to refrain from comment there. Perhaps someone else can give a difinitive answer.

   As for Gibson's, I've found it can be a mixed bag. Older instruments I've had to reset seem not to have any glue on the wide heel whereas newer ones can. Actually, the J30 and LG2 are a couple of good examples. You can see some wood remaining on the J30 where indeed it had glue whereas there was none applied on the LG2. A better fitting dovetail on the LG2 than the paddle/dovetail of the J30. The paddle/dove was designed to eliminate the need for neck resetting, so I suppose it's understandable to see some glue there. But I'm certain I've come across newer, non-paddle Gibson neck/body joints without glue on the walls. 

   In either case, I cut back the majority of the neck heel hidden in the neck/body joint when resetting and let the dovetail work as it should, as I would a Martin. I'll just glue the walls of the dovetail to the tight fitted walls of the neck block and fit the parimeter of the heel to the mating sides with sandpaper pulls and the like.

   There may be others with a different experience and I hope they pipe in with their knowledge if it's vastly different than mine. With the idea that a neck has pulled away or shifted from its setting, needing a reset, it's not unrealistic to consider that IF the walls of the heel were glued, there is now likely a gap allowing the steam to access the remaining glued surface there. I work cautiously when resetting and allow the steam to do its thing. No disasters yet...knock knock knock on wood...

Best Wishes,


* as for the plastic triangular tab...I don't think it distributes the pressure any differently but it does remove the possibility of the smaller circular pushing knob leaving an imprint...

My experience with Guilds is that there is a lot of glue in there, perhaps to compensate for the shallow dovetail. That includes glue on the flat surfaces as well, making these really difficult necks to get off cleanly. 

If I had to do a Guild reset right now, I would spend a lot of time just warming the heel, perhaps letting it gently warm with a low hairdryer or something else that is not going to mar the finish. 

Thanks for jumping in on the Guild, Mark. That's a nice, clean looking removal you've shown as an example.

I loath refinishing but I hear you about warming the joint. As I dislike refinishing so much, taking your advice with the glue abundance on the walls, I wonder if attempting to clamp something like a bridge heat blanket inside the body, sort of hugging the neck block, might be effective? Pure speculation and perhaps a nincompoop brain has lots of those..HA!

Best wishes,


* EDIT - a few more minuets thought and the heat blanket hugging the block may be a horrible idea...could make a real mess of all glued up surfaces of the block.

I'm thinking of warming without harming the finish. I've used a temperature and airflow controlled heat gun to gently warm blocks in the past. Not the kind of heat that it takes to remove a bridge or anything, just a warming, like leaving it in the sun on a 90 degree day (with everything else covered, of course). 

This was actually a really awful removal, because the neck was already wrecked, I removed the extension completely. The steam needle then didn't work as well, having nothing to keep the steam in the joint. It took too much force to get that sucker out, and caused some damage to the wood around the dovetail. 

You can see how shallow the angle is on the sides of the dovetail, though. It's really not enough to be secure. 

That J30 looks like it was a real bugger. The neck heel appears to have been liberally glued to the body. I can see where there is a bit of tear out, did you work in palette knives or just force it with the removal clamp once you felt it was ready to let loose?

I recently did a re-set on a 70's Gibson Gospel, it turned into the re-set from Hell.

I checked for images on-line to see what I was getting myself into and found one that showed a regular V shaped dovetail so I approached the removal thinking this is what I should find. Not! They must have changed things up somewhere along the line.

I started with drilling for my two steam holes at the 13th fret location and immediately started having problems finding the gap between the mortise and dovetail. After poking around a bit, I thought I found it and brought on the steam. I worked it pretty hard and things felt like they where starting to loosen but also feeling like I'm steaming too long. The heel would not budge at all yet from the sides. Frustration mounting, I decided to loose the fingerboard extension to get direct access to the joint. OK, it still appeared to be a regular dovetail but it was dead tight to the mortise, there was no gap anywhere for the steam needle. I had just been injecting steam into the Mahogany neck block and it was starting to let loose from the body. I drilled some helper holes at what I estimated to be the angle of the dovetail and steamed again but wasn't getting anywhere. The neck heel was glued Nine ways from Sunday to the body and was not responding either. I ended up working palette knives in to release it but still no go on the dovetail. The neck block connections where worsening and I Red faced came to the conclusion that I needed to put the steam away and just drill the damn thing out but I had to go away for a while for a composure safety check.

I drilled at (what I thought was) the expected angle and finally got things apart. I was dismayed and surprised to find that the dovetail was not V shaped at all. The sides where parallel and the dovetail (what was left of it) was an exact fit to the mortise. It must have been CNC'ed, a perfect fit with glue on every possible surface. Crap! I set it aside to dry, mulling over all of the extra work I had to turn this thing back around.

I did not take many images of this project, I had a mess and was in no mood to share it. Here is a shot of the mortise after some initial finish repair to either side of it. Straight sides except where I had molested it thinking it would be a V shape.

The binding was another irritant with this project, thick celluloid that was degrading. Bits where falling of during the neck removal, I had to stop and deal with that too. I wicked Acetone into all of the cracks and degraded areas with an artists brush, which worked pretty well to stabilize it. In the above shot, it is removed to re-glue the loose places in the neck block connections from steaming.

I had to re-build the dovetail so I added just a bit of taper to the mortise and dovetail. This is the re-worked mortise.

I did not attempt to tone the finish work to match the existing. Over time UV light will take care of that and the light areas should go away.

I re-built the dovetail with Maple and used West System epoxy to glue on the parts. I also added some dowels through the added dovetail wood into the neck at the heel end of the dovetail for extra insurance. I would use hot hide glue on the dovetail faces only when re-assembling. The thinking being the epoxy would withstand steaming if this thing ever had to come apart again. I left a space between the dovetail and mortise too. If something went South, it would likely end up back on my bench, so I spent a lot of time dolling and diapering this thing up. The entire bottom surface of the dovetail has been carefully buttered with epoxy as well, to prevent any water from a subsequent steaming from entering the end grain of the dovetail.

This is the only other picture I took at clamp up. The fingerboard extension is still loose at this point and just used to force the dovetail flush to the top where it needs to be.

I got it all back together with the neck angle right where I wanted it but I lost 5 pounds to stress getting the job done, I'll not so readily take one of these on again.

The serial starts with an A, followed by 6 digits which makes it a 73, 4 or 5. I have no idea what year the guitar was that I found the V shaped dovetail image of on-line. Another great Gibson innovation!.

Heating a big neck heel that may be heavily glued like this one sounds like a good idea. But what do you do when the dovetail is an exact fit into the mortise with NO gaps? Anyone else run into this or am I an unlucky pioneer?

Well, I did that to myself last year. I had to take apart a reset I had just done as the neck started to slip under tension. Total bummer as I had nailed the angle. The gap was already small and after adjusting the fit and resetting the angle, it got very, very small. When I went to steam it off again, I had a real problem. The remaining gap was maybe a half millimetre and glue squeezout had plugged much of it, so I couldnt insert the steam needle as deep as needed. (I even got the needle plugged and blew the safety valve on my pressure cooker.) I had to order some 6" long 5/64" drill bits to get the steam to the bottom of the joint. Once I drilled all the way down the mortise I got it free no problem, but I had some cleanup and extra repairs to do from oversteaming previously when I could not get in far enough - reconstructing some 3 layer wood binding and such.

That was my first reset on a real guitar. Your tale of stress coaxed this confession. Btw the re-reset and repairs to my own boo-boos turned out just lovely. Whew.

Hi Paul,

   It took a lot of steaming to get that J30 going. I have a small dentists pallet that I'll use depending on how I feel the neck working. I'm not certain if I used it on this J30 but I've used it for wide heels in the past. It's very thin but made of really hard metal and its ideal for tiny distances. Useless for most anything else but I do lots of work on violins and it's great for various tasks with them.

   I don't recall having ever dealt with something like that Gospel on a guitar. That does not seem fun at all. Despite the hurdles you faced, you certainly pulled off a good looking end result! We do the best we can, despite the unknown.

Best wishes,



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