I've been staring at my StewMac neck jig in the corner of the shop for about 7years now, never actually needing it, as most fret-level jobs and refrets have gone pretty smoothly ... just lots of dumb luck.  Someone mentioned on a recent discussion that "doing a Les Paul without a neck-jig is like...(fill-in the blank, meaning it's pretty necessary).

So here I sit with a Les Paul on the bench with a thin, floppy neck... in dire need of a really good and accurate fret-dress. My standard procedures aren't cutting this one. Not having a spare Plek machine handy, I'm thinking it's probably time to break-out the neck-jig and make it earn it's keep. I've read all the directions, watched the accompanying video (VHS!) 'til I'm blue in the face, but still don't have a crystal-clear idea of how to put the thing to it's best use. I dropped an e-mail to StewMac for some guidance, but got back a pretty fuzzy response about how the jig is "an indispensable tool that produces accurate neck & fret readings". Umm, I s'pose it does, but...?

See if this sounds about right: you strap the guitar on the jig... strung to pitch with normal relief, you set the metal dowels against the neck and set the dial-indicators to zero. You remove the strings, the neck and dial-indicators go wonky; you strap the neck down and adjust it back until the indicators return to zero. At this point, if you level the frets, aren't you leveling against the existing relief in the neck?  Shouldn't there be zero relief if you want level frets, introducing the relief later?  Never mind the "ramping-down"" above the 14th fret... I just want to get the basics of this beast under control.

It's clear that I'm really missing something here. Anyone who's used and mastered the neck-jig will be my hero if you can explain where I'm dropping the ball.  Thanks.

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Paul asked "other than eliminating the tops of most of the frets to set the flatness of the finger board, how does this differ any from just using the tops of the frets?

Well, the gauge blocks + straightedge just gives more versatility, it eliminates the need to have multiple straight edges (one 18" straight edge does all) and the method also works if you are levelling a fretboard (without frets).

You might, for example decide that a certain guitar needed to be straight between the first and sixteenth frets rather than the first and fourteenth, and then ramped down (or "dropped off ") if you prefer. Or maybe you want it straight all the way between the first and twentieth or twenty first fret. No problem with the straight edge + gauge blocks. I guess what I am trying to say is that you only have three points to worry about. A simpler and more effective method imo, but , as ever, YMMV.

I though I would post a couple of pics of the original TECHNOFRET jig, ( now discontinued) just in case anybody wants to build one for their own use. I assume that the workings of the jig are fairly self evident, but if anybody wants to know more, feel free to ask. I hope the size of these pics isn't incompatible with the forum software, if not, I will resize and repost.
I thought I would post this here and continue this thread as it is another good example of using the neck jig as a very useful holding fixture. Even if you don't see any merit with it for fret work blow the dust off it and think outside of the box.

I am currently working on a Gibson LP Junior with a prior history of poor headstock repairs. The last time the glue joint failed he brought it to me and I glued it up again with West System epoxy. At that time I had recommended a headstock overlay. This would add reinforcement and bring the thickness of the headstock back to what it should be. The previous repairers thinned and tapered the headstock rather badly. However, the owner is a working studio musician and played in several bands, there was no time for the therapy back then so I blacked the face, put it back together and sent it off with him.

Now 6 years later (repair holding fast) he wanted the headstock overlay work done. I think the pictures are pretty self explanatory. It depicts the neck jig as a holding fixture to hold the guitar rigidly with a platform assembly mounted to it that would allow me to use a router to prep and flatten the headstock for overlay. I won't get into modifications that alter this 59 LP Junior, the owner had already heavily modified this thing before anybody cared about such things.

Jig and attachment fixture.

Detail router jig attachment.

Router set up.

First pass.

Final pass.

Jig and attachment, routing finished.

Attachment has been removed, the face final sanded and the new overlay glued and clamped. I had to add an 1/8" of thickness to bring the headstock back to original dimensions. The owner wanted Ebony and I encouraged that decision. I'll be able to black the face easily and it will be a tough repair. The guitar never left the neck jig through the whole process and made this job way easier!

The beam makes a very rigid attachment point where fixtures can be easily clamped. The support rods assist in holding things in place while all of this is going on.
That's a clever trick Paul, thank you!


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