I am interested in any/all methods to repair a bolt-on electric guitar neck that has significantly more neck relief on one side than it has on the other. I see this issue on a semi-regular basis and have not yet learned a reliable way to correct it. Thanks.


Tags: neck, relief, twisted, warped

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A refret will usually do the trick. Check out photo 7 of my routine here:

I guess I'm looking for a cheaper alternative…. most customers don't want to spring for a refret. 


The symptoms are those of a twisted neck caused by the wood going that way usually  from internal stresses.  Natham has described the standards repair for this problem in his usual excellent manner and there is nothing else to see.

Most motorists with a flat tire dont want to spring for the price of a tire repair either - but they do because that fixes the problem.

If the customer does not want to repair the problem, that is not your problem.



Hey Russell, I love your "realistic" attitude....!...... SO true!

Great advice so far.

If you're looking for a hack-style work around, you are definitely barking up the wrong tree.

Sometimes there ain't a fix, only a repair.

End result looks great!

Question tho…why do you nip the fret tang on an unbound fingerboard…?

Just curios…;-)

Warm Regards, SS

Taking it out of the fretboard is generally the best way to go. In some instances it makes more sense to do a partial refret or simply a level crown and polish. Mostly a good idea with vintage axes with owners who want to keep the fretboard patina, or necks with thin inlays/lots of engraving or those round laminate fretboards, or Gibsons with nibs, etc... BUT, you and the player can be out of the pan and into the fire if you use these methods in the wrong situations. Here's a Fender neck that I was able to salvage with a fret leveling that was preceded by a lengthy talk with the customer in order to set realistic expectations:

Nathan, first of all, I just want to tell You how truly inspiring Your repair articles have been to me. I've only recently gotten into professional lutherie, after a decade of being a professional musician. Among the obvious greats (Frank and Dan), regarding professionalism, Your articles have given me something to strive to! 

Now to the point!

I'm also working on a headache of a tele neck. Shortly put: It's a Jerry Donahue tele neck, probably from the late 90's. It had a significant twist, which I sanded out before a complete refret, unfortunately with the expense of the dot inlays, which I had to replace. I just barely managed to save the side dots. The problem is, that in the neck jig, and when the truss rod is tightened, the fret board is straight, but when relief is introduced, it warps out. Meaning that it bows unevenly, causing considerable buzz.

Have You, or anyone encountered anything like this, and is there anything to be done?

Best Regards,


(Helsinki, Finland) 

Hey Jonah, thanks a lot for the feedback.  Let me apologize in advance for the long post.  

Okay, so I'll back track a little so that everybody is up to speed.  Normally, I get the neck as straight as possible under string tension with the truss rod then resurface the fretboard/level the frets under simulated string tension.  When the fretwork is done I simply back off the truss rod a little to give the neck a little even relief.

In some rare circumstances, the neck won't have an even relief at the end of the job when you back off the truss rod.  When this happens it's usually not much of a twist (or similar distortion) in the fretboard so re-leveling the frets in the jig will do the trick with little to no appreciable difference in overall fret height.  

In such circumstances I'll approach the LC&P in the same fashion that I would if I were working with a pre-adjustable truss rod Martin with a rubbery neck; simulate string tension in the usual fashion then use a 20+ inch long x 1" wide aluminum sanding beam that is .003" convex to level the frets.  I then add a little more relief from the 6th fret out in both directions as needed with either a short-flat sanding beam or a short radiused wooden sanding block as the situation dictates.  I'll check my work as I go with a straightedge and feeler gauges.

Joona, there are other possible causes of the twist, or whatever, returning.  I'm not saying this is the case for you but these are some other possibilities to consider in general.  If your shop is not properly climate controlled, a twist can reappear after leveling because of humidity changes.  This can also happen if a neck is dry or too moist when it is dropped off and hasn't had a chance to acclimate to a climate controlled shop prior to the commencement of fretwork.  It's also possible to sand a twist or low spot into the neck while leveling replacement inlays.

Not a big deal to overcome, just a bit more time consuming than the typical refret.  Have fun with the project!

Thank's for the reply, Nathan!

So If I understand correctly, I would need a long sanding beam, that is convex for the entire length of one of its sides? Is this something that has to be machined, or do you have a trick up your sleeve for attaining something like this? :)

So is the goal here to actually sand the relief INTO the frets, even though the neck/fretboard itself is straight?

Best Regards, 


Yes, adjust the truss rod as close as you can to the final relief then sand with a long convex beam (or just spot sand with short ones if that's all you've got).  If the distortion in the fretboard is pronounced than you should redo the refret so you can have a second go at the fretboard itself.

My convex sanding beam is just some aluminum rectangular tube stock that I bought at the local welding place quite a few years ago.  I sanded one narrow face convex with a flat granite slab and some sandpaper.  It's not perfect but it gets the job most of the way there and the short sanding beams dial it in.


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