Can someone enlighten me? In my woeful ignorance, I've been doing fret jobs and setups for over 30 years WITHOUT a neck jig! Despite the fact that I have never had a dissatisfied customer, I have been told that I cannot perform a PERFECT fret job without paying Stew-Mac £230 + postage for four bits of wood, a few screws and a couple of dial gauges ....and a further £60 to British Customs, which I would bitterly resent! I know William Cumpiano is slightly scathing about neck jigs, I don't know what Frank Ford uses, but I don't think I have seen it mentioned in his pages.
The only advantage I can see is the "WOW!" factor, when the customer walks in the shop and thinks. "this guy's really hi-tec!". It pays to generate mystique!
Anyone care to set me straight?

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Years ago when this thing came out I made one . You need to strap the guitar into the jig and put all the posts under the places and it works great! BUT It takes a lot of time setting it up and I have found a better way!!!

About this time I read in one of Martin guitars literature about how they set up a new guitar. It is faster and better and time is money!!

They said they use a 10 pound weight on the body of the guitar to simulate string tension. Then the set it up and hang the guitar for a week then check the set up then ship. Taylor guitar says we do so good a job we ship right after set up and our necks never change! I wonder what all the fancy adjusting wedges are for if it is never used!!

I have come up with the simplest and cheapest set up jig . I support the neck under the nut and the tail of the guitar and I have made a weight of 2 PC of lead that weigh 6 labs with a strap between them and I lay it at the end of the finger board and hang over the sides so it is all out of the way. Before adding the weight and while the strings are tuned to pitch I check the fingerboard for straightness . I use a thin 12 inch stainless ruler and stand it on edge and wiggle it back and forth and it will tell you if it is bowed up down and is there is a high fret. I then cut all strings off then add the weight and adjust the truss rod to make the neck as flat as possible. I then use a blue felt marker and run it down all frets then I use a straight flat board with sandpaper on both sides and use it to sand or level the frets so a shinnie spot is seen on each fret. Yo will be surprised at how unlevel lever all fingerboards are. I then string up the guitar with the weights off and tune to pitch and check with my ruler to see how level the fret board is and then adjust the truss rod to as much relief or none you want. Of course you then adjust the string height at the nut and the saddle to your or their liking.

Hope this helps. Feel free to contact me with any other questions.

That sounds good, Ron. Don't suppose you have a picture of the setup to make it a litlle clearer in my mind? I already use an adjustable jig that bolts on to my bench, which will hold most guitars with support at the upper and lower bouts and the nut,so I guess I could adapt this to try your method.
Is it just me, or are all luthiers and repairmen condemned to strive endlessly for a better alternative?
Do your lead weights total 6 lb, or do you use two 6lb weights?
Know what you mean about intrusive technology, Bob. Perfecting hand skills seems to be a thing of the past. We should all take inspiration from Boaz Elkayam who built a guitar mainly with a Swiss Army knife!
I built my own copy of Dan's neck jig/flip over work bench over a decade ago..I used it for a while, refretted a 68' Tele bass neck at a guitar show for the " cool " factor..Slowly I found myself using it less and less..Finally, it ended up flipped over, the neck jig assembly hung upside down for the last five years. I used it ,kind of, to help me put a back bow into a very noodly Thunderbird bass fingerboard..after that I removed the assembly entirely..It was fun to build and see it function as planned, but found it to be at best, over kill..I use aluminum carpenters levels that I grind dead flat on plate glass with black sandpaper stuck to it..I've been using them for years with excellent results...From 36 grit to knock down the really bad humps, to 220 for final fret dressing..I can get a Les Pauls action down as far as humanly possible with no buzzing, and even lower for guys who use Marshall stacks and many fuzzy foot pedals..After I reasoned things out I came to the coclusion...What good is it to find the neck flat under tension with strings on and in playing position etc....and then remove the frets and do all the work on the fingerboard and put new frets in and all..That changes everything..Overkill sez I...Now, this Plek thing is another can of worms...I'm building my own with an old Apple computer, an old foot operated grinding wheel, two squirrels in cages, and a helper monkey with reading glasses...I'll get back to you with the results....
Here is a link to a discussion on neck jigs from the library of the MIMF site. I'm not sure if this link will work or if you have to go there and log in to view it. It has some pictures of a jig I built several years ago and a discussion about the materials used to create it.

No dial gauges are used, I use straight edges and read the surface of the finger board or frets. I use it less now for simulating string tension but use it frequently as a holding fixture. It is very handy though when you need to hold a neck in a back bow when resurfacing a finger board that is too flat, creating some relief. Or as already suggested, taming a noodley neck.

Here is a picture of the jig used as a holding fixture with attachments added, to machine the back of the neck for finger splines. This poor 68 Rickenbacker (12 string ) had a badly fractured neck at the headstock and had been the victim of two other botched attempts at repair. This was going to need some extra reinforcement and the neck was already painted dark to hide previous work, so I opted for the splines. The jig makes a stable holding fixture for the instrument and the beam becomes a fixture holder for the router set up. I have also done scarf joints, at the end of a neck, in a similar fashion when the headstock is beyond repair or missing altogether.

Hmm, I can't seem to upload the image so I'll try an attached file.

Second image shows the result, twin routes for finger splines.

The 3rd image is a 66 ES-345 getting a nice new fret job. I actually did simulate string tension on this one but I posted the image so you can see the easy access to the neck and frets while they are being leveled, crowned and polished, all while the instrument is safely held fast.

I would not be so quick to turn your nose up at this type of jig. Build your own and personalize it to your needs. Any fixture that makes life easier is worth taking a look at.
Thanks Paul for the link, I guess it's time this old dog learned a new trick.
so many jig's and gig's and too little time.
Thanks again.
Teeters used one dial indicator, reading the actual fretboard, to re create the forward bow.

When I set up Fenders w/the adjustment nut at the heel, I measure relief w/strings on/strings off, so I can get the relief where I want it to be, when I loosen the neckbolts enough to get at the nut.

Don't EVEN get me started, about Warmoth necks w/FB extensions!

What do you call those bolts with the small plastic [whatever] plate on top to support the guitar body in picture jig_w.fixture.jpg? I'm building the Vinson jig but that information is not included in the pdf. I need to know what they are called so I can source some in the UK.


I think any method that quantifies the before and after condition is preferable to one that doesn't. Intuition is great if you've had the opportunity to develop it over the years. But for a newbie who wants good results fast (and has the cash) I could see this as an option.

Although a straight edge of the right length (and straightness!), a good set of feeler guages, and the U-channel method(leave the strings on) can do 98% of what this jig can do.
Looks like I'm a little late coming to this discussion. I worked full time doing repair work for 6 years prior to purchasing the stew mac neck jig (which I bought about a year ago). I must say that I would be dead in the water so far as fret work goes if I hadn't spent a few years doing fretwork by reading a neck and learning to anticipate the effects of string tension. You still need those skills to do good work even with the neck jig (otherwise you couldn't avoid some of the pitfalls: sanding through inlays, screwing up the radius etc...). I use the jig on "every" fret level job, so long as it will fit into the jig and, I feel, can take the pressure from the straps. I don't always use it when I resurface fretboards during refrets though.

The jig really shines when you're working with a rubbery neck or an electric guitar that's going to get x-low action and monster string bends (.5mm - 1mm 1st string at 12th fret). These days, I never worry about going back and re-leveling or spot leveling because problems just don't come up after I've leveled using the neck jig. I go right from the jig to crowning and polishing, no stringing it up and testing until the polishing is done. It saves me lots of headaches and time. Though I must say it is not idiot proof and there is an investment in time when learning how to use the jig and set it up. Setting up the jig is actually pretty fast once you get the hang of it.

I contemplated making one but I've learned over the years that just because I can make something, doesn't mean I should (time is money, after all). The profits from the first refret I did with the jig paid for the jig. I know that refret took way less time than I it would have taken me to make one...

To conclude, it's not a necessary tool but it makes my life as a general guitar repair practitioner significantly easier. Now, even the lowliest of imported guitars that gets a fret level at my shop gets the same quality of fret leveling accuracy as do the better instruments, which was not the case before I got the jig.
"Now, even the lowliest of imported guitars that gets a fret level at my shop gets the same quality of fret leveling accuracy as do the better instruments, which was not the case before I got the jig."

Same here, 'cept mine's U-channel from the hardware store, and stick-on sandpaper!
I thought this discussion had died! I guess it still remains fairly inconclusive for me. As you say, Nathan, experience seems to be the key whatever method you use. I did however start wondering last week when struggling with a bass neck that seemed to be made of rubber. I could change the pitch of the strings simply through rotating it horizontally through 90 degrees! How much easier and effective would it have been to have the neck fixed in its normal position before working on it. I'm almost tempted; I've downloaded a plan so if I get a slack period I may well give it a go!

This has pretty much been my experience. It really helps with flimsy necks and complicated s-bends. I wouldn't recommend one to someone who hasn't done 20-30 old school fret jobs to develop neck reading skills.


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