Some of these are copied from others, some I used my own pea-brain to figure out. After reading a recent post about a difficult neck removal, I thought folks might benefit from my past misfortunes and subsequent revelations.
Here are some tips I employ on almost EVERY neck removal.
1. I made up a multi-nozzled air blower from machine coolant parts. It resembles the Medusa and elicits much conversation. I got a 3 hose coolant manifold from MSC and a bunch of Loc-Line parts. The 3 arms each split into 2 with nozzles at each end: 2 for the top, 2 for the heel sides, 1 inside the guitar, and 1 at the heel cap. I use a compressor as the air source, buts it's a loud rig and I wear earmuffs. This contraption has saved me countless hours, hassle and the TIME associated with damaged finish, to the point I use it every time and highly recommend it to anyone in this business.
2. To keep the finish from bubbling on the back of the neck, I have a couple of those gel-filled ice packs you get from the chiropractor (though mine came from a King Salmon shipment from Seattle; I love to smoke the wild-caught Pacific fish, there is nothing better in creation). I set up a neck cradle and lay 2 packs down it's length, then put the neck onto the cold gel pack. (I also use them any time I'm concerned with overheating a guitar regardless of the repair). They have saved my bacon (and the fish).
3. I set up my shop vac to suck steam out of the truss rod opening in the headstock. I have a right angle fitting that I can attach to the headstock with big rubber bands, then I attach the vac hose to that and suck away. This adds to the din.
4. I have modified a Stew Mac vice (the $135 one) with all manner of rubber caps for the exposed bolt heads, felt strips for the sharp corners etc. to make it completely guitar friendly, a VERY necessary step if you want to avoid neck dings. Read that part twice. This thing is heavy, and is bolted securely to my bench. It's so stable and has such grippy jaw faces that I will clamp the neck from about the 7th through the 11th fret, with the body suspended above the bench about 2-4 inches. I tighten it such that the whole shebang doesn't move a jot. I also manage to install the steamer needle, a neck removal jig, the cold packs, the steam-sucking headstock thingy and the compressed air blower nozzles all in one convoluted, noisy conglomeration. Now comes the slick part: as I'm steaming, I can apply pressure to the sides, pushing and pulling gently so as to rock the body around the neck joint. If it's a Guild or other guitar with a wide heel, I work a very thin, 1" wide scraper between the heel and the side. The solidness of the clamping makes manipulating the body a joy, and I can work both sides till I see steam escaping, though usually by the time any steam comes out the removal jig is pitching in. Martins come apart with relative ease, others vary, esp. Gibsons with a straight dovetail (God help you). Tread lightly while pushing/pulling!! BTW, I've already loosened the fingerboard extension before all of this other hoopla ensues.
I really like it when I've got the compressor, the steamer, and the shop vac going all at once, and then a customer walks in. They often go slack-jawed, especially and hopefully if it's their guitar. Me with blue Mickey Mouse earmuffs, and the steam and noise and jumping around for a good vantage point on the action plus the pushing and pulling leaves an impression. Sometimes I crank up some Iron Maiden for effect.
Some of this may seem like overkill (like the Iron Maiden...maybe) but I've learned the hard way that it's better to be safe than sorry. It should go without mentioning that I don't do this with Taylors.
Doesn't seem like overkill to me -
Here are some pix of my current rig and steam generator:
I find the outflow of the shop vac gives me lots more air than the compressor, and the noise isn't too bad.
Frank, I'm hovering like a vulture around my local struggling dry cleaner to go Tango Uniform so I can swoop in and snatch up one of those steam iron rigs. I love that thing. I also love that MY decimal equivalence chart is in approximately the same location as yours.
One thing I failed to mention. I don't freeze the cold packs, I just refrigerate them. They're unworkable, mostly, when they're frozen, but easily worked at fridge temps. I'm reminded of Mark Twain's description of the weather in India, describing the difference between hot weather and cold: Hot weather will melt a brass doorknob, cold weather will only make it mushy.