How to Reset and Repair an Electric Guitar Neck

Electric guitar necks can have all kinds of problems. I have seen snapped necks, broken pegheads, twisted and warped necks, and everything else you can thing of. Depending on style of guitar and severity of the problem, neck repairs can be expensive. Many neck repairs are difficult and should only be performed by experienced repairmen. That being said, let’s take a look at some of the common neck repairs that I see.

Loose Electric Guitar Necks.

A loose guitar neck will cause high action. This might be the first giveaway that your neck is loose. If the neck is severely weak, there will probably be a small gap in the heel of the guitar. This gap is caused by the string tension pulling the headstock closer to the guitar body. Your guitar may also be difficult to tune because the higher string tension pulls the neck forcing it out of tune. If you see any of these symptoms, you should detune your guitar and remove the tension from the neck right away before your neck or body is damaged.

Bolt on Necks.

Bolt on necks can become loose due to rough use. This is a pretty simple fix as long as the holes in the body are not stripped out. All you have to do is take a screwdriver and tighten the neck bolts until the neck is tight and secure. Pretty easy, huh?

Set Necks.

Obviously, set necks are a bit more difficult to tighten. A set neck like a Gibson Les Paul is glued in the neck pocket and finish is sprayed over it. Set neck usually come loose for two reasons: either you dropped your guitar or you left it out in a hot car. If your set neck is loose, it will need to be steamed off the body and reset.

Broken Headstocks.

This sounds like something that could never happen to your guitar right? Well, actually it happens all too much. Gibson guitars are infamous for having cracks and breaks right at the wrist of the guitar. There are a few reasons for problem. The wrist of the guitar is a point of pressure or tension. The strings are pulled back from the angled headstock forcing pressure on the nut. The severe headstock angle, neck material, and disproportionate distribution of the weight of the guitar also contribute to the problem. Probably the main reason for this point on weakness is the grain of the wood. Gibson carves its necks out of a solid piece of mahogany. This is good and bad, but often problematic.

The one piece neck will have vertical or straight grain running allow the neck. The wrist and headstock will have a different grain pattern because it is cut at a different angle than the rest of the neck. This grain pattern is known as runout. It is less structurally sound than the rest of the neck. Many builders and manufacturers combat this problem with building laminated neck, carving volutes, and placing a peghead overlay or veneer on the top and back of the headstock. Since this is such a common problem among Gibson guitars, I will be writing a complete article on how to re-glue, fix, and finish your broken Gibson headstock.

Warped or Twisted Guitar Necks.

Guitar necks can warp or twist if given the right conditions–or should I say wrong conditions. Most new necks will never have a problem with twisting or warping. Older or vintage guitars made without truss rods and proper neck support are more likely to twist or warp than modern guitar necks. You might ask what the difference between a twisted neck and a warped neck is. That is a good question. The two terms are often interchangeable, but a twisted neck usually is a neck that has rotated on its axis. In other words, the nut and the bridge are not parallel or on the same plane. This is easy to see if you stand the guitar up on the ground and look down the neck. The bridge saddle will be flat while the nut will be angled. A warped neck, on the other hand, usually refers to a neck that has bowed in one direction or the other. Usually, necks will warp toward the fretboard giving the neck excess relief.

Major Causes of Twisted and Warped Guitar Necks.

There are a few major causes of twisted and warped guitar necks, but the most common have to do with the guitar’s environment. Long exposures to excessive temperature and humidity or the lack of will hurt your guitar. One of the worst things you can do to your guitar, both electric and acoustic, is leave it out in your hot car during the summer. Another way to hurt your guitar is to leave it in a cold car during the winter, take it inside, and immediately start playing it. Both of these environment conditions can warp your neck and your guitar finish as well. Other causes of twisting and warpage include structural problems, abuse, and neglect. Please see my article about general care and maintenance on your guitar for more information about how to care for you instrument. Now you can go check out some beginner online guitar lessons.