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Neck Resets 9: Finishing up

Well, we’ve finally arrived. Our neck reset journey has reached its end. Almost.

We removed the neck, altered the angle and glued the neck back in. We’re pretty much done but there's a little ‘clean-up’ left to take care of.

Actually, clean-up is a good place to start. Hopefully any glue squeeze-out will have been dealt with as the neck was clamped on and before the glue actually cured. If not, it’s time to remove any remaining glue globs.

If there’s some finish touch-up needed that’ll need to be taken care of and, if that means dealing with vintage nitrocellulose finishes, that will add a chunk of time to our turnaround. Nitro needs to cure off properly and that’s a minimum of a week but realistically twice that.

Up at the fingerboard, remember that we drilled a hole somewhere in a fret slot to let us steam or heat the joint. That needs to be filled.

Cut a piece of rosewood, ebony, or whatever is appropriate, and carefully chisel it to a slightly tapered round. Pop it in the hole with a little glue and let it cure. The top can be chiselled flush with the rest of the fingerboard easily enough but we also have to slot our plug so a fret can be installed.

Plugging the hole we drilled to steam the neck off the guitar

If the fingerboard isn’t bound, that’s easy enough to do with a fret-saw. If it is bound, you’ll need to use a short section of saw (like Stew Mac’s ) or use an appropriate bit in a Dremel router base to cut the slot.

And let’s talk fretting and fingerboards

Dealing with the extension angle

Resetting the neck obviously tilts the neck back. That means the fingerboard extension (the part over the body) would now, naturally, angle up off the guitar top.

Resetting the guitar neck might mean dealing with a gap under the fingerboard extension

If the reset angle hasn’t been too severe, it’s perfectly acceptable to just clamp the fingerboard down to the guitar top. This adds a slight ‘kick-down’ to the extension area. Providing the set hasn’t seen the neck move too much, this is fine and can be thought of as just some additional fall-away.

However, a bigger reset angle might mean that extension kick-down is a little too much for both the aesthetics of how it looks and the potential stresses on the fingerboard where it will bend.

For smaller reset angles, gluing the fingerboard to the soundboard may be just fine.

When this happens installing a wedge under the extension will be necessary. Sometimes, you can match your shim nicely to the fingerboard. Not always. Luckily, most of the time, shimming like this isn’t needed.

Larger neck reset angles may require a shim

Fret-work and levelling

If the neck reset gods smile upon your work, you’ll be able to reinstall the fret you removed right back at the start (before we drilled a hole in the fret slot for steaming) and maybe just give the tops of the frets a very light fret-level.

But, more than likely you’ll need to go a little further. Often you’ll have to remove the frets and probably give the fingerboard a level before refretting.

Levelling the fingerboard can ease the transition into that extension angle/kick-down and make sure you don’t have a hump in the board where the neck meets the body.

A refret isn’t always needed after a neck reset but it’s very good practice to assume it will be and to budget for it.

Saddles and nuts

Our neck angle has changed so our action has changed. That we’ll need a new saddle is pretty much guaranteed.

And, if we did refret, it might also be necessary to replace the nut too.

As you can see, a neck reset is not a small undertaking. And, after it’s done, there’s a good heap of knock-on work required to get the guitar looking and playing its best.

If you’re a repairer don’t forget to budget your time for this additional work. If you’re a player who’s speaking with a repairer, understand what’s involved here. And maybe brace yourself. 😉

Because of the effort and time involved, a neck reset may not be a realistic option for every guitar that might benefit from one. There are some alternative options (not all ideal) so, if you find yourself in need of a reset, speak with your repairer and try to find the best path.

Worth mentioning before wrapping up is that not all guitars can be readily reset. Some design and construction decisions make it impossible to reset a guitar. Some just make it so difficult that the costs involved add up to 'practically impossible’. Again, talk with your repairer and see if some alternatives might be right for you.

A round-up of this neck reset series

This article written by Gerry Hayes and first published at