Vintage National Style 0 Neck Reset
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This National Style 0 was built in 1932 and is a very cool guitar. The action is pretty high so the guitar is tough to play. After 90 plus years of string tension, the body and neck-stick have warped which has changed the geometry of the guitar; kind of like the effects of gravity on an old house.
The changes in geometry mean that no matter how low the biscuit (bridge) is cut, it’s not possible to have low or even moderate action. The solution is to remove the neck and reset it to properly align with the bridge. This will allow for low action and plenty of bridge height. A neck reset is kind of like rehanging a door in an old house so it will open and close properly.
The neck stick is the part of the neck that’s attached to the inside of the guitar’s body with a series of shims, screws and a couple of little sound-post like pedestals. I’ve removed the cone and tailpiece in order to get at the screws and posts.
The neck stick was installed at the factory in the same fashion as a replacement window in a house. The neck angle is determined by the heel, then the stick is shimmed in place and secured with some screws and posts.
The tail block is held in place with shims and the tailpiece anchor/strap button. There is a shim between the tail block and the neck stick as well.
More shims and screws hold the neck stick in place by the fretboard tongue. Two metal braces are welded to the inside top of the guitar. They are meant to help keep the top flat at the neck joint. There are large flakes of old hide glue around the hole in the side of the guitar at the neck joint.
I’m removing the shims with an old pull-saw.
I’m sawing through the shim between the post and the bottom of the neck stick as well as the small finish nail that attaches the neck stick to the forward-most post.
With the forward post removed, the post near the neck block comes out without having to cut the nail.
Drilling through the pearl dots that hide the screws over the body.
Removing the screws that attach the fretboard tongue to the body of the guitar. The top is badly warped here so I’ll reinforce the top from inside with a pair of mahogany blocks. I’ll get to that after I’ve reset the neck angle.
With the neck completely removed from the body the entire neck stick is visible.
Removing the finish nails with a punch and hammer. The twin-screw vise securely holds the neck during this step.
Gluing the loose fretboard near the body end of the neck. Some hot hide glue and a quick grip bar clamp will secure the fretboard back down to the fretboard. I’ll leave the joint clamped over night.
I’ve scribed the “heel cap” at the maximum depth of cut as determined by the neck reset math. A sanding stick with 80 grit PSA sandpaper bevels the heel cap to just shy of the scribed line.
Back cutting the Heel makes it easier to adjust the neck angle by cutting the outside parts of the heel that contact the side of the body.
Cutting the heel with a very sharp chisel adjusts the neck angle. The most material is removed at the “heel cap” tapering to no material loss at the bottom of the fretboard.
Sanding the neck stick beneath the fretboard tongue will the neck to rest at its new angle without the neck stick pushing up against the top.
Planing the top of the neck stick will allow the neck to rest at its new angle without the neck stick pushing up against the sound well. I don’t want the neck stick to contact the top or the soundwell at any point inside the guitar. I only have to plane a small amount from the neck stick so there is no need to glue a piece of hardwood to the underside of the neck stick for reinforcement.
Sanding the heel with the neck dry fit in the body gets rid of any small chisel marks and perfectly sands the contour of the sides into the end grain of the heel.
Planing the mahogany reinforcement blocks with a miter plane and a shooting board gets rid of the band saw marks from cutting out the blocks and makes the blocks flat and square.
I’m sanding the blocks to get rid of the hard edge that will contact the welded seem of the top and sides.
I’ll attach the neck stick to the sound well with some new shims then shim between the neck stick, posts and tail block. Before reinstalling the neck stick, I band-sawed off a very thin veneer from the top of the neck stick in order to reintroduce bandsaw marks to the neck stick. I then oxidized the freshly cut wood in order to make the neck stick appear unaltered.
The blocks are screwed in place. I’ve also shimmed between the bass side of the neck stick and the side of the guitar; this shim is glued in place with hot hide glue. I placed a shim between the top of the neck stick and the underside of the guitar top and reattached all of the screws that go through the fretboard tongue (replacing the short ones by the braces with longer ones that will bite into and hold the mahogany blocks.
I refretted the neck while I had it removed from the body for the neck reset. I replaced the pearl dots and hand filed them flush with the fretboard. Now I’m sanding away the file marks with some 2000 grit sandpaper. My right hand pulls the sandpaper and my left hand index finger stays in place putting light pressure on the pearl dot.
Black dye gives the fretboard a uniform look.
New frets and a flat top beneath the fretboard tongue. The action is now much lower and the guitar very comfortable to play.
A cleanly cut heel shows no sign of repair.