I think this guitar is lovely. I can't wait to play it. That should be maybe late next week, or certainly the week after that. It took a good deal of time Thursday to get the neck set into the guitar properly, and I now know why Bruce's long experience at fixing and building guitars adds so much value to the instrument.
|My guitar with the neck set|
This is about the most important part of the project as far as the playing condition of the guitar is concerned. The neck does a lot of work and it has to be set just right to make certain everything lines up properly. There is only one way to do that, get out your chisels, put on your glasses and put the neck on and take it off about a half a million times or so. (Actually, about a dozen times. But it took a long time to do that.)
It's not actually a geometric formula that defines all of this, but you do have to think of the neck at work on a couple of different planes. Let me explain. First, it has to sit under the string just right so they can be toned properly. Just a hair off and that E won't sound so good when you move up the neck to G and A and beyond. And that's just one string. All six have to be sitting the right way.
How hard could that be?
Take a look at the working end of the neck.
|Checking the angle on the face of the neck|
The challenge now is to fit it properly to the guitar. It doesn't just stick in there. It has to sit at the proper angles vertically and horizontally so the neck is in the right alignment with the bridge, where the strings hook to the top of the guitar. The only way to do that is to put it in place, see what happens, measure all of those different planes and then take a chisel to whatever part needs to be cut down to improve the fit. Bruce will actually back cut around the tenon, from the sides inward, to make that part of the neck a little concave.
|Trimming away another slice to improve the fit|
|Using a string to check the set|
This is what Bruce uses to check whether the neck needs to shift left or right. It's a sophisticated piece of equipment I would call, "An old piece of string!" He does this on both sides of the neck. There is a separate tool, a piece of straight wood with a little heel on it, that lets him check the "action" (how far the strings will be off the fingerboard) and how high the saddle will be on the bridge. Watching the process, it's easy to see that he has to take a little wood off of the left side of the base of the neck to move that string a little toward the center. The problem is the same on the other side of the neck, but the adjustment needs to move the string a little toward the outside of the neck.
There is no simple way to describe how to do this. Bruce (and all good guitar makers) use their eyes and their experience in trying to figure out how much to slice away. It's kind of unnerving because my typical mistake would be to slip with a chisel and put a deep gouge someplace it should not be. Bruce doesn't do that. Not at all in fact. He is confident and specific about what he wants to remove, does just a little at a time and constantly checks to see what effect the trimming had on the set of the neck.
|Looking at string and bridge height, all a function of the set of the neck.|
|Eyeing the neck set|
Come back, please. I'll play something for you before you know it!