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Please help with 1970's strat. New neck or frets?

Postby DC-Choppah » Sat Sep 07, 2019 5:05 am

The frets on my late 70's strat are too low (finger contacts wood). Luthier says it would need new frets, or that I could just replace the whole neck instead.

Also the top E string falls off the edge of the neck - like the neck needs a shift to get the top E string back in place?

My goal is to get the guitar back to its original playing condition and keeping the neck feeling, sounding and looking the same as originally.

Always loved the sound of this guitar. Feels very solid. I use heavier strings, play some hard funk rythms with it. Great singing sustain for leads. Love recording with it. But with these low frets and out of whack neck it now has playability issues for me.

So I am considering what to do here. Any advice is greatly appreciated.

New neck? How do you choose one that will fit right?
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Re: Please help with 1970's strat. New neck or frets?

Postby adrian_k » Sat Sep 07, 2019 7:40 am

Hi
A refret is a straightforward job and would sort out your fret wear.
Unless the neck is warped I wouldn’t have thought you would need a new one. I’ve centralised strings on the neck just by repositioning the neck in the pocket.
Has that high e always been like that or has it happened over the years?
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Re: Please help with 1970's strat. New neck or frets?

Postby Wonks » Sat Sep 07, 2019 8:11 am

It does look like the frets have been stoned at some point but not re-profiled.

A refret should be relatively straightforward. The risk with lacquered fretboards is that some of the finish gets damaged when lifting the frets. This can of course be touched-up, but is extra cost and matching the tint of aged lacquer is hard to get just right.

The alternative is to remove the frets, then sand the existing lacquer off the top of the neck, add new frets then re-lacquer the top of the neck and the frets before then sanding the frets flat and re-profiling and polishing them. This is a more expensive option, but probably the better one.

It may be why the option of a new neck was put forward, as it gives you all the benefits without the risk of damaging the original neck, which you can then put aside as all-original in case you ever want to sell the guitar.

The nut looks a bit offset to the treble side but it might just be the camera angle. If so fitting a new one and centring it a bit better might help with the top E. If you fit taller frets, you'll probably need a new nut with higher slots anyway.

There doesn't appear to be much of a gap at the side of the neck pocket, but it's worth loosening the neck screws, pulling the top of the headstock to the left (when looking down on the front of the guitar) and the tightening the screws again to see if you can get the E sitting over the fretboard.

I know the '70s 3-bolt neck joints are considered to be poorly engineered and prone to be unstable. Basically all designed to allow for looser manufacturing tolerances so poor neck angles could be fixed without having to remove the neck and add shims.

But it may be that the bridge was put on in the wrong position. In which case it's relatively easy to fill the six bridge screw holes and re-drill them slightly towards the bass side. You may then have to file a bit of the pickguard away to make room.
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Re: Please help with 1970's strat. New neck or frets?

Postby Wonks » Sat Sep 07, 2019 8:59 am

DC-Choppah wrote:New neck? How do you choose one that will fit right?

Just a question of measurement. Fender neck widths are pretty consistent so a replacement 21-fret neck should be easy to find. More difficult will be finding one that has a similar profile to yours. You may be happy with a different profile, but if you do want the same profile, then it will be a lot harder as there is no real way to describe them except in loose terms like 'modern-C' or 'soft-V '.

So you may then have to get a thickish unfinished neck and have someone profile it for you to match the existing one. Or you could have a go at doing that yourself. It's not that hard.
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Re: Please help with 1970's strat. New neck or frets?

Postby Wonks » Sat Sep 07, 2019 9:12 am

Correction to my first post. It's a hardtail bridge so there will probably only be three fixing screws. But it's a string through bridge, so you can't move the bridge sideways without misaligning the string holes. A shame.

Trying to align the neck better is your only real option to try. If that fails, then some careful neck pocket routing work to allow the neck to be angled better would be needed. You may also need to plug and redrill the neck mounting holes to allow the correct angle to be achieved.
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Re: Please help with 1970's strat. New neck or frets?

Postby John Egan » Sat Sep 07, 2019 11:22 am

I presume this has happened gradually over time ? You couldn't have lost a neck shim when dismantling it ?
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Re: Please help with 1970's strat. New neck or frets?

Postby adrian_k » Sat Sep 07, 2019 12:18 pm

Wonks wrote:Trying to align the neck better is your only real option to try. If that fails, then some careful neck pocket routing work to allow the neck to be angled better would be needed. You may also need to plug and redrill the neck mounting holes to allow the correct angle to be achieved.

Yeah as long as the neck is still straight I would just slacken the strings, slacken the three fixing screws and see if you can get it in line. If not sanding/shimming the pocket depending on what's amiss ought to do it. You don't need to take much off at the pocket to make 2mm difference at the headstock end.
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Re: Please help with 1970's strat. New neck or frets?

Postby DC-Choppah » Sat Sep 07, 2019 3:48 pm

adrian_k wrote:Has that high e always been like that or has it happened over the years?
Cheers
Adrian

The shift is new, like in last 6 months. I feel like the neck has shifted.
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Re: Please help with 1970's strat. New neck or frets?

Postby DC-Choppah » Sat Sep 07, 2019 4:21 pm

Wonks wrote:
I know the '70s 3-bolt neck joints are considered to be poorly engineered and prone to be unstable. Basically all designed to allow for looser manufacturing tolerances so poor neck angles could be fixed without having to remove the neck and add shims.


This neck has always seemed a bit unstable to me. Years ago I would hear a crack from the joint and the guitar would go out of tune. The shop tightened the neck a few times to cure that. But now I have this shift.

I wonder if there is a way to stabilize this with a new neck? Maybe that is a reason to get a new neck.

And the Luthier described a refinishing process that needs to be done after a refret for a old strat and cost, and that was why the new neck option was given.

I am not a purest. I just want yo play it. If a new neck will be more stable and give me new frets then I like that.

I just had new tuners put on. The old were worn and stripped. Id like to be able to move the tuners to a new neck.
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Re: Please help with 1970's strat. New neck or frets?

Postby DC-Choppah » Sat Sep 07, 2019 10:15 pm

Realigned the neck - but found a problem.

Took the neck off and put it back on and it back in the right place. High E string no longer hangs off the edge of the fretboard.

But when tightening it down I find that one of the screws never tightens - just spins.

So there is torque in only 2 of the three screws.

The loose one is one of the two closer to the head. The main bolt on the bridge side is tight.

This must be why it is unstable and shifted recently. It hangs on the wall. So hanging there with this one screw floating seems to have made it shift in the pocket.

I need a way to fix that one screw.
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Re: Please help with 1970's strat. New neck or frets?

Postby Sam Spoons » Sat Sep 07, 2019 10:20 pm

The simplest way is to plug the screw hole with matchsitcks or WHY and white glue then re drill the pilot hole. Once you can get some grip with the screw you should be good to go.
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Re: Please help with 1970's strat. New neck or frets?

Postby Wonks » Sat Sep 07, 2019 10:46 pm

Preferably plug with a hardwood dowel/rod as matchsticks are made from pine and are rather soft. OK for minor holes e.g. pickguard holes, but not for ones where there is a lot of pull/tension.

I'd also make sure that the holes in the body are big enough to just pass the screw through without bonding on the sides. If the screw is also biting into the body, you can't guarantee that it is pulling down as hard as it can on the neck.
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Re: Please help with 1970's strat. New neck or frets?

Postby zenguitar » Sat Sep 07, 2019 11:02 pm

Yes, a hardwood plug is required, not matchsticks/cocktail sticks. Simple job.

And if your aim is to get back the guitar that feels good in your hands a refret is the best option. This is bread and butter work for a competent luthier.

Andy :beamup:
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Re: Please help with 1970's strat. New neck or frets?

Postby DC-Choppah » Sun Sep 08, 2019 3:53 am

Wonks wrote:Preferably plug with a hardwood dowel/rod as matchsticks are made from pine and are rather soft. OK for minor holes e.g. pickguard holes, but not for ones where there is a lot of pull/tension.

I'd also make sure that the holes in the body are big enough to just pass the screw through without bonding on the sides. If the screw is also biting into the body, you can't guarantee that it is pulling down as hard as it can on the neck.


OK, I took the neck off and filled the two holes in the neck that accept the pointy wood screws. I filled with hardwood sticks from an old leftover piece of cherry wood flooring, and used wood glue to glue them into the holes and fill it in. I'll give it a day to dry.

All 3 screws seem to float in the holes in the body and don't grab onto the body. The body holes are not threaded. Thanks for that tip. I won't mess with the body holes then.
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Re: Please help with 1970's strat. New neck or frets?

Postby blinddrew » Sun Sep 08, 2019 1:55 pm

DC-Choppah wrote:All 3 screws seem to float in the holes in the body and don't grab onto the body. The body holes are not threaded. Thanks for that tip. I won't mess with the body holes then.
Yep, that's as it should be. :thumbup:
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Re: Please help with 1970's strat. New neck or frets?

Postby Wonks » Sun Sep 08, 2019 2:14 pm

Note that the body holes shouldn't be any wider than the screws themselves otherwise the neck is liable to move with any small knock. If there room to move them from side to side by any significant amount, then it would be worthwhile plugging the body holes and re-drilling them so the screws only just pass through. You'd want to do this before drilling the holes in the neck to get the best alignment, using the screws in the body holes and tapping lightly with a hammer to mark the neck hole centres, with the neck held in the correct alignment with the body.
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Re: Please help with 1970's strat. New neck or frets?

Postby DC-Choppah » Sun Sep 08, 2019 6:08 pm

Darn. I reassembled and the screw still spins! I could get some good torque on it at first, but as I torqued it down, it is firm, but never gets tight.

My hole fill has failed. I can get the neck into the right place but can feel that it can move.

There is really nothing holding this neck at the right angle except for these two screws!

The other thing is that I wear my strap where it connects to the head of the guitar. That is comfortable for me. This arrangement is torquing the neck for sure. I can hear a 'creak' sometimes from the joint. This is NOT stable . I don't have a problem with my other guitars. I have used that kind of strap arrangement forever.



OK gonna try again.

This time I am going to drill out the hole in the neck and use a proper hard wood dowel glued in there as you guys have suggested, not the little splinters of wood I jammed in there and glued last time. Those must have just turned to mush after I torqued down the screw last time.
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Re: Please help with 1970's strat. New neck or frets?

Postby Wonks » Sun Sep 08, 2019 7:43 pm

Yes, just get a piece of dowel, probably a bit oversized for the hole, and drill out to match. If you can't get really small diameter dowel to suit, then get the smallest diameter dowel you can and thin it down. I've put a bit of dowel in a drill chuck before and used the drill as a basic lathe. I've then used sandpaper to bring the dowel down to size. You want it just slightly bigger than the hole, taper the end of the dowel and then glue and tap it in with a hammer. Very unlikely to shift then.
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Re: Please help with 1970's strat. New neck or frets?

Postby DC-Choppah » Sun Sep 08, 2019 9:04 pm

Proper dowels in place now.

https://drive.google.com/open?id=1WpUh7 ... R5K03Q6qZb

3/16" diameter hardwood dowel. Holes drilled to match. Long enough to reach about 75% of the thickness of the neck. Glued in with wood glue and flattened down with a hammer.

Gonna let it dry overnight.

I also ordered a new set of hardware since these old screws are stripped and rusty.


There is a little hole below the machine screw. But on mine this doesn't seem to go anywhere or do anything. When ordering the new hardware I saw mention of an Alan wrench type of screw for doing adjustments. But mine doesn't seem to have that.
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