15. Check how the neck fits into the body. You want
to neck heel to fit securely into the pocket, and any
fretboard extension to sit just above the pickguard
so it’s not forced down against it. A miniscule gap
below the extension is good. 16. Attaching the
neck. Go around the neck plate tightening each
screw a little at a time.
Attach the Bari Neck
Next we’ll bolt on the new neck, string up
the guitar, and check the neck alignment.
17. Getting ready to install
the outer strings to check neck alignment.
- Place the baritone neck heel in the
neck pocket to see if it fits properly.
On this guitar, the fit was perfect—
not too tight, not too loose—and
the fretboard extension that includes
the 24th fret cleared the top of the
pickguard, exactly as it’s supposed to
- With the guitar face down and the
neck seated in the pocket, thread the
original neck screws through the neck
plate, work them down through the
body, and gently introduce their tips
into the screw holes of the replacement
neck (Photo 16). During this
phase, I was delighted to see that the
Warmoth’s pre-drilled holes lined up
perfectly with the holes in the body.
If you’re installing a bari neck on a
Fender guitar, this is a real benefit to
buying a licensed Fender neck.
Tip: Rather than fully tightening one
screw and then another, I like to tighten
all the screws a little at a time, moving
in a crisscross pattern around the neck
plate. This gradually joins the neck and
body using even pressure. Make sure the
screws are nice and snug, but resist the
urge to over-tighten them—you don’t
want to strip the screw holes in the neck.
- Once the neck is attached, install the
1st and 6th strings and use them as
straightedges to check neck-to-body
alignment. I used the temporary, preslotted
nut to hold these strings in
place while measuring the distance
from the strings to the edge of the
fretboard. On a pre-slotted nut, you
have to widen the 6th string slot to
accommodate the low B.
This is also where you confirm that
your 6th string fits the tuner (Photo
17). If you’ve done your homework,
you’ll be good to go.
Again, we were lucky: The two
strings lined up exactly where they
should, and the distance from the
edge of the fretboard to the strings
was perfect. Could this project go
any more smoothly?
18. Bone nut blanks come bleached or unbleached, and also sport either radiused or flat bottoms
to match your fretboard’s nut slot. 19. Check the fit frequently as you shape the bone blank into a
nut. 20. Marking the nut where it extends past the fretboard. This material will be sanded off. 21.
Mark the overall height of the new nut with a mechanical pencil and machinist’s rule. 22. Using a
radius block and fine sandpaper to shape the top of the new nut. At this point, the blank has two
lines: One marks the top of the nut, the other marks where the fretboard meets the nut. 23. The
new nut is ready for string slots and final shaping and polishing. 24. Adding a drop of super glue to
secure the shaped nut. 25. Measuring the string spacing. The trick is to space the strings equally—
despite their different diameters—and this takes careful calculation.
Carve the New Nut (Optional)
Now that the neck and body are in alignment,
the next is to carve a new string nut. (If
you order a neck with a pre-installed nut, you
may skip ahead to Step 5.) The owner of our
Tele requested a custom carved bone nut—a
great choice for the project, because bone will
give this instrument a wider dynamic range
and better sustain than typical synthetic materials.
However, carving a string nut is a very
painstaking process. One alternative is to buy
a pre-shaped and slotted bone nut from stewmac.
com or other luthier suppliers. This typically
saves many steps and requires only final
fitting and string-slot shaping (numbers 7-13
below). That said, the only way to guarantee
that a bone nut will fit a given neck is to carve
it from scratch. Here’s how I do it:
26. Measuring neck relief
after the strings are tuned
to pitch. 27. To adjust a
vintage-style truss rod, you
need to remove the neck.
28. When cutting nut slots,
tilt your file down toward
the headstock. 29. Using
a radiused block to sand
down the top of the nut.
- Sand a bone blank (Photo 18) to fit
the width of the nut slot and to sit
flush with its bottom. Some slot bottoms
have a radius, while others are
flat, so check your fretboard to be sure
that you start with the correct bone
blank. The goal is to achieve a snug fit
with no visible gaps (Photo 19).
- Once the basic shaping is done, slip
the nut into the slot and install the
6th and 1st strings. Tighten them just
enough that they sit on the nut and
hold it in place. Using a mechanical
pencil, mark the ends of the blank
where they extend beyond the edge of
the fretboard (Photo 20).
- Remove the blank and sand the extended
ends until the nut sits flush with the
edges of the fretboard. Work slowly, and
periodically reinsert the nut to check your
progress. This can take several passes.
- Hold the blank in place again with the
6th and 1st strings, and use a mechanical
pencil and machinist’s rule to mark the
overall height for the nut. Lay the rule
on top of the frets and slide it up to the
nut blank. Then mark the blank along
the top of the rule as you move it back
and forth across the frets (Photo 21).
- Detune the strings and slide them
aside. With the pencil, trace a second
reference line along the edge of the
fretboard where it meets the nut blank.
- Remove the nut and sand the top of the
blank down to the first line you drew.
Be sure you sand the top to match the
fretboard radius. In this case, I used a
10" radius block to match Warmoth’s
10"-16" compound radius (Photo 22).
When you’re done, the nut’s top will
follow the fretboard curve that’s referenced
by the lower line (Photo 23).
- Insert the nut back in the slot and tighten
the 6th and 1st strings to hold the nut
in place. At this point, when I’m sure the
nut is shaped and fitted correctly, I put
a tiny drop of super glue on the end of a
plain string and let the glue wick down
into the slot to hold the nut in place
(Photo 24). Blot any excess glue while
it’s still wet with a white paper towel.
Now use the pencil to mark the location
of the 6th and 1st strings, paying
close attention to the distance between
their outer edge and the edge of the fretboard.
Different players have different
preferences here, but you want to avoid
getting too close to the fretboard edge—
you don’t want those strings sliding off.
- With the outer strings marked, it’s time
to calculate the locations of the remaining
four strings. Use a fine ruler and take the
width of each string into account. The
goal is to create an equal space between
all six strings. Mark these locations
with pencil, as you may need to change
them during this process (Photo 25).
- Install the remaining strings and tighten
them up—but don’t tune them to pitch
just yet. Recheck the strings to confirm
they’re spaced equidistantly. Gently carve
shallow reference slots into the blank
using nut files (each file should match
the gauge of the slot’s corresponding
string). For now, these slots only need to
hold the strings to check their spacing.
- When the spacing of each string is correct,
tune the guitar to pitch. Measure
the amount of relief in the neck (Photo
26). Before you finish cutting the nut
slots, make sure the neck doesn’t have too
much relief (forward bow). The final nut
slot depth depends on having the correct
amount of relief, which is approximately
.012" to .020", depending on a player’s
technique and string gauges.
Once the guitar is tuned to pitch,
you can expect to adjust the truss
rod to get the relief dialed in. On
a vintage-style neck, you adjust the
truss rod at the heel. This necessitates
removing the neck (Photo 27).
- Cut the string slots to the proper depth,
beginning with the 1st string, which
should have a distance of 1/64" (.015")
from the top of the 1st fret to the bottom
of the string. This height will gradually
increase to just slightly over 1/32" (.032")
for the 6th string. Go slowly! Remember,
you can always deepen the slots, but you
can’t undo what you’ve already cut.
Tip: When cutting the slots, tilt your file
down toward the headstock (Photo 28).
A gently angled slot keeps the strings seated
firmly as they slope down toward the tuners.
- Sand the top of the new nut so that
the string slots aren’t surrounded by
too much material (Photo 29). But
don’t sand too much, otherwise the
strings may slip out of the nut when
you bend them or dig into the guitar.
Then polish the nut with 600-grit
paper, and finally buff the bone with
a polishing cloth.
With the mechanical pencil, color
the inside of the string slots. This bit
of graphite will prevent the strings
from sticking in the slots.