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Guitar Shop 101: How to Fix a Misaligned 3-Bolt Neck


At this point, you’re simply doing reconnaissance. The goal is to determine if the neck pocket offers enough room to shift the heel into proper alignment. If the neck doesn’t have enough play to properly align the E strings to the fretboard, the fix is to remove some wood from the side of the neck pocket. Trust me, that is a job for a pro.

On this project Tele, the neck pocket offered enough wiggle room for me to get the E strings correctly aligned with the edge of the fretboard—cool.

Doweling the neck. Assuming you’re able to manually realign the neck so the strings line up correctly along the fretboard edges, you’re ready for the next step, which is to remove the neck and prepare it for doweling. Many techs use toothpicks to dowel a neck, but I don’t recommend that. Instead, use a 3/16" hardwood dowel.

Photo 3

With a 3/16" drill bit, enlarge the two wood screw holes by drilling only to the depth of the screws when assembled. First gauge this depth by inserting one of the neck screws through the body (Photo 3), then place your bit against the screw where it protrudes through the body and use a marker to indicate the depth on the drill bit.

Photo 4

Double-check your depth mark against the neck itself (Photo 4).

Now carefully expand the screw holes with your 3/16" bit. It’s a good idea to use a drill press for this so your holes remain completely perpendicular to the neck.

Next, cut two pieces of dowel to plug the enlarged holes. Make sure the dowel pieces are a bit longer than the depth of the screw holes (you’ll trim down the dowels later).

Photo 5

Use sandpaper to round the tip of each dowel so it matches the end of your drill bit (Photo 5). This way the dowels will completely fill the holes you just drilled into the heel. Nice, huh?