Disassembling a guitar can be fun, but before you begin, be sure you have the correct tools for the job—and always save all the parts you remove. (An empty pickup box is handy for collecting screws and parts.) Here’s the process:
- Remove the strings.
- Unscrew (counterclockwise) the neck bolts, remove the original neck, and compare it to the replacement (Photos 1-3).
- Inspect the neck pocket and clean out any debris (Photo 4).
At this point, the new neck has no tuning keys, string nut, or string trees, so we’ll add these components next.
- Install the tuning keys. First, use a hammer
with a soft nylon or rubber head to
tap the tuner bushings into their holes
(Photos 5 and 6). Turn the neck over
and lay the tuners into their holes. With
a metal ruler as a guide, carefully align
the tuners in a straight line (Photo 7).
Still holding the tuners in alignment
against the ruler, use a sharp-tipped tool
to mark a spot for the pilot hole for
each tuner mounting screw (Photo 8).
Countersink the tuner-screw pilot holes using a small Phillips screwdriver to create a cone at the lip of each screw hole (Photos 9 and 10).
Tuner mounting screws vary in length from one brand to another. Before you drill any holes, always check the screw depth against the headstock (Photo 11). If the screws are too long, you risk drilling through the headstock face or splitting the wood with the screw tip.
Insert a screw into a tuner, then measure the screw’s length and width against your drill bit. Match the bit width to the screw’s main shaft—not its cutting threads—and mark the bit depth with a Sharpie or piece of masking tape (Photo 12).
With the neck resting on a padded, stable surface, drill the tuner screw holes into the back of the headstock. Work slowly and methodically (Photo 13).
Finally, attach the tuning machines, starting with the 6th or 1st and working sequentially along the headstock (Photo 14).
- Temporarily install a pre-slotted string nut. This acts as a guide for aligning the neck. In our project, the temporary nut will be replaced by the finished bone nut later in the assembly process. (If you’ve ordered a neck with a pre-installed, pre-slotted nut, you’re already set and can skip to Step 3.)
Tip: If you don’t already have a used pre-slotted nut, synthetic pre-slotted and shaped nuts are available from such retailers as Guitar Center and Musician’s Friend. Stewart-MacDonald sells bone nuts that are cut, sized, and slotted for Fenders, and starting with one of these and then modifying it for baritone strings can be a real time-saver.