Neck Pocket Became Tighter - do I sand?

HolographicUniverse

New member
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5
Hi all, about 3 weeks ago I received my first order from Warmoth. Super happy with it - fully exceeded my expectations!
I had ordered a swamp ash tele body and roasted maple neck. Both unfinished. I tested the fit of the neck pocket, and it was a good fit - the neck fitted into the pocket without any resistance, but there wasn't any side-to-side movement. I doubt I would have been able to hold the body up with the neck, without any neck screws.

Yesterday I tested the fit again, and it is now significantly harder - I am needing to push the neck quite firmly into the body. I can easily hold the body up with the neck without the neck screws attached. Note that when I am installing it, I am pushing the neck DOWN into the neck pocket, not SLIDING it. I am aware that the pocket does not have parallel sides - it is a slight 'dovetail'.

Understand that this is likely due to the change in climate. I suspect that it is mostly due to the swamp ash body - the roasted maple neck will be pretty stable. I haven't done any work on the body and neck - they have been sitting in a dark, dry cupboard.

My question is - should I sand the pocket to make the fit looser, or just accept that the fit will be tight when I get around to assembling it (when my other parts arrive).

I also had a crazy idea about adjusting the humidity of the room in hopes that the body would return back to the state I received them in 3 weeks ago. Does the tight neck pocket indicate the body swelled or shrunk? I'm in New Zealand, temperature has been around 15°C/59F, 75% relative humidity.
 

vetteman

Senior member
Messages
269
A tight fit is good, but having to force the neck into the pocket is not.  There isn't much support on the cutaway side and it can easily be broken.  If you can find or make a sanding block that will keep the sides of the pocket 90 degrees to the bottom a light sanding won't hurt much.  Just about any finish you use will add to the tightness of the pocket and it is easier to address the problem now.  Good luck with your build!
 

Sadie-f

Senior member
Messages
427
Either way, I'd do all the finishing steps first. Your high humidity is likely the problem, maybe give things time to equilibrate before adjusting.
 

JohnnyHardtail

Senior member
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319
I am wary of having a tight fit on the neck pocket.  It should be a precise fit - ideally "snug" fit.  A "tight" fit can potentially lead to paint finish cracks develop on the neck pocket.  The part where the fit accuracy is most important is the curved region at the heel of the neck.  That is the interface that supports the load due to string tension.  When I test fit a neck, if it is more than snug, I normally put led pencil marks all over the heal of the neck.  After removal you can see where the black marks on the neck pocket which indicate the points of interference.  There is no need to go crazy with sanding, but a few swipes of fine sand paper or a small file can reduce the interference so it is not as tight.
 

HolographicUniverse

New member
Messages
5
Thanks all, I suppose the wood has just acclimatised to New Zealand conditions and as a result, it has made the neck pocket tight. I’m sure the fit was perfect when it left the factory at Puyallup, and that was what I saw when I first received it.

Currently it is autumn (Fall) approaching winter. Temperatures and absolute humidity is expected to drop. Relative humidity is pretty consistent throughout the year here.
What is the best time to assemble? The last thing I want is to sand it down and then the climate making the fit too loose when the season changes.
 

HolographicUniverse

New member
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5
Tested fitting the neck again just now. It still requires a firm push, but it’s not too bad. Could call it ‘snug’ - I recorded a video: see for yourselves.
[youtube]https://youtu.be/_a-vFaFOym4[/youtube]
 

Rick

Senior member
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4,328
That looks great.  Give it another week or two to acclimatize and put it together.  Fits like a glove. 
 

docteurseb

Senior member
Messages
743
If it were mine I'd sand just enough that it fits w/o force.

The concern is that once a hard finish is put on, the tighter the fit the more likely it'll be damaged either when installing the neck or down the road as the neck pocket is stressed.
The sides of the neck pocket can be incredibly thin (sometimes so thin it's not a bad idea to sand them); when that area gets stressed/compressed the likelihood of a finish crack or lifting is fairly high IMHO.
If it's going to be a much thinner finish then that's not much of a concern.
 

HolographicUniverse

New member
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5
DrSeb said:
If it were mine I'd sand just enough that it fits w/o force.

The concern is that once a hard finish is put on, the tighter the fit the more likely it'll be damaged either when installing the neck or down the road as the neck pocket is stressed.
The sides of the neck pocket can be incredibly thin (sometimes so thin it's not a bad idea to sand them); when that area gets stressed/compressed the likelihood of a finish crack or lifting is fairly high IMHO.
If it's going to be a much thinner finish then that's not much of a concern.

Thanks, I’m planning on doing a water based stain, a couple of coats of tru oil, finished off with birchwood Casey gunstock wax.
Will sand the neck pocket a hair.
I may tru oil the neck pocket - thinking it will help stabilise the wood from changes in climate. Will add a bit of thickness, but this will be compensated by the light sanding. Good/bad idea?
 

jay4321

Senior member
Messages
1,278
IME the super-tight neck fit isn't necessary or a great idea. In years past I've forced a couple with bad results, or seen finish cracks later. Don't force it, if it feels too tight it is too tight.

Of course you don't want gaps or anything but a well-bolted neck that fits smooth and snug is just fine. Some of the folks around the internet talking about "maximum tonal transfer" and all that don't always have the best perspective. If you have a fit you like, you can also mark and tape off the neck heel and not finish it at all. Test-fitting outside on a nice hot or warm day is a good way to see where things are at.

Warmoth's are consistent but wood is wood and adding finish could easily take you from proper fit to too tight. And once finished the body it's a good idea to take some sandpaper to the rim on the inside of the pocket too toward the top. Just a little, you just want to de-burr any paint over the lip. You're not looking to remove wood or damage the painted top, i just sort of lean the sandpaper at a very slight angle to the outside of the pocket.

I did overdo a neck resizing somewhat badly in one case, thankfully it was a no-name China Strat type for a no-name Strat type body that was Squier-thin. I could place neck in and rock it back and forth and figured it was trash, but I drilled it and aligned carefully with the bridge and once fully bolted it was as stable as any other Strat. I certainly didn't sense any missing tone transfer or whatever and I could slide a playing card in on one side. As it turns out those four bolts can be pretty effective at doing their job.

In short you want it snug but not so tight that natural expansion will cause damage. This is probably the #1 thing about guitar work I'd tell the younger me because early on I was a) impatient and b) obsessed with the idea that nice and tight was the way to go. I have far better habits now but most recently (probably 4-5 years ago now) I did some paint damage forcing a neck for what I hope is the last time.

 

HolographicUniverse

New member
Messages
5
Thanks all for the suggestions! I’ve got the body stained and oiled, and finished the electronics yesterday. When it came time to assemble the neck and body, I did end up sanding the sides a wee bit as it was tighter than I would have liked.

However I have now another problem, likely unrelated to my original question. The action is WAY too low, no matter how high I raise the bridge saddles. I suspect it’s due to the 16” fretboard radius and XJ frets I have specc’d for the neck. Thinking of sanding down the neck pocket floor to compensate? (Also should I start a new thread?)
 

ragamuffin

Senior member
Messages
918
HolographicUniverse said:
Thanks all for the suggestions! I’ve got the body stained and oiled, and finished the electronics yesterday. When it came time to assemble the neck and body, I did end up sanding the sides a wee bit as it was tighter than I would have liked.

However I have now another problem, likely unrelated to my original question. The action is WAY too low, no matter how high I raise the bridge saddles. I suspect it’s due to the 16” fretboard radius and XJ frets I have specc’d for the neck. Thinking of sanding down the neck pocket floor to compensate? (Also should I start a new thread?)

That's strange, what type bridge are you using?
 

Sadie-f

Senior member
Messages
427
Stewmac sells angled shims. If you sand it, it's probably better to sand the neck than than the pocket?
 

Rick

Senior member
Messages
4,328
Thinking about it ... If sussing out the bridge doesn't work you'll need to bring it to a guitar tech.  Where I live a set up plus soldering is just over 100 bucks. So it should be less than 100 and worth it to know it's done right.
 

stratamania

Senior member
Messages
9,220
Some things to check..

Is your neck actually fully seated in the pocket?  Its possible that in the corners there is something catching.

Does it have a pickguard it could be catching on.

And always better to post pictures of what is being discussed as it might shed some light on what is going on.

 

docteurseb

Senior member
Messages
743
Definitely post pics or check with a tech first. You really do not want to attempt sanding the neck heel unless it's absolutely the last resort (and I can't seem to see it being the last resort, a shim would).

Are you using a fancy/unusual bridge ?
 

bruzanhd

Senior member
Messages
136
Sadie-f said:
Stewmac sells angled shims. If you sand it, it's probably better to sand the neck than than the pocket?

Depends on which one is out of spec. If the neck is nice and flat I’d want to keep it like that so if I decided to use the neck on a different body later on id be able to. If the body is out, then any neck you put on it will be angled wrong. I had this issue recently and sanding the pocket was a perfect fix.
 
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