Need Help! Neck warped!


Hey everyone,

Some sad news- the warmoth strat I assembled a few years ago was left by an open window over night and was found with condensation coating the neck in the morning. Its a goncalo alves/pau ferro unfinished neck on a swamp ash body and it's now unplayable. I've tried adjusting the truss rod and action, and there is consistent and heavy string buzz up until the 12th fret.

I'm thinking of getting a new neck. Do you think this will solve the problem, or was the body probably affected too?
Any help will be greatly appreciated.
How long ago was it be-dewed?  You might not want to give up hope until you've given it some time to dry out.
I'd bet it's just the neck, and I wouldn't replace it just yet. Depending on what it did, distortions can sometimes be baked out. If it's twisted, you may as well give it to the dog for a chew toy, unless you have some deep, meaningful emotional attachment to it that would allow you to spend a lotta money on repair. If it's just warped so that it has more back bow or relief than the truss rod will adjust out, then you may be in luck.

You just need a few things.
- A bent up neck (tuners removed)
- a couple/few clamps (I use 3" 'C' clamps)
- a strong and reliably straight piece of steel about 18" long or so (a levelling beam works great)
- something to use as a shim(s) (I use neck plates, but whatever you use just needs to be able to take some heat)
- something to use as a pillow for the clamp faces (cardboard is fine)


and an oven large enough to hold a guitar neck. I use the Binford 6000 NeckBaker™ Deluxe, in stainless steel, but most household ovens will do...


In this case, I was trying to take out some excessive back bow. So, I loosened the truss rod until there was no pull on the neck, then shimmed it in the center using some neck plates, clamping it at the ends to force a forward bend to it. If you were trying to get rid of too much forward bow (relief), then you'd shim it at either end and clamp it in the middle.


Place it in a pre-heated 175°F oven for 1 hour, or until a toothpick inserted in a tuning peg hole tells you nothing.


Remove it from the oven (don't forget to use an oven mitt or something - it's gonna be hot) and let it air cool for a few hours. Once it's cool, you undo the clamps and the neck will have taken on the bend you've baked into it.

Some things to note. If you look at the picture above of the neck clamped up, you can see I bent it pretty aggressively. Don't do that! It's completely unnecessary. I expected the thing to spring back a bit once the clamps were released, but it did not. The bend you see was the bend I got, which is clearly excessive. When you shim the thing before baking to get your desired bend, you'll want to go just very slightly past where you want to be so there's room for the truss rod to work, but no farther.

Be careful where you put the shims - you can put a ski slope on the thing that won't adjust out, and will require re-bending to eliminate.

If you do over-bend it, you can do it all over again. That one took 3 tries before I was through with it.

Well, thing is, I had it strapped into the neck jig for about 6 weeks bent that far, and when I took it off it went Sproing! and relaxed right back into the shape it was in before I ever bent it. Pissed me off. So, when I read up on bending wood and thought this trick might work, I expected at least some springback, so I over-bent it again. Turns out you don't need to. The shape it's in when it goes in the oven is the shape it'll be when you unclench everything after it cools.

And yes, it did straighten out, but it took three tries. Where you place the shims and clamps is critical, as the neck doesn't have a uniform profile to it, particularly when you get down to the heel. That means it doesn't bend in an even arc, so you gotta watch you don't put a funny slope in the thing that the truss rod can't deal with.
Thank for the suggestion and the pics Cagey, I will try this out as soon as possible and let you all know.
Bagman67: Its been drying for a few months now and still unplayable.

Cheers guys! :eek:ccasion14:
Cagey, I ALWAYS learn something reading your posts. Thanks again for another great one.
I got in enough trouble putting guitar bodies in the freezer to crack lacquer, I can't even imagine what would happen if I put a neck in the oven.  :laughing11: 
If you're worried about skanking up the house or something, don't. The temperature is too low for most finishes to melt or off-gas. So, it won't hurt real finishes such as lacquer or poly, as long as you put some sort of pillow between the clamp and any finished surface. Oil-based stuff? I don't know. Usually if anything can go wrong it will with that stuff, but you can call me butthurt. Raw wood? it's a no-brainer. Works like a charm.
A neck that is warped is warped but it may be twisted as the wood grains may have altered from being in situ.  No amount of straightening and drying out is going to bring it back to its original state.  The most positive way to salvage the neck is to pull all the fretswires out, use sanding fret radius blocks and level all the kinks on the fretboard.  When sanding, make sure to adjust the truss rod intermittently to make sure all surfaces are exposed to the sanding grit.  Next use the largest and highest possible fretwires to refret it because as you level the frets, high spot and low spots will even out.  I have done this a few times with success as I believe all necks are worth saving, especially Warmoth one. 
Thanks Cagey for pointing me to this thread. That appears to have saved my neck which was otherwise heading to the thrash:

I would offer one additional critical advice: CONDITION your fingerboard before starting this procedure or the potential for the wood to crack is high.

My neck required 3 baking sessions:
- 1st one: still had a bit of back bow (I may have unclamped too soon though), and the clamps weren't quite tight enough (there was a gap between the rod and the frets when I removed the neck from the oven).

- 2nd one: from memory the neck was either flat or with a very minimal forward bow but had a weird slope starting at the heel which I wan't comfortable with.

- 3rd one: I moved the clamp towards the 20-22 fret and that rectified the weird shape somewhat.

After the 1st session the ebony fingerboard was incredibly dry to the touch but I saw no; I should have conditioned it before the 2nd round but had other concerns on my mind trying to save this expensive piece of wood.

The 2nd one though did show several thin cracks; I put a bit of superglue into those and conditioned the neck before the 3rd session. I didn't notice any further deterioration from the 3rd sauna session.

A few side effects of baking three times:
- clouding of the finish at some fret ends as the ebony shrunk slightly and the poly finish lifted from the fingerboard. Easy to fix, and expected, with thin superglue.

- slightly marred poly finish after the 2nd session at the clamp around the 1st fret. Seems like just using very fine sanding and buffing will take care of it. I likely overtightened, and the V shape is less forgiving than a flatter shape (higher pressure)

- ultra thin line appearing under the poly finish along the joint line between the quilt headstock veneer / ebony fingerboard right behind the nut. Super minor, not worth removing the poly and applying gloss again.

- a bit of surface finish bump where the side dots are. Easy to fix with fine sanding paper and buffing.
I'm glad that worked out for you. It's not the kind of trick you need to do too often, but it's a good technique to have in the back of your head  :icon_thumright: