Tilt Back vs Straight Headstock, trems and tuning

rauchman

Senior member
Messages
795
Greetings,

For my latest build, I had purchased 2 necks with the idea of modifying the neck heel and also using a trem.  I've only done 2 builds to date and have modified the neck heel on both. 

Neck 1 was a Vintage / Modern Warhawk roasted maple with an LSR nut route.  Shortly after this purchase, decided I want to try a Tiltback 24.75" conversion neck, just because

Neck 2 was a Tiltback Strat roasted maple/ebony board with a TusqXL nut.  The Tiltback was purchased as a way to get around the side/heel adjust truss access, and still shape a modified neck heel with a conversion neck.

Both necks received Hipshot locking tuners (straight for the Tilback and staggered for the Warhawk).  Bridge is a Wilkinson VS100.

On the original completion test, was using the Tiltback.  When using the trem, it was not even close in tuning stability.  Really really off.  Was very disappointed with the results for trem usage.  Love this neck though.  They are both Standard Thin, but the feel is a touch different between the 2.

I switched to the Warhawk neck, installed the LSR nut, and tuning stability is fantastic (by the way, the cut for the LSR nut was deeper than the shims allowed for in the kit.  Had to order some sleeves of brass shim material at various thicknesses.  Added a couple of layers of brass in, and then shims, and now....perfect!)

So, some questions....

Can the Tiltback nut be cut to alleviate the bad tuning stability?
Is there a technique specific to cutting a tilt back headstock nut that I should follow that would allow for tuning stability equivalent to a straightback headstock?
Is the lack of tuning stability common on tiltback necks?
As a last resort, can the neck be sent back to Warmoth to have a Floyd Rose nut milled?

For the life of me, I can't understand why tuning stability would be so bad with a Tiltback Strat neck.  There is no lateral splaying of the strings from the nut to the tuner like a Gibson Explorer, Jackson, Warmoth Vortex or Warmoth headstock.  It's a straightline from the nut to the tuner  The downward pressure across the nut is evenly spread and at an even angle.  I've researched and unfortunately, no one makes an LSR type nut for a tiltback or Gibson pattern headstock.  A German did a couple of years ago, but no longer.....sigh.

If there is a frustration that I have with Warmoth, it is the side adjust mechanism that comes with the Modern construction necks, as it doesn't allow for a modified neck heel.  After doing 2 guitars with this mod, I can't go back.  I pick up my Strat every once in a while and that corner digs into the palm of my fretting hand when in the upper register.  I don't play the Strat much anymore.  I understand a Modern construction neck can be ordered without the side adjust, but it's an upcharge of $45 and trussrod access is then only at the heel....ughhh.  I would already be building a 7/8 setup if there was an option for a Vintage / Modern or Modern with headstock trussrod access, neck option.  Sighhhh
 

stratamania

Senior member
Messages
9,486
The tiltback although the strings will be relatively straight they also go over quite an angle at the nut. That is the main issue with stability compared to your Warhead neck with LSR.

Have you adjusted the nut slots in the tiltback at all and used something like the product Nut Sauce?

On the tiltback you might be better off with a Floyd Rose locking nut and put it on a body that has a Floyd Rose with Fine Tuners on it.

In terms of the heel at the body, perhaps give the Warmoth contoured heel a try.

At the end of the day there are various solutions to tuning stability but if you really want to be certain and hit a hole in one a Floyd Rose with locking nut would be the way to go.

 

docteurseb

Senior member
Messages
759
Yep, sorry to put it bluntly but this combination sucks horribly (I found out the hard way)

I did a Soloist build last year: Wilkinson tremolo with Tiltback Vortex neck and GraphTech XL nut and Gotoh locking tuners:
https://www.unofficialwarmoth.com/index.php?topic=30158.0

I could not get it to stay in tune well enough with tremolo use, no matter how many times I redid the nut (at least 10 times, I lost track). It's not for lack of smoothing the nut slots and adding nut sauce and other super slippery lubricants..

The Gotoh locking tuners w/o the thumbscrews aren't great either stability-wise (compared to other locking tuners) in that they take longer to settle in and stay in tune. I'm staying away from those too now, but the main issue was the nut/tiltback.
I tried to do everything I could to keep the neck since it was expensive and stained to match the body but ultimately ended up selling it.

I replaced it with a Warhead neck with GraphTech XL nut.
Problem solved, although nut slots required quite a bit of work to get satisfactory results. Next time around I'll get a LSR nut from the get go to save time.
I have a Strat too with Schaller locking tuners, VS100 and graph tech XL nut and it's rock solid.

I still like those 3+3 headstock designs but from now on will only use them with either a Floyd or hardtail.

I suspect that as long as you haven't done any major modification to the neck Warmoth should be able to take it back for Floyd prep. Give them a call. Though between shipping cost and Warmoth prep cost it may be worth checking a local luthier if you have a good one in your area ?
 

docteurseb

Senior member
Messages
759
rauchman said:
(by the way, the cut for the LSR nut was deeper than the shims allowed for in the kit.  Had to order some sleeves of brass shim material at various thicknesses.  Added a couple of layers of brass in, and then shims, and now....perfect!)

Then Warmoth messed up the LSR prep if it was that deep even with all the shims Fender provides. I had the same thing happen to me couple months ago on a showcase neck, they asked to send it back for repair/exchange.
 

TBurst Std

Senior member
Messages
2,668
Have a tilt back (Vortex) with a good nut, locking tuners and a Wilky.  Dive bombing it multiple times puts the B and G strings off 2 - 3 cents.  Not near enough to worry about, as most people’s tuners are not that sensitive to begin with.
PS: I do believe the issue is happening in the bridge block, as I’ve been able to reset the balls in the block and all is good. 
Should probably smooth out those bores a bit.
 

docteurseb

Senior member
Messages
759
That's a great point. In retrospect I shouldn't say this combination 'sucks terribly'.

Looking back I had a very mathematical/engineer-centric view of what was considered 'stable': all strings had to return to perfect pitch measured with a tuner after bending strings and a light tremolo use. My prior build behaved that way so I expected anything else to do the same.
That's insanity. A guitar is in tune if the ear can't tell the difference, not if an imprecise tuner reports 0 cents offset.

From memory my Vortex neck equipped build was around by 5-7 cents on couple strings.
I found out much later that the tuners I used (any Gotoh locking tuner without that locking thumbscrew) take a long time to settle stability-wise compared to Schaller. Of course I was checking stability right after installing/setting up the new nut and stretching strings, most likely way too soon given the performance of those tuners.

It's possible that guitar was in fact stable.
 

Ovader

New member
Messages
2
I was too late in researching the tuning issues with a tilt back Strat headstock as I purchased one several years ago for a long delayed Purple-Black Burst Strat. I will order a Warmoth CBS Strat headstock in the near future to make this project a reality. Undecided what to do with the neck whether to keep it for a rainy day for a possible hardtail Strat project or sell it.
 

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TonyFlyingSquirrel

Senior member
Messages
4,275
IF you have straight string pull, it doesn't really matter if it's a tilt or straight headstock, the secret will be in your nut prep, the Tusq XL nuts are fantastic, but if you have to deepen them to accommodate the setup, I cannot stress enough how important it is to polish those slots and lubricate them to allow them to reduce the friction.  If using this with a tunomatic or flat mount bridge, it won't be overly noticeable, but if using with a tremolo, it is vital.  Adding to that, if using with a tremolo, dive bombs are for the most part out.  If doing some tremolo work, the return to zero setup on your term is your "make it or break it" point.  Not adjusting the mounting posts up or down while under tension, keeping that knife edge/post connection clean and lubed, and blocking it when not in use either with a Trem-Stop like FUTone has or a Tremol-No. 

I've done repair work and setup on all types, and if the conditions are right, you should be able to make most of them stay in tune quite well as long as you're not doing Vai-esque whammy usage.
Good locking tuners like the Schaller/Grovers/Sperzels are all fine for this, even the Planet Waves Auto trims are nice, but they tend to have tall posts that raise the break angle over the nut.  They're ok for tilt backs, but I don't they are low enough for use on straight headstocks if a tremolo is being used.
 

rauchman

Senior member
Messages
795
I saw this thread resurrected.

Wanted to provide some updates on this.

I brought the neck to a local guitar luthier.  He installed a Delrin nut. I'd never heard of Delrin being used as a nut material.  He shaped the nut and nut slots.

The guitar is using a Gotoh 510 narrow space trem.  This setup has the best tuning stability outside of a Floyd Rose.  One of my other builds uses a Wilkenson VS100 with an LSR nut.  Good, but not as good as the Delrin nut and Gotoh and tiltback headstock.

One think I like about the tiltback headstock, is the consistent break angle of the strings over the nut.  Personally, I think the tiltback headstock is superior with a properly designed/cut nut.
 
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