Guitar necks become warped for several different reasons, including heat and humidity. Thankfully, this is an issue that can be fixed. Whether the neck is twisted up or twisted down, one side of the neck is lower than the other, and as you can imagine, this has an impact on how your guitar sounds.
Getting a warped guitar neck repaired can be very expensive, but professional repairs are not always necessary. There's a DIY method for everything these days, including how to fix a warped guitar neck. Following the guide below can help you repair your guitar neck without costing you a dime.
Important note: Please always seek advice from a professional luthier before tinkinging with your guitar. You’re solely responsible for any work you do on your guitar.
Gather the Necessary Tools
First up, you'll need to find the tools you need. These are all things you'll more than likely have around the house, and if not, a friend or neighbor surely will. Here's what you'll need:
- Cradle Block
- ¼ Inch Hollow Trough
In addition to these tools, you'll need time. Be sure to set aside an uninterrupted part of your day that you can dedicate to fixing your guitar.
It is important to understand that there is a possibility that you may damage your guitar during this process. With that being said, if you have an expensive guitar or do not fully trust your abilities, then you may want to consider getting your guitar professionally repaired.
But if you have faith in your own repair skills, continue on to the next step and get the process underway.
Check Both Ends of the Guitar Neck
First, check out your guitar neck to see how warped it is. This is best done at eye level, with your guitar laying on a flat surface. It's also important to be in a well-lit area. You want a clear vision of what you're working with as far as damage goes.
What you're looking for here is a variation of shadows cast by your strings. If your guitar is not warped, you will only see small dips cast down from your strings to your fretboard.
Sometimes the whole neck of the guitar is not warped, but just part of it, or only misalignments in the fretboard. This will cause similar out of tune notes and is easier to repair, so it is always a good idea to make sure this isn't the case before going on with a repair.
Also, don't judge the amount of warping only by the wood on the neck or fretboard. There is natural wear and tear to the fretboard that's just a result of playing the guitar. This will essentially make the guitar neck appear to be warped even if it isn't.
After you check the guitar neck from the bridge, you will want to repeat this process from the headstock looking towards the body. This will give you a second perspective and give you a better idea of how warped the neck actually is.
Do a Straightedge Test to Get a Precise Look
If you completed the first step and still believe that your guitar neck is warped, then you should conduct a straightedge test to get a better look and see which way the guitar is twisting.
Eyeballing this only allows you to see any obvious signs of warping, taking out the straightedge to actually measure will add precision to this observation.
To check the guitar neck with a straightedge, you will want to place the guitar on a surface that is both level and stable. You can then use the strings of your guitar as a straightedge.
To do this, you should press down on the first and twelfth frets of the fretboard down on the sixth string. When you press down, there should be a very small gap of about .4mm between the string and the fretboard.
Then, press down at the eighth fret and the highest frets on the sixth string. When you do this, the string will hopefully lie flat along the midpoint of the board.
After that, you should press the sixth string at the first fret and the last fret. If a small gap is presented that is larger than .4mm, then your neck is warped.
Repeat This Test with a Ruler
Breaking out the ruler is going to add even more precision to your view and will give you a better idea as to where the warping needs attention.
To complete this step, take out a metal ruler that is straight and place it flat on the fretboard. Sometimes, the misaligned frets are off by so little. It's hard to see or recognize. When you put down the ruler, you will be able to easily see this because the ruler will be able to rock back and forth like a seesaw.
Prepare to Remove the Fretboard
Keep the guitar on the flat and stable surface. Empty any old water out of the iron and add fresh water. Preheat the iron and make sure it's on the steam setting. Use the steam to gently loosen up any glue that's holding together the neck and fretboard.
From there, you are going to take your hammer along with your scraper to gently dig under the fretboard to separate it from the neck. To make it easier, you can even clamp down the neck of the guitar with a clamp that has rubber tips. Clamping isn't necessary but will stabilize the guitar, which will, in turn, make prying the fretboard a little easier.
This is the step where you are going to be most careful. It is very easy to mess this step up and make the condition of your guitar worse, causing irreparable damage. But, it's necessary for the process of repairing a warped guitar neck but does require precision and care.
Remove the Fretboard from the Neck
To start this step, warm your iron up to the hottest setting. Once the iron has fully heated itself, then you are finally ready to start gently placing it along the top of the fretboard. The steam is not going to loosen the fretboard instantly. It should take somewhere around five minutes of constant heat in order for the fretboard to be properly loosened.
If you do try to pry off the fretboard too early, then you run the risk of damaging the neck as you pry it off.
When the glue is finally properly loosened, take the scraper and gently pry it in between the fretboard and the neck.
You can do this in multiple locations because this will help take the fretboard off in one motion.
One important thing to note – the fretboard and neck of your guitar are going to become very hot in this process. To avoid burning yourself in this process, you should wear some protective gloves for this step.
Gently Reshape with a Hammer
To start this step, the glue of your neck should be loosened, and your fretboard should be slightly elevated from the neck. To go from there, take your hammer and gently tap the scraper while it is placed in between the fretboard and the neck. Be gentle yet firm in your taps, and continue tapping until your scraper goes all the way through the far side of the neck.
During this step, make sure the scraper isn't angled. Keep it level and at a 90-degree angle with the neck of the guitar. If you start to shove the scraper in on an angle, you run a high risk of breaking the neck as you will be applying uneven pressure.
Also, take your time with this step, this can be one of the longer steps of the process, and if you try to risk it, you may slip up and crack either the fretboard or the neck.
Continue this process along the fretboard and do not skip any areas. You should move your scraper down so that you are not leaving any area of the neck unscraped. While you are moving along with this, keep your iron handy because, as mentioned above, this is a long process, so the glue may start to dry.
When you get about halfway down the fretboard, you will likely notice that the fretboard is starting to wiggle. Don't make the mistake of trying to pry it off with your hands.
Instead, stick to the course and continue to work slowly and precisely. If you try to manually pry off the fretboard, your guitar will have more serious issues than just the warping and be damaged in the process.
Cut Your Cradle Block
Take out a tape measure and find the distance of the area of your neck that is warped. This is going to be the height of your cradle block.
You will want this cradle to be made out of any hardwood and should be about five inches long and one inch wider than the neck of your guitar.
Hollow Out a Trough
Take the cradle block and notch it along the top. This will make a level trough that your guitar will be able to rest itself on. The reason behind this is to prevent any abnormal forces that could cause potential damage to the neck as well as to refrain the instrument from slipping out of place while you are working on it.
You don't need a deep trough. About a quarter of an inch should hold the guitar in place perfectly. A trough that's too deep will end up putting additional stress on the neck, leading to inevitable fractures.
Cut a Tension Block
This step of the process is pretty easy but at the same time is very important. Here, you should take a two by four and cut it to be around six to eight inches long. Mark the very middle of the wooden block so there are three inches on each side. If your wood is longer and allows for more than three inches, it will need to be cut down.
Once that mark is made, measure out two inches on either side of that middle mark and make two new marks.
The mark that was placed at the midpoint is where the headstock of the guitar will overhang. Then the two other marks that were made are where the tension rods will be added.
Add the Tension Rods
In this case, tension rods are codewords for nails. Take your hammer and nail in both of the nails at the two marks that are on either side of the midpoint. Make sure that you penetrate all of the ways through the block of wood.
Then, to shape the tension rods, take out a pair of pliers and make the pointy end of the nails point towards their corresponding outside ends of your board.
Secure Your Working Space
The first end of your workspace should have a clamp that is holding down the tension block. Pick the neck up and put the cradle underneath it, and clamp down the body of your guitar so it is firmly attached to the base of your work area.
To prevent any damage from clamps, it is a good idea to put a small piece of rubber or cardboard in between the clamps and the instrument.
Attach the Tunings to The Tension Rods
With your guitar fully supported in your workstation, insert your thickest guitar string into the A and B tuning pegs. These are the middle pegs on either side of the headstock.
Then you will want to wrap the string around the top of the peg a few times to ensure that it is firmly in place. After that, you should take each of the loose ends and bring them around the pegs' closest edge and down the tension rods.
Adjust the Tuning Pegs
In this step, you can play around with the tuning pegs a little bit to tighten or loosen them. This is essentially the part where you are actually repairing the warp in your guitar. You are adding tension to the neck that will force it to mold any way that you choose.
You are going to want to have your straightedge on the neck of the guitar for this step, as this is going to be how you gauge whether or not you are fixing the warp.
You may have to feel this step out and make some adjustments as you go along. You might be adding too much tension to one side or not enough tension to make the wood bend. Either way, the straightedge will be able to give you an idea of how you are doing.
Apply More Heat
With the guitar still laying down in the clamps, lay the straightedge flat down on the neck. Then take your iron and lay it flat on the straightedge. It is a very good idea to use the straightedge for this step as this will assist in evenly distributing the heat onto the neck.
This is going to need some time, about three to four hours. After this extended time of constant heat, the wood is going to become more ductile, meaning that it will mold back into the shape that it is supposed to be.
After you remove the heat after three or four hours, allow the wood to sit in the clamps for about a day. This will allow the wood to go from being bendy under the heat to durable.
If you remove the wood from the clamp too soon, the wood may still be bendy, and you will move the neck right back out of its place. So to be safe, say a full day of cooling should be good for this step.
Reattach the Fretboard And String Your Guitar
After you wait the day for the wood to cool off, you are ready to reattach the fretboard. This can be done by evenly distributing some glue on the neck and placing the fretboard under some clamps for a while for it to dry.
Once the fretboard is fully glued back on, you just need to reattach your strings, and then you are ready to resume playing.
How to Fix a Warped Guitar Neck, Final Thoughts
It is never fun to realize that your guitar neck may be warped. The most common sign of a warped guitar neck can be noted that are constantly sounding out of tune.
It is not all that hard to prevent a guitar neck from becoming warped. Just remember that you should keep it out of the heat for too long, store the guitar in places that are not too moist and loosen the strings if you plan on storing the guitar away for an extended period of time.
It is a process to fix a warped guitar neck, so doing your part to prevent it can save you some stress and money. But, keep in mind that if you find yourself in this situation and do not fully trust your ability to fix the warped neck, then you should hire a professional to repair it to prevent you from causing any further damage.
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