Taking proper care of your guitar is recommended to keep it in good working condition. This means not exposing it to weather extremes such as rain and heat for long periods. Wires should also be loosed a bit when storing the guitar for long periods. However, you cannot completely eliminate the effects of weather elements and string tension. Both factors often cause warping, bowing, or twisting of the neck leading to horrible rattles and buzzes.
If you are still wondering why do guitar necks warp, this guide explores all the possible reasons and their remedies.
How to Tell if a Guitar Neck is Warped
Distorted sounds in your guitar can be caused by various reasons. For instance, this happens if the slots in the nut are cut too low. Too wide slots also lead to rattles, especially when playing open strings. The other common cause for rattling is a warped neck. If the wires lie directly on the first few frets, chances are that the nut slots are cut too low or the neck is bend. Too low nut slots are easily observable to the eye and corrected using superglue. However, you will have to eyeball the neck to tell if it is warped.
To eyeball a guitar, hold it by the body and look down the neck by the bass side. Scrutinize it with one of your eyes closed for a clearer focus. Repeat this procedure by observing the neck from the treble side of the fingerboard. The guitar is warped if the middle of the neck is higher than the body and headstock ends. Do not hold the guitar from the headstock as this exerts pressure on the neck and lead to false observation.
Alternatively, place the guitar on a table with the headstock pointing in your direction. Bend on your knees such that your eyes are slightly above the guitar nut. Observe through the length of the neck to see if you can see the tops of all frets. The neck is okay if you can see all frets but hardly the fretboards in between. It is warped if the ends of the frets look like a winding staircase.
Warped Guitar Neck Repair Costs
The cost of repairing warped guitar necks largely depends on the type of guitar and design of the neck joint. For guitar necks that are glued in place such as the acoustic type, the cost of repair is prohibitive. In most cases, the neck is irreparable thus warranting a full-neck replacement. Bills for such repairs can run up to $500 or more which may not be manageable.
Repair prices get lower if a factory-made neck is unavailable but a used, donor-neck is available. Such repairs cost around $100 or more depending on the make of the donor-neck. Necks that are bolted into place require less labor and are thus less expensive A Taylor bolt-on, for instance, costs about $250 if no binding is required.
Neck warps may also be repaired during a partial or full fret replacement. A partial re-fret costs about $150 while full neck resets with a re-fret can cost up to $700. To correct a warp during re-fretting, the fretboard is flattened and a compound radius introduced. Resetting a warp on traditional dovetail joints costs up to $600. The bill gets higher if the repair is done on a Gibson acoustic.
How To Fix A Warped Guitar Neck
Twisting in a guitar is the deformity that sets one side of the neck lower than the other. Partial twisting is manageable as it does not affect the playability of a guitar. However, there is a need to straighten up a twist if it gets large. The most popular corrective action is planing the fretboard so the wood becomes level. Planing a twisted neck involves some degree of technicality. Since wood has to be removed, calculations on neck thickness and the size of the warp are important. Planing is not recommended if the twist develops on a new guitar as the problem may recur. The technique is most appropriate for an old neck that has already set and stopped twisting. Unfortunately, some neck thicknesses will not allow you to re-plane.
Heat and pressure have effectively been used to straighten wood in carpentry. The same technique works perfectly for twisted guitar necks. The process involves clamping the neck on both ends and applying heat to it partially. As the material heats-up, it will eventually twist back to its normal state. The heat also works on the glue so loosens up and dries once the neck is in the preferred position. Avoid using crude instruments as this may introduce irreparable damages. Instead, take your guitar to the local repair shop as they may have the right clamping and heating appliances.
Neck twists may also be corrected using the truss rod. For those of you who are not familiar with your instrument, the truss road is a metallic rod that runs the length of the neck. It is used to counter the tension caused by the tightened strings so the neck does not give in.
To perform the procedure, hold the guitar on your hands and examine if it has a plastic plate at the headstock. This is usually placed above the nut and below the strings. Remove the plastic to reveal a screw or hex hole beneath it. Do not panic if your instrument does not have a screw at the headstock. The truss rod may be felt from the body end of the guitar.
The truss rod is your best option when it comes to flattening a twisted guitar neck. All you have to do is twist tighten the screw as you observe the twist. Tighten in small bits as the rod is highly responsive. Stop tightening once the twist levels out. In some instances, tightening will not remedy the problem. It is at this point that you should decide to visit the local repair shop.
How To Fix a Back Bowed Guitar Neck
The back bow is much the same as a warp only that the bend propagates in the opposite direction. A bow brings the center of the fretboard closer to the strings making it impossible to play some frets. Bowing also introduces some buzzing and intonation.
Just like with warping, a back bow is effectively corrected using the truss rod or pressure and heat. Once you notice a bow, loosen up the truss rod so the fretboard may assume a more-natural tension. This may eliminate the bow completely. Set the truss rod at the right tension to avoid recurring of the same.
To fix a back bowed guitar neck using pressure, remove it and put it on a bench. Clamp it on both ends and subject it to some heat. Only apply enough heat to soften the glue as too much of it introduces irreparable damages. A commercial heating blanket is most suited to eliminate a bow.
If you have been wondering why do guitar necks warp, we believe you are now better informed. The strings of a guitar exert considerable tension than cause curvatures or twisting to the neck of the instrument. Even when the tension is checked, wood is porous and adversely affected by heat and humidity. The good news is that most of the deformations are repairable. Try the techniques discussed here the next time you observe a warp, twisting, or bowing on the neck of your instrument.