Have you ever suffered from a twisted guitar neck?
Taking proper care of your guitar is recommended to keep it in good working condition. Guitar player beginners should read this too.
Why do guitar necks warp?
Guitar necks warp for a variety of reasons and this article will cover them all.
Necks are made from wood, and because wood is a natural material, it can be subject to changes in humidity and temperature. Warping of some parts of a guitar happens when the equilibrium between moisture in the air and water in the wood is upset, causing the wood to shrink or swell.
Also, improperly storing your guitar when you are not playing it can cause this. We recommend leaving it in its case. You may also loosen the guitar’s string tension a half or whole step down if you plan on storing it for a long time.
A warped neck is no fun because a quality straight neck plays so much better and the guitar tone sounds and music better too!
If you are still wondering why necks warp, this guide explores all the possible reasons and their guitar repair remedies. I would consider it a medium-level difficulty job.
What Is A Warped Guitar Neck?
A warped guitar neck is a type of structural defect in the neck, usually occurring on vintage guitars or guitars that have been poorly maintained. It just means that the neck has bent slightly out of alignment. It may be playable but is rarely tune-able. The defect can cause several problems, such as popping guitar strings from the nut, fret buzz on the fretboard, and difficulty adjusting truss rods.
How to Tell If A Neck is Warped – Look For These Signs And Symptoms
Hold a guitar by the body and look down the neck by the body side to eyeball. Scrutinize it with one of your eyes closed for a more precise 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 end. Please do not hold it from the headstock as this exerts pressure on the neck and leads to false observation.
Alternatively, place the guitar on a level table with the headstock pointing in your direction. Bend on your knees such that your eyes are slightly above the nut. Observe through the length of the neck to see if you can see the top of all frets, and adjusting the truss rod is OK. The guitar neck profile is OK if you can see all frets but hardly the fretboard in between. It is warped if the ends of the frets look like a winding staircase.
What If It Is Just A Slight Warp? Does That Matter? Is It Just Relief?
It depends. One thing to think about is that you may be mistaking a “slight warp” with just neck relief. It would help if you had some neck relief to prevent the buzzing of notes on the bridge and some frets on the fretboard.
Can You Fix A Warped Guitar Neck?
Yes! If the guitar neck is warped, several ways in order to fix it. Keep reading to find out how.
Related – guitar broken neck repair cost.
Warped Or Bowed Neck Repair Costs
The cost of repairing warped guitar necks largely depends on the type and design of the neck joint. For guitar necks that are glued in place and have a glue joint, such as the acoustic type with a sound hole, the price 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 are lower if a factory-made neck is unavailable, but a used donor neck is available. Such repairs price at around $100 or more depending on the make of the donor’s neck. Necks bolted into place on the bottom 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 complete guitar fret replacement. Partial amount re-fret costs about $150, while full neck resets with a re-fret can cost $700. Resetting a neck warp on a traditional dovetail vs. bolt-on joints costs up to $600. The bill gets higher if the repair is on a Gibson acoustic.
How To Straighten A Warped Guitar Neck – Repair Tips
With A Truss Rod
The first thing you’ll need is some tools. As another recommendation from players, I would also recommend this kit from Amazon. It has everything you need for this job and any other related job you might need to do.
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. Eventually, it will twist back to its normal state as the material heats up. The heat also works on the glue, which loosens up and dries once the neck is in the preferred position. Avoid using crude instruments as this may introduce irreparable damages. Instead, it to the local repair shop, as they may have suitable clamping and heating appliances.
Neck twists may also be corrected using the adjustable truss rods. For those who are not familiar with your instrument, the truss road is a metallic rod that runs the neck length. 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 in your hands and examine if it has a plastic plate at the headstock.
- 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 (check out this post on headstock repair too). You may feel the truss rod from the body.
The truss rod or tension rods is your best option when it comes to flattening a twisted guitar neck. You have to 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. At this point, you should decide to visit the local repair shop.
Without A Truss Rod
It is a bit more challenging to do, requiring clamps and heat. I’d strongly recommend watching this video showing the entire process which involves heating the guitar neck with an iron.
Acoustic Guitars Vs. Electric Guitars
The process of repairing this issue is the same between both guitars. Just follow the above for whether or not it has a truss rod, and you should be fine.
Warped Guitar Neck Examples
This video has some crazy examples of warped and twisted guitar necks:
How To Fix a Back Bowed Guitar Neck Or Neck Bow
The back bow is much like a warp, only that the bend propagates in the opposite direction. A neck bow brings the center of the fretboard closer to the strings making it impossible to play some frets. Bowing also introduces some fret buzz and intonation.
Also read – check guitar neck bow how to clean guitar fingerboard Just like with warping, a back bow is effectively corrected using the truss rod or pressure and heat. Once you notice a neck bow, loosen up the truss rod so the fretboard may assume a more-natural tension depending on the guitar string gauge. This process may eliminate the bow. Set the truss rod at the correct tension to avoid recurring the same.
To fix a back bowed 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 damage to your guitar.
A commercial heating blanket is most suited to eliminate a neck bow.
Tools For Fixing Your Twisted Guitar Neck
Need the right tools? We recommend this – Activists Guitar Luthier Tools. Beyond this, you may want a few other things like clamps, some straightedge, etc.
How To Prevent Neck Warping
The most important thing you can do to protect your guitar from neck warping is to ensure it’s away from any sources of heat, humidity, and sunlight when it’s not being played. For example:
- Don’t leave your guitar in the trunk of your car. The heat and the humidity can cause permanent guitar neck shape changes to the wood and lead to neck warping.
- Avoid storing the instrument in the basement or garage environment, where humidity is high – as this increases the chances of warping.
- Don’t leave your guitar in direct sunlight when you aren’t using it, or let it be exposed to excessive heat – like a hair dryer or heating appliance.
Can A Guitar Neck Be Warped If You Remove It?
Yes, but typically not because you removed the neck from the body – mainly because you no longer have strings countering the tension from the truss rod. Without the strings, the truss rod is pulling on the neck, which could cause warping over time. So if you must remove the neck for a while, maybe adjust the truss rod to release some of that tension.
Can A Stand Warp A Neck?
No, just storing your guitar by placing it in a stand should not cause the neck to warp or twist.
Can A Twisted Neck Affect Intonation, Fretboard, And Frets?
Yes, warped necks can affect intonation. The neck, and its corresponding tuning pegs, are the final ‘tuning’ component. Anything out of place will affect the intonation.
Can Heat Warp A Neck?
Yes, heat can warp a neck. But the heat MUST be applied for an extended time to warp the neck. It is possible for heat from lamps, fires, stoves, or pot lights in the home to cause this to happen over time. The best way to prevent it from happening is by investing in a stand and keeping your instrument out of direct contact with any sources of significant heat (except when you are playing the guitar).
Can Saddle Height Cause A Neck Wood To Warp?
No, at least not in my experience. I have never seen or heard tell of saddle height and distance causing this, but I would be interested to hear if someone has had it happen.
Can Tuning Adjustments Warp A Neck?
No, typically not. Warping and twisting are caused by humidity or heat. If it was set up for standard tuning or alternate tunings and you decide to turn it way down, the neck will bow backward, but this is not warping since you can adjust the truss rod easily to correct the issue by introducing straightness to the guitar neck and make it work with that new tuning.
Do Bolt-On Necks Warp Easier Than Neck-Thru?
No, not in my experience. Since most bolt-on necks are made from denser wood than neck thru guitars like maple, it usually means that they are more stable and have minor warping or twisting.
My Guitar Arrived With Neck Warp And Fret Buzz – What Should I Do?
First of all, don’t panic. Personally, during shipping, I expect that this can sometimes happen – especially if it went on a long journey to get to you. Luckily, it is not too hard to fix, as mentioned above. However, if it is beyond fixing, you certainly should try working with the seller and getting a refund.
Will Leaving It Sit Long Warp Or Twist The Neck?
It depends on how you are storing it. If you keep the guitar away from humidity or heat, you should be fine.
Conclusion On Your Warped Neck
If you have wondered why necks warp, we believe you are now better informed – whether you are looking at a complete guitar or a neck from a DIY guitar kit. The strings exert considerable tension than cause curvatures or twisting to the instrument’s neck. Even when the neck string tension is checked, wood is porous and adversely affected by heat and humidity levels and may need to have a good guitar room humidifier. The good news is that most of the deformations are repairable. Try the techniques discussed here the next time you observe a warped guitar neck, relief, twisting, or bowing on the neck of your instrument.