Bonding aluminum to wood.

Discussion in 'Luthier's Corner' started by Benjamin Strange, Apr 10, 2011.


  1. Benjamin Strange

    Benjamin Strange

    Joined:
    Dec 25, 2002
    Location:
    New Orleans, LA
    Disclosures:
    Owner / Tech: Strange Guitarworks
    Hi guys,

    I'm working on building a maple neck with an aluminum fretless fretboard. I did a little research on getting the aluminum to stick to the neck blank, and used a very expensive marine grade epoxy to glue it up. It seemed really strong, at least at first - but as I was cutting the nut slot the entire fretboard just fell right off! Back to the drawing board...

    Upon further research I've discovered that many say the aluminum needs to be chemically treated before gluing, while others say some metal specific epoxies can be used - but none say anything about actually bonding aluminum to wood, only metal to metal bonding. Have any of you guys tried such a thing? How should I go about getting my fretboard to stay bonded to a maple neck? Any ideas?
  2. crentest

    crentest

    Joined:
    Jun 5, 2010
    Location:
    new york, u s a
    i would sugest roughing the surface of the aluminum, if you haven't already, for starters.
    other than that, beats me....
    :bag:
  3. Benjamin Strange

    Benjamin Strange

    Joined:
    Dec 25, 2002
    Location:
    New Orleans, LA
    Disclosures:
    Owner / Tech: Strange Guitarworks
    Yup, did that already.

    The more I read, the more I realize that is going to require some chemical treating. Any oxygen getting to the aluminum will cause it to oxidize, and will slowly kill the bond. I don't have the chemistry knowledge to do this correctly - I may have to abandon this project if I don't find a simple solution.
  4. crentest

    crentest

    Joined:
    Jun 5, 2010
    Location:
    new york, u s a
    good luck!
  5. Register to disable this ad
  6. Beauchene Implements

    Beauchene Implements

    Joined:
    Dec 31, 2007
    Location:
    Maine
    When you look at the failure, did the epoxy stay on the aluminum, or the wood? What kind of wood is the neck blank?

    If the epoxy didn't stick to the aluminum, West System's guide says use 80 grit to provide a surface for the epoxy to "key" into, and use a solvent prior to bonding. Surface Preparation
  7. pilotjones

    pilotjones Supporting Member

    Joined:
    Nov 8, 2001
    Location:
    US-NY-NYC
    First, unless you intend to use nylon tapewounds only, you need to get the aluminum hard anodized (not just plain anodized). Any nickel or SS strings will tear up bare aluminum.

    Next, you need to look up the manufacturers' tech data for any potential adhesive. For industrial marketplace product, you can also call the company and ask to speak to a tech support person or engineer, who can give recommendations for you intended substrates.

    They may tell you about something that's perfect, or may lead you to something such as having (at least simple) anodizing done. Though I haven't had it done for that purpose, I know anodizing is done to promote paint adhesion, and is sometimes referred to by some process brand names such as Alodine.
  8. jobu3

    jobu3 Supporting Member

    Joined:
    Feb 17, 2002
    Location:
    Scranton, PA
    I'm pretty sure Gorilla glue will stick just about anything to anything but it does expand as it hardens.
  9. spaz21387

    spaz21387

    Joined:
    Feb 25, 2008
    Location:
    Portland oregon
    why not cut grooves into the neck blank, then cut a piece in the aluminum that fits into the groove in the neck. almost like a puzzle piece kind of thing.
  10. T-Bird

    T-Bird

    Joined:
    Apr 29, 2007
    Location:
    Finland (Northern Europe)
    Hi.

    If You want to have at least some adjustability on the neck, You can't use glues that harden solid.

    The proportions and cross sections of the materials on wood/aluminium sandwich neck'd Kramers were reversed, but they got it working somehow.

    Flexible epoxies might work, and an acetone soak just before gluing will get rid of the oxide layer.

    If I were You, I'd use a mechanical fastening method as well though.

    Regards
    Sam
  11. bongomania

    bongomania Gold Supporting Member

    Joined:
    Oct 17, 2005
    Location:
    PDX, OR
    Disclosures:
    owner, OVNIFX and OVNILabs
    I like the idea of cutting grooves into both materials so they lock together. As far as glues, I have had fantastic results using PC7 to bond wood to metal, but I can't say for sure that bare aluminum was one of the metals I bonded...
  12. ZolkoW

    ZolkoW

    Joined:
    May 8, 2006
    Location:
    Hungary, EU
    Once I used dark grey Devcon epoxy (for metal) to bond alu to maple, and it was totally stable.
    I made this to check how they behave under warious temperatures, I put it in tre freezer, then on the hot stove.. they didn't fall apart.
  13. grisezd

    grisezd

    Joined:
    Oct 14, 2009
    Location:
    Ohio
    I'm going to second a mechanical fastener. Countersunk screws out of the normal paths of the strings should help. It would also allow you a lot of adjustment and replacemet possibilities if you use only the screws.
  14. Rickett Customs

    Rickett Customs

    Joined:
    Jul 30, 2007
    Location:
    Southern Maryland
    Disclosures:
    Luthier: Rickett Customs...........www.rickettcustomguitars.com
    Also, if you do consider using screws, you should also consider using machine bolts and threaded inserts. Could be interesting.
  15. Molochnik

    Molochnik

    Joined:
    Feb 27, 2011
    Location:
    Chapter 23, 1984
    On aircraft we give the aluminum an alodine treatment. It's (at least) one of the conversion coatings you've been told you need. The most common formulation we use is "Alodine 1201" which is more or less chromic acid. Not something you want to absorb too much of. There is also an alodine pen - "Alodine 1132 Touch N Prep" that you can use, but I have had varying success with them depending on the flavor of aluminum.
    You can get ahold of these through places like Aircraft Spruce, Sky Geek, et al. A simple google search ought to get you a handful of options.
    One problem - Appearance. Alodine is great if you're going to put some paint or powdercoat on top, or if it's going inside another panel, but it can give blotchy/streaky patterns no matter how careful you can try to be on application.

    I think the hard anodizing mentioned earlier might be your best option when considering appearance, unless you only want to treat the bottom where you'll be bonding to the neck.
  16. pilotjones

    pilotjones Supporting Member

    Joined:
    Nov 8, 2001
    Location:
    US-NY-NYC
    You should also consider that aluminum has a thermal expansion coefficient that is very different from the longitudinal coefficient for wood. With an aluminum fingerboard out front, you can expect the neck to bow forwards if you play an outdoor winter gig, and to bow backwards if you play out in the summer sun.

    This is not just theoretical. Kramer owners have reported these effect with their hybrid necks, which have a moderate imbalance of materials about the neutral axis. For your construction, with is greater imbalance, it would be expected to be worse.
  17. Jaco D

    Jaco D

    Joined:
    Nov 19, 2006
    Location:
    Toronto, Ontario, Canada
    I was thinking along this line as well. The only variant I have in mind is to have the screws under the dot markers. The dot markers might have to be positioned offset (or offset in alternating intervals) of the fretboard center line to avoid hitting the truss rod.
  18. Ruckus_Instrmts

    Ruckus_Instrmts

    Joined:
    Jan 5, 2010
    Location:
    NSB Central Florida
    I've glued Al to Al by "wet" sanding the aluminum while the epoxy is on it(if that makes sense). Worked damn well for me. I have worked with Alodine before but that was strictly for paint/primer adhesion. I've also seen studies where the type of wood had a drastic effect on, not only the bond to the aluminum, but also had serious corrosion complications as well.
    Here is a link to a confusing description of some of those tests.
    Handbook of aluminum bonding ... - Google Books
  19. bongomania

    bongomania Gold Supporting Member

    Joined:
    Oct 17, 2005
    Location:
    PDX, OR
    Disclosures:
    owner, OVNIFX and OVNILabs
    Glad you mentioned the Kramers, as it's true--for all the stability that a metal neck was supposed to offer. the reality is their intonation and action changed dramatically with temperature changes.
  20. Benjamin Strange

    Benjamin Strange

    Joined:
    Dec 25, 2002
    Location:
    New Orleans, LA
    Disclosures:
    Owner / Tech: Strange Guitarworks
    Yeah, I've worked on some Kramers before - and they most certainly don't stay straight! This instrument I'm building is actually a guitar, not a bass, so there's less neck to move, plus only the fretboard is aluminum, while the neck is 1" thick quartersawn maple. I'm not terribly concerned about it moving on me much.

    As for anodizing or chemically treating the board, the trouble is that it has to be DEAD flat - and there's no way to make sure it's flat before it goes on the neck under string tension. I do all my leveling work on a custom built neck jig, which simulates string tension and allows me to make sure everything is super accurate. However, if if were to anodize the aluminum before it goes on the neck, all that anodizing will be removed once I start leveling the fingerboard. Yes, this may help with bonding to the wood, but from most accounts it seems that adhesives just ain't going to cut it anyway.

    I'm starting to think along the lines of a mechanical approach. Right now I'm thinking of screwing it down, using screws in between the outermost strings, right at the typical places fingerboard markers are. Perhaps a countersunk screw, and then cover the screw top with a round aluminum inlay, which would then almost disappear when I level the board. Hmmm...
  21. questionmark?

    questionmark?

    Joined:
    Nov 15, 2010
    I'm starting to think along the lines of a mechanical approach. Right now I'm thinking of screwing it down, using screws in between the outermost strings, right at the typical places fingerboard markers are. Perhaps a countersunk screw, and then cover the screw top with a round aluminum inlay, which would then almost disappear when I level the board. Hmmm...[/QUOTE]

    if you screw it down to the wood the expansion of the metal will bent the whole neck, somehow the one edge of the metal must be free (near to the pick ups), the screws must have some kind of bigger holes also for the same reason. very interesting thread by the way :hyper:

Share This Page