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Adding layer between neck and body

Discussion in 'Hardware, Setup & Repair [BG]' started by thewildest, Mar 14, 2014.

  1. thewildest

    thewildest Supporting Member

    May 25, 2011
    Hi there, before doing this I wanted to consult you. I have a bolt-on custom bass that has too much action for my taste. I have gone to the lowest position the bridge allows and still is too high. The neck is perfectly straight, so I am starting to think about adding a layer of (something, paper/wood) between the neck and the body to bring the neck closer to the strings.

    This thing has 10+ screws on it (it is a Ritter bass). Before I just do it, a few questions:
    1) Is it something easy to do? I mean, If I change my mind and screw this back, will I go back to the original state without any further things to do?
    2) What would be the best material to put between the neck and body?

    I would appreciate your guidance. Thank you
  2. tangentmusic

    tangentmusic A figment of our exaggeration

    Aug 17, 2007
    Try a shim made from a business card in the neck pocket. It may seem too thin, but can make a big difference. You can add another layer or layers if needed. One has always been enough for me.

    Too bad you have this problem on a custom bass...
  3. 96tbird

    96tbird PLEASE STAND BY Supporting Member

    My 1962 jazz with the factory shim of thick paper card. Just one end of the pocket. Angles the neck and is more effective than a full shim. ImageUploadedByTalkBass1394821128.439054.
  4. MVE


    Aug 8, 2010
    If it is a Ritter or any other super high end instrument, you should probably just email Jens Ritter and ask him.

    But, to answer your question, I like to use brown paper packaging tape to shim necks. It is very controllable. You can layer it in an offset shingle pattern to make angles; it can be trimmed to any shape; it can be added to either side to tighten up the joint or adjust from side to side... and obviously made from wood pulp.
  5. Pilgrim

    Pilgrim Supporting Member

    A shim is the answer. There are numerous threads on TB explaining (and debating) how to make a shim. A little search will reveal all.
  6. thewildest

    thewildest Supporting Member

    May 25, 2011
    Thank you all so much for your prompt feedback. English not being my first language, "shim" is not the kind of word you'd use everyday. Now I know what to look for.
    Regarding a custom bass, this bass was done with multiple personal specifications, it is already loaded with features I consider quite personalized for me. The action is what you would consider "normal" but I will not probably stop until I feel at home with this instrument. I also think i have to learn to overcome the fear of unscrewing the neck :). I can adjust all the rest (bridge, truss rod, electronics), have just never attempted this before.

    Thank you!!!
  7. walterw

    walterw Supportive Fender Gold Supporting Member Commercial User

    Feb 20, 2009
    shimming is indeed no big deal if done right (like 96's example, a little on one end makes more difference than a lot over the whole pocket) but i'd be annoyed at an expensive custom bass that didn't arrive with full adjustability at the bridge out of the box.

    are you sure the neck isn't too up-bowed, throwing off your perception of the string height?
  8. thewildest

    thewildest Supporting Member

    May 25, 2011
    I have observed it carefully. Close to the nut the action is ideal, towards the bridge goes very high. I can assume that any adjustments in the truss rod will make the notes on the first few frets buzz/mute. The neck really looks straight and if I "tap" a string at the 12th fret the space between the string and frets is 1/2 mm along the neck.

    I will take my time, saw a few articles here in TB that explain this perfectly. I will go easy with a full shim and a small one on the pocket's 'bridge side', the depth of a business card.

    Saw some people using credit cards, but I would stay away from aluminum/plastic as they will change its properties on the long run and could 'adapt' to the space originally given, making the neck become loose... Not good

    I will try documenting this so if i am successful I can bring encouragement to other newbies like me.
  9. 96tbird

    96tbird PLEASE STAND BY Supporting Member

    The full flat shim is unnecessary. I have tried them and you end up building an unsightly gap between the heel and pocket. Angling just works better. The more I think about it the above mentioned ADHESIVE PAPER TAPE method is fantastic. Lay it thick at the neck say six layers and reduce it by a layer or two as you move toward the neck side. Nearly perfect angle.
  10. thewildest

    thewildest Supporting Member

    May 25, 2011
    Well, took the time, unscrewed the beast, shimmed the neck pocket, put it back together... Great success!

    Since the neck was perfectly straight and the nut allowed to bring the whole neck up, I used 1 full size shim and another 1/2 to give the angle mentioned above. It is quite amazing how a fraction of a mm (I would say 1/2mm on the thickest part of my shim) recovers almost 2mm of action, I gather that the 1/2 shim creates an angle that makes this effect.

    I had to tweak the bridge a little bit as the thinner strings buzzed a little, but very little, it was right on.

    Thank you all for your great and generous advice, this forum is really great.
  11. 96tbird

    96tbird PLEASE STAND BY Supporting Member

    Nice. Now that you have it done, And see how the geometry works to add so much with so little, think about this:

    You got 2mm. The thickness of the FULL shim, about .025mm if it was a business card, was the full shim's effect. Close to nothing: it can only raise the neck by how thick it is.

    The rest came from the partial shim, 1.975 mm. As you can see the full flat shim is nearly useless but adds a more perceptible unsightly gap at the joint. Even now, if you took it out and left the part shim in, you would barely notice the difference at the bridge but your heel joint gap would be almost imperceptible.
  12. JustForSport


    Nov 17, 2011
    ^^- great explanation.
  13. johnson79


    Jan 8, 2010
    Lancaster, PA
    I put a shim of 2 business cards in my neck pocket. It made a big difference. I may actually remove one. Really easy to do, just be careful.
  14. Lownote38


    Aug 8, 2013
    Nashville, TN
    Yes. If you angle the neck, the radius created gets larger as you get further away. As a result, when you get to the bridge, you'll get more height in the saddles than the height of the shim.
  15. bassbenj


    Aug 11, 2009
    I want to be the voice of caution here! You are dealing with a Ritter!

    A lot of the talk here on TB is the old school Fender neck shim thing. This is not a big deal. Traditionally all you do is take the neck off and shove a piece of a matchbook cover from a dive bar in there. tighten the neck back up, make a few adjustements and be on your way!

    The Ritter is a top end instrument. I would NOT recommend the traditional approach to it! It does not have a "Fenderish" neck pocket. It's large and odd shaped with a million screws. It's designed to really make a good contact with the body and you want to keep that!

    Your first idea was sort of right. A large piece of "something" to raise the neck up. While this is the usual noob idea for neck "shimming" it's usually wrong to a point. And that's because it takes too much "shim" thickness to get the amount of rise that is usually needed.

    So that means you'll need to tilt the neck slightly (it does NOT take much... there is a LONG lever arm there) back to make the line of the strings hit the bridge a slightly higher place so the saddles can be raised to match it andthen lowered to adjust action.

    So what I'd suggest is to find a nice piece of thin hardwood veneer. Maple is good. Cut it to exactly fit the neck pocket screw holes and all. Then try it. It most likely will not be enough height. Then carefully you need to sand that shim into a wedge shape to tilt the neck as needed. It will take some elbow grease and trial and error. When it's done it should not only fix the action, but also keep that excellent joint contact that Jens put in there as well.

    If it's too visible you can stain it light or dark on the edges to keep from being so noticeable.

    Good Luck. Luckily this sort of mod is reversible and not dangerous to the bass so a lot of fear is not required.
  16. 96tbird

    96tbird PLEASE STAND BY Supporting Member

    Benj, he didn't say it was a Ritter. Someone else said IF ITS A RITTER. OP just said it was a custom built.

    I doubt Ritter would shop a bass with this problem. Just not in the resin of reality.
  17. JustForSport


    Nov 17, 2011
    From OP's 1st post:
    "This thing has 10+ screws on it (it is a Ritter bass)."
  18. JoeWPgh


    Dec 21, 2012
    On a Fender, I've found simple masking tape to be a great solution to a ramped shim. Use 1" tape. 3 thicknesses at the butt of the pocket, then 2 layers, then one at the opening. This can even be too much. To maintain the same action, you 'll need to raise the saddles +/- 3/16". It maintains decent neck/body contact as it's simple straight line geometry. It's paper tape which will compress under tension and conform to the ramp.
  19. 96tbird

    96tbird PLEASE STAND BY Supporting Member

    Well it's bound to happen again, many more times. I'm wrong. Apologizing. How the heck did I miss it twice. Time I mosey off to the hazelnut hotel.

    So, the moral of this story is that even a custom bass by a coveted builder can't be perfect. Hmmm. That and I am blind.

    As for paper tape, it's a great idea. And in reality, it's WOOD! :D
  20. I think it would be best to call/email Ritter about it. This is not something that should need doing on a high end instrument like this.