Adding threaded neck inserts

Discussion in 'Luthier's Corner' started by Rolling Thunder, Nov 24, 2021 at 3:07 PM.

  1. Ok, so a drill press is ideal for this for a few reasons but I don't have one. So I guess this is part "cautionary tale" and part DIY tutorial.

    I needed to add threaded inserts because the screw holes on my WD Music neck are larger than standard Fender holes. I couldn't just use larger screws because the body holes are regular size (smaller). And yes, I could have just enlarged the body holes, but what's the fun in that.


    The inserts are E-Z LOK 8-32 stainless that ask for 1/4" holes but I had to use 5/32" after screwing in the first one. For a hardwood like Pau Ferro 1/4" was so tight I'm glad I didn't split wood anywhere.

    So my tools used are 5/32" bit, bit guide, clamp, and strip of wood to protect frets. Then a dab of epoxy in the drilled holes and inserting the inserts (start with a drill and hand screw to ensure straight threading).

    Long story, worked and the inserts are straight!

    20211124_112549.jpg 20211124_112540.jpg 20211124_114744.jpg
  2. Glad it worked out. I was going to mention a drill guide to get you started straight but you’ve got that covered! I always go up at least one fractional drill size from what’s recommended for those style inserts when going into any kind of hardwood.
    Beej and Rolling Thunder like this.
  3. Typo in my post, 1/4" was too small so I changed it to 5/16", not 5/32". Whoopie daisy....
    bolophonic, staurosjohn and Beej like this.
  4. I tried on a piece of scrap pine and 1/4" worked fine. I was terrified how much force it took to go into Pau Ferro. I immediately unscrewed it and enlarged the holes.

    Edit: I'm going to consider getting a drill press...maybe something from Harbor Frieght. The whole process took about 1.5 hours and with a press I could have done it in 30 minutes.
    Last edited: Nov 24, 2021 at 4:21 PM
  5. Bruce Johnson

    Bruce Johnson Commercial User

    Feb 4, 2011
    Fillmore, CA
    Professional Luthier
    Technical tip:

    Make sure you put a little wipe of some kind of grease on the ends of the neck screws before you thread them into the inserts. Steel screws into stainless inserts can seize up, which is a horrible situation. Almost any kind of grease will help prevent that. Automotive Anti-Seize Compound is the best, but you can use Wheel Bearing Grease, Petroleum Jelly, Vo5 Hair Gel, paste wax.
  6. Dean N

    Dean N

    Jul 4, 2006
    Pittsburgh, PA
    When I did this, the first insert chattered so loudly, it was as if it was screaming in agony. It was really alarming. Similarly, I opened up the hole.

    I got the cheapest tabletop HF press for exactly this procedure and it definitely was worth it; since then, I've used it countless times, for years, and... uh... I've abused the crap out of it. I want a real, vintage, old arn press. But hey, my beater keeps on going...

    This. I used the tiniest dab of hand soap. It made all the difference.
    Clutchcargo likes this.
  7. Lesfunk

    Lesfunk Bootlegger guitars : S.I.T. Strings Supporting Member

    Apr 5, 2007
    Florida USA
    After owning basses with threaded inserts in leu of wood screws, I’m convinced that’s the way to go
    johnnynitro and yodedude2 like this.
  8. yes.. dis-similar metals in contact with another will cause corrosion.
  9. Yes, I've heard of SS hardware and "galling" which is considered a "cold weld" (quoting the internet). I'm going to put a dab of white lithium on my screw tips for this reason (also why I epoxied the insert's outer threads).
  10. -Asdfgh-


    Apr 13, 2010
    Chicken grease too, if you are playing southern rock.

    I tried inserts. I did it wrong and they pulled out. I redrilled and put oak inserts in, and redrilled those. Bass is now fine.
    Last edited: Nov 25, 2021 at 10:38 AM
    Ampslut, tblurker and staurosjohn like this.
  11. Gilmourisgod


    Jun 23, 2014
    Cape Cod MA
    I had to replace the brass inserts in my bolt on Steinberger neck, which was nerve wracking, but it worked. I did use a drillpress.The HF drillpresses are more than good enough for occasional woodworking, basic 1950's tech and manufacturing. Some stuff like the knobs is cheap plastic, but easily upgradeable. Shoot for the middle, fhe full.sized ones probably overkill, the little benchtop ones maybe too limited capacity. Maybe something like this:
    10 in. 12 Speed Bench Drill Press

    Edit: Just watched a review on this, about what you'd expect under $200. Meh. Maybe used American Iron a better option. I have a Craftsman benchtop model circa 1947 that still works pretty well, lots of old drillpresses on Craigslist, flea markets,.etc.
    Last edited: Nov 25, 2021 at 8:11 AM
  12. 2saddleslab

    2saddleslab Supporting Member

    May 30, 2003
    Did the same as a pandemic project. Like you I "winged it" to an extent. But it worked and learned a lot of what to do the next time.
    Neck Swap in Progress
  13. Just to toss it out here, here’s another take on threaded inserts using EZlock inserts for metal, cutting threads in the neck heel and gluing the inserts in. I have not tried this method yet but if or when I decide an already made neck needs inserts I’ll give it a shot.

    Note: I haven’t watched this all the way through for a while. There may or may not be some salty language.
    Ampslut and rickwrench like this.
  14. Dominic D

    Dominic D Habitual Line-Stepper Supporting Member Commercial User

    Mar 9, 2008
    Winter Park, Florida
    DiCosimo Audio
    If you want straight holes, I'd highly recommend avoiding Harbor Freight. I'd look at Wen or Ryobi for a cheap drill press.
  15. This is next on my GAS list:

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  16. Gilmourisgod


    Jun 23, 2014
    Cape Cod MA
    I have an older Pre HF era Central Machinery benchtop drillpress I keep in my garage as well, probably late 80's vintage. Unless QC has dropped massively in recent years, its fully capable of drilling straight holes or any other common light duty woodworking task. Heavy duty metal drilling requires a better tool, but I dont use it for that. About the only gripe I have is the same issue noted in the YT review, the top sheet metal cover is pretty flimsy and tends to rattle when in use. You can probably find something better used, like an old Rockwell/Delta or Craftsman, but given the weight, a local buy off CS makes sense. My rule with HF used to be "nothing with a cord", but I bought a buffer last year and ran the snot out of it for $50, it was worth it. Thing is, ive seen " name brand" tools with identical castings and only peripheral upgrades over HF tools, so a lot of stuff is pretty clearly made in the same factories and just re-branded with a different label and paint job. I see a lot of HF tools on jobsites these days, where they are treated as disposable tools. If you have the cash, obviously get something better, but for basic woodworking, you dont need an expensive full sized drill press.
  17. 2saddleslab

    2saddleslab Supporting Member

    May 30, 2003
    The main issue is not the drill press, although straight holes are certainly required, it's the jig necessary to counteract the neck radius to make sure the neck is level and doesn't shift when being drilled.
    RichSnyder likes this.
  18. A word of caution to people ; be careful not to crush the board or frets down while concentrating on the other side.
  19. MPU


    Sep 21, 2004
    Valkeala Finland
    I clamp two 30mm strips of plywood on the sides of neck heel when drilling holes for inserts. No crushed frets or fretboard and neck stays level.
    Gilmourisgod likes this.
  20. rickwrench


    Oct 29, 2016
    Golden State
    This is what I use most of the time for electrics. Maple (most electric neck hardwoods) will tap threads pretty well. I clean off the pink metal/metal threadlocker and lube up the inserts with titebond before screwing them in. Lots of sizes available, pick the longest.

    On drill presses, the main limiting factor is throat depth. With nearly all bench-top drill presses, you just can't get close to the middle of the body. This can be frustrating.
    Sizing is throat depth x2. So, the typical Craftsman 10" bench-top has a 5" throat.
    Look for radial arm drill presses. The throat length can be extended out to get to the very center of the widest bodies.
    Not especially cheap, but -very- handy with a 17" throat:
    34" Benchtop Radial Drill Press at

    Another item that really comes in handy is a cross-slide vise. Align your holes perfectly.

    Matt Liebenau likes this.
  21. Primary

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