Are multi-wood necks more prone to warping?

Discussion in 'Luthier's Corner' started by Salem6127, Feb 4, 2023.

  1. Salem6127


    Jan 7, 2021
    While discussing bass stuff with a colleague today, I expressed interest in a certain bass with a 9pc maple/walnut/padauk neck. He said It'd be a "bad investment" because multi-piece necks with different woods have less overall stability than say, all maple necks.

    His logic: As the different woods of the neck age over time with temperate & humidity, they naturally swell/shrink at separate rates which can lead to warpage.

    I know companies like Dingwall guitars use 5pc all-maple necks, citing enhanced stability... Comparing this to my bass with a 5pc maple/walnut neck that constantly needs truss adjustments (much more frequently than my other basses) makes me wonder.


    EDIT: Debunked by the fine members here, gonna give said colleague an earful on Monday.
    Last edited: Feb 5, 2023
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  2. TFM94


    Aug 24, 2020
    I disagree with your colleague. A properly built multilaminate neck has more stability than a single-piece neck. Laminating a neck from strips of the same wood or from different wood species works the same way, both methods enhance stability. Maple, walnut and padauk should be a good combination.

    For this I assume that all parts of the neck are properly dried and the laminating pattern is symmetric. That includes both the species pattern (ABABA) and the wood grain with every other piece flipped, for example ||//||\\|| or //\\||//\\ if you look at the end grain. If there is one strip that wants to bend upwards, there is a corresponding strip that wants to bend downwards. The neck as a whole stays straight.

    MYLOWFREQ Supporting Member

    May 13, 2011
    AFAIK, multi-wood necks have improved stability which is the main idea.
  4. Gilmourisgod


    Jun 23, 2014
    Cape Cod MA
    The exact opposite: a well built multi-lam neck is likely to be more stable than a single piece for the same reason plywood is more stable than solid wood, the plys can be arranged with opposing grain to counteract movement, and the increased glue surface area is much stronger than the wood itself. Any single piece neck is a crap shoot, might be stable, might not. I'm guessing your colleague has never actually built a bass?
  5. Salem6127


    Jan 7, 2021
    Yep, that plywood example was along the lines of what I initially thought. I was only skeptical because of the example in my post regarding my one finicky 5pc neck. Though that bass has seen some s*** before falling into my caring hands, so not surprising.

    He ain't no luthier, but he is one of those guys who thinks he is :smug:
  6. I’d agree with the above. Any piece(es) of wood can have hidden issues and attempt to do an imitation of a pretzel but if the wood is dried well, selected and oriented properly you’ll have a better chance of getting a good, stable neck out of a laminated billet.
  7. GMC

    GMC Supporting Member

    Jan 1, 2006
    Wiltshire, UK
    A solid maple neck is the least stable and stiff construction. Maple isn’t the best material / species for structural strength in my opinion. Compared to wenge or purple heart…it’s really not the stiff at all. It’s why you see a lot of carbon rods in maple necks. A multi laminate maple neck will be a lot stiffer than a solid billet, but to really stiffen it, put some purple heart in there!
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  8. Salem6127


    Jan 7, 2021
    May as well ask since I'm here: Is there a proven stability/tonal difference with "hard rock" maple? I've seen the term come up a few times, but not sure if it's just marketing hype.
  9. Drredplate


    Dec 26, 2022
    High Wycombe
    You are correct any carpentry apprentice will tell you glue two pieces of wood together so that the tendency to warp is opposing in each piece. This is how you make the newell post on an oak staircase!
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  10. Bruce Johnson

    Bruce Johnson Gold Supporting Member Commercial User

    Feb 4, 2011
    Fillmore, CA
    Professional Luthier
    Like the other guys have said, multi-laminate necks are not more likely to warp or be unstable than one-piece necks. If the other things are done correctly, they will be more stable.

    Quick summary:

    There are four things that you must do to make a neck stable. Plus one bonus thing. And that includes both long term stability (permanent warpage) and short term stability (moving with the weather).

    • Select boards that don't have internal stresses
    • Dry the board evenly down to a moisture level to fit your working conditions
    • Align the neck on the board so that the grain lines go straight down the neck and the rings are concave up, symmetrical side-to-side.
    • After the neck is made, it must be completely sealed up against moisture with some kind of penetrating finish. All over, every corner.
    The bonus feature is multi-laminate construction. If you build the neck as laminated strips, and pay close attention to the alignment of the grain and rings on all the strips, it will be more stable. Any tendencies to move will be countered by the other strips.

    But.....Multi-lam construction doesn't allow you to cheat on the other four basic things. If you use a bad board, don't dry it properly, or get the grain and ring alignment wrong, then a fancy multi-lam neck will warp too.

    And the same is true with using quarter-sawn wood and adding carbon fiber bars or other stiffeners. They will help improve the stability if you do the four fundamentals right. If you cheat on the fundamentals, they won't do enough to stop it from warping.

    If you want to dig further into all this, here's a classic thread all about grain and ring alignment in bass necks:

    About That Quartersawn Maple.....
    Last edited: Feb 4, 2023
  11. CryingBass

    CryingBass Just a Fool Whose Intentions are Good Gold Supporting Member

    Apr 8, 2016
    Phil Kubicki ( RIP damn it ) pretty much pushed the laminate neck thing to the max, with legendary success.

    Check out a butcher block table top - nuff said.
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  12. I played multi-piece laminated necks for years, Yamahas with maple/mahogany/maple/mahogany/maple with an ebony fingerboard, and the Alembics with maple with three 1/4" purpleheart strips between the maple plies, with Alembic's standard 1/4" ebony fingerboard on top. Movement was minimal, and one of the Alembics (the older of the two, an '86), I'd check once a year with the feeler gages out of curiosity, and it never moved. Eerie.

    With a tip of the hat to Bruce's tips above, and I'm sure Yamaha and Alembic observed them and then some, IF done right, my experience is that they are exceptionally stable.
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  13. Blueinred

    Blueinred 21st century Genz-Benz guy Supporting Member

    Mar 12, 2009
    Greater Cincy
    It's true as long as you are only playing "hard rock". You can't use it for Country, Jazz, Polka, Or Klezmer.
  14. KenD

    KenD Supporting Member

    Oct 25, 2020
    Vancouver Island
    In general, laminated necks should be more stable, not less. Of course, that's not counting balsa :)
  15. garrett77


    Dec 12, 2009
    Los Angeles, CA
    I could be remembering this incorrectly… in the 90s, G&L instruments had quarter sawn maple necks by default (probably still do), and the boards were cut down the middle and glued for additional stability. I assumed this was to relieve internal stresses, and to give the neck a neutral centerline.

    Edit: I can’t find evidence of this, so likely I’m wrong. I had a Climax and an L-2000 in the 90s. Unfortunately I don’t have either to inspect today…
    Last edited: Feb 4, 2023
  16. Are multi-wood necks more prone to warping?


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  17. Topkat13

    Topkat13 Supporting Member

    Feb 5, 2004
    And his claim was based on?
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  18. It doesn't really matter how many different woods are in the neck. Being multiple pieces is the main benefactor of increased stability.
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  19. Salem6127


    Jan 7, 2021
    If I had an extra ply in my bass' neck for every time I've heard that one :roflmao:
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  20. Thumpin6string

    Thumpin6string Supporting Member

    Apr 25, 2013
    Shoals Indiana
    Saying a multi-laminated neck is more prone to warpage, is like saying plywood has less strength and stability than an equivalent size piece of wood.
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