Finicky Bass Upgrade -- do I need a new neck?

Discussion in 'Hardware, Setup & Repair [BG]' started by ijmus12, Apr 4, 2020.

  1. ijmus12


    Apr 4, 2020
    Hi all,
    I have a 2008 Squire Affinity J Bass that is in big need of an upgrade. Since I want to stay in the J Bass family, I thought it would be fun to use my Squire for parts and replace some pickups/hardware/refinish the body instead of shelling out for a totally new one and throwing the old guy out.

    The biggest question I have right now is whether or not I should replace my neck to improve playability: I've struggled with the action on this bass for quite some time. I've tightened my truss rod (gradually) to the point that it gives a ton of resistance and creaks sometimes when I try to tighten further. I'm pretty sure it'll snap with anything more, but I still have a bit of an up-bow in the neck. With my saddles just about all the way down, my E string is still 4-5mm off the fretboard at the 12th fret (I'm going to swap my bridge with a fender vintage series bridge, but I don't think that'll have a huge impact on the action). Not unplayable, but definitely not ideal for the way I like to play. I've considered the issue may be with the nut, but the string height is pretty ideal already on the first few frets.

    Aesthetically, I have no complaints with my neck as is. I don't mind spending the extra $200 on a quality neck if it'll give me a noticeably better instrument, but I want to consult the expertise on this forum to make sure my current neck is as toasted as I think it is before I make that investment!

    Many thanks.

    Attached Files:

    • neck.jpg
      File size:
      711.4 KB
  2. vid1900


    Dec 12, 2019
    Without seeing the whole bass, from that pic, I'd say you need a neck shim rather than a new neck.
  3. ijmus12


    Apr 4, 2020
    I'm unfamiliar with that term/procedure, but I'd be happy to grab some more pics to show you what's going on! What angle are you looking for?
  4. vid1900


    Dec 12, 2019
    Same side angle, but we need to see from the nut all the way to the bridge.
  5. ijmus12


    Apr 4, 2020
    here's my best attempt at getting the whole thing from the side!

    Attached Files:

  6. ijmus12


    Apr 4, 2020
    I've done some research and it looks like a shim could definitely be a solution to this issue. Thank you for your suggestion! Do you recommend a particular product (I see stewmac makes a 1° shim for not too much) or should I just shove a few pieces of cardstock in there? Thanks again for your help.
  7. don't use cardboard or any paper stuff, it will compress over time leaving you right back to where you started..Use hardwood can buy it at Lowes or home depot.. probably cheaper than stew mac...
  8. ijmus12


    Apr 4, 2020
    awesome, noted.

    one last question -- I'm worried about the creaking in my truss rod I talked about in my first post...I'm wondering if I should bite the bullet and just upgrade the neck while I'm messing around with this bass. Do you think it's best to just replace the neck and then think about shimming the new one once it's in place, or is it worth it to shim the one I have now? I guess I'm saying that if the truss rod is currently broken, it's not really bugging me...
  9. the truss rod isn't said it turns...yeah sometimes it creaks..put the shim in the neck...cheaper than a neck..also its hard to diagnose this without having it, and measuring the relief but that action is that can be fixed with a shim..
    ijmus12 likes this.
  10. ijmus12


    Apr 4, 2020're not wrong. I'll look into getting that shimmed up and hopefully we'll be on a path to less atrocious action! Thanks for your help.
    gebass6 likes this.
  11. vid1900


    Dec 12, 2019
    You might try something around the house first, just to get a feeling about how much shim you need before you order from SM.

    It looks very off in the first pic, so you might try a slice of credit card in the bridge side of the pocket.

    Then string it back up and see if that's enough.

    If not, you will have a feel if you need 2 slices of credit card, or maybe 1 slice plus a Fender "thin" pick - you get the idea.
  12. bpc


    Mar 29, 2016
    Central Scotland
    I have to disagree with this. Good luck compressing a small piece of business card. Cardboard is wood that has been pulped and reassembled into something that has the wood fibres much more compressed than the original wood. Many people recommend business cards for shims and my experience is that they work just fine, for years and years after fitting.
    Vinny_G, RattleSnack and JLS like this.
  13. JLS


    Sep 12, 2008
    Albuquerque, NM
    I setup & repair guitars & basses
  14. luciens


    Feb 9, 2020
    This looks to me like the classic "ski jump" that can happen in Fender necks. I've personally had a couple and that's generally what they look like when this kind of thing happens.

    A shim won't fix it - it'll raise everything up allowing you to get the action lower at the heel, but it's still going to be stiff and high-action in that dipped part of the board. That might help though.

    The truss rod probably won't be able to get rid of it either, as the bulk of its action is centered further up than where you have this dip.

    One thing you can try is lower-tension/light guage strings. This may reduce the stress on the neck enough to let some of that relief out and they'll be easier to fret in general even if the action is still kind of high.

    I don't see enough wood on that fingerboard to fix it by replaning it unfortunately, so I don't think that fix is really available.

    So I'd try the lighter strings idea first. If that's still unacceptable, you might end up just having to replace the neck altogether....

    As for the shim material, I agree that something like Maple veneer from the hardware store is the best material. OTOH, I've also used business cards and such in a pinch and they work pretty well too.

    Lownote38 and ijmus12 like this.
  15. ijmus12


    Apr 4, 2020
    I'm pretty confident the truss rod won't do it, I've already played with that pretty extensively. I'll try making a shim as soon as I can (we've got a decent woodshop here and plenty of scrap so it shouldn't be hard find something decent to make one out of) and if that doesn't seem to make it better I'll just bite the bullet and order a new neck. I'm definitely willing to do that for better playability, I want this bass to be my favorite again! I'll update the thread with the success/failure of the shim as soon as I get around to it.
    vid1900 likes this.
  16. ijmus12


    Apr 4, 2020
    I tried shimming with some cardstock just as a test before moving to making one from wood...and I'm pretty sure I just need a new neck. With the shim in and the saddles adjusted high enough for the open string to ring true, the action over the 12th fret was still pretty bad (see attached image) and most frets above 12 were dead. Taking the guitar apart, I also noticed some small cracks in the fingerboard and rust on a few frets. I think it's time to throw in the towel and invest in a new neck! Does anyone recommend a certain vendor/manufacturer? I'm hoping to not spend more than $200 but I don't want to cut any corners.
    12th fret.jpg
  17. vid1900


    Dec 12, 2019
    Can you take the neck off,

    adjust the truss rod so the neck is flat against a 24" straight edge, metal rule or bubble level

    and give us a side shot?

    Vinny_G and CatchaCuda like this.
  18. ijmus12


    Apr 4, 2020
    I'm assuming you want the side shot with the strings back on? I'm a little worried since I've already tightened the truss rod quite a bit (and it's starting to creak/resist) but I suppose there's no real harm in breaking it at this point if I'm most likely going to upgrade it anyhow. I'll get that shot for you in a couple minutes!
  19. vid1900


    Dec 12, 2019
    Nope, all I'd like to see is if the neck is straight. (there might be a little fall-away on the 16-20th frets).

    Then if it is straight, we will re-mount the neck, while it's still set straight (this will make sense in the long run, trust me, lol)

    First, let's see if the neck is straight.....
    ijmus12 likes this.
  20. ijmus12


    Apr 4, 2020
    Gotcha! I played with the rod and got it to here, which looked flat to the naked eye. I was able to pass a piece of paper between the frets and the level without resistance between the 10th and 16th frets (or so). Tightening the truss rod helped but I was unable to tighten by hand any further (even with aggressive pressure), which seemed like the smart place to stop. 0.jpg 2.jpg 1.jpg
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