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Laminate necks: humidity and stability of the lamination

Discussion in 'Basses [BG]' started by FourBanger, Mar 4, 2016.


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  1. FourBanger

    FourBanger

    Sep 2, 2012
    SE Como
    I dunno if its just coincidence or not but nearly every bass I've played recently that has a laminate neck, with the exception of maple with rosewood strips, has felt like the different woods have dried or swollen at different enough rates to cause the joints to be raised and not smooth. Minnesota is a tough place for guitars, very humid in summer and winter heating dries everything the other way. Its a vicious cycle we deal with.

    As of late I've played new and used Warwicks, Ibanez, and ESP/LTD basses with necks of different combinations of woods like wenge, bubinga, etc at different retailers all around town. I can tell you all but one of them had at least one spot where the seam was noticeably uneven to the touch.

    Is this a 'needs to be played in to smooth out' situation or a 'not a good match for changes in humidity' situation?

    I know the neck laminations give structural stability, but when the woods react differently to humidity it seems to cause a new problem altogether.
     
    Last edited: Mar 4, 2016
  2. songwriter21

    songwriter21 I have an obsession for wood. The musical kind. Supporting Member

    Jul 31, 2005
    Sponsored by Hipshot
    I wouldn't worry about it, unless the woods are flatsawn (as opposed to quartersawn). Do research on these, as quartersawn has a much better track record for stability, as the wood is cut from the tree differently. Quartersawn has uniform vertical grain lines running along the neck, and flatsawn has lines going everywhere. First, I had a Japanese Ibanez BTB with a maple/walnut neck. Yes, the woods separated a little with their feel, but the neck relief never changed, if that makes sense. The neck was quartersawn, whereas a Roscoe I had, had a laminated all-maple neck, with only one of the three pieces of maple being quartersawn. That neck moved. The Ibanez never did. I had the Roscoe for not even a year, and the Ibanez for almost 4.
     
  3. FourBanger

    FourBanger

    Sep 2, 2012
    SE Como
    But the edges along the seams as the woods grow or shrink differently would drive me nuts. They don't bother you?
     
  4. rufus.K

    rufus.K

    Oct 18, 2015
    SoCal
    Shouldn't this stop after a few cycles? Sand and reseal....
     
    songwriter21 likes this.
  5. songwriter21

    songwriter21 I have an obsession for wood. The musical kind. Supporting Member

    Jul 31, 2005
    Sponsored by Hipshot
    It didn't bother me because the bass was a serious workhorse.
     
  6. gebass6

    gebass6 We're not all trying to play the same music.

    May 3, 2009
    N.E Illinois
    I don't understand how this could happen.
    All wood is kiln dried so that the moisture is minimized.
    Plus the wood is sealed.
    I have neck thru basses(I guess that's what you are talking about)and NONE of them have this problem.
     
  7. Zooberwerx

    Zooberwerx Gold Supporting Member

    Dec 21, 2002
    Virginia Beach, VA
    Yes, the laminates can expand / contract at differing rates, such is the character of wood. Two of my more memorable experiences:

    *Streamer ProM with a 3 piece wenge neck. I used to minimize the grain lift and ridge (at laminate seams) with #0000 steel wool.

    *Kubicki Ex Factor with 37 piece laminate neck. After a season or two, the back of the neck felt like a washboard. Phil had a cottage industry where, for a fee, he would re-work the neck and re-seal.

    Riis
     
  8. songwriter21

    songwriter21 I have an obsession for wood. The musical kind. Supporting Member

    Jul 31, 2005
    Sponsored by Hipshot
    A...THIRTY-SEVEN-PIECE neck?!?!?
     
    gebass6 likes this.
  9. I live in an extreme climate too. This is very normal for laminated necks that don't have a hard finish e.g. poly. My Ken Smith, Warwick Infinity, Warwick Thumb, and Warwick Corvette $$ all exhibit this tendency. My Dingwall Afterburner also had it. I can feel where the seams are but it doesn't bother me or cause any discomfort.
     
    Zooberwerx and songwriter21 like this.
  10. Zooberwerx

    Zooberwerx Gold Supporting Member

    Dec 21, 2002
    Virginia Beach, VA
    Yes sir! Go to the classified and search "Kubicki"...some sellers have posted some nice up-close shots of the back of the neck. The idea was to provide a desired stiffness without the deadspots.

    Riis
     
    songwriter21 likes this.
  11. I played around with an old Framus Atlantik today with a plywood-like laminate neck. It felt as smooth as any one piece neck I've played, so it can clearly be done properly (if the technique hasn't been lost in the 48-odd years since that Framus was built.)
     
  12. gwangi

    gwangi Supporting Member

    Jul 4, 2009
    Forbidden Valley
    Interesting topic, I have a Zon Legacy Elite VI & a ESP LTD B-206SM, the LTD I received in 2014 and has been a pretty trustworthy bass as far as the neck being stable, it has 2 truss rods in the neck & is maple w/ rosewood laminates.
    Well I've been bragging here on Talkbass for awhile about how stable the neck has been until recently I did a gig in the Caribbeans and when I got back and had my tech set it up because I noticed the neck had been going wacko while out in the Caribbeans, my tech told me the neck totally warped & twist.
    I sent it back to ESP and they verified the neck went bad and told me it was a fluke and this normally doesn't happen so ESP is replacing the entire instrument.
    Honestly any more I'm not sure what to think about necks being stable, I use to love Modulus instruments but I had multiple basses go bad on me due to the phenolic fingerboard shrinking and causing the necks to bow.
    I haven't had any issues with my Zon yet-(KNOCK ON WOOD) but I really thought the ESP was going to be a stable instrument but I was wrong-really disappointing, I guess well see what the replacement instrument does!!!!
     
  13. bikeplate

    bikeplate Supporting Member

    Jun 7, 2001
    Upstate NY
    Owned 3 Roscoes. Two had this issue
     
  14. FourBanger

    FourBanger

    Sep 2, 2012
    SE Como
    Minnesota climate is known for extremes of humidity. Bone dry air in the winter and near tropical mugginess in the summer (thank you 10,000 lakes). It can be hell on a piece of wood to go back and forth twice a year.
     
  15. gebass6

    gebass6 We're not all trying to play the same music.

    May 3, 2009
    N.E Illinois
    Illinois is not that different.
     
    FourBanger likes this.
  16. FourBanger

    FourBanger

    Sep 2, 2012
    SE Como
    I've lived in both, you'd be surprised just how muggy it gets in Minnesota. Worse than anything I've experienced in Illinois. And we know winter is worse all around. Why do I live here again?
     
  17. gebass6

    gebass6 We're not all trying to play the same music.

    May 3, 2009
    N.E Illinois
    I assumed that the farther north you go the less humid it would be.
    I can tolerate the cold.But I HATE THE HEAT AND HUMIDITY!!
     
  18. FourBanger

    FourBanger

    Sep 2, 2012
    SE Como
    Our summers have been hitting the 70s for dew point regularly. That's tropical. With temps in the 90s. That compares to the Everglades. I think the fact that it gets hot here, let alone so humid, is pretty unknown outside the area. The infamous winters lead folks to believe that summer can't be that bad. At least the worst is usually only a month, not all summer.

    Back on topic, it seems like the less the neck is sealed the worse it can get. None of the offending basses I played had really thick finishes on the neck.
     
  19. Different species, and even different cuts of the same species of wood will react to changes in temperature and humidity in different ways, plus time affects them differently. Also, on a neck with a very thin or oil type finish (which ours will fall into: thinner finish) will "telegraph" these variations more than those with very thick, heavy coatings of finish.

    While it can be a bit disconcerting, it is not a structural issue at all, as long as the glue joint remains secure. In the case of our instruments, we are happy to take an instrument back and re-sand to level, then refinish the back of the neck for a minimal cost (we do not consider it a "warranty" issue, just a general "wear & tear" one). Since we went to our present 3-piece construction method we have never had a glue joint fail. Anyone that has one of our basses and has this issue, feel free to contact me here via PM or call/e-mail me at the shop and I will see to it your neck is quickly brought back to "new" condition.
     
  20. FourBanger

    FourBanger

    Sep 2, 2012
    SE Como
    I will play a bass that has a beat to hell body but even the slightest nick or scratch or tactile imperfection on the neck drives me nuts.
     

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