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Neck strength/stability at the nut: a mixture of wenge and walnut

Discussion in 'Luthier's Corner' started by Basschair, Mar 26, 2006.

  1. Basschair

    Basschair .............. Supporting Member

    Feb 5, 2004
    Stockton, Ca
    I'm working on a neck design right now:

    4 string fretted
    3-piece wenge-walnut-wenge
    2.5" at heel

    I was going to taper to 1.5" at the scarf joint area under the nut, but that would leave very little wenge on either side of the neck, as the walnut piece will be about 1.25" thick after jointing/planing. I'm wondering if I should widen the neck a bit at this point to 1.75" so that there's at least .25" of wenge on either side for the purpose of stability.

    Can anyone comment on this? Do I need to worry about movement in the walnut (it is dry)? Should I got even wider (2")?

    I just don't have it in me to taper the walnut center (to match the neck taper) before gluing it up...
  2. Frank Martin

    Frank Martin Bitten by the luthiery bug...

    Oct 8, 2001
    Budapest, Hungary, EU
    Why do you want to make the weakest link the main link of the chain?
    If I were you, I'd put the wenge in the middle, to be the core one.
    Just my 0.02
  3. Basschair

    Basschair .............. Supporting Member

    Feb 5, 2004
    Stockton, Ca

    Good question:

    It's somewhat of a theme in the bass: walnut body, walnut burl top, wenge lam in between. I like the look of a neck with a lighter colored walnut in the middle, bordered by the dark wenge. I'm thinking it would be pretty stable given the strength of the wenge, a nicely carved volute, and the truss rod nut located at the body end.
  4. Frank Martin

    Frank Martin Bitten by the luthiery bug...

    Oct 8, 2001
    Budapest, Hungary, EU
    Well, you miss your priorities: you are not building a neck for aesthetics, but for stability.
    Wenge adds stability - but you need that stability more in the core, under the truss rod, imo.
    This way, you'd have the same pattern, too: a wenge core surrounded by walnut.
  5. Basschair

    Basschair .............. Supporting Member

    Feb 5, 2004
    Stockton, Ca

    Yeah, very true. So you don't think walnut would be sturdy enough in general as a core of a neck?
  6. bill h

    bill h

    Aug 31, 2002
    small town MN
    What would happen if you cut the walnut in three and flipped the grain and laminated them?
  7. Geoff St. Germaine

    Geoff St. Germaine Commercial User

    I don't know what the issue is. I've played and owned basses with all walnut necks (Rob Allen) and I didn't find the walnut any less stable than any of the maple or wenge necked basses I've owned.

    If wenge is adding anything to the walnut I would say that it would be stiffness and not stability. I have not noticed walnut to be an unstable wood, either as bass necks or as gunstocks.

    I think that Hambone has built necks entirely from walnut.
  8. pilotjones

    pilotjones Supporting Member

    Nov 8, 2001
    I'd just narrow down the walnut, so that there's more wenge left at the sides at the narrow point.

    I can't see how "make the neck 1.75 or 2.00 at the nut" would be any kind of solution. Your first priority, along with structural concerns, is playability. You can't just on a whim make such an extreme change in the string spacing at the nut. Especially when a J is 1.50, and a P, which is considered "wide", is 1.625.
  9. Basschair

    Basschair .............. Supporting Member

    Feb 5, 2004
    Stockton, Ca
    Thanks for the suggestions guys:

    I believe that I'll stick with a bit over 1.5" and will narrow the walnut strip just a tad.
  10. DSB1


    Mar 8, 2006
    You can do it. You already have to taper the fingerboard :)

    Just put some time into it and I think you'll be surprised that it isnt as hard as you might think and be very happy with the end result.
  11. Suburban


    Jan 15, 2001
    lower mid Sweden
    Basically, at least if it is black walnut, it doesn't matter that much structurally, if you take away all the wenge that far to the end.

    The interesting twitch would be to taper the centerpiece, both structurally and aestetically:)

    Bottom line: do whatever you like. It will be OK, just a matter of how much more than OK....
  12. Diego


    Dec 9, 2005
    San Francisco, CA
    How about carving a volute?

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