New FL JB neck will not straighten

Discussion in 'Hardware, Setup & Repair [BG]' started by JPDsma, Apr 28, 2019.

  1. So yes, a newbee with setup issues. After lurking and reading tons of threads and watching all the setup vids I can, I still have no solution.

    Purchased a new fretless MIM Jazz Bass almost 3 weeks ago while in the states. Came back home to Mexico and am attempting to do the basic initial setup. I have about double the relief I would want on a fretted bass, so, much more than desired on a fretless. Action is tolerable, but far from fretless ideal. I tried to adjust the truss rod, turning clockwise to reduce/remove the relief. I could make a 1/8th turn relatively easily, a little change in relief, not much. The second 1/8th was difficult, less change in relief. Tried more, but it will not budge. I do not want to break it, but from what I read, this is not normal. I waited 24 hrs, no change in relief. Tried placing my foot in front, opposite knee behind, pushing headstock back and then tried to turn truss rod. Not budging. Slacked all strings and let it sit 24 hrs. Tried to adjust rod, no budging. Even though it had no string tension, I did the foot, knee, headstock push again, nada. It will turn CCW to add relief, a tad stiff at first, but then more easily, just tried it back to where we started. Then took it CW to remove that little bit of relief that I could.
    After all this, I did adjust the bridge height to minimize action height to just avoid unwanted buzzing. Nut, surprisingly, is pretty darned good and low, between 1-2 business cards. So,
    I CAN play it, but would prefer to reduce or eliminate the relief.
    What advice is out there for me to try. There are no trusted luthiers in our area, I checked with local pro musicians. Should have had the GC tech set it up at purchase but schedules did not allow.

    Me: engineer, woodworker, very mechanically inclined motorcyclist, expat who wishes to setup this great instrument without breaking it.

    Any help will be greatly appreciated. Something that gets me to a straight or nearly straight neck, even more.
  2. Bodeanly


    Mar 20, 2015
    You say that this is a NEW bass? You mean "new to you?" If brand new, is there any chance of returning/ exchanging it? If "new to you," add a washer or two.
  3. it is new. I am in the middle of Mexico and it was purchased in Charlotte, NC 4/11/19. Returning to the original store is not an option at this point. I am hoping for a relatively simple solution. To add a washer, how is that done, and why? Would I move all string tension and back the rod out turning CCW? This sounds extreme. Is the channel narrow enough that reinserting parts is easy? Am I only turning a nut at the headstock end of the rod? (It certainly is not like the Rick necks in that current thread.) When I remove the string tension and the neck actually reverses camber, shouldn’t this relieve all stress on the neck truss rod and allow it to turn either way? Being unfamiliar with how the truss rod is actually attached/seated, etc, does it make sense that it is at the end if its travel and will not straighten the neck?
  4. JRA

    JRA my words = opinion Supporting Member

    wow! it's difficult to know whether you're actually 'maxed' on loosening the truss (vs. a stubborn 'catch') or whether there is an inherent flaw/anomaly in the neck assembly. even though you can't get back to the store, physically, it makes sense to me that you would take the issue up with the seller...if nothing else: to start a paper trail for an eventual resolution.

    OP: best of luck with your instrument! :thumbsup:
    RSBBass and JPDsma like this.
  5. Okay, after rewatching the Dan Erlewine video on the Tele neck, it seems maybe I should remove the tension of the strings, remove all tension in the rod, clamp it, force a mild crown and then use the truss rod to hold it in this position. I am assuming this is essentially resetting the base point for the rod and n longer trying to get it to do the work of flattening the neck. Rather, as Dan says, it will simply HOLD it to the flattened state.
    I have the tools and space necessary, so I can give this a try ( in a day or two after more input is received). unless one or more of the luthiers here raises a red flag.....
  6. sissy kathy

    sissy kathy Back to Bass-ics Gold Supporting Member

    Apr 21, 2014
    Arbutus, MD
    That is an acceptable tactic. Sometimes, though rarely, the only one that will do the trick. Perhaps you got one of those fussy ones.
    JPDsma likes this.
  7. guts


    Aug 13, 2018
    Maybe I'm not understanding you, but I think that part of the problem is that you're trying to make your neck perfectly straight. That's not what a truss rod is for.

    You need a bow in your neck or else your strings will buzz against the neck when you pluck them and make an ugly noise. It's not supposed to be perfectly straight or even close to it.

    Having a straight neck won't let you have lower action. The opposite actually. If your neck is too straight you'll have to raise the action to keep it from buzzing against the fretboard.

    You need some relief in order to lower your action.
    JPDsma likes this.
  8. While there seems to be some disagreement, most threads I have read regarding fretless (bass or guitar) setup do call for a neck as close to flat as possible. Even Dan Erlewine’s video shows him getting a nearly flat neck on a fretted Telecaster Bass neck. While flat may be my ideal, I am looking to have at least as low action as I currently have on my MK acoustic bass, and it really should be lower. The issue is that, so far, I have been unsuccessful in getting the action as low as any standard setup would have because the truss rod nut will not go past a given point. And that point is still far from providing for standard action. But, I agree, flattening is not what the truss rod is for. It is a post tensioning device designed to hold the neck in a given position, not pull it to that position.
  9. guts


    Aug 13, 2018
    Your plan to clamp the neck into position before adjusting the truss rod is the correct response to your situation if the buzzing you're experiencing occurs when you fret towards the middle of the fretboard, but not on open strings or on the end of the fretboard.

    Just to be sure, before you start bending your neck. Is the buzz only happening when you fret toward the middle of the fretboard?
  10. The saddles were set too high initially for it to buzz, but the action from around 5th fret position on up was way too high and, besides being quite a pull, was affecting the note. So I started the full initial set up process. Following all the guides and videos, I tuned up, held the guitar in playing position and began the neck setup. I found nearly double the relief called for on fretted basses, (string to fretboard should be same as fretted string to fret or less) so began, following video instruction, to adjust the neck via CW rotating of the truss rod nut. It only turned +/- 1/4 turn in two attempts of 1/8 turn each. Then would not turn any more. The relief did not change much, so I then went to the saddles to lower the action as much as I could reasonably do while I investigated why I was unable to remove the excess relief. That is where I am now. Still working to remove the excess relief, then will move on to the other adjustments, saddle height for action and radius, intonation. But to address your note about buzzing, once I adjusted the saddles for standard string height at +/- 7th fret-line, the strings were nearly lying on the fretboard up high and buzzing was in the mid neck area. So, I raised the saddles back up to where the bass was playable along the full length of the neck. Relief checked with either the strings (1st n 18th) or other straight edge still too much.
    I will update after using Dan Erlewine’s clamping technique.
  11. RustyAxe


    Jul 8, 2008
    I’m gonna take a WAG, and suggest the neck angle is off, and could benefit from shimming. Unless the neck is bent there is no reason action can’t be adjusted to suit.
  12. sissy kathy

    sissy kathy Back to Bass-ics Gold Supporting Member

    Apr 21, 2014
    Arbutus, MD
    Stop. First things first. That nut shouldn't be that hard to turn on a new bass. You need to take all the tension off the strings and then remove the nut. Once off, put a dab of anti seize lubricant in the nut and then put everything back together. You may as well get a couple of washers for the truss rod while you have it apart, I think you're gonna need them. Now you can proceed with your neck adjustments.

    FYI Fender necks are guaranteed forever, except for abuse, I don't know how that works when you start dragging them around the world though. Oh, and don't be so timid when adjusting that neck, turn that nut as much as necessary to get the neck adjusted. Check it again the next day and refine as needed.
    Last edited: Apr 30, 2019
    JPDsma likes this.
  13. Rustyaxe, But if I were to change the angle, that would not do anything for the excess relief I find between the 1st fret-line and heel. Wouldn’t that only require a change in saddle height to accomodate?
    Last edited: Apr 30, 2019
  14. To sissy, that is my conclusion. Once backed off, the nut turned very easily for many full revolutions such that I determined I did not need to fully remove and lube or apply anti-sieze. However, I am still where I can do that just to be safe for future. I am in a very dry climate of San Miguel de Allendé vs the coastal Mendocino, CA where I moved from.
    I will update after re assembly. I get the feeling this is going well and will get me the results I hope for.
  15. I’m with SissyKathy. If you have the truss rod nut off you might as well put a washer or two in there. From your description it sounds as though you’re likely to need them.
    JPDsma likes this.
  16. JTE

    JTE Supporting Member

    Mar 12, 2008
    Central Illinois, USA
    It's a new instrument which should have a factory warranty. You don't have to return it to the original store to get Fender warranty service. I would start by contacting Fender before doing any further work on it. Because you bought it from a US dealer, being in Mexico may alter the terms of the warranty, but starting at Fender may be the best long-term solution.
    JPDsma likes this.
  17. Results:
    I totally slackened the strings. Totally loosened the truss rod nut at the headstock. I removed and inspected,?all appeared well and had a slight lubricant residue. I was unable to find adequate washers at our local Don Pedro hardware.
    I manufactured 5 wooden ‘cawls (?) for protecting the neck during clamping. I followed Dan Erlewine’s video for placement and for using an old 2’ level as my resisting beam. Clamped the ends, placed the 3rd clamp in the middle and introduced just a very mild back bow or crown to the neck. My 14” straight edge just barely rocking across the crown. Since I did not find proper spacers/washers, I just tightened the truss rid nut to what felt firm (can’t find anything like torque specs). I removed the clamps slowly. I left it for 24 hrs. The crown was still there with no measurable change. I tuned it up and let it sit 24 hrs. The action remained the same was much better/lower than when I started this setup process. I then went about setting the bridge height as low as feasible maintaining a consistent spacing to the fretboard for all strings. Intonation seems dead on, so no change were done.
    Playability is much better, easier especially for a stretched out pinky finger. Tone is great, notes more consistent relative to the fretlines (not so much note change due to depressing the string), and there seems to be a little more mwah.
    I am new to the fretless and have only just come back to playing after I sold my SB-450 in ‘79. So I am definitely in newbee mode, but now at least I am on the right track with this new fretless JB.
    Thanks for all the comments.
    sissy kathy, guts and Matt Liebenau like this.
  18. Just curious, what was the measurement of relief? Should be around .010” to .012” at the 7th fret. If less relief was desired maybe you were asking that truss to do the impossible. The washers are hard to find at a hardware store so you would have to grind some to fit that tiny hole.

    Glad it’s playing better for you though!!
    JPDsma likes this.
  19. Glad it worked out and your bass is playable.
    JPDsma likes this.
  20. depending on your touch you can absolutely have a straight neck. if a neck wont backbow under string tension, its just going to be a problem as youre making the rod compensate for weak or warped wood.
    JPDsma likes this.
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