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Problems with tailboards

Discussion in 'Luthier's Corner' started by PolkaHero, Dec 3, 2005.

  1. PolkaHero

    PolkaHero Supporting Member

    Jan 5, 2002
    Visited my local luthier today to fix the neck twist I have at the end of my Fender Pbass' fingerboard. He says this is a common problem with most basses as the truss rod doesn't do much good at this location of the neck.

    Years ago, he submitted plans to Fender (he used to work for an authorized Fender service center) for a tailboard that was tapered off at the end. Then, if/when the wood decided to warp, at least the edge of the fingerboard would be level with the rest of the neck. Fender, probably due to higher costs, rejected his ideas.

    I'm willing to bet that most people on this board who own production basses have or will have this problem with their necks. I was just wondering if there are any builders on this forum who have experiemented with tapering off the end of their necks to compensate for this problem. I know it sometimes irritates me that when I play harder, the strings will rattle off the end of the fingerboard. :(
  2. I just don't know what to say... :scowl:

    The conversation you just described almost seems surreal to me. The gist of it being that your "luthier" claims that "most" basses will experience neck twist because the trussrod is in the "wrong" position, so he intentionally builds in a physical distortion in the neck and fretboard to compensate for this.

    IMO, that is one of the most ridiculous statements I have ever heard. I would implore you, as a bright, intelligent, individual, to question the validity of these statements and not take them at face value. There is a lot to this topic. To start, the statement begs these questions:

    - How many twisted necks has he seen? What were the true causes?
    - Where would the trussrod go if it didn't go where it is now?
    - Where does HE put his trussrods?
    - Does your luthiers statement include all double TR necks also?
    - What if the neck doesn't twist like he predicts? What if it twists more than he predicts or the other direction?
    - Has he made allowances for all types of neck construction in his research or just lumped every build method together? They aren't all the same you know.
    - Does your luthier have any words of wisdom regarding all of the premium, high end instruments out there that don't subscribe to his way of thinking? How could they all have been so wrong for so long?

    I think, that before I can seriously consider this approach as anything but crack, someone would have to present mucho evidence that neck twist is enough of a problem in enough basses to consider having to predict it's occurence and severity and build necks to compensate.

    And just so that it can be cleared away before the shouting starts, I'm aware of the builder that developed the "twisted" neck design. His name escapes me right now but essentially he actually builds necks with a full length twist in them for ergonomic reasons - it allows your wrist to relax on the higher frets. But, as I've read it, that's a different beast than what your boy is doing.
  3. Rick Turner

    Rick Turner Commercial User

    Jul 14, 2004
    I design and build electric basses and pickups under the Turner, Renaissance, and Electroline brand names.
    OK, I've been a pro luthier for over 40 years, and I've never heard of a "tailboard". Whazzat?

    I think that what is being described here is so full of inaccurate usage of terminology that we have no idea what the problem is. The word "twist" was used, but I think the issue is "warp".

    If I were to take a wild guess, I'd say that the issue is whether or not to build in some slight fingerboard drop off starting approximately where the neck shape changes from more or less half round to flat bottomed heel. With the neck changing shape and cross sectional area there where it joins the body, the stiffness of the neck does indeed change and it's bending properties over time will not be the same as with the rest of the neck. It's very difficult to predict, though, and any attempts to build in compensation for it will probably make the bass play like crap when it's brand new in some attempt to have it play better in ten years. That's a cat chasing it's tail...
  4. PolkaHero

    PolkaHero Supporting Member

    Jan 5, 2002
    Wow, opened a major can of worms with that post!

    To further clarify, I'll quote Mr. Dan Erlewine from the December 2005 issue of Bass Player:

    "The common term for the upper-register section of fingerboard over the body is the "tongue", and this is where bolt-on necks often develop an upward rise, or "kink." A kink creates a "rising tongue," and with it comes buzzing on the last four or five frets, since the frets rise upward in that spot and get in the way of the vibrating strings."

    I'm not sure if tongue is the correct terminology either, but I think you guys know what part of the neck I'm talking about. I'm not a luthier, so I'm just reiterating what my luthier (who also has about 40 years of experience) said. All I know is that most production basses I've played or owned had this problem to some degree. My newer Jazz Deluxe doesn't, but my 1998 Pbass is showing this upward lift and the strings do tend to rattle off the end of the fingerboard if I pluck harder nearer the neck. I don't have an answer, just looking for some other views of this and what a possible solution might be.
  5. callmeMrThumbs

    callmeMrThumbs Guest

    Oct 6, 2005
    Omaha, NE
    I agree with Hambone. Although I have no experience with luthiery whatsoever, I'm inclined to think that the question is WHY a kink is created, not HOW to fix it.

  6. if i am getting what you are saying correctly the fretboad has releaf, but then near the end it curves back toward the strings right??? if so thta can be fixed with a truss rod adjustment. my friend has this problem on his ibanez and that fixed it

  7. Rick Turner

    Rick Turner Commercial User

    Jul 14, 2004
    I design and build electric basses and pickups under the Turner, Renaissance, and Electroline brand names.
    Please don't add obscurity to confusion.

    Look, the damned neck changes shape as it goes from the playing part to the bolt on part. The actual stiffness of the neck changes there. You're not going to solve any problems there with a shift in truss rod. The neck slowly, slowly moves with the 130 to 180 pounds of pull. It moves more where it can and thus takes on a slightly uneven bow. If you want a wood neck, that might just happen over time. Take it to a luthier, have the fingerboard redressed and refretted and get over it. This is normal wear and tear on an instrument.

    OK so maybe if the neck has graphite strips in it, this may not happen. It hasn't happened excessively in any of my Renaissance or Electroline necks, but with bolt on necks this is unfortunately normal. You think it's bad with basses, just be happy you don't play traditional dovetailed neck acoustic guitars. This happens all the time with them, and we just deal with it.

    If you want an instrument that is solid as a rock and simply doesn't move under tension or with age, get a graphite bass. But you're not going to get the tone of wood.

    Instruments move and change with age. That's why God invented luthiers...to take care of those changes.
  8. budman

    budman Commercial User

    Oct 7, 2004
    Houston, TX
    Formerly the owner/builder of LeCompte Electric Bass
    Since you mentioned Dan Erlewine...he recommends something like 0.04" of fall away be shaped into the fingerboard at the base of the neck from the last four or five fret positions, IIRC.
  9. PolkaHero

    PolkaHero Supporting Member

    Jan 5, 2002

    That's exactly what my luthier recommended to Fender! Do any manufacturers actually do this, though?
  10. Whoa up there! What happened to all of this "twist" stuff you were talking about before. This revelation and the earlier statements you made reflect two decidedly different subjects - Carving the fretboard into an assymetrical shape to fix a twisted neck and sculpting the fretboard for upper fret clearance.

    So which is it?
  11. PolkaHero

    PolkaHero Supporting Member

    Jan 5, 2002
    Well, not being a luthier, I'm not really sure if my neck qualifies as "twisted" or "warped". My luthier's idea definitely fit the description of sculpting the upper portion of the fretboard to avoid the "rising tongue" issue. I never mentioned anything in my initial post about carving the neck into an assymetrical shape to fix a twist.
  12. Suburban


    Jan 15, 2001
    lower mid Sweden
  13. budman

    budman Commercial User

    Oct 7, 2004
    Houston, TX
    Formerly the owner/builder of LeCompte Electric Bass
    I think in the bolt-on neck world this so-called "tongue" is called a fingerboard extension. The sort of thing you find on a lot of Warmoth necks. You usually don't see these on Fenders, but you sometimes do run across a perceived rise at the last few frets regardless.
  14. if the rise is significant, just pull the last frets...level it out...refret, relevel...if it isn't significant, just relevel the frets...

    why try and design for a "possible eventuality"??? especially if that "eventuality" can be dealt with.

    I'm with Hambone, the terminology change for "twisted tailboard", to "rising tongue" bring up completely DIFFERENT connotations.
  15. bwbass


    May 6, 2002
    Thinner, weaker necks tend to exhibit more of this, in my experience. All traditional bolt-on's suffer from it to some degree. It's a result of the sudden transition in stiffness at the body joint where it goes from flexible/carved to immovable/bolted-down. If the neck is very stiff and doesn't deflect much under string pull, there's less of a practical differential in stiffness at the body joint and this 'kink' is less likely (or slower) to appear.

    Taylor (acoustic guitars) has a really good way of dealing with this issue, reinforcing the neck so that it gets progressively stiffer as you get closer to the body joint. Then of course you could be like Rick (or Howe-Orme) and make a 3-dimensional bolt-on joint where the extension doesn't touch the body at all - this is a great way of preventing the "rising tongue" phenomenon. The end of the fingerboard is freed from the load-bearing part of the neck, and just continues on at the same angle as the rest of the neck. Not practical for most mass-produced instruments, but a great solution nonetheless.

    P.S. Hi, Rick!