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Shims: The lazy mans fix??

Discussion in 'Hardware, Setup & Repair [BG]' started by Kunekune, Mar 29, 2013.

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  1. Kunekune


    May 7, 2012
    Hey, so, shims.. Heard this one too many times?

    I currently have a shimmed p bass neck, done by a past
    luthier with a slather of maple, or similar wood, cut to your
    average type of shim size, placed at the heel end - usual deal
    to remedy bottomed out saddles.

    Here's the triple whammy: When I remove the shim, the
    sustain is greater and the bass feels and sounds more
    "whole". The neck seems to have developed a slight bend at
    the heel, which I believe is from the shim (over 9 years) but
    it may not be. And lastly, I have sanded out a neck pocket on
    a six string elec guitar before and it was slow, careful work,
    but not super hard, and it didn't take much sanding (block +
    sand paper).

    I plan on sanding the neck pocket on this p bass, to get back
    the good that the shim takes away. Anyone wanna talk me
    out of it?

    The benefits I CAN see with shims are: easy, fast fix, and no
    permanent potential muck ups (apart from eventual neck
    bend at heel) BUT, I think shims are a lazy, tone sucking fix.

  2. El-Bob

    El-Bob Supporting Member

    Oct 22, 2006
    Hamilton, ON
    ... if you sand the neck pocket, you're going to make the problem with the bridge saddles even worse. Perhaps I misunderstand what you're suggesting?
  3. Technotitclan

    Technotitclan Lurking TB from work

    Mar 1, 2012
    Rochester, NY
    If I understand correctly he is going to sand the part of the packet towards the head to give it the needed angle. This would be the best permanent solution. I have a bass that requires shims and as I'm not comfortable with sanding I will stick with the shim. and your right about tone and sustain. The sound your looking for I think is from when the entire heal is resting on the entire pocket which can't be done with shims. I'm going to at some point try gluing together some of my wood shims to make a block and sand that down into the needed shape. this way I have the proper shape and don't interfere with the body itself.
  4. unclejane

    unclejane Guest

    Jul 23, 2008
    Rule #1 of DIY: sand/cut/alter only the _cheapest_ item in a set.

    In this case, that's the shim, not the bass. Don't cut into the expensive pieces.....

    Also, consider replacing it with better material, perhaps the same type of wood the body/neck is made out of. Or something harder if it's available.

    I had to shim my 70's jazz bass's neck once and I used a thin piece of maple. With a good sanding block and some care, you can make the fit really good and it'll preserve the tone.

  5. Hi.

    The thing is that the BO instrument was designed that in mind.
    As much as I, and apparently You as well, hate it, it's a feature not a flaw.

    The other thing is, the partial shim that's usually used creates the exact problems/conditions You describe, but doing it the "right" way with a full contact shim eliminates 'em.


    The "whammy" as You put it is that people are grown into the lack of sustain in BO instruments, regardless of the number or thickness of the strings.

    One customer even wanted the partial shim instead of the full one I made, but it's his money and more importantly it's his instrument and tone.

    Here's a few pics about the Epi T-Bird I improved the sustain on.
    I didn't change the angle, no need for that in this case.

    The first one shows just how little contact there actually is:

    The leveling of both the heel and the pocket in a milling machine:


    The sustain and note-amplitude consistency was improved greatly. IMO anyway ;).

    With patience and quite a bit of elbow grease that should be doable with good quality files and leveling blocks, but I'd rather make a full contact shim.

  6. Kunekune


    May 7, 2012
    That's right Technotician, I have a shim at the heel which increases
    the neck pitch and remedies "bottomed out" saddles. I plan to "sand in"
    the same degree of angle (or a tad more) in the neck pocket
    and do away with the shim. I'm arguing that this isn't as hard as
    people make out.. But it is risky.. I for one DO believe that
    partial heel-end shims can cause heel "ski-jump" bend, which is not
    remedied by truss rod tightening. Whole shim or no shim!
  7. Technotitclan

    Technotitclan Lurking TB from work

    Mar 1, 2012
    Rochester, NY
  8. Kunekune


    May 7, 2012
    Hey, just thought I'd leave an update on how I ended up shimming my p bass neck pocket. I found some great info online about using epoxy putty and washers. The method is to buy a pack of suitable small washers and stack them over the screws between the neck and neck pocket, for example: 2 washers on both the heel end screws, etc.. After you have played around and found the correct angle you want, take the neck off and carefully glue the washers directly over the holes in the neck pocket with a suitable glue. When that's all set, use either aluminium foil or cling wrap and wrap it over your bass neck, get the epoxy putty - which you mix in your hand like playdough prior to use - and moosh it into the neck pocket, starting from the heel end, then bolt the neck on to press the putty down into place. Get it?? You have to work fast because it starts to harden in about 5 mins (DON'T buy the ultra fast setting putty which sets in 3 mins!) Try and do it in about 3 stages, starting at the heel end of the pocket. It sets rock hard in about 10 minutes. A GREAT tip is to rub wax into the pocket first, so that if you bungle it, you can easily pry the putty out.

    This is a good way to get a totally gap free, full shim.

    It's messy stuff if you aren't careful. I'd recommend playing with the putty and getting to know how it sets before going to work with it. The foil or cling wrap peel off the putty fairly easily and it sands really easily, too, incase you need to do a bit of touch up sanding here and there.

    I found that mixing and working with the putty with bare hands was good, then throwing on some latex gloves before handling the neck was a good idea, because you may leave permanent finger prints otherwise.

    Obviously, this is a pretty-much permanent shim, so you'd only do it on a bass that you didn't mind possibly devaluing.

    I decided to both raise and angle my neck pocket using this method, so I used washers on all four screws. The putty's a bit messy, but the best shim I could have hoped for. Great sustain, too.

    You can then try and paint match your finish with some model paint, nail paint, etc and touch up the exposed putty, after sanding the edges smooth, of course. I used nail paint which I borrowed from my girlfriend!! One part blue with about five parts white made the baby blue that I needed.. I'm sure it will fade a different shade, but I can always re-do it if I want later.

    Don't forget to rub candle wax into the pocket first if you want to be able to make a mistake and re-try!!!

    Hope this helps someone.

    ps washers, I understand are a lot thicker than a business card, so this method won't really replace a really small, thin shim, but it's great for people needing a large-ish shim on a knock-around, or project bass.
  9. Hopkins

    Hopkins Supporting Member Commercial User

    Nov 17, 2010
    Houston Tx
    Owner/Builder @Hopkins Guitars
    I think you guys are splitting hairs. I have never noticed any noticeable sustain difference between a shimmed or unshimmed or even a bolt on vs set or neck through. Every bolt on neck I own but one has a shim in the neck and they will all sustain a not longer than I would ever need them to. How long are you guys holding these notes?
  10. AdamR

    AdamR Supporting Member

    Sep 24, 2007
    Bethel CT
    Every fender Ive had was shimmed from the factory. I dont hear a difference with or with out them.
  11. Kunekune


    May 7, 2012
    Hey guys, yeah, I wasn't trying to further the argument. I was just posting some info on ONE unique way to make a full shim.

    A lot of people might reply with "Thanks, I'm going to try this method".

    Partial shims often only decrease resonance and sustain a tiny amount, and yes, we all know that Fender ship pre shimmed guitars - or used to - or whatever.

    I'm thinking of writing the biggest novel ever written: "The varying opinions of neck shims" :D
  12. georgestrings

    georgestrings Banned

    Nov 5, 2005

    I've probably owned close to 50 Fender basses, and out of those, *maybe* half a dozen were shimmed - 4 in the house currently, none are shimmed...

    - georgestrings
  13. unclejane

    unclejane Guest

    Jul 23, 2008
    Personally doesn't sound like splitting hairs at all, this is a great idea.....

    This is one area that can affect the tone; if the neck/body joint isn't firm you can get a kind of acoustic bass tone which may or may not be what you want. Don't ask me why I know this.

    Otherwise, you need good tools to custom fashion a wood shim that fits perfectly and that's expensive....

  14. Well, even though I'm not a fan of shimming and it's the last resort in my book, I think you'd have a hard time proving that it universally sucks tone. I have played more than a few basses with shims that had no negative impact on tone or sustain.

    I do believe that shims are often used prematurely instead of proper set up and adjustment methods such as fret leveling, fretboard planing, proper relief adjustment, nut slots, action and intonation, etc. Even if you are a fan of shimming and you skip all those aforementioned trouble spots, you really aren't doing your bass any favors by ignoring the other possible issues and jumping straight to the shim.
  15. Kunekune


    May 7, 2012
    Yeah, I just need to clarify that I was talking about partial, business card style shims in that post. Everything you say is true. I guess all I can say is that I am VERY satisfied with how I could raise and totally fill in my pocket with relative ease using the washer/epoxy putty shim. The neck is sitting soooo pretty now. Bamn!!!
  16. yodedude2

    yodedude2 Supporting Member

    re: post #5--i don't care much for paint in the neck pocket or on the neck heel bottom myself.

    does anyone else use neck inserts and neck bolts (not screws) for tone and sustain differences?
  17. bassbully

    bassbully Endorsed by The PHALEX CORN BASS..mmm...corn!

    Sep 7, 2006
    Blimp City USA
    :D thats is exactly what I was going to say. I have trouble with many of my basses sustaining to long as it is shims or not.

    Gotta hold that Big E open all night :rolleyes:
  18. Kunekune


    May 7, 2012
    Thanks!! I was so glad to find out about the epoxy/washer shim and am so grateful to the person who posted originally on another site. Pay it forward I thought! Hey, that acoustic tone is exactly what I heard when I had only the washers in between the neck and body, while playing with height/angle options. Kind of a "pwong pwong" tone.
  19. smcd


    Jun 28, 2009
    Boston, MA

    If you think a shim is affecting your tone, your imagination is getting the better of you. That '61 Jazz you rave about, the miracle of sound you brag about having played once years ago... that bass probably had a shimmed neck.
  20. Hopkins

    Hopkins Supporting Member Commercial User

    Nov 17, 2010
    Houston Tx
    Owner/Builder @Hopkins Guitars
    I use inserts and machine screws for every bolt on neck instrument I build because it is just a better way to fasten a neck. I dont think it does a thing for tone or sustain.

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