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Split fretboard / truss rod issue on a 70s Jazz RI neck

Discussion in 'Hardware, Setup & Repair [BG]' started by haystack55, Mar 27, 2015.


  1. haystack55

    haystack55 Supporting Member

    Jan 16, 2011
    Houston, TX
    ok so I'm finally getting around to dealing with this after simply replacing the neck several years ago.. I'm trying to put together a P/J combo fun bass and would like to rescue this basket case neck if at all feasible.

    It's a 2008 MIM Fender 70s Jazz RI neck whose previous owner obviously overtorqued the bullet truss rod and split the fretboard. I bought the bass whole and bad on me, didn't notice it until I got it home. Long story there... I won't bore y'all with it... I'm a little embarrassed about it honestly. I bought a replacement neck from a TB'er and moved on. Chalk it up to a learning experience. :p

    Anyway. It has a bad bow in it (towards the nut end of the neck) that will not adjust, even with tension released off of the truss rod. So it would seem that the truss rod is blown. It's got a skunk stripe so it would seem to me (understanding that I know basically nothing about this) that replacing it would be a somewhat simpler matter than if the fretboard were to have to be removed.

    So my questions are:
    A: is it even worth the $$ to get this fixed? If so, what would be a reasonable expectation for my cost?
    B: will it be as good or close to new (functionally) after the repair?
    C: once the truss rod is replaced, will the damage in the fingerboard be repairable or is that something I'd just have to live with?

    I really do love these necks. The radius is just perfect and I love the look of them. I'd buy another one but they're seemingly harder to come by these days and the newer versions are plain expensive.

    Thanks for any help y'all can provide on this! :D
     

    Attached Files:

  2. Bruce Johnson

    Bruce Johnson Commercial User

    Feb 4, 2011
    Fillmore, CA
    Professional Luthier
    If the truss rod isn't actually broken, then you probably don't need to replace it. There are two things to fix:

    First is the damage at the split area. It looks from here like it can be glued back down and smoothed out.

    Second is fixing the bow. The repair depends on how bad it is. A small bow can be corrected by leveling the frets. Effectively trimming the height of the frets up near the nut, and lowering the nut slots. A more serious bow means pulling the frets, resurfacing the fingerboard, and refretting. That gets a little complicated because of the binding, but it's commonly done.

    For your reference, removing and replacing the truss rod in a Fender-style skunk stripe neck is more complicated than it is in a top-load neck. I've done maybe 30 of them over the years, and they are a lot of work. I set them up in a special fixture in a milling machine and slowly mill through the skunk stripe, and then the truss rod itself. It's tricky to do all the ugly mechanical work within a 1/4" wide slot, without damaging the sidewalls of the slot.
     
    haystack55 likes this.
  3. sissy kathy

    sissy kathy Back to Bass-ics Gold Supporting Member

    Apr 21, 2014
    Arbutus, MD
  4. Bruce Johnson

    Bruce Johnson Commercial User

    Feb 4, 2011
    Fillmore, CA
    Professional Luthier
    Straightening bowed or twisted necks with heat is another possibility. I don't have any personal experience doing that, and I'm a little skeptical about how well it works over the long term. But, I hear that some folks are getting good results.
     
  5. mapleglo

    mapleglo Gold Supporting Member

    Sep 7, 2013
    phoenix, az
    I just looked on the Fender website. A replacement neck like this is $399.99. I think I'd look into a replacement especially if the truss rod is broken and the neck is badly bowed. I can't imagine that it would cost less than that to fix the existing neck, unless you're doing the work yourself.
     
  6. sissy kathy

    sissy kathy Back to Bass-ics Gold Supporting Member

    Apr 21, 2014
    Arbutus, MD
    Bruce couldn't you just treat a skunk striped neck as if it wasn't? I mean pull the fret board and do the necessary work from the top rather than via the skunk stripe?
     
  7. Bruce Johnson

    Bruce Johnson Commercial User

    Feb 4, 2011
    Fillmore, CA
    Professional Luthier
    Mapleglo;

    In these days, when Fender-style necks are being mass produced by the millions, it's almost always going to be cheaper to buy a replacement neck. Replacing a truss rod in a skunk stripe neck will cost at least $400. It's a lot of work. It's got to be a rare or expensive instrument to be worth the cost to repair it. The only ones I've done in recent years are boutique brand Fender-style instruments.

    Sissy Kathy;

    Theoretically you could remove the truss rod from a skunk stripe neck from the top, but that would be even more difficult. To remove the truss rod from a top-loaded neck, after you remove the fingerboard, you can usually pop out the filler strip that's above the rod. Because it's a separate strip of wood glued in, it can be peeled out with a narrow heavy chisel. On the Love Of Ampegs thread, you can see pictures of me doing that on an old Ampeg neck.

    Working from the top on a Fender neck, you'd have to gently mill out that area of maple above the rod, to release it. Possible, but tricky and tedious.
     
    mapleglo likes this.
  8. Turnaround

    Turnaround Commercial User

    May 6, 2004
    Toronto Canada
    Independent Instrument Technician, and Contractor to Club Bass and Guitar - Toronto
    Right Bruce, the key here is the longer term. I have had good success straightening warps and twists with heat treatments, but have found that too often the neck slowly migrates back to the warped or twisted condition. The problem is often inherent in the wood itself. If you consider a tree that is leaning, the wood on the downside of the lean is under compression, while on the other side it is under tension. When the wood is cut, the boards that were nice and straight when cut will gradually bend as the wood stabilizes - it no longer is under the stresses from the lean. That bending doesn't happen all at once - after all, the tree was probably leaning for years and it may take years for the wood to completely "relax". And to top it off we are stressing the wood again by putting it under tension and compression simultaneously from the pulling of the strings and the reverse force of the truss rod. The wood will find it's own equilibrium and all of our coaxing, heat treatments or otherwise will not prevent that from happening.

    So, at least in part, heat treatment will likely only be successful in the long term if the wood is straight at once it has achieved complete equilibrium. If the warp or twist was induced afterward on such a piece, I think there is a good long-term prognosis for straightening the wood with heat - i.e. you are helping it to re-reach it's balanced state. Otherwise you are coaxing it out of equilibrium and it will find it's way back to happiness in time.

    At least that's the theory I work with. But I'm not a tree, though I have been called a woodenhead more times that I care for.
     
  9. Turnaround

    Turnaround Commercial User

    May 6, 2004
    Toronto Canada
    Independent Instrument Technician, and Contractor to Club Bass and Guitar - Toronto
    Addressing the issue of a cracked fingerboard from the truss rod nut - this is fairly common. It happened to one of my basses, also a MIM Fender. If you look at the pic of the headstock from the OP you will see the the truss rod channel is milled leaving only a relatively thin bit of fingerboard between the truss rod access and the surface of the fingerboard. If you need tighten the rod nut quite a bit to control the relief in the neck, the compression of the wood at the end of the truss nut may crack the fingerboard - the wood under compression mushrooms a bit, pushing up on the fingerboard and eventually causing it to crack.

    The problem is exacerbated if the maple in the neck is a little more flexible than it should be. In such cases you need to put more force on the truss rod to control relief, and that extra force may lead to the mushrooming effect I described. And if the truss rod nut is close to the surface of the fingerboard, the likely outcome is a crack. And of course, if you have block inlays in the first fret position, the strength of the fingerboard wood is compromised from the inlay rout, just adding to the problem.
     
  10. sissy kathy

    sissy kathy Back to Bass-ics Gold Supporting Member

    Apr 21, 2014
    Arbutus, MD
    You do a wonderful job of explaining things, I think you missed your calling; you should'a been a teacher.
     
  11. Turnaround

    Turnaround Commercial User

    May 6, 2004
    Toronto Canada
    Independent Instrument Technician, and Contractor to Club Bass and Guitar - Toronto
    Thank you. I have spent much time giving lectures, seminars and workshops and I guess it shows.
     
  12. haystack55

    haystack55 Supporting Member

    Jan 16, 2011
    Houston, TX
    wow. thanks to everyone for chiming in. lots of great information and I feel a lot better informed about my decision. which is to say, yeah.. I'll probably end up just buying another one. the jacked up one will adorn the wall as art. it'll look nice next to my ski-jumped SB-2. to the classifieds I go!
     

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