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Thread: Advice on correcting Explorer kit Twisted neck.

  1. #1
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    Advice on correcting Explorer kit Twisted neck.

    Hi Guys,

    My first post and immediately its in the I need help section..

    My first Pitbull kit (EXA-1/ash body explorer) arrived and on opening yesterday I discover it has a badly twisted neck.
    Sighting from the heel to the nut the twist is clockwise. (i.e. the low E side is at least a few mill lower).

    I immediately sent an email to the address on the Pitbull website (service@pitbullguitars.com), but I guess they haven't seen it yet.
    So I decided to post here as there is some urgency with my build (I plan to start it on Thursday with my 90year old father who is visiting QLD from Ireland and will be with me for only 2wks approx. The idea is to finish prior to his return flight). We obviously don't plan a paint finish in that timeframe, so just an oil finish. He is a retired carpenter and will very much enjoy the project.

    Anyway, in the event that Pitbull can't just ship me another explorer neck while we start work on the body, im trying to figure out how to fix a twisted neck.. incase im stuck with this one. (My kit took 13days to arrive, so doing a return and waiting on that arriving at Pitbull and then waiting another 13days for my replacement kit to arrive isn't a option in this instance). So im hoping they could send me a good neck (even at cost).

    Im a recording musician these days, having played for over 40years and I own a retro studio with 14 guitars, but this guitar being a father & son build will be special to me, so I do want the end result to be playable.


    So, if im stuck.. how to resolve a twisted neck?
    1 - Significant fret leveling...? (I don't think this is an option given the amount of twist, but given I have yet to try any truss straighten it is possible that by correcting the current back bow that there may be some small improvement in the twist.

    2- Remove the frets, level the fretboard and put in new frets. (This might work, but I don't have fret wire or fret puller or fret wire radius tools.... yet. But if I have to order some fast I will).

    3- Remove the fretboard. Level the neck, glue the fretboard back in place. (This seems like a lot of work and personally im not sure how to remove the fretboard without making a pigs ear of it all).

    4- Try clamp the heel of the neck in a vice and rig weights to counter the twist. Maybe apply heat (leave in Sun!). This sounds like a bad option and likely to end up with the fretboard popping free on one side.

    5- Your much better idea???

    Im excited to get this project underway I have experience in setups, pickup swaps and electrical mods etc., but never gluing in my own set neck and sanding, sanding, sanding... contouring and more sanding LOL.. will be a fun.
    I have a deep pickup drawer here that will come in handy. Will be trying Greco prickups, Burny pickups, JB, Super Distortion, ToneZone, Seymour Custom etc etc.. Before I settle on the preferred tone for Ash body and ?maple? neck with rosewood fingerboard.

    Fun fun!

    Cheers,
    Gerard.
    Last edited by GerardL; 01-02-2022 at 09:52 PM.

  2. #2
    Moderator Brendan's Avatar
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    Gerard - the guys at Pitbull should be in tomorrow - Ben's awesome and should sort you out. If the neck is badly twisted, I'm sure that they will replace and quickly. Sounds like you've done the right thing - if you have included photos and stuff, the guys are pretty trusting and will look after you I'm sure.

  3. Liked by: GerardL

  4. #3
    GAStronomist Simon Barden's Avatar
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    I'm sorry you're having these issues, especially with the time constraints you're under.

    It does seem quite common for the kit fretboards to be slightly angled, so that one side is maybe 1mm higher than the other with respect to the top of the guitar (normally the high E side is taller than the low E side). But that doesn't really affect playability in the same way a proper twist does.

    You'll probably need a whole replacement kit as the necks are normally paired with the bodies (there should be a matching number or maybe a Chinese character in the neck pocket and on the neck heel). A neck on its own is likely to be too tight for the pocket (fixable with care) or too loose (far less easy to fix). All made using templates and hand routers, no repeatable CNC tooling.

    There isn't an easy method to correct a twist. Option 4 is closest to what typically happens. You'd normally have to clamp both ends of the neck in a jig, put a heating blanket on the neck and after it's warmed up, start to put a counteracting twisting force on one end. keep adding a bit more correcting force as time progresses and over a few hours, it is possible to correct the twist (on some necks at least).

    I've never done this, but I've seen videos of it being done. What I don't know is then how stable the the neck will be over time.

    With option 1, I've worked on a Rickenbacker 650D that had a slightly twisted neck, but was really more 'warped' than 'twisted' as it was quite uneven. I managed to level the frets enough on that to make it playable with a good action, so it is possible to sacrifice some fret height to improve the situation with a slight twist, but given say the average fret is between 1.5mm-2mm high when new, you haven't got much to play with before some of the frets then become too low to play properly (and a curved fret shaping file becomes too deep to take anything off the sides of the top of the fret).

    A basic version of option 2 has been done by a couple of people on here who simply wanted a smaller radius on the fretboard. After removing the frets, you are going to want a method of sanding the top of the board nice and level before then using a 12" radius sanding block to sand the board down to shape. But it is very hard to sand the board flat unless you've got some suitable jigs and mechanical tools. You'd need to use the 1/2 fretboard length as the reference point (rather than one end or the other) to end up removing as little depth overall from the board as possible.

    You've got the truss rod sitting just below the fretboard, so you need to leave the depth of the fret tang plus I'd suggest at least 0.5mm of wood for the fret to seat into. A fret tang is normally around 1.5mm deep, so you need to leave maybe 2mm of depth to avoid chopping the fretboard into small segments. The truss rod presses against the fretboard (especially in the middle of the neck) so you need to leave a reasonable depth of continuous wood to spread out the load evenly. It doesn't leave a lot to play with, and is quite a risky route to take. Probably best avoided unless the twist is less than 1mm in total - which hard to gauge accurately when the surface is curved to begin with.

    One step further and you're onto Option 3. But removing the fretboard and levelling the top of the neck isn't an easy task as you've got the truss rod sitting there. That needs to sit tight in its channel and up against the underside of the fretboard when it's on. Heating up the fretboard with a heating blanket and prising the fretboard from the neck should remove it. The neck has several small steel pins stuck in it vertically which the fretboard is knocked onto when it's being glued on, to keep it located when clamped. So when prising the board off, all the effort needs to be in the vertical direction to lift the board away from the pins, not from side to side.

    I forgot to say that it's normal practice to remove the frets first before removing the fretboard if you want to keep the fretboard. It's more likely to snap if the frets are left in.

    You'd then need to level the top of the neck and then re-rout the truss rod channel to the depth of the truss rod. Whether the existing fretboard would then sit level without a twist is another unknown, so you'd be best running a radius block over it to ensure an even radius.

    It really is almost easier to make your own neck from scratch using the kit neck as a rough template!

  5. Liked by: GerardL

  6. #4
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    Thankyou for the prompt responses guys.

    I inspected the neck again this morning, as I was going to take a few photos (Thankyou for the idea Brendon).
    But I was unable to get a photo showing any significant twisting.
    It seems to have stabilised (if that is even possible?), but in any event the twist is less than I originally observed/thought.

    So I will opt for Option 1 and have withdrawn my support request to Pitbull.
    The heel is an excellent fit to the body and as you say Simon, it would be difficult to get a replacement that exacting.

    So, I will go ahead with this one and hopefully have enough remaining frets left afterward (Mind you, I do have a 'fretless wonder' Gibson LP here, so will manage LOL).

    The quality of the workmanship on the body and neck otherwise is very good and I wouldn't hesitate to order again from Pitbull.
    The HW is as expected with a kit and easily swapped out. (I opted for some upgrades, but will likely upgrade further to some parts I already have here anyway).

    I think I may order another and make a Van Halen Shark next But best get this one done first.

    Thankyou and regards,
    G.

  7. #5
    Mentor fender3x's Avatar
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    I have not had this issue on a PB neck, but I had an issue that seemed quite similar with a neck I bought on eBay. At first I thought it was twisted, but after closely inspecting it, I was not sure if there was an actual twist, or if the fingerboard was just higher on one side than the other. Since I could not send the neck back, I decided to just see if I could level the frets.

    I was thinking that with an actual twist, it would probably not be possible to level the frets properly. If, on the other hand, one side of the fretboard was just thicker than the other, but the neck was otherwise straight, I would ould be able to level the frets without too much problem.

    Long story short, the frets leveled just fine. If yours is like mine, you'll be able to compensate for the thicker side of the neck when you adjust the saddles in final assembly, and you won't even notice the slight cant of the fretboard when you play it.

  8. Liked by: GerardL

  9. #6
    GAStronomist FrankenWashie's Avatar
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    I have a similar problem with a 27" PBG baritone neck. I believe my specific issue relates to moisture in the Lab and incorrect storage of the unfinished neck (It was bolted up to the JM body I'd made leaning against a wall for a few months). I'm going to see if I can clamp it to some known straight surfaces and correct it.

    I'm glad to hear yours has stabilised somewhat @GeraldL.
    FrankenLab
    Hand crafting guitars, because Death Rays are expensive.


  10. Liked by: GerardL

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