Sunday, February 13, 2011

Flat Neck Syndrome- A curable guitar neck defect


Next I'm going to talk about Flat Neck Syndrome or sometimes called Fat Neck Syndrome- a special defect that guitar neck can be born with.
It's curable, but not always pretty. FNS means the luthier did not carve the neck to be totally rounded into the classic 'D' shaped neck profile, this annoys many guitarists as the thumb of the left hand can hang up on that flat area of the neck or in the case of Fat Neck Syndrome be just plain too thick to play comfortably.

The neck profile of a guitar neck can be reshaped if there is enough meat left on the neck and there is no danger of making it too thin or structurally weakening the neck. It is a judgment call that a good repair person or guitar maker can decide on. Once you decide to have the neck modified, it's a matter of carefully reshaping it and refinishing it. Usually you want to use the same finish on the neck as was used on the guitar originally, but sometimes you must use an alternate finish for time sake or because the new finish will actually wear better.

This week I will be finishing up a neck reshaping job on a modest, but otherwise serviceable classical guitar. The guitar has horrible polyurethane finish, UHGG! Poly, the bane of all luthiers, it's thick goopy stuff and it dampens the vibrations of a delicate guitar well made guitar. However on many factory grade instruments the heavy handed long wearing polyurethane finish is often used. You just gotta roll with it a do the best you can when you repair those finishes, it's part of the repair persons territory. You out there should feel great pity for those of us who patch up your poly plastic dipped guitars.

The illustration up above shows the cross section of a classical guitar neck and shows the difference between the 'flat' and 'D' shaped neck profiles. The flat neck shape means the guitar maker rounded off the corners of the rough neck, but did not take it farther and carve the whole thing into a well formed round. Some guitarists like those flat necks and that's fine, but most prefer the 'D'.

I reshaped a neck last week as I said, and I am finishing it right now with French polish, that sounds really haughty, no? French polish is about as French as French Toast. It means using shellac, a natural finish to make a thin tough film on a wood surface. I'm going to talk about what French polishing is and why I choose it to refinish the neck I reshaped. And then I'll get back to the oud.......

2 comments:

  1. All my previous flamenco guitars have had FNS, so it makes me happy as a player to know you're giving proper consideration to this!
    Ryan

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  2. I have always done this to cheap Spanish made guitars I have had.....thought I was alone in my frustration... good to know I am not alone!!

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