Crawls Backward (When Alarmed)

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Resetting the Neck on the Gretsch Ukulele

Aside from the neck alignment issue, I found that I actually over-set the neck joint.  An overset is where the neck angle is such that a straightedge placed on the frets (in the same direction as the strings) goes over the bridge instead of laying exactly on top of it.

My goof was setting the neck to the top of the saddle, rather than the bridge.  So I need to recalculate the difference and shave some material off the neck joint to get a proper set.

You can find the formula online.  (By the way, that dial gauge on the link above is nice, but you can make the same difference measurements with a ruler.  You may not be quite as accurate, but that's the way luthiers and repair people have done it for hundreds of years).

I calculate that I need to take about .050 of an inch off the top of the joint, tapering to zero at the bottom.  So I make some marks for that distance at the top of the neck...

...and use some masking tape to give me a line to work against. 

What this will do is align the joint so that the neck angle will be less severe.  As it was set, if it were strung, the strings would literally lie right on the tops of the frets and the ukulele would be totally unplayable.  Not what I'm aiming for.

Now, because I am a bit daring, and because I have this new tool toy, I decide to take a bit of the material off with an oscillating belt sander.

I actually just take a tiny bit off with the sander, mainly because it's too hard to keep the neck square against the belt.  You're better off using a chisel so you have better control.  After a quick whoosh on the sander, I use chisels for the rest of the job.

Here's my spindle sander next to my drill press.

There are lots of threads on the TDPRI about the "ROSS" (Ridgid Oscillating Spindle Sander).  It will definitely make my life easier.  It can run as a belt or a spindle sander.  What a machine.

Now the process is: hold the neck in place, measure the neck set, and adjust accordingly.  "Adjust" means shaving small amounts off the neck's butt end (hee hee I wrote 'butt') until the angle is perfect. 

This picture gives an idea of the process.  It's close at this point.

When the angle is correct, I take some sandpaper (I used 150 grit) and put between the neck and body.   Holding the joint with one hand, I pull a strip of sandpaper down through the joint.

This helps the neck take the curve of the body and hopefully makes a tighter fit.

Another shot of the test-fitting process.  I use masking tape to try and not hose the finish too badly.

I had cut a dowel to replace the old one I cut out.  You can see it here glued into the body.

Then I put glue on the neck joint - including the mating hole for the dowel.

Then I put the neck and body together.

Here's how I clamped the neck and body together.  Unlike a dovetail, where you'd put vertical pressure on the joint to clamp it, I needed to put on horizonal pressure.  I decided to go with a band clamp around the whole instrument lengthwise

I was a able to get a fair amount of pressure on the joint - glue was squeezing out, which was a good sign that the joint was tight.

I double, triple, and quadruple checked the alignment from every angle.  I think I'm in good shape this time.
I gently picked the ukulele up while it was clamped so I could clean up the excess glue squeeze-out with a damp rag.

Here's the clamp from another angle.  Again, I checked and rechecked everything and the set should be good.


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