Neck Reset Blues

Here's what the neck join usually looks like. The glue isn't too neat but there isn't a ton of extra oozing out anywhere and no clamp marks. There are variations in the way the end of the tenon in cut-some are like this photo, some are cut straight across and some are trapezoids.

Martin guys and most other high end acoustic aficionados don’t give neck resets much thought. They kind of go with the territory on these old acoustics-partially because there is some much more movement over the course of years with a hollow body spruce top guitar than there is with a solid or semi hollow guitar like an ES-335. As I understand it  (and I’m no expert in these things but I can read and everything you read on the Internets is true right?)  they don’t affect the value of an old acoustic.  This isn’t true when it comes to most electrics however and not because it necessarily affects the playability but because it just isn’t “original” Well what isn’t original? The glue. Just the glue. That’s what a reset is in a solid or semi hollow guitar. It means the glue gave up and the neck came loose. I can’t think of a single instance that the neck angle on an ES-335 changed because of environmental issues like an acoustic.  I hadn’t even seen a reset 335 until recently. You see them on SGs all the time-more often than not these days. And there’s a good reason for that. The SG tenon is a flat tongue that is glued on one big surface and maybe a teeny bit on the very thin sides. The glue eventually gives up and the neck comes loose. Or the guitar gets knocked over and the week tenon gets busted. This just doesn’t seem to happen much with a 335 and there’s a good reason for that as well. The neck tenon (see this post) on a vintage 335 (up to mid 69) is pretty darn huge and has glue on three substantial surfaces. Beyond that, it’s glued to a big ol’ piece of maple that’s as solid as a tree. So, as a result, these guitars don’t generally need a reset because the necks just don’t ever move from their very secure pocket. But glue is not eternal. It is subject to the environment and age, just like the rest of us, and as a result, the neck can simply come loose on its own. So whaddya do? You take it to your friendly neighborhood luthier-be careful-I had a reader explain he was taking his guitar to a Lutheran which can be a real mistake-and have him reglue it using hide glue as was done at the factory. In my mind this should have a very minimal effect on the value of the guitar. the thing that affects the value, to me, isn’t even the fact that the neck was reglued-it’s the fact that the lacquer between the heel and the body has to be broken and either left broken or touched up. If you have it touched up, the black light police will know and will think maybe its a reneck or a repaired break. If you don’t touch up the lacquer and the job is done right, there is a hairline of space between the heel and the body on the back and sides. That’s usually the giveaway right? Well, no -not exactly. I’ve had a fair number of ES-335s and their brethren with that same space and no sign of any work at all. That joint can get a lot of stress over 50 years and the lacquer in there is pretty thin and can flake away on the side and split on the back. What I do if I see a space there is this: I pull the neck pickup and look in the rout. If there’s a clamp mark or two or three, it’s probably a reset. Gibson may have used clamps but they didn’t leave marks in there. If there a lot of extra glue in there, it’s a tossup. I’ve seen some really sloppy glue work on Gibsons. You want see really sloppy glue work? Look at the bottom edge of the center block. It usually looks like they hired trained (and not very well trained) gorillas to do the glue work there. I guess they just figured no one would bother looking. But here’s the thing. It’s a reglued joint not a break. If the nut came unglued and you stuck it back in with some Elmers you probably would give it much thought. If the guitar in question is solid and you like it (and if you can get a couple hundred off), then don’t worry about a reset. Glue is not eternal. Nor, probably, are Lutherans, but don’t tell them that.

You can see that the lacquer is broken here but that doesn't mean it's been reset. It simply means the lacquer is broken here. It can be caused by environmental issues or trauma with no further damage. Or it could be a reset. Look inside the neck pickup rout for clamp marks.

The clamp marks are those circles. One is on the tenon and one is in the left router groove and another in the right router groove. I'm sure groove isn't the right word-anybody know what that's called? I'm not a woodworker unless you count using a toothpick.


One Response to “Neck Reset Blues”

  1. manny says:

    excellent job of information!!!

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