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Author Topic:  Neck screw tension
Paul Sutherland


From:
Placerville, California
Post Posted 11 Aug 2017 12:05 am     Reply with quote

It's fairly well known that the screws holding the aluminum neck to an Emmons should not be overtightened, as doing so kills sustain, tone, etc. But does that apply to wood neck Emmons? And does it apply to all steels with necks that are held on by screws (which is probably all pedal steels being made today).

Just as an experiment I pulled out my Williams series 700 keyless s10 with an aluminum neck. It has ten screws that appear to be holding the neck on. I checked those screws and they were all really tightened hard. I back the screws out until there was just a bit of pressure on each screw, and then played the steel.

I swear it sounded better to me with the neck screws loosened. Not a lot different but noticeable. Maybe I'm imaging things. I'll play the steel again tomorrow.
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Last edited by Paul Sutherland on 11 Aug 2017 5:51 am; edited 1 time in total
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Jack Stoner


From:
Inverness, Fl
Post Posted 11 Aug 2017 2:35 am     Reply with quote

I recently tore the E9th tuner apart and cleaned it in my 81 Franklin. In order to get the tuner out I had to remove the neck. The 6 screws for the neck were tight, maybe "overtightened" to some. When I reinstalled the neck I tried to tighten them about the same as original. IF the screw tightening really makes a difference I must have hit it right as it sounds the same after putting it back together.
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Georg Sørtun


From:
Mandal, VA, Norway & Weeki Wachee, FL, USA
Post Posted 11 Aug 2017 3:46 am     Reply with quote

With enough time and patience, most PSG's resonances can be tuned a little to ones liking by adjusting tension on the screws holding the neck in place. Better make high-quality recordings during the operation, as relying on ones memory of how an instrument sounded at various stages is pretty unreliable unless making such adjustments is part of ones profession.

There is no "wonder setting" that fits all PSGs, as the wood used isn't a constant across instruments - not even across the same brand/model. Also; wood is highly unstable over time, which affects such tiny adjustments for connections between parts.
Much easier to degrade the sound in an instrument through such an operation, as getting it "just right" for that instrument. If one is unable to get the instrument back to its original conditions if/when certain adjustments fail to produce the desired results, one should rather not try adjusting it in the first place.


The way it works on most instruments, is that even the tiniest gap between neck and body creates a void the neck and body can vibrate freely in. 1/100 of an inch is a big gap - too big in some cases and too little in others. Where neck and body starts to meet again - mainly around the screws, these parts vibrate against each other and may with the right tension create sympathetic vibrations that may add "body sound" to the mix that increases sustain.
(Several underlined "may" in the above, as one has little to no idea if resulting vibrations sound good or bad until one has tested.)

In some cases placing thin metal washers between neck and body at the screw-points can produce the desired result. Such washers create gaps between the screw-points, allowing the neck and body to "breathe" individually over longer stretches (between the screws) and still be firmly connected to each other.
Again; one won't know the result until one has tested.
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ajm


From:
Los Angeles
Post Posted 11 Aug 2017 7:26 am     Reply with quote

Interesting topic.

In the 6 string world, Buzz Feiten is sort of a guru mad scientist inventor type. He came out with his own line of guitars in the past few years.

In an issue of GP magazine a few years back he talked about his guitars, what makes them different/better/etc. A couple of the things that he discussed were the tightness of the neck screws and the bridge plate screws. I was surprised that he noted that he doesn't do them real tight. He claims that it makes for better resonance.

One question on the PSG neck screws: Do the necks contribute to the rigidity of the cabinet?
If so, will loosening them affect the cabinet drop?
Or tuning stability?
Or affect the possible warpage of the body?
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Georg Sørtun


From:
Mandal, VA, Norway & Weeki Wachee, FL, USA
Post Posted 11 Aug 2017 8:01 am     Reply with quote

ajm wrote:
One question on the PSG neck screws: Do the necks contribute to the rigidity of the cabinet?
If so, will loosening them affect the cabinet drop?
Or tuning stability?
Or affect the possible warpage of the body?

The answer to all those points is: just a tiny bit on the traditionally built PSGs I have tested.
But, if the body of a given PSG can't hold its own without the neck being tightened down to it, it isn't built well to begin with.

OTOH, a neck can be made to take up the entire stress of varying string-tension, independent of the body. Haven't seen such a construction around, apart from the one I modified myself when I chose an entirely different approach to the "increased sustain and stability" issue.
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Erv Niehaus


From:
Litchfield, MN, USA
Post Posted 11 Aug 2017 8:01 am     Reply with quote

I think the color of the shirt you're wearing makes more of a difference. Rolling Eyes
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Jason Putnam


From:
Tennessee, USA
Post Posted 11 Aug 2017 2:58 pm     Reply with quote

Makes sense to me. The tone of an instrument comes from vibration. So if the neck is tightened too much it will act as a brace and limit the ability of the body to resonate. That's my unscientific opinion.
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Lee Baucum


From:
McAllen, Texas (Extreme South) The Final Frontier
Post Posted 11 Aug 2017 3:22 pm     Reply with quote

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Larry Behm


From:
Mt Angel, Or 97362
Post Posted 11 Aug 2017 4:01 pm     Reply with quote

Red Rhodes once put a 5/16 or 3/8 steel rod from one end of the underside of a Sierra to the other, made it really stiff, he felt it sounded better. Go figure.
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Paul Sutherland


From:
Placerville, California
Post Posted 11 Aug 2017 8:24 pm     Reply with quote

I finally found the time to tinker with the Williams today. First I played the steel with the neck screws fairly loose as set yesterday. It sounded very good. Then I loosened them entirely, just to push it to the extreme. It sounded about the same. But I checked the cabinet drop and it was more noticeable.

Then I tightened everything back up to where it was before I started this journey. All ten screws were very firmly tightened. The cabinet drop was a bit less, but the tone definitely suffered. It sounded like the notes were getting choked off. The high end sustain declined significantly.

The test I ultimately used was setting the volume to a reasonable level with the pedal, then taking my foot off the volume pedal, so sustain from the volume pedal was not part of the equation. Then I would firmly pluck strings 3 & 5 with the bar at the tenth fret, or higher, using no vibrato. I could hear the notes dropping off dramatically after only about a second or so. The decay was not even. It sounded choked. Almost like a gate was cutting off the notes.

Then I re-loosened the ten screws to just applying a bit of pressure to the wood, probably less then an 1/8 turn after encountering resistance. The cabinet drop was perhaps a little more than with the screws really tightened down, but less than with no pressure on the screws at all. The sustain, however, was much better. Using the same test on strings 3 & 5, the notes decayed at a much more uniform and even rate. There was none of that choked sound. That's what I have been missing for the three years that I've been trying to bond with this steel.

I appreciate all the comments to this thread. I find it interesting that a steel with legendary tone, the Franklin, would choose to use only six neck screws, whereas the Williams opted for ten. Kind-of makes me wonder.

PS: The nice thing about screws, if you don't like the result when you turn it one way, just turn it the other way.

Don't be afraid.
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Dennis Detweiler


From:
Solon, Iowa, US
Post Posted 11 Aug 2017 8:38 pm     Reply with quote

The attachment that Lee added had a quote from Buddy Emmons concerning neck tightness. Years previous to that Buddy went into more detail. He also stated that tightening the aluminum neck to the max killed the sustain. He suggested lightly snugged. I experimented with my aluminum neck Zum vs my wood neck MSA several years ago. The opposite was true about wooden necks. I tightened my wood neck MSA to the max and got much more sustain. I also removed the felt from underneath the neck screws. If the felt killed the sustain it wasn't enough to detect.
So, neck tension does make a difference.
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Paul Sutherland


From:
Placerville, California
Post Posted 11 Aug 2017 9:36 pm     Reply with quote

I should add, I got this Williams second hand. I have no idea if someone tightened up the neck screws after it left the factory. I just know I like the steel a lot more with those screws set pretty loose.
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Bobby Boggs


From:
Upstate SC.
Post Posted 12 Aug 2017 12:39 pm     Reply with quote

Paul, would you have to remove the fret-boards to access all the neck screws? I want to think at least some of the neck screws come down from the top on an Emmons? Only asking. Never removed a fret-board on any guitar. But have played several where the fret-board were installed wrong by a previous owner.

Thanks b.
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Paul Sutherland


From:
Placerville, California
Post Posted 12 Aug 2017 12:55 pm     Reply with quote

You do not have to take the fretboard off to get to the neck screws on an Emmons. They are all screwed in from underneath. At least that's the way my Emmons is built. My Williams also.
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Mike Scaggs


From:
Nashville, TN
Post Posted 12 Aug 2017 1:54 pm     Reply with quote

Paul Sutherland wrote:
You do not have to take the fretboard off to get to the neck screws on an Emmons. They are all screwed in from underneath. At least that's the way my Emmons is built. My Williams also.


Yes Paul on metal neck guitars you are correct. However, on wood neck guitars the screws go in from the top under the fret boards (just did one)

Cheers.
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William Liemandt


From:
New Mexico
Post Posted 12 Aug 2017 2:32 pm     Reply with quote

A very interesting thread for me. I'm restoring an early 70's Sho-Bud Professional, and here are my observations so far. I had to remove the glued on fret boards to access the six each per neck wooden neck attachment screws. The screws go in from the top side. The front neck E9 screws were in immaculate condition. The back neck C6 screws were all rusted and corroded out. Not even easy outs could remove those screws as they had zero head left on those screws. Anyway, got them out by hook or crook, and refinished the body and necks.

Question: why were the back neck screws in such bad condition? Based on clues I noticed, I'm fairly certain this guitar never had the fret boards removed previously. Could sweat from the human body do such a thing? Other ideas?

I have reinstalled the wooden necks and torqued them down tightly. I'm still in process of restoring some remaining parts of the undercarriage. This thread is so interesting to me because I want to learn if I should hold off on installing the glued on fret boards. Perhaps, I should wait and experiment, via my non-patented sound testing method, on the wooden neck torquing before I semi-permanently affix the fret boards??? One can easily ruin a glued on fret board during removal and I want to avoid that.

I'm getting some mixed signals from this thread. The way I read this, the majority of respondents say neck torque is only critical on metal necks, but, on the other hand, just go for broke on wooden necks. Please enjoy my attached tongue-in-cheek meme!




Last edited by William Liemandt on 12 Aug 2017 2:55 pm; edited 1 time in total
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Lee Baucum


From:
McAllen, Texas (Extreme South) The Final Frontier
Post Posted 12 Aug 2017 2:53 pm     Reply with quote

More to read:


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Dennis Detweiler


From:
Solon, Iowa, US
Post Posted 12 Aug 2017 5:13 pm     Reply with quote

The necks screws on my wooden neck MSA and metal neck Zum are installed from the bottom of the guitar and didn't have to remove the fret board.
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1976 Birdseye U-12 MSA with Telonics 427 pickup, Revelation Preamp, TC Electronic M-350 Processor, Carvin HT 400 Stereo Rack Head, 15" BW, Hilton Pedal, 1949 Epiphone D-8. And, too much extra gear.
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Georg Sørtun


From:
Mandal, VA, Norway & Weeki Wachee, FL, USA
Post Posted 13 Aug 2017 3:27 am     Reply with quote

One important detail: it can make a noticeable difference, both sonically and when it comes to detuning, whether the screws are all tightened / loosened evenly along the neck, or if the screws are tightened well near the changer and loosened more towards the keyhead, or the other way round...

- On some PSGs the neck support the changer horizontally - the changer butts up against the neck, and detuning will inevitably increase if the neck can move horizontally even the slightest under varying string-tension because of loose screws.
One set of (two) screws nearest the changer can be enough to hold it steady if well tightened, while the other screws can be loosened to check for sonic improvements. OR, the screws next to the nut can be tightened to hold the neck steady lengthwise, while the other screws are loosened. Depends on how the PSG is designed, and the structure of the wood the body is made of, what will work best.
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Jack Stoner


From:
Inverness, Fl
Post Posted 13 Aug 2017 4:39 am     Reply with quote

I wonder if all of this is the same as the "black" mica steels. Devil
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Erv Niehaus


From:
Litchfield, MN, USA
Post Posted 13 Aug 2017 6:03 am     Reply with quote

Jack,
Two minds think alike. Very Happy
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Dennis Detweiler


From:
Solon, Iowa, US
Post Posted 13 Aug 2017 7:23 am     Reply with quote

In conclusion, I wouldn't argue with the talent and guitar building mind of Buddy Emmons.
_________________
1976 Birdseye U-12 MSA with Telonics 427 pickup, Revelation Preamp, TC Electronic M-350 Processor, Carvin HT 400 Stereo Rack Head, 15" BW, Hilton Pedal, 1949 Epiphone D-8. And, too much extra gear.
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Georg Sørtun


From:
Mandal, VA, Norway & Weeki Wachee, FL, USA
Post Posted 13 Aug 2017 8:59 am     Reply with quote

Jack Stoner wrote:
I wonder if all of this is the same as the "black" mica steels. Devil
Very Happy
No Jack, there's a little more to it than that. No miracles though...

OTOH, I wish they hadn't chromed so many details on my black-mica steels Laughing
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Len Amaral


From:
Rehoboth,MA 02769
Post Posted 13 Aug 2017 2:56 pm     Reply with quote

Hmmm, wonder if someone dares to replace the neck screws with hex cap and then use a torque wrench to measure the tension. Once you get a favorable result at so many lbs. you could always repeat the process.
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Paul Sutherland


From:
Placerville, California
Post Posted 13 Aug 2017 3:04 pm     Reply with quote

To the naysayers: Are your opinions based on experience or something else? Have you tried it? It's not hard and it's not destructive. If you haven't, why are you so sure of your opinions?

PS: I played the Williams with loosened neck screws at a bar gig last night. It was definitely better to my ears. The best the Williams has ever sounded.
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