Neck Resets

Step 2:

Removing the Neck

Once I have the specs down and have evaluated the neck, it's time to pull it off

First, here's some of the gear I use.  This is a pressure cooked modified with a radiator hose.  That's a bicycle tire valve stem in the pressure cooker.  I'm using a Stew Mac needle at the other end.  I like to have a place to rest the steam needle and just stick it thru the closed vise.  The pressure cooker sits on a single-burner hot plate and I can easily control the amount of heat.  Very useful for doing multiple neck pulls- I can just turn the heat down and keep the water hot and ready to steam.

I used to use a cappuccino machine, but I like the pressure cooker a lot better.  For one thing, I can keep steam going and not have to rely on a single little shot.  With the cappuccino machine, you're going to put 2 oz. of water into the neck joint whether you like it or not, but the pressure cooker seems to put a lot more steam and a lot less water.  I typically put on 1" or so of water in it and most of that will still be there when I'm done.  I've pulled 4 necks in a morning with no more than 1" of water and had lots left over.  The pressure cooker is a lot more stable, too.

First step is to heat up the fingerboard extension.  I nearly always leave the extension attached.  Some guys cut the fingerboard off at the 15th fret.  I just don't understand why- it's fairly easy to remove the fingerboard extension from the body.  The worst I've seen are guitars where the guy cut the fingerboard at the 14th fret!  The dovetail is still under the extension and you still have to remove it!  It's crazy.  Out of more than 100 neck resets, I've cut the extension twice- a Martin 00-18 that had zero dovetail room and a double-X Gibson with a double compound dovetail.  Anyway, I'm using a heat lamp to soften the glue and an aluminum/cardboard cover to protect the guitar.
After the heat has been on for a few minutes, I work a flat spatula knife under it.  I'll usually dip this in water and work a little moisture under the extension.  The extension will be hot enough that the water will cause some steam and that really helps loosen things up.
As you can see, the spatula will go all the way in.  I don't mind if the last 1/4" or so isn't loose because it will loosen when I steam the joint and will help keep steam in the joint up to that point.
Either before I loosen the extension or immediately afterwards, I pull the 15th fret.  Heating the extension gets the fret nice and hot and it'll come right out. 
With the fret out, I drill a 1/16" hole in the fret slot.  The idea is to hit the neck pocket.  You can feel it when you get it. I can hit it about 90% of the time on a Martin, but other brands are more interesting. If I don't get it right away, I'll angle the drill bit and try again.  It's been my experience that the pocket on non-Martin guitars is closer to the 14th fret, rather than farther away. 

While I'm doing all this, the pressure cooker's been heating up and is usually ready to go.  With the extension loose and the hole drilled, we're ready to steam and pull.


Steam and Removal