How To Replace A Guitar Neck

There are several reasons why you may need to know how to replace a guitar neck. Perhaps the worst has happened. You were tossing your guitar around like Pete Townshend and broke the headstock on the ceiling just like he did. Or you just want a better neck. You can learn the basics of how to replace a guitar neck just by reading this article.

Things you'll need:

  • Replacement neck
  • Original or replacement parts: tuning keys, string trees
  • Large and small Phillips screwdrivers
  1. The first thing to do is determine what type of neck your guitar has. There are two types: the set neck and the bolt-on. Many high end guitars, such as Gibson and Gretsch, feature a set neck. This is a neck that is actually glued to the body with wooden parts that fit tightly together before gluing, painting and finishing. The bolt-on neck will have four or five bolts at the rear base of the neck that attach the neck to the body. The neck is not glued and can be easily separated from the body. If your guitar does not have bolts at the back, it is a set neck. If this is the case, you will have no choice but to take it to a professional. If your guitar has a bolt-on neck (common to Fender and other major manufacturers), you can proceed. Be careful in purchasing a new neck as they are not interchangeable; some have different widths and predrilled holes. Try to find a neck that matches the make and model of your guitar as closely as possible. Mighty Mite is a good manufacturer of inexpensive replacement guitar necks, if you cannot find an original part.
  2. You will first need to take the strings off of the guitar. Remove any parts such as string trees or tuning keys that you plan to install on the new neck using a Phillips head screwdriver. For the tuning keys, you will need a very small screwdriver.
  3. Using a large Phillips screwdriver, remove the large screws at the base of the neck. Be careful not to let the neck fall forward as you are removing the last screw, as it could strip the wood. Set the screws and base plate aside.
  4. Take the new neck and fit the edge diagonally into the pocket on the guitar body. Gently work the neck down and inward until the neck is snugly in place. Make sure that the neck is completely flat against the body and all the way down so there is no space between neck and pocket edges. Again, it's very important that the neck fits snugly. The guitar repair people of Ed Roman guitars tell us that "a loose neck joint causes instability and detracts horribly from tone quality."
  5. Holding neck and body together with one hand, fit in two screws catty-corner from each other with the other (with the base plate beneath them) and drive them in with a screwdriver. Make sure when you do this that the neck remains absolutely flat! Sometimes, if a neck has holes that are not completely threaded, the neck will start to come up from the body, leaving a space. Make sure that this does not happen. Once the first two are tight, screw in the other two bolts until the neck is firmly secured.
  6. Install the tuning keys and string trees, string the guitar and tune it. Check the intonation. If it is not correct, you may have to adjust the bridge to accommodate the new neck. Check the action. This may also need adjustment, as fret height can differ between necks.

If all goes well, you should have the guitar up and playing in no time. Neck replacement can usually be done in less than an hour. Have fun!

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