This Rickenbacker 370/12 came to us when we were back at the old workshop. It had a very twisted neck that the owner had been told was unfixable. Of course, unfixable is a challenge we will always be tempted by…
We strapped the guitar securely up to the StewMac Erlewine Neck Jig, and took as many useful measurements of the starting point as possible. We also took about 4million other photos to try and get a good perspective of how the twist was changing over the course of the fix.
The old truss rods (on the right) were beyond saving. We had a strong feeling they’d been pre-bent to try and counteract the twist in the neck but if they had, they were installed back to front and were having the opposite effect if anything. The new ones were supplied by Robbie at Rickysounds.
We removed all the tuners and made a jig to sandwich the headstock in between. This would give us a way of correcting the twist safely and uniformly. In order to soften the wood enough to reshape the neck we used dry heat from a hairdryer rather than steam. After about 10 minutes the headstock became noticeably pliable so we set it back straight, using various vices and blocks to keep it in place whilst it cooled.
After being left in position for a few weeks we decided to tentatively prepare the guitar to be restrung. The neck jig allowed us to get a decent idea of what it might be like with the strings back on and in playing position. We took more measurements and checked against what we started with and compared photos of the twist.
All in all, we heated the neck three times to get it perfect. In instances such as this it’s always best to work out a little bit of the twist each time rather than giving the wood one big shock. In between the second and third treatments we put the tuners back on and tested the guitar at full string tension. We let the guitar sit for a few weeks between treatments and took regular measurements to make sure the twist wasn’t returning.
The work on the guitar was completed in August 2019. It took around 20hrs in total over a six-month period. We recently checked in with the owner and he says it’s still playing great and no sign of the twist returning. We’ve used this method to fix a few other instruments since then, including a 100 year old banjo.