Wednesday, November 13, 2019

Gretsch White Falcon neck reset

We had a 2008 Gretsch G6136DS White Falcon come in this summer with a loose neck joint.  The owner had bought it used, knowing that it had potential issues.  There was a clear gap at the neck joint.  Sometimes this means that the neck has shifted but is still solid.  Other times, it means that it is failing.  After a simple test of visually inspecting the joint as it was being flexed it was unfortunately loose.  I had done a neck reset on a Gretsch from the 1960's before, but not on a newer Gretsch.  As a Fender and Gretsch service centre, we have access to techs at the manufacturer, so I decided to send an email down to Gretsch and get some advice.  I heard back from one of them, and he helped get me off to a good start.  A shout out and thank you to Ed!
I decided to document the neck repair because I was not able to find any info online for newer Gretsch guitars that needed this work.  Be advised that a neck removal and reset is not recommended for a first time try on a guitar like this.  I will mention many of the steps that I went through for this job, but not all of them.  This is not a how-to for a first timer.  It is meant for other technicians as a helpful reference.

Above are two shots of the failing neck joint.

I scored around the neck joint with a fresh razor blade to minimize potential finish chipping on removal.

The fifteenth fret was removed.

Not knowing the exact place to drill the access holes for steaming off the neck, I used 1/4" in from the edge of the fretboard.  However, the holes barely cleared the neck joint and I could have gone in another 2/32".  These holes were drilled at about a 60 degree angle.

I removed the tailpiece, bridge, pickguard and neck pickup so that I could properly work with the guitar.  The neck pickup is in the way when you are trying to manuever the neck for removal.

I use the StewMac steaming hose and tip, hooked up to a capucino maker.  Because I had drilled my holes a bit off, I had only drilled into one side of the neck joint so the steam did not flow as nicely.  Also, I had to watch the inside of the cavity of the guitar through the neck pickup access hole and clean up water dripping from the neck block onto the back.  It took me 45 minutes from start to finish to remove the neck.

Here are two shots of the body and neck joint after removal.  The glue looks like a PVA.  Tedious to clean up.

After cleaning up, I added some maple shims to the cheeks of the neck joint for an extra tight fit.

I needed to do a bit of touch-up at the neck heel and around the body.  Given that this is a newer Gretsch that does not have a lacquer finish, I used cyanoacrylate glue for repairing small chips and then level sanded and buffed before gluing up the neck.

After getting the neck back on I popped the 15th fret back in and did a complete fret dress and set up with fresh strings.