Need more neck relief!


I know this probably sounds like a biomechanics post. But thankfully my human neck is fine! It’s my guitar neck. All of them. It’s drying out rapidly here in NYC as the temperature drops, and the necks are all going super straight. Even strung with 12s and the truss rod so loose that the nut spins, I’m getting string buzz.

I think it may be time to try and clamp in some relief/bow, the reverse to what the always-amazing Dan Erlewine does in this clip:

Has anyone had this issue, and have you tried the clamp technique, and did it work? Do I need to put this in oven or apply heat gun or something?


Condition your fretboard with a little lemon oil too. Last year my classical guitar got too cold and the fretboard dried up. Some of the frets sprouted and turned into little razors that slice up my index finger. Humidifying didn’t work because they sprouted upwards instead of off the sides of the fretboard. Too scared to try hammering them back in even though the ends are only a hair above the fretboard. Sanding them is probably my best option but I’ll have to careful of the binding.


I would try getting the humidity in your room up and seeing how that goes first. Any structural work on a guitar to get more relief would be on a guitar that isn’t able to get enough relief under normal humidity conditions…If you get what I mean.
There have been some threads on clamping and heating on the gearpage over the years. Some say it can work sometimes, some say the neck will revert back and that it’s better to sand relief into the fretboard. Heating with heatlamps is a way to do it. I personally would hesitate to try it on a neck that isn’t a “junk neck/practice neck”.
Here is some reading for you, it’s not a long thread :wink:

Oh, btw, no I never tried it.


Good point, and yes it wasn’t so great to begin with. In more humid months, the truss is still near the end of its travel, so if anything changes, there’s no room to correct. What I’d love to do is get it set up in the middle of its adjustment range, so I have some correction capability when the climate changes.

We ordered a humidifier but it’s pretty much impossible to get us back into the 40% range in the winter given the poor sealing of our age-old buildings here. Our moisture meter goes below 20% in the winter to the point that the device just gives up and reads “low”.


Did you order room humidifier or one of those guitar case ones? I don’t want this to happen to any of my other guitars.



Geez you guys - I live in Minnesota where going from fall to winter is like expecting your neck to snap off any second. Then going back to spring - it’s brutal. It’s why I have a couple guitars with carbon fiber reinforcement in the neck because the neck doesn’t shift.

But I’ve got this strat that had a former owner where the neck ended up having major problems due to improper storage and I was able to after months of adjustments with the truss rod and intonation/bridge height getting no success only to find that I was able to raise the neck slightly with a shim and now string height isn’t too bad but I will need to adjust intonation now - some chords are just horribly out of tune despite the guitar being in tune which is intonation related.

I’ve watched a lot of videos on youtube because sending the guitar to my preferred luthier I just can’t afford at the moment . So I sympathize, I really do. I’d rather be playing than adjusting/maintaining.

A guy I’ve found has good information is the luthier out of Toronto who calls his channel “Dave’s World of Fun Stuff”.


Room. It just arrived today:

The studio is a pretty sealed environment and it’s got it up to 39% humidity after a few hours. But… it’s ultrasonic and will mist tap water minerals into the air, which then settle on everything. I’m thinking we should return it and get something even larger and more powerful that is also evaporative and doesn’t have the sediment problem. Maybe one of these:


Yep, sounds familiar. New York doesn’t have Minnesota winters for sure, but we do have wild swings in humidity, as high as 70% this summer and below 20% in the winter, according to our little hand-held hygrometer.

We have a Drednought Jr. acoustic that ripped a hole right down the middle in the back, and the little nylon string we used in this clip here, while, not expensive or irreplaceable, the bridge glue dried up and the bridge popped right off!


I would have thought the glue was already dry for the bridge to stay on in the first place, but what do I know… :open_mouth:

Anyway, perhaps a shim in the neck pocket would work? Of course, it does not give you more relief, but it might be worth a try.


Sorry, I’m stupid. I know the instrument dries out. I know the bridge popped off. Therefore, by syllogism the bridge popped off because it was dry! Now that you are pointing out, it’s true, I don’t know why it popped off — maybe the instrument changed size when it dried out. Or they glued it to the finish instead of bare wood. I can look when I get home and see if they did that.

Re: shim, I know this is typically done to create more back bow but I have too much already - I need more relief. I have read that you can install a shim in the top of the neck pocket, rather than the usual location at the bottom, to create the reverse effect. But I’m not sure how much better that is than raising the action. Is that what you’re referring to?


Now I’m the one who is sorry! It was just a facetious remark.


I initially had the idea it would give a different effect, but after having given it some thought I’m not so sure anymore… I’ve tried it at some point when the bridge saddles were already as high as they would go, but that’s not the problem you’re having, of course.


My studio is in an old stable/pig shed so suffers from the same thing.

Having a band practise in there is about as effective as running the humidifier.

I don’t love the unfinished neck on my Music Man quite so much when it needs truss rod adjustment every day because of humidity fluctuations.


Have you measured the current amount of relief? How far off is it?


Is this normal for your area or is global warming coming for the guitars as well?


Troy do you treat your necks with anything after you change strings? Just wondering - not saying that it would have helped in this situation, but I’m curious. I use gorgomyte on mine or Big Bends Fretboard Juice just depending.


I have not! I just know that before I made any adjustments, the typical string press at the 1st and 17th frets gave me no air gap at all at the 7th fret - it was metal on metal. When I loosened the truss completely I now have .010 on my feeler gauge. So still a little low, with nowhere to go to adjust. And some of the top strings are buzzing with the saddles on the high side. So things are not quite right, and I think I need to get the relief part sorted first just to eliminate variables.

Edit: In re-reading this, I guess this probably qualifies as “measuring the amount of relief”. The caffeine hasn’t kicked in yet today!


Did you measure about .010 relief at both the high e and low e side of the fretboard? Maybe you have less relief on the high e side (slightly warped neck).
.010 is considered a pretty substantial amount of relief! You should only need a hair. A lot more and you could be getting into the area of causing it’s own problems of too much relief.


I did not measure both sides but I will do so in a moment.

As far as the amount of relief here, this is strung up at tension with the truss rod totally loose. So basically, this is the most possible relief I can have. And if the humidity changes a hair and the neck straightens out, and it will as it gets colder and drier here, I have no way to bring it back.


Is this really a thing? I’ve seen how temperamental the action on acoustics can be with humidity variations, but that’s mostly to do with how thin the top is. (Humidity makes the wood swell and the bridge can move up or down as the top expands or contracts.) Electrics don’t have this problem as they are much thicker wood, and usually finished in something that keeps the moisture out (poly or nitro). The only effect of humidity that I’ve seen on electric gutars is in the fretboard (the aforementioned fret sprout). Not saying that’s the only effect, it’s just the only one I’ve seen directly. I’m curious what other people have seen.

So I guess I’m wondering

  1. What kinds of guitars you’re talking about (electric/acoustic, brand/model)?
  2. How exactly does low humidity straighten a guitar neck?


Totally. By mid winter, the action on all my electrics is different and the frets are all sprouting. The other day I was in the studio working and the temperature was dropping rapidly, it was changing as I sat there. By the end of the day the strings were all rattling. It was unseasonably cold that day and they shut off the heat on the weekends in our office building.

I can’t give you the technical explanation for why this happens, and I’m probably as surprised as you how obvious it is. I’m determined not to let that happen again, and now we have nice reasonably sealed studio we can humidify. At home though I’m not sure how much we can do - it’s an old building and super drafty.