Rickenbacker International Corporation - Forum

Truss Rods
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Author:  goalieman [ Tue Aug 30, 2011 10:03 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Truss Rods

Interesting stuff here and it brings up a question I have about my 4003. The truss rod on the E/A side of the neck adjusts very smoothly while the truss rod on the other side is as tight as I can get it by hand, yet I can't get the neck to a dead flat postion on the D/G side of the neck (I could easily get the E/A side dead flat). This brings me to the question of: is there ever a time where using a rachet wrench to get further tension on a truss rod justifiable? Besides going that route, are there any other tricks to get a more even tension on both truss rods?

Author:  maxwell [ Wed Aug 31, 2011 4:32 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Truss Rods

The Official recommendation about tightening is to use only the typical nut driver with hand pressure/firmness only. Using any kind of wrench/leverage arm will place undo forces on the rods and/or portions of the neck. Too much force, things start to bend, crush and/or break. Mr. Hall has written about this.

You can try to flex and hold the neck as you tighten. (Mr. Hall also mentions this; used to be done when adjusting older guitars/necks.) This worked for me, I mean, I was able to very slightly turn the adjustment nuts, but this was so little that it did not yield a noticably straighter neck. But maybe it might for you. Just be somewhat judicious in the use of force flexing that neck; replacing a neck is probably very expensive.... A couple of posts back, Right-Lefty has some ideas about your (our) problem.

Please keep us up-to-date on how you're making out. Thanks.

Author:  maxwell [ Sun Sep 11, 2011 5:42 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Truss Rods

Well, I can't seem to find any new truss rods for sale right now. So, I have nothing to lose by trying to bend and return the ones I have straight, or at least so that they're not so curved. But, my experience with bending things is that while you can bend things once pretty well, trying to bend things back to where they were is pretty "if-y." ( A rod with even subtle "kinks" in it is going to be shorter than its original/functional length; these rods have a precisely established length; not much wiggle room.) I'll give it a try when I get in the mood; you have to be psyche'd up and at your best when you do this sort of stuff, you know. (I do not have any kind of workshop. I could use a nice, big bench vise.) Thank you all for checking in.

Author:  maxwell [ Thu Sep 22, 2011 7:02 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Truss Rods

Well, the truss rods are back into the guitar. I thought a lot about how I could best really straighten those rods out. My thinking is that I would try straight rods, because when in place they would assume a curve that would conform to the truss rods spaces, and being somewhat flexed (curved, but not deformed) they would place a slight "bow" movement to the neck to counter the slight underbow that my neck has. Anyway, I finally decided that I would make a couple of 1-inch wooden dowel handles to bend them back straight. Here's photos:


I drilled holes into an end of each, and screwed them onto the truss rods.

Well, using the handles to bend the rods back didn't fully do the trick; a little inaccurate. I think just using your hands and maybe (while sitting) you knees/leg(s) would work OK for gross bending, and then using your hands with thumbs applying the pressure for smaller bends. By keeping the hands/thumbs relatively far from each other you avoid sharp bends (kinks) in the rods.

Here's the straightened rods. I wanted to help the rods slip down through the neck easily, and the end of the rod ("sharp" and rough from threads) might very well hang up or create scraping, resistance. I figured the easiest thing I could do was wrap the ends in tape, with some tape going past the end of the rods that I could shape into a point. Here they are:

I thought I'd exchange the original rod positions, left vs. right. The first rod (right side as you face the front of the guitar) slipped right through with barely any resistance; gentle finger pressure. The second rod, going into the left side took some pushing, with me having to finish using a nut driver to push the end. I did remove the rod once and could see some overlapping tape covering rubbing/tearing loose; I tore that interference off, but the rod was still significantly "tighter" than the other. I used an Allen wrench to tap the rods down into the neck far enough to expose the other ends of the rods at the body. Note how the rods lie at the "bottom" of the holes, flush with the body. This is what would be expected when the rods are trying to straighten out from their flexed, curved configuration. This will be somewhat of a problem when I push the rod ends (with these nuts) back into the neck:

I thought the idea of placing a washer at the body end of the truss rods was a good one; would not make too much difference in available rod length. I tried a SAE #6 washer, and found that it would fit in (one of the holes) only by forcing it it. I did not want to do that. I wasn't sure, but it seemed to me that the lock washers in the nut assembly would "dig" into the sides of the holes and maybe help provided antirotational resistance as the rods were adjusted at the neck. So, i used a permanent marker to draw on the circumference of the washer the amount of metal from the circumferential edge I wanted to remove. I mounted that washer on a Dremel mandrel (the washer did not stay centered, so I couldn't slip the mandrel in a drill and hold it against an abrasive stone or file. I used the mandrel as a handle as I went around and reduced the circumference until I removed the black line. Here's photos: new washer, new washer with black outline and on mandrel, and adjusted washer. Having the washer on the mandrel (like a handle) made it easy to check it with the diameter of the truss rods openings:

Well, I had a heck of a time getting these assembled rod ends back into the neck. I had to use a screwdriver to pry the rod ends up and push, then tap the nuts back into the neck. The right one wasn't too bad; the rod seemed more loose, more wiggle room. The right one was quite a challenge; it took a lot of work. That nut end got rather beat up from tapping it in (I used an Allen wrench). I did not think that the left (tight) rod/nut went in as far as the right, but at the neck end, the rod ends seemed almost equal.

I think that if I curved the rods significantly and wanted to insert them into the neck "backwards" to force a bow movement, I don't know how I'd get them in, and then trying to get the rod ends/nut assemblies at the body into place. I'm sure there must be an easy way... somehow.....

The neck has a slight underbow - I put a straight-edge on the frets and could see a very slight space at the center of the neck. I bought a new set of strings, heavier than the last set I tried, D'Addario XL Chromes .012-.052, close to the Ric strings. As you know from my vibrato/trem thread, I still have some concerns about that. I have taken several photos and will continue that thread later, maybe this weekend. So, I have not put on the new strings yet. It's too expensive to remove them and then place a new set on. I'll sort out my vibrato/trem concerns with you before I proceed. My concerns may be baseless.

I think I'm going to tighten the truss rods without the strings on, very little at a time, to see if I can get a straigt neck without the strings on. Should be easy, right?

Author:  jbudweiser [ Fri Sep 23, 2011 7:49 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Truss Rods

maxwell, the effort you have put into this guitar and the way you have presented your repairs to this forum is outstanding. I don't think I've come across another post with such detail regards truss rods. The clear and precise photo will serve as a reference at a later date. Your doing very well, glad it's you not me doing this.

Yeah I reckon it would be impossible to put bent rods in to counteract a bowed or under bowed neck
You have got them straight as you can. X'ing my fingers for you that it all goes OK when you get both those rod tightened up a bit more. Try to observe what happens to that neck when you tighten. If you can get it flat, it is then only a matter of adjusting to allow for string tension when they go on at a later stage It's been so interesting following your chronological updates, many seem interested by the numbers that have looked in. There would be many who probably cannot assist you as like I have we not gone this far with our own repairs. Great effort on your part, your going to been so proud when it all comes together, plus I know you show us all the pics when it's all done. I can't wait for that!

Have the rods wanted to turn (twist) at all while you tightened those nuts??

Author:  maxwell [ Fri Sep 23, 2011 7:53 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Truss Rods

Just like any other effort that doesn't go as smooth as you'd hope, I've been thinking off & on today about what I could do next time (if there is one) to make this procedure go more smoothly.

When the first (right side) rod slipped right in and the second (left side) did not, I should have (at least for curiosity's sake removed both rods -- it would have been easy) and just exchanged their locations. I wonder if the first rod would have slipped in as easily in the other side. Maybe that first rod was straighter? I thought both rods were pretty straight.... If the first rod hung up going in the other side with no difference between the rods, then I'd have to assume that either the rod spaces within the neck have different configurations, or perhaps there was some debris (small pieces of tape wrap from the rods? I didn't see any tape that really rubbed off the rods... I could have slid a long, narrow wooden dowel (e.g., 1/8") down the space to check, again, for curiosity's sake at least.)

No doubt the most difficult part of all this was getting the rod/nut assemblies at the body end back into their respective recesses. There was a lot of pressure from the flexed configuration of the rods pressing the rod ends/nut assemblies down against the body. You can see the advantage of bending/curving the rods prior to placing them into the neck with the curve positioned to facilitate an underbow, but this is what I wanted to avoid. (With the rods curved, both ends of each rod would point "upwards" away from the body and neck, making everything much easier; maybe this was why they were bent that way in the first place, to make their installation go smoothly and quickly.) I think that if I were to do this again, and not place the same curve in the rods as they had when I removed them, I would place a small strip of very thin (1/4" W x 2 in. L x .020 in. thickness) stainless steel into those recesses at the body end and allow them to serve sort of like skidways (slide) that the peripheries of the nut assemblies could ride (slide) on and not tend to dig into the wood of the body; this would greatly reduce the drag as these would be pushed and/or tapped back into their recesses.

As I mentioned, I've started to tighten the adjustment nuts at the neck of the guitar. The right side tightened easily and quickly to a point where there is definite resistance to hand pressure on the nut driver (actually, bit driver). As for the left side, the side that I probably did not seat entirely at the body end, tightening this has not yet met with as much torque resistance as the right side. I suspect that my tightening on the left is simply pulling up and seating the incompleted seating of that nut assembly, and that once it seats, then I will get a similar resistance to adjustment as I do on the other one.

My neck did not have a whole lot of underbow. I undertook this task to hopefully change the neck-bridge relationship so that I would not have to raise my bridge so much just to contact the strings; the action was much too high like that. (Recall that I put lighter strings on it; it came with really large strings that required more tension, and that effectively pulled the vibrato assembly lower. The light strings without as much tension, did not pull the vibrato down as much, necessitating my having to signifiacantly raise the bridge to have the roller saddles even touch the strings.) Anyway, I've been really careful throughout disassembly and reassembly, and I don't think I'm worse off than where I started.

I'll be showing photos of parts of the vibrato in my other thread, along with some measurements. Hopefully some of you will be able to tell me if these parts appear normal (unaltered) or perhaps altered in some way. From my point of view now, I'm ready to flatten that darn spring a little....

PS - jbudweiser -- I was just reviewing this post when you posted. Thanks.

Author:  jbudweiser [ Fri Sep 23, 2011 8:01 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Truss Rods

Yes it would have been interesting to see what happened if you swapped the rods when you first put them back in, but there maybe little difference!

Pre bending the rods with a foward bow sounds like it would help at the ends,,,,but would it stay bent?

Author:  maxwell [ Sat Sep 24, 2011 5:53 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Truss Rods

I haven't sensed any turning of the rods ever (before or now) when tightening the adjustment nuts at the neck. Right now I had just started to tighten in small increments because I wanted to be sure I could tell (the best I can) what was happening as I was doing this -- neck profile, relative tightness of the adjustment nuts, etc. The right and left rods have been switched from their originally installed locations. If both rods were truly straight, it shouldn't make any difference, other than satisfying a little superstition.... But there are subtle bends at/within the threaded portions at the neck where previous overtightening had bent them a little. I also rotated the spacer 180 degrees (left-right, not upsidedown), since that was a little bent.

I think the lateral pressure of the rods keeps lateral pressure on the nuts at the body end (anchoring nuts?), and with the toothed washers of those assemblies "digging" into (engaging) the sides of their recesses, the rods are kept from rotating. The curvature of the truss rod spaces ensures that there will always be lateral pressure regardless of the pre-insertion curvature of the rods. What could be a problem, depending on how much adjustment was required/desired, would be if the adjustment nuts were tighter on the rods than the anchoring nuts on their ends of the rods, and the adjustment to effective truss rod length was occuring at those anchoring nuts. But, I don't think this is likely at all. Again, the curvature of the rods will counter rotation, at least with the typical, recommended torquing forces we use to adjust the rods. Also, that tape covering would seem to offer a lot of frictional resistance. As for breaking a rod, I think anyone would recognise that immediately, or have a high suspicion of it. As I suggested a few posts ago, the design of the Ric truss rods and neck allow for reasonally easy replacement of the rods for any mishap. Yes, and I do mean easy. This is a great design for a set neck guitar. If you go to the Stewart-MacDonald web site, you can find a repair kit to deal with a broken truss rod in a Gibson set neck guitar; that would be a real headache.

Back a ways, Mr. Hall offered a tidbit of very revealing advice about adjusting these truss rods, and I am slowly formulating an approach to adjusting truss rods; the design is still in my mind. I just have to think it out completely and be able to express it well enough to have it understood. I'd like to come up with a working algorithm. (I don't think it necessarily begins and ends with "determing which direction you need to go, and tighen/loosen to taste.")

Let me interject here and now that I do not think that my concerns and my efforts here represent a real "problem." You won't see me complaining to anyone about my concerns - not to Ric or even to the seller of my Model 1996. I enjoy diving into things to see if I can fix or improve them. Years ago I used to work on my old beater cars, and I would always break something else while trying to fix the main problem and then have two broken things to deal with. :lol: No, I am really pleased to own this guitar. In fact, I own three Rics (although I am still a sort of an inept noob when it comes to playing, and only recently decided to learn more about my Rics). I've always wanted a Ric, but always felt they were a little too expensive for me. But, they really aren't too expensive, are they? I mean, "you get what you pay for," don't you? I bought all three used, and all for less than prevailing used prices. I'm a little older now and have some expendible income that I didn't when I was younger. One day I see a nearby shop selling a used 330 JG for a good price. I thought it was a pretty good deal. Several months later I see a 330 FG 12-string for $1200 on Craigslist. I couldn't pass that up! And then recently I saw this Model 1996, again on Craigslist. I did some research, including viewing a few videos on YouTube. modfather1965 and engineer909 greatly influenced my decision to go for it. What fun! And I found the sound of these particular guitars so appealing. Anyway, I am very happy and proud to be part of the Ric family.

Author:  jbudweiser [ Sat Sep 24, 2011 3:54 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Truss Rods

Maxwell! So you have 3 Rics, do they all need as much work as this 96?. Personally I like the shape of the 1996 it's 3/4 size and it has the f hole, great design in that guitar! Good Luck

Author:  maxwell [ Wed Sep 28, 2011 7:22 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Truss Rods

Here's something that I thought of regarding replacement of truss rods. (I tend to think about stuff that didn't go well, at least my subconsious mind does... :)

As you read, I found it very difficult to reseat the lower (anchoring end) of the truss rods with their acorn nut assemblies attached -- those rods are quite stiff and non-flexible when you're dealing with only a couple of inches. So, pre-curving the rods, at least slightly before inserting the rods, and placing them in with the curve facing the fretboard would make it easier at both ends of the rods (as they were when I removed them -- oriented to enhance back bow movement) -- the ends would be pointing up/away from the guitar.

So, how would you insert the rods to provide a bowing movement? I think it would be nearly impossible reinstalling the rods with this orientation (curved with the concavity facing away from the fretboard), I mean, with the rods simply straight it was difficult at best. Here's how I would overcome this: pre-curve the rods to the degree you decide you need. Even though you want the rods' concave curve facing to the back surface of the neck and away from the front/fretboard, you install them "backwards" to make getting them in place easier (concave orientation facing the fretboard, allowing the rod ends to point "up"). When you put the acorn nuts back on at the lower ends of the rods, do it completely, then back them off exactly one half turn. Seat the rods (with attached anchoring acorn nut assemblies) fully back into their recesses. At the adjustment ends of the rods, place another acorn nut (you'd have to buy one) on one rods (do one at a time) and screw it on until it "bottoms out" (i.e., it's all the way on). With a permanent marker, mark the nut with a line that indicates exact forward orientation; taking the nut off and continuing the line over the top of the nut and down the exact opposit side would be best. With the acorn nut screwed on all the way, the line facing towards the exact front, take a wrench and turn the nut clockwise exactly one half turn. There will be a lot of resistance because of the curve of the rod as well as friction against the sides of the rod space, but you should be able to turn the entire rod. The reversed one-half turn (backed off) done on the lower nut will allow this movement mechanically, and that nut should become tight on that lower end at the same time the rod has been rotated a full half turn (180 degrees). This works because the acorn nut cannot thread itself down onto the adjustment end of the rod any further, and so the rod itself turns. Take the acorn nut off the adjustment end, and repeat with the other rod. Now replace the proper adjustment nuts, but loosely/not engaged. As Mr. Hall noted previously (within my vibrato concerns thread) the rods could possibly turn and work against you....

Well, this is my theoretical approach to reinstalling truss rods that would provide a bowing movement; I couldn't think of a better way. I suppose that I might need to do something like this if typical rod adjustment is unsuccessful.... Man, the strings that my guitar had on were heavy, and again, as Mr. Hall has suggested, there could have been some stubborn back bow induced into the neck. (Of course, buying new would have been the best thing to do...)

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