Glue for Guitar Neck Joints

Thoughts on appropriate glues and adhesives for luthier work. April 13, 2010

For gluing an electric guitar neck onto the body which would be better in 20 plus years - Epoxy, or Titebond Original? We use Titebond Original right now and it works great. Our guitars haven't been around 20 plus years yet, so I wanted to know if there has been any testing on this glue over a long period of time. I have also heard that Titebond is stronger than the wood around it, but is this true in a real world use or only in a perfect lab setting? There are approximately four square inches in our neck joint. Would that be stronger if I built that out of one solid piece of wood, or if I built the same joint in two separate pieces and glued them together using Titebond?

Forum Responses
(Adhesive Forum)
From contributor O:
Of the two, use epoxy. Instrument builders consider Titebond bad news because it creeps when subject to the stress of string pressure over time. I have seen several harp failures due to the pva family. This is a common thread on the harpsichord list as well.

However if you are going to build instruments why don't you do everyone a favor and go out and buy a glue pot and use some decent hide glue. It does not creep and if some tech needs to reset the neck he will not curse you, because with a bit of water and heat (steam) hide glue is reversible. By the way, I thought that electric guitar makers either built the neck in as the center lamination of the body, or just bolted them on.

Your last paragraph is hard to understand. What advantage is there (with regard to strength) of joining two pieces of wood than using one single one. Any glue we are discussing is stronger than the surrounding wood, but if you have things stressed that much who cares if a breaks at the joint or elsewhere. Actually the joint fracture would be easier to set.

You may find it interesting that many early guitars and most all lutes (which sometimes carried a lot of strings) use a simple butt joint between the body block and the neck held together with hide glue and clamped by a single good sized nail run through the body block into the neck. There is nothing to clamp to. However the nail really only served to clamp things together until the glue dried.

From the original questioner:
My main question is if you had any more info about Titebond vs. Epoxy. Guitar Luthiers don't necessarily know the technical aspect behind the glue itself. I know what the general consensus is in the guitar world. This is why I am asking here as well. Contributor G - just so you know instrument builders don't use hide glue anymore unless it's for the violin family or some classical guitars. I can (and have) re-set necks in guitars where they used Titebond (or something similar) to glue it on with.

Also, concerning bolt on necks: Most guitar players have it in their mind that bolt on necks do not have as much sustain as do the glue joints. I know that this myth is completely false, but try explaining that to someone who doesn't want to hear it. So, for many electric guitars I build, they are glued on.

From contributor S:
All my reading indicates the problem with Alphatic glue (Titebond) has to do with its creep properties - movement over a long period of time when under continuous stress. As for Titebond vs. Epoxy, epoxy would likely never creep or let go and not letting go could be a problem if anything ever has to be disassembled.

I'm a guitar player, not a builder, and as far as a bolt on neck vs. a set neck (one that's glued in place), one advantage of a set neck is that a significant amount of material can be removed from the neck in the area required for purchase when bolting the neck on. This makes the neck way friendlier when playing above the 12th fret.

As for the sustain, you mention: "Most guitar players have it in their mind that bolt on necks do not have as much sustain as do the glue joints. I know that this myth is completely false, but try explaining that to someone who doesn't want to hear it." Key word above is *hear*. You may not think it makes any difference, but maybe your ear isn't as developed as another player's. Some people can hear the difference between two cents when tuning or intonating a guitar - others can't tell an A# from an Ab.

A poorly bolted neck has significant effect on sustain - a perfectly bolted neck maybe not. But who's to judge a perfect joint? With a set neck, the connection has a much better chance of transferring all the vibration to the body. Personally, I think bolt on necks are more for assembly and repair convenience. All that said at the end of the day, it has way more to do with whose fingers are on the neck, then whether the neck is bolted or glued in place.

From contributor W:
They are both fine, Titebond is still recommended in lutherie schools, but your joint has to be clean and tight to maximize sustain and strength (using a shims is acceptable). If there are gaps or tearout, the cavities will be filled with cured glue which apparently acts as a "sponge", sucking up tone and sustain. In a very loose fitting joint epoxy would be better- if you use the right filler- as a cured chunk of plastic will transfer vibrations a little better. Hide glue is recommended on a few joints in acoustic building, where you are most likely going to need a repair, such as gluing the top on and setting the dovetail neck joint. Violin builders use it everywhere so that the entire instrument can be disassembled for repairs and modifications. Also, there is less tension on a violin due to the short string length.