What's wrong with this Fender truss rod?

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Issue 301 March 22, 2018

Truss rod breaks almost always happen at the adjusting nut. Not this time. Dan Erlewine has a Fender neck in which the entire truss rod rotates along with the nut. It seems to have come apart in a really unusual way.

In this Trade Secrets video:
  • Pulling the truss rod out of a Fender neck
  • The jam nut: a way to turn the truss rod itself
  • How do you get an anchor nut out of the neck heel?
  • Replacing a truss rod without marring the neck

Video Transcription

[on-screen text reads: StewMac tools + ideas for guitarmaking.]

Whats wrong with this truss rod?

Dan Erlewine: I've got a 78 Strat neck here. It's been threaded with jumbos and it feels great. Something beautiful about this neck except that it won't adjust. The truss rod's bad, and the guy that sent it in said he's afraid if he tightens it anymore, he is going to break it and you can't unscrew it either. So I don't know what's wrong with this, but we're going to find out.

Okay, I'm going to go in there with the gripper wrench [on-screen text reads: Gripper Truss Rod Wrench - stewmac.com]. It's got the tapered Allen, if it is stripped, it gets a good wedge effect, but there's something weird.

Well, that rod's just turning around. You know what I think, I think it's broken down here. Broken at the anchor, otherwise, the truss rod couldn't be turning and turning like this. The truss rod is supposed to be welded at the anchor. I think I'm going to have to try and get this out.

Remove the truss rod

I'm trying to turn it and pull it at the same time. I think it's moving. Now I can see part of the rod. It's coming. Oh, there's the washer. That's what sits at the bottom of the hole and the bullet knot tightens against, and it's slowly coming out.

Wow. Check this out. Never supposed to see this end of a truss rod. Somehow this got unscrewed from the anchor. I have no idea how that would've gotten like that. Okay, We need to get this anchor out. That's the steel anchor that's threaded to accept the rod that it unscrewed from. So to do that, I'm going to go over to the drill press. I'm going on a slow speed. Going into steel.

Remove the truss rod anchor

Those Guitar Repair Magnets are real handy. I've got a good thread down in there deep enough to do what I want to do. I'm going to try to pull this out with the Les Chatin Knob and Bushing Puller. This is a 10/32 Allen head machine bolt that comes with it. I've got this little harness down there that comes under that, and when you start tightening this, it's going to pull that up.

Come on, it's a tight fit. Man, she's in there. Cool.

Cut to length and install the new truss rod

Here's a truss rod blank 10/32 thread. But you have to cut it to length yourself, depending on what you're building, what scale length, or what you're fixing. Now, I've already made this one. I measured out where it goes on the fender, cut it off with the hacksaw, and then I threaded it with 10/32 die.

This anchor is going to go into that hole and adjust it up and down to catch into that rod when it goes in, and when we install the rod and shove it down that hole, want to thread it into this with some JB Weld. That's epoxy steel putty that's really strong. I'm going to go for it. The worst that could happen is I'd have to pull it back out again.

Go right down in there. A little trick I use for this job is a piece of hexagonal 5/16th brass rod, drilled clear through, and tapped at 10/32 clear through. Then in one end, I put a 10/32 bolt and screw it in towards the center and it its the jam nut. When it hits the 10/32 rod coming in from the other end, you've got two pieces that meet each other in the center of the brass and they jam together.

When I tighten the nut, I can drive the truss rod firmly into the anchor. Then when I want to take the brass piece off, I loosen the jam nut and release the tension on it so I can unscrew it.

Okay, I'm going to try and find that anchor with the end of the truss rod and screw it in. Right about in that range. It's touching. Yeah, it's going right in there. And I'm going to loosen the lock nut, the jam knot. Take it out. Gosh, that's such a tight fit I'm thinking I won't even need that JB Weld. I'm in there. Clean threads into a cleaned out hole. I have the StewMac bullet replacement nut for a 10/32 rod. I'm home.

That's one fixed truss rod. I've abraided the lacquer a little bit around that hole. I'll just take a little shellac and just touch it up so it's shiny and has kind of an amber color to it. But man, it worked.



Dan Erlewine

Guitar Repairman and Builder

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