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Using and Installing Neck Inserts

Like Vintique, I use EZLok 3/8-16 10-24 steel inserts, 10-24 SS phillips oval machine screws. I had a machine shop make me a custom run of .090 SS neck plates with matching countersink (regularly available plates do not have a matching countersink). The thicker plate does not flex/distort. You can source the EZLok inserts and screws from many fastener suppliers - they aren't expensive.

After ascertaining the neck location (for side to side, if necessary), I use a drill press and drill press vise and a 23/64 brad point bit (~.360", tight but not too tight for the threads, a 3/8 bit hole is too sloppy IMO). I then use a 3/8-16 bottoming tap registered thru a 1/2" thick piece of aluminum so the inserts are perpendicular to the neck heel plane to create the threads. I use a large flathead screwdriver to install the inserts, slot side out. This yields a tight fitting insert that is easily removable in the future if need be. I purchased the bottoming tap and handle from my local MSC (Baltimore has some great supply houses) and got the piece of scrap aluminum from a metalworker pal.

Personally I try to avoid epoxy in wood (not a jab at anyone, I just like to do things differently) and difficult to reverse modifications. Sometimes there is no other viable option in given situations/constraints. IMO a good fricton/mechanical bond (that is helped by glue if necessary) transmits vibration better than a looser joint dependent on adhesive. This isn't applicable necessarily to graphite - graphite is fibers in an epoxy resin and doesn't thread as well as wood.

I tried the jam nut installation years ago, but felt I didn't have enough control and the thread cutting by the insert itself was messy (for my taste).

Some guitars change slightly after installation of a machine screw/insert system in that they seem to become louder acoustically with more highs and sustain - I attribute this to making the neck joint more acoustically/mechanically efficient. Other guitars exhibit no noticeable changes. Yes, the necks are much easier to remove. I have heard it explained that the neck joint can be a higher torque joint than over the standard sheet metal screws as the outer fins on the inserts have a greater grabbing area and the machine screws can draw up tighter in the inserts. I try not to overtighten (no reason to); having a thicker plate with matching countersinks helps not to overtighten/flex/distort the area.

I have reversed/corrected the insert installation for folks by drilling the threaded wood portion clean and using plugs turned to the same size and grain orientation (not dowels where a bit can chase/split endgrain).

I've done some contoured heel/no neck plate basses with the same inserts with 10-24 allen head screws with washers recessed in a flat bottomed hole drill with a forstner bit. this is cool on a build as you can put the bolts where you want, there is no plate to make/buy and the heel can be countoured to taste for upper fret access.

There's more than one way to skin a catfish. Hope this is helpful for someone contemplating this mod.


Areas of Interest:

General Repairs

Acoustic Repairs

Structural Repairs

The Guitar and the Ideal Setup

Strings, Technique and Buzzing


Radius & Fret Out


Fretting Finished and Maple Necks

Measuring Fret Size


Using and Installing Neck Inserts

ABR Bridge Repair and Replacement


Building Parts and Custom Guitars
and Basses