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3/4 size Five String Fiddle

Q: I have a metal body resonator guitar and I would like to know if it is possible to put a wider nut and fretboard on the existing neck? The neck is a round back not square back. The neck is a little narrow for my large hands and I'd like to widen it out if possible. If so please let me know if this can be done.
Thank you,
Phill M.

A: It is usually possible to get a little more playing room by widening the string spacing at the nut and saddle. We move the E strings closer to the edge and then respace the other strings.  Lowering the action also might help. Trying to push a high string down to the fret between two other high strings may give a cramped feeling to the action. If these two things don't do the trick you are in for a big project. The neck must be widened by adding wood. I am presuming that you want to play "guitar style." If you want to play Hawiian style we can make a nut that hangs over the edge as far as necessary.
        The neck on a metal body resonator guitar comes off quite easily. Take off the pie pan, strings, tailpiece etc. reach inside and remove the various screws. The fingerboard tongue is held down by screws hidden under the pearl dots. Pop out the pearl with a sharp #11 Excell or Exacto blade. Cut from above or below so that the slot is with the grain. It will disappear better when you glue the pearl back in. Use an old iron to heat the fingerboard to remove it from the neck. It is best, if you have the tools and the temerity, to widen a neck by cutting the neck in half and adding the wood to the center. This will look much better, but it involves dealing with the truss rod. It is also possible to make two cuts, one on each side of the truss rod, leaving the rod assembly untouched and functional. 
        True macho would demand that you spend all day making a new fingerboard from scratch, copying the scale from the original, but Stew-Mac and others sell very fine precut fingerboards for around $20. Cheap and definitely more accurate than you are going to be able to make with hand tools in your kitchen. While the fingerboard is off go ahead and inlay a pair of carbon fiber rods parallel to the truss rod. It might be overkill but it can't hurt.
        Clean and level the fingerboard surface of the neck and reinstall it to the body. Carefully align the new fingerboard and put alignment pins through a high and a low fret slot. Glue on the new fingerboard with Titebond, or Elmer's Carpenters glue.  Hyde glue is best but it requires lots of extra tools and technique. Don't crush it, use lots of clamps with a firm even pressure. I have two long iron bars with holes drilled every two inches. I put one bar on each edge of the fingerboard and then stick steel rods through the holes. I then loop lots of rubber bands from the rod ends around the back of the neck. Allow it to dry for two or three days. The glue is hard after a few hours, but it takes a long time for all the water to find an escape route.
        Now, using rasps files and sandpaper, reshape the back of the neck. Roll the neck back and forth sighting along the "horizons" to see if your work is symmetrical. Sand down to 280 grit sandpaper. Stain to taste and apply finish. Nitrocellulose is traditional but urethane will do the job also. Level the new fingerboard. Bend, drive and level the new frets. Knocking the sharp edge off the top of the fret slots with a three corner file does wonders in helping the frets to seat cleanly.
        This looks like so much work that you might as well start from scratch. Dobro style neck blanks are available from various sources. Really, you save yourself lots of math and fine carpentry by reusing the old neck. If, however, this is a collectors item instrument you should start from scratch so that you can store the original neck and reinstall it at resale time.
Steve Mason

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