ok, I'm working on my first license plate guitar... I have 30 ish guitars built (plus 2 ukes and an oil can)  but I digress...

Most of my back angle has been shallow, or haphazard.  Time to up my game and decide on a design I can reliably produce.  (Thanks to ChickenBone John for his vid on some guy in a UK pawn shop... made me think about getting my action a bit lower.)

Anyway, I can get my action low, but setting the back angle has been hit or miss for me.  I'm about to build a jig so I can dado the angle in with some consistency.  I figure that will improve my build times and quality...    Now for those of you that make CBGs for a living:  My hat's off to you.  For me, this is a labor of love and sanity:  I love to keep my sanity, and building helps me relax.  Most of my guitars are sold to friends, given to the local BSA troop as silent auction donations, or given as gifts... (of course, some I keep for me...)

Anyway to my question as I am margarita-induced rambling...  

There will be many opinions:  BUT:  What is your preferred neck back angle?  And how much is that over the length of a 10" cigar box?  My trigonometry days are behind me, so I'd like to get to a point where I can measure the slope over 10" (the max-ish size box I use), build my jig, and start cutting necks in larger quantities...


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Thanks for the name check.

Think about why you want to introduce a back angle...to get the action better? If that's all you are wanting to achieve, simply set the neck higher in the box, so that there's a decent height at the bridge...that's all you need to do, no messing about with fiddly angles. I put my necks about 3-5mm above the top of the box, parallel to the top of the box, add a fretboard, so that the frets are about 10 - 12mm above the top of the box. That gives you a bridge height of around 15mm, and an action at the 12th fret in the region of  2 - 2.5mm..about right for fretted and slide playing, and that gives plenty of break angle over the bridge. Of course, there will be plenty of people saying use a neck angle, and who will go on about string break angle, string pressure on the top  etc etc...but this works and is simple - there's no need to make it any more complicated than it needs to be.

You had my goals dead to rights:  Low action and string clearance at the box...

my thought was that I could use a 1x2 neck (simple, precut) and achieve the same thing with a simple back angle.   If I were cutting necks from larger stock it would work fine, or I could attach another piece of 1x2 to the bottom to get the strength...

John is right, keep it simple. His method & reason is solid. One addition to this "debate", when dealing with action, is something that I haven't seen discussed. That is the "nut action". Yes, that's not something I made up.

Simply, it refers to the height of the strings at the first fret, relative to the depth of the nut slots.

It is important to ensure the string slots in the nut are snug, but not tight. This keeps strings plucked/strummed "open" from buzzing. And having the slots cut to the right depth is key. If the slots are too low, of course there will be trouble with buzz at first fret "open". 

Too high results in having to press the upper position strings down further to reach the frets, thus "stretching" the strings and making them play "sharp".

If this matters to you, then with the guitar strung and tuned to pitch, use a feeler gauge and measure the gap between the top of the first fret and the underside of the outer strings. A distance of 0.030" is standard. If needed, file the slots until the right action is dialed in.

With the nut action set, and the bridge intonation set, you will have a guitar that plays comfortably, and as "in-tune" as possible.


Here's my take on setting the action at the nut. By the way, all these guitars are built without any neck angle, with the neck installed parallel to the box.

well I never,never thought of that john I always thought the strings have to be the same height through out.

thanks for posting this info.it will certainly make things that much easier from now on.

I've built one three-stringer with a few degrees of down-angle on the neck. In the end, I didn't see any particular advantage over my non-down-angled builds. We're talking only a few degrees over the 10" of box so the amount of material removed on the base of the neck is on the order of 0.35" for a 2 degree cut.

Here is a web site that will do your calculations for you Angle Calculator

You just plug in the length (your ten inch box) and the angle you want (degrees) and it will calculate the amount of material to be removed. It's a pretty precise cut. Some folks on the board said they just put a shim under the part of the neck closest to the tail to kick the neck down a bit. Might be a starting point for some experiments.

Here's a prior discussion Link

Neck angle can be a pain in the neck. CBJ's way is indeed easier. Flat and fat works. Don't get me started about radiusing. They're CBGs. If you are determined to get all luthiery, goferit.

Otherwise, don't.

Once I started pitching my necks...

I decided it made for a vast improvement and

I never stopped.

And i worked out a way to do it that I consider to be pretty easy and foolproof.

Im not looking for a fight with anybody.  But I suggest you try it for yourself.

Ahh.. a good debatable topic! I used to argue with myself about this very thing until I made some dulcimers with the neck on top of the box. No angle and the action was good all the way up. So now I do it both ways and flat is easier - just raise the neck up a bit in relationship to the box like chickenboneJohn says. My angled necks are usually about 5 degrees and it's easy to do if you're doing a through the box design - just tilt it back a bit. I rarely ever measure the angle I just tilt it back until a straight edge shows about 1/2 to 5/8 in. clearance where the bridge will go. I do use a zero fret with a larger fret for the zero. Sometimes a small nail there for higher action if desired. There are many right ways of doing this and I do like staying true to the historic "stick attached to a box" but it's fun to experiment too if you're not running a production line.


that ones a bolt on finder,but,Ph Kid has a post from way back,where you take an angled slice off the top of the neck,inside the box,which you then glue/screw under the neck,keeping the bottom of the neck parralel to the bottom of your box and maintaining thickness,by the way the one above flexes a little,i have to tune it each time i use it


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