Titanium Neck Reinforcement Rod

If you’ve been following the build progress of our Black & Titanium ES-Tele guitar over at TDPRI.com, then you’ve watched us make our first set of titanium neck reinforcement rods. I just wanted to break that part of the guitar build into its own blog post and then the our next blog post here will be just of the woodworking of the neck, start to finish. OK, lets rock!

Neck Reinforcement Rod Templates

So, next is figuring out the goofy shape of these titanium reinforcement rods. First, I roughed out the scoop off the front of the headstock…
Headstock Angle Rough
and then sanded the back and front to the 2-1/2 degree angle, subtracting the 1/16″ off the front for the ebony veneer. Using that previous mark that I made to know where the router channel changed to the headstock angle, I simply made an overtall piece of 1/8″ pine that fit the bottom of the channel. Fit it in there and then mark the top of the neck. Remove, bandsaw, re-install and sand it down to the top the maple neck.
Titanium Guitar Rod Template
Figured that this would be the most idiot-proof way to figure this shape out. Here’s a closer look at the headstock area-
Titanium Guitar Rod Closeup
And here’s the pine template removed, showing the shape-
Titanium Guitar Rod Shape
The very end end of the rod in the headstock measures just a smidge less than the 1/4″ that I was going for, but I figure that it’s close enough for the girls that I go out with.

Making the Titanium Neck Rods

Usually my process in making aircraft aluminum or titanium products is to prototype out the stuff in my shop by hand, so I can play around with the design and generally feel like I’m being creative. Once I’m pretty happy with the final design, then I go back with my ruler and calipers and draw the thing in either AutoCAD for the flat stuff or SolidWorks for the 3D stuff. I’ve used AutoCAD since before Windows, so it’s pretty fast for me, but just this year I’ve started with SolidWorks and I have to say that it’s pretty awesome. Probably eventually convert to all SW, one day. So, this is pretty typical of how I might go about things, even if my creative process is very slow, especially by additive manufacturing standards.

First, I just traced the pine templates onto a sheet of 1/8″ 6Al-4V Grade 5 Titanium using a sharp razor. With some good shop lighting, it’s enough to work by. Then, roughed it out on the metal bandsaw-
Bandsawing Titanium
Then, I ground any large amounts away using my bench grinder and after that, I used my belt sander with a 240 grit metal-cutting belt to smooth everything out. Also, the belt sander does a good job in rounding off those edges, which can be very sharp in titanium. If I’m polishing the titanium, I’ll take it down to 400 grit before I go to the roughest polishing compound. Not needed here, of course, but I did have that 400 grit handy on the air DA sander, so I used that to give the sides a little tooth, for the epoxy. Here is what it looks like at this point, on the scale at 42 grams-
Titanium Guitar Rod Weight
On my first test fit, I had to round off the ends to match the 1/8″ diameter round channel ends and they are also very snug. Too snug. The metal is measuring .123″ for a .125″ channel and I figured it was easier/faster to sand out a little maple than to remove titanium-
Enlarging Guitar Neck route
One side fit in pretty quickly and the second side was a bit more work. If I ever decide to offer a titanium neck reinforcement rod as a standard product, it’s certainly a part that would be money well spent for the time on the water-jet cutter. Not something that I’d like to fashion up by hand all the time, but it is doable in a pinch.

Also, these are the first set of titanium neck reinforcement rods that I’ve ever made, so I’m totally guessing here. The size and shape does ‘feel’ right, though. They are obviously super strong with a bit of give and a great memory. I’m happy with the weight, so just have to move ahead and see how the finished neck feels strung up. The proof is in the pudding, right?

Installing the Titanium Neck Reinforcement Rods

For the install, I’m going to try the Smith Oak and Teak Epoxy since it just arrived at the shop for the ebony headstock veneer glue up. It says that it has about a 90 minute working time for my current temp and a “Lower viscosity than other epoxys,” so thinking that this might do the trick. I don’t generally use much epoxy, instead I prefer to work my joints tighter and use a yellow glue for most stuff, but there are times that a non-water-based glue is handy.

One change that I did make right before glue up was to sand the rod sides down very lightly on the 240 grit belt sander. I wanted a fresh bite of metal and also wanted a little deeper tooth for the epoxy. Mixed up, this epoxy isn’t the thick stuff, but I wouldn’t call it thin, either. It mixed up about as viscous as I would consider regular epoxy, although I will be the first to admit that I’m not as fluent in epoxy as others, say boatbuilders or the like.

Mixed up in one container, transferred to another and waited 15 minutes, just like the directions. I searched around the shop for the right size spreading tool for a while before I settled on a trusty popsicle stick. Have a big box of these and they do come in handy. Coated the inside of the channel, three sides, and then spread a thin film on the titanium neck reinforcement rod. Just like buttering bread. Getting an even coating was my concern here, which was easier on the rod and took more time in the channel. I just placed the rods in the route, seated with a small screwdriver and wiped off the excess epoxy from the top. The instructions caution against cleaning up with any sort of solvent that might weaken the joint. Yes, I did actually read both sides of that instruction sheet!
Titanium Guitar Neck Rods Glued
And here’s the titanium reinforcement neck rods drying. Didn’t seem to need any sort of clamping, so I figured to just let them be and dry in peace. Instructions say they should reach full cure in 30 hours.

What do you guys think? Would there be a market for a titanium reinforcement neck rod for the popular neck angles? 11 degrees? 17 degree? Or maybe just straight rods?

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