The problem with nibs

Discussion in 'Luthier's Corner' started by donepearce, Sep 6, 2021.

  1. donepearce

    donepearce Well-Known Member

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    It's quite hard to explain the problem with nibs, particularly because in the short term they are fine. It is after a couple of years that the issues start to appear. Take this normal guitar neck

    upload_2021-9-6_15-19-44.png

    Everything seems fine until the season changes and the neck shrinks. On a "normal" guitar, this is when you feel a little fret protrusion. You can either ignore it or get the ends dressed. On a guitar with nibs, something much nastier happens.

    upload_2021-9-6_15-21-23.png

    The fret has no give, and the nibs are pushed outwards. They may or may not tilt, depending on how they were fitted, but make no mistake, they will move. The forces at work are huge.

    The season changes again, and the neck returns to its original size. But there is nothing that can make the nibs go back with it, and this is the final situation, well known to all nib-haters. Not yet experienced by nib lovers.

    upload_2021-9-6_15-24-8.png

    And there we have the string traps, just waiting for you to fall in.
     
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  2. DrBGood

    DrBGood Well-Known Member

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    Another good reason to stick to my Epiphone ... :cool:
     
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  3. living room rocker

    living room rocker Active Member

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    So what does a luthier do with these nibs if/when a re-fret is needed?
     
  4. donepearce

    donepearce Well-Known Member

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    He persuades the customer to let him put things right, dispense with the nibs and carry the frets over the binding. Apart from anything else it is really hard to refret while keeping nibs.
     
  5. Biddlin

    Biddlin Well-Known Member

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    Many years ago I was in a house band that did a cover of the top 40 hits, every Friday night, 9-1. I had prepared the guitar solo from Reelin' in the Years for our big number. The club owner was a good guy, not a smart guy, but a good guy. He insisted I use his shiny Les Paul standard. "Try it out" I did and it didn't suck. I played it most of the night with no issues.
    I was doing the first fast pull-offs in the arrangement when the high e stuck between fret 12 and the nib. I wanted to toss it over the bar at him (I was perhaps 22 at the time and quite impulsive) but I pulled the string free and continued. After that, when he'd come up with a great idea, I'd remind him of the incident.
     
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  6. Bob Womack

    Bob Womack Well-Known Member

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    After about forty-five years of playing Gibsons it has never happened to me. My luthier can protect and/or rebuild the nibs during a refret but he'll charge you. He refretted my '74 Kalamazoo Les Paul Standard with frets over binding and it feels great.

    Bob
     
  7. MR D

    MR D Active Member

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    Interesting, as I have only re-fretted less than 10 GIBSON's +/-, they all came out very playable and IMO I thought I got them right, not a twist/pop-up in any of 'em....but the nibs ! I had to remove all of them, tho a few were 'Specials' and had un-bound necks (Obviously no need). I just could not imagine, or figure out, being able to:
    A) Not remove the nibs and somehow get the frets installed well enough to make the guitar playable.
    B) Add plastic material to the remaining/existing binding to make it appear original, as if no re-fret had been done.

    Have you been able to actually retain the original nibs while doing a refret ? IF SO, HOW ?
    OR Have you been able to actually 'RE-NIB' the remaining/existing Neck Binding ? IF SO, HOW did you do that (I'd sure like to see someone pull that off!)?

    I have never been able to figure out how NOT to dispense with the 'Nibs', a simple snip with wire cutter is all it takes to carry-on with the necessities. But then again, I have also never been crafty enough to put a binding on a neck. Its just out of my league, STS... BUT IMD, at least I kno my limitations.
     
  8. Biddlin

    Biddlin Well-Known Member

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  9. papagayo

    papagayo Well-Known Member

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    Donepearce, where do you live? The climate is rather disturbing.
     
  10. donepearce

    donepearce Well-Known Member

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    Nibs are there because they make manufacture quick, easy and cheap. You make the neck, put the frets in - and don't dress them. Then you run a router up each side, chopping the binding channel and frets in one go. Then glue on a binding and give it a rough file to bring it level with fingerboard and frets. Job done, and no expensive end dressing.
    That hands all the problems over to the next poor luthier who has to deal with it.
     
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  11. donepearce

    donepearce Well-Known Member

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    I live in England. We have actual summers and winters; the climate though is pretty temperate. Today is 28C (82F). Tomorrow it will have dropped to 20C (68F). But worse than climate is air conditioning, which I don't have.
     
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  12. donepearce

    donepearce Well-Known Member

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    Nightmare! And of course the damage doesn't happen at the luthiers.
     
  13. Biddlin

    Biddlin Well-Known Member

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    I don't know why people don't get this. I've been telling them for decades.
     
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  14. Von Trapp

    Von Trapp Well-Known Member

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    I've seen stuff like this before but I never got it. I like nibs as much as the next guy..or wait, ok, I like nibs, so shoot me, but I never understood why you would want to fit the frets to the nibs when in manufacture it's the other way around. For good reasons too, I'd say. Anyway, I don't get that sh1t and if I have to do a refret I take it as a given that it means a rebinding as well. I've done it several times, no problem. So why take the harder and stupider road? I just don't get it.
     
  15. Les537

    Les537 Member

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    Nibs don't make the guitar easier to manufacture or it would be on the cheap guitars, not the expensive ones. They have to hand file it away between the frets, not to mention installing it in the first place.

    I love nibs. My 97 les paul special is the best feeling neck in the world - rocking those factory nibs without issue for almost 25 years. I don't wear rings which makes a huge difference. I've seen guitars only a few years old with nibs messed up from rock star rings.

    I have two guitars with nibs, the mentioned LP special and a much newer '19 SG 61 stop bar. The feel of those guitars is far superior to my no-nib guitars (a room full of them), IMO.

    I really don't look forward to the day I have to fret my old LP. I've already levelled and redressed them twice - thankfully they used railroad ties for frets on that model.
     
  16. jk67SG

    jk67SG Member

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    donepearce,
    I'm am not a luthier, however I am an engineer. I appreciate your explanation, but in my own experience something must be missing. I own a '67 SG Standard, have played it for 54 years, it's been in unpressurized holds of aircraft with widely varying temperatures, traveled around the US, Iceland, Europe and N Africa, strapped on the back of my motorcycle, carried through the rain, and on one occasion when we experienced back-to-back blizzards and snow piled up so high that the roads didn't get plowed for about 2 weeks, the power went out and the temperature dropped from 75 degrees F to 35 degrees F and the humidity was accordingly low (and this was when the nitro finally developed crazing), and yet all of the nibs are fine, not loose. So what part of the formula is missing? Are builders not drying the wood enough before using it? What else am I missing?
     
  17. donepearce

    donepearce Well-Known Member

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    Your last point is probably spot on. Also on early guitars nibs tended to be very thin and flexible.
     
  18. 65vibrola

    65vibrola New Member

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    I've got a few Gibsons with nibs, some I've owned for a good few years, and while I don't like the appearance of the nibs (in particular the half-hearted filing), none have really suffered gaps through neck expansion/shrinkage. The 2014 120 anniversary Firebird (and some others from that year I believe) had full-width frets over the bindings and IMHO it looks much better. But Gibson being Gibson they weren't THAT well dressed at the ends, so it doesn't actually feel any better to play than the other guitars with nibs.
     
  19. Norton

    Norton Well-Known Member

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    I'm in Minneapolis, mn extreme weather swings both temp and humidity. I've never seen any guitar (50's forward) with binding or nibs tilting out. Cracks at the fret/binding?? maybe a little.

    Gibson's frets before binding is a HUGE time saving construction method. donpearce is 100% spot on there. fretting a guitar neck AFTER it's been bound is FAR more labor intensive and requires far more skill to do it well. The gibson "nib" way is the cheap production oriented way to do it.
     
  20. Von Trapp

    Von Trapp Well-Known Member

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    I don't get it. Having done both I find the nib way to go more time consuming. In both cases you put on the binding, the frets and then dress. However, with the nibs you have the extra step of filing down the binding between the frets. Even if that would be done with a machine, it's still an extra step. Getting the binding flush with the fretboard between frets is also more labor intensive because you have to do every space separately whereas with binding under frets you scrape and sand sand them flush all at once. Note: I really don't care whether people like nibs or not and I'm well aware that they don't make the guitar better in any way. I'm just curious.
     
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