Does the carbon neck ever move? (buzz related)

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Chuck_S
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19 Aug 2022 19:55

Hi all!
I have an Excalibur guitar with the 10/90 carbon neck. I really like the guitar for many reasons, but unfortunately it has a lot of string buzz that Im trying to get to the root cause of.
- The guitar is tuned in C standard, with a set of 13's on it (so fairly heavy, but nothing extreme, tension-wise)
- Buzzing is mainly present on the lower frets
- This seems consistent with the fact that I have not found any high frets. They seem quite level.
- I have set the Vigier double locking trem now to a height of 3mm for the bass side and theres still quite a lot of buzzing. I feel like this is about the max Id like to go, and also that this is not 'unrealistic'.

I feel like the neck relief is just not cutting it on the lower frets. As I dont feel like im doing something very wild tuning/string-wise, this gets me wondering: 
Could it be that the neck has warped a little? Or is this virtually impossible due to the carbon reinforcement? Is there any way to check this without the need for exotic tools?

Am I missing something in my search for the cause, perhaps?

Thanks a lot and happy playing to you all!
marcwormjim
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19 Aug 2022 20:52

I don't represent Vigier, but: Yes; buzz within the first five frets is typically symptomatic of insufficient relief. The thing is, if the tension of your strings was causing the neck to move, it would be pulling it forward to create more relief - So it's likely something else. Does the zero fret have any grooves or flat spots worn in by the strings? Even though the Vigier zero fret largely makes nut height a non-issue when using heavier strings, would you be willing to upload a photo of the nut and first few frets in profile; so we can see if there are any issues there?

As far as "exotic tools" - You can check your relief and zero fret height by pressing the string down at the 1st fret: If they're good, the string should be clearing the 3rd fret by about the thickness of a sheet of paper (you can use paper to gauge it, if you like). However, if your 13s in C standard are loose enough to be buzzing in the first three frets independent of those factors, then increasing tension by going with an even heavier set of strings for the Excalibur's 25.6" scale length may prove the only way to compensate for the relief being non-adjustable.

This is all speculation on my part; due to not having the guitar in front of me to check.
Chuck_S
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22 Aug 2022 12:05

Ha Marc!

Thank you very much for your reply and the suggestions.
Ive tried * a sheet of paper between the string and 3rd fret, with the string fretted on the 1st; there is plenty of space there.
I inspected the zero fret, and there I can see some clear wear. I have added some pictures so you can see for yourself. Intuitively, I would not call the wear 'dramatic', but it not perfect.

I toy around with the idea of putting some 10's of 9's on the guitar, and just setting it up for E standard as a sanity check. Surely the neck is not designed to cause string buzz in those conditions, so that could tell me a bit about the health of the neck. Do you think this would be worth the effort?

In the meantime I also played some Vigier's in a guitarstore where I happened to be by some coincidence. I noticed that those guitars also werent quite free of buzz (in E standard), and am starting to wonder if I might have turned into a buzz-snob by playing mainly classical guitars for the past 1.5 years :geek:

Cheers
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marcwormjim
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23 Aug 2022 00:09

Chuck_S wrote: Cheers
What year is your Excalibur? It looks like you have an older model that has incurred enough wear in the “permanently” installed zero fret to be causing issues common to Steinberger guitars (do you bend strings and hear a “plink” as the string pops in and out of the grooves?). If none of the other frets have similar wear, I’d suggest replacing the zero fret with a new one. On modern Vigier guitars, they pop in and out as a matter of routine maintenance. If yours is hammered and/or glued into the neck, the fret will need to be pulled, and the new one installed and leveled with luthier tools.

If I’m mistaken and yours is removable, it’s this simple:

Chuck_S
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23 Aug 2022 08:50

Hi Marc,

Im not the first owner of the guitar, but the serial number 940154 on the neckplate perhaps suggests is has been made in '94?
Funny that you bring up the Steinberger case; my Steinberger, indeed, has the 'pling'-problem sometimes ;) The replacement of that zero-fret was already queued in my head.

It would be great if the zero-fret would be as easily replacefd like in the video, but I happen to know someone who, im sure, can do a decent job on that.

Cheers

Edit: I have, by the way, always had some doubts on the Kahler-branded locking nut on this guitar being original. Do you have any clue on whether this is could be the case? (seems to fit fine, though.)
marcwormjim
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23 Aug 2022 19:21

Chuck_S wrote:I have, by the way, always had some doubts on the Kahler-branded locking nut on this guitar being original. Do you have any clue on whether this is could be the case? (seems to fit fine, though.)
Patrice would be the one to know for certain. The modern Vigier and Kahler locking nuts appear to be functionally identical (with the string director/retainer installed on the nut itself, immediately behind the pressure plates) so; even if your nut is not the original, the Kahler part appears to have been interchangeable.

Please let us know how things work out.
yuri1973
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24 Aug 2022 08:09

Hi there, my two cents here ....
1) Kahler nut ...
if I recall correctly, early Excalliburs had both Kahler floyds (with the bearings mod) and nuts. Then I believe for some time Kahler nuts stayed and the bridge was replaced with a Schaller made floyd, I've seen those. So, I may be wrong but my bet is that your nut is the original one.

2) About the buzzing ...
zero fret wear will only affect buzzing to open strings. As you said the buzzing is on first 5 frets aprox, that rules out the zero fret being the culprit, agree?
I think fret levelling should solve it, but would need to be accurately assessed.
There are luthier tools (i.e. notched straight edge), which will easily tell if the neck may be too straight (no relief, or even with negative relief/backbow), or fret rockers to spot any high fret(s) you can't detect at home.
Furthermore, even if the neck is in perfect shape, with the expected slight relief, AND with no clear high fret(s) you can spot, it may still happen that fret wear has been uniformly (to some degree) lowering that fret area (think of a small slope, 1st fret a bit lower than 2nd, 2nd lower than 3rd, 3rd lower than 4th, etc...), in that case you would experience fret buzz without any single high fret causing it. In that case, a complete fret levelling across the neck would fix it.
Hope it makes sense and helps. Let us know your findings.
Chuck_S
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30 Aug 2022 19:38

Hi Guys!
Thanks again for the replies and with that shedding some light on the Kahler mystery. 
I would also expect the zero-fret to only affect open strings, but perhaps there's some subtle mechanism I am overlooking.
I have been quite busy last week, but tomorrow I will do the 'sanity check' using a set of 10's and tuning the guitar back to E. I'll post the result of that.
A friend of mine is skilled in leveling frets etc, so if the problem still persists after the string change and retuning I'll see I he can find some time to have a look at it.

It must be said that this guitar is, indeed, an oldy. The frets are not 100%, and assuming this guitar has received the hours of playing it deserves, it makes totally sense that the frets just either need replacing or at least a leveling job.

To be continued!
Chuck_S
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01 Sep 2022 10:57

Well: with 10's, tuned in E, the problem persists. 
Next step will be having the frets checked by a luthier. Or, perhaps, the neck needs a shim at the place where it is bolted to the body?

Getting back to my initial question: Is it fair to assume that the neck itself does not change shape? (other then just bending under string tension)

Cheers
yuri1973
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02 Sep 2022 16:22

Hi,
surely your luthier will quickly determine what the issue is.
About your original question, I believe it's fair to assume the neck will not move in normal circumstances, but of course it's not perfect science, as wood can react over time for various reasons (or maybe because it was just a random bad piece of wood which had on its DNA that it had to move).
Also you can't discard the guitar had or hadn't a "good caring" owner in its past (i.e. big climate changes: temperature & humidity, strong forces applied during handling/moving, weird string tunings/tension, etc...).
I still think a fret leveling will do the job (or in the very worst case a fretboard levelling + refret)
Regards
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