Modern Classical Guitar Design Part 9: Reinforced Carbon Fiber Neck
Classical guitar necks usually aren't the most interesting conversation topic. Most of us are concerned with what wood it's made from, purfling, aesthetics, and of course the sound but from a luthiers point of view and as a player the neck is absolutely critical to the overall functionality and playability of the instrument.
Anyone that has played any kind of guitar that has neck issues such as warping will know the anguish of tuning and retuning constantly and never being able to get your guitar truly in-tune. On classical guitars this is caused by just one thing - a warped or damaged neck. Up until fairly recently classical guitars (especially those made by luthiers) avoided using any kind of truss rods either steel or carbon fibre or reinforcing of any kind in the neck, trusting in careful construction and material selection and superb care & handling by the owner to ensure a trouble-free neck after leaving the workshop. Unfortunately times have changed, people are traveling more and thus subjecting their instruments to wildly varying temperatures and humidity, materials that were available in the past are now either gone or restricted (CITES) or both causing luthiers to reevaluate how and what they use in their guitars to make them beautiful, mellifluous, and of course durable enough to handle the rigours of the modern world.
Enter Carbon Fibre Rods
Carbo Fibre isn't a new material at all - it's been around since 1879! Most of us really only came to know it commercially when it started to appear in expensive sports cars & bikes. Its commercial applications soon became widely known and it gradually started to make an appearance in many different industries including the music instrument industry and more specifically the guitar construction industry.
Carbon fibre also isn't new in the musical instrument realm. Many instruments or parts of instruments such as guitar picks, violins, violas & cellos, drum shells, and even entire guitars are made from carbon fibre. These items & instruments all take advantage of the high strength, light-weight, and complete evenness of the material to product products that are strong, predictable, and of course reliable.
As the title of the article suggests this is about carbon fibre rods being used in modern classical guitars to strengthen and stiffen the neck and also as a construction material for guitars that use 'lattice bracing'.
Is it really necessary?
Yes! From my perspective there is no downside to having reinforcement. I think of it like insurance - you never think it's useful until you actually need it then you extremely glad and grateful that you have it. There is a camp out there arguing or insisting that classical guitars only experience about 100 - 120lbs of pressure exertion upon the neck when stringed up and ready for action compared to steel string guitars that have about 170lbs minimum pressure. For me that isn't enough of a compelling argument.
Pros & Cons
- Superior strength
- Improved intonation
Which luthiers are using carbon fiber reinforced necks?
Here's a brief list of some famous classical luthiers using carbon fibre reinforcing: