Fly Neck

Bodies, necks, fretboards, frets, and manufacturing tools
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vjmanzo
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Fly Neck

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Screen Shot 2019-05-11 at 12.08.12 PM.png
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Status: Modeled


More information forthcoming.
GM
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Re: Fly Neck

Post by GM »

Is the head of the Fly prone to creep ? Have you seen, over time, an overall bending or, a deformation at the junction of the neck and the head ?

Same question goes for the overall neck stability. Flies do not have a truss rod and have a relatively low Young modulus wood as core. I have read that their epoxied fingerboard were quite thin which makes me wonder how do they cope with long term tension (ripple effect, ageing of epoxy, microfractures, etc.). Nate Daniels Danelectros did not encountered any trouble but they had a pair of aluminium rods. What did Parker put inside their necks ?
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Re: Fly Neck

Post by vjmanzo »

Hi @GM—Fly necks are not prone to creep, and they do have a truss system made from thick (but lightweight) piano wire. The composite neck (and to some degree the composite fingerboard) helps the wood retain the correct shape without the need for adjustment.
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Re: Fly Neck

Post by GM »

Thanks for the info

Is the piano wire initially stressed or does it serve as an "insurance" when the neck geometry steps out of tolerances ?

Does it follow a straight or a bent route much like in a Fender neck ?

Have you seen an anchoring point at the tip of the head that would serve a similar purpose for strengthening it ? The meeting point between neck and head could serve as a pivot (imagine a shorter arc than the one inside Fender's neck) and be anchored further inside, where more material gives a stronger attachment. Tension of the wire would counteract head's tendency to creep towards the body. What do you think ?
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Re: Fly Neck

Post by GM »

Still thinking further...

A strip of graphite or aramide fibre, glued on the outer edge of the head, would suffice as a spring to maintain integrity of the shape.

VJManzon, can you describe with more details the piano wiring system please ? I have never seen a Fly for real.

A traditional truss rod is enclosed in the neck, no matter if it a set neck or a bolted one. In a through neck, most of the rods are quite short and do not encompass the area where neck and body meet. If, either a piano wire array, or a rod was bridged over the junction, up to the middle of the body, it could strengthen the whole and we could have an adjustment wheel or nut in the tremolo/electronics pocket, where there is much more material than at the headstock, which is frequently a weak point. Think about Gibsons.

This approach would share more with the modern bridges, or even reinforced concrete, than traditional instrument making. While there is an overall weight gain, for similar or better strength, do you think that various materials would impede vibration transmission ? Otherwise said, do you think there is a tradeoff ?
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Re: Fly Neck

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Hi GM—@Ken Parker has provided some information here that you may find helpful.

Since you’re new to these instruments, we’ve organized an FAQ page that you most people find helpful; specifically, the history of Parker Guitars page addresses some of the changes to the truss rod over the years.

The truss is indeed centered in the neck with the adjustable mechanism on the underside of the headstock. In this lecture, Ken said (at some point!) that the Fly didn't even need a truss rod—the carbon fiber held the neck in place with the correct shape.
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Re: Fly Neck

Post by GM »

Hi again,

I have read the FAQs and also peeked at some points of the 2+ hour conference given by Parker. That's particularily because it was labeled "innovation lab" I was drawn to it and I was curiou to have other opinions on this topic. In theory, Parker's idea to reinvent the electric guitar is quite worthwhile but, contrary to Fender's, it appears to me that the instrument is difficult to either, build at reasonable cost, adjust for playing (or should have say has a narrower range), or repair. I see old Fenders easily serviced; their varnish or paint has cracked but they are still structurally sound. On the long term, what will occur to Parkers ?

On the main topic, I am also aware about the carbon strip backing the neck and acting much like a spring to maintain the stability of both the body and the neck. For a serial production, it is not too worrisome when you have set the right relief, for the right style of playing, etc. Experience from prototyping, uniformity of materials, and controlled curing conditions may get you in the ballpark but when you do not know how will behave the instrument, due to the fact wood properties of a piece of timber differ from another, thickness left after sanding, polymerization, way fiber is woven and put, etc., I believe there is a need for some adjustment. On a set reinforced conventional neck, you can alter a little bit its shape by sanding a profile, after it has been mounted. You have to remove frets but it is not too much of a task but having to relaminate a carbon, aramid or glass fiber, and reglue frets requires much more effort.

I'm still curious about the peculiar/unorthodox choices made by Parker. There is a sheer ingenuity injected in his guitars and to me, it is not always obvious why he chose a path of complexity over simpler solution.
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Re: Fly Neck

Post by GM »

Just for comparison, first Steinbergers did not have truss rods then but have now. For a serial production, you can let the client choose what suits him best but for a one-off, either for personal use, of for a luthier, you cannot have an inventory of "near acceptable" setup guitars. That why I was asking about the ability to adjust the relief of the neck.

I hope I have not offended anybody with my remarks. If so, please accept my apologies.
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Re: Fly Neck

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GM wrote: Sat Jan 15, 2022 7:06 pm In theory, Parker's idea to reinvent the electric guitar is quite worthwhile but, contrary to Fender's...
Knowing Ken and having spoken about this countless times, I'll just summarize that it was less about reinventing the guitar and mostly about solving problems that Ken witnessed as a repair tech on Music Row 48th Street in Manhattan. Ken's decisions were also informed by his desire to make his guitars light and resonant, which you heard him speak about at length in that video. Of note: Ken also loved Leo Fender and considered him "a genius".
GM wrote: Sat Jan 15, 2022 7:06 pm It appears to me that the instrument is difficult to either, build at reasonable cost...
Materials were expensive, but it was mostly time, effort, and expertise—Ken considered them $10k guitars in the early '90s.
GM wrote: Sat Jan 15, 2022 7:06 pm ...adjust for playing (or should have say has a narrower range)...
Nah—they're pretty adjustable and unlike other guitars—to quote Ken: "you don't need to take it to some Geppetto in order to set it up" [expletives removed].
GM wrote: Sat Jan 15, 2022 7:06 pm ...or repair.
If you read the manual, you probably won't ever need to repair your Fly. If you don't—and people don't—then it can be a real hassle, particular with frets.
GM wrote: Sat Jan 15, 2022 7:06 pm I see old Fenders easily serviced...
You're right—a Fender Telecaster is two pieces of wood bolted together; very hot-rod-able! Whereas as a Fly has an integrated design—if you like the Fly, you can tweak some things, but not everything—it's not the type of guitar where you say "let me drop in a Floyd Rose".
GM wrote: Sat Jan 15, 2022 7:06 pm On the long term, what will occur to Parkers ?
Parker Guitars closed down in 2015; there is no official support for any of these instruments.
GM wrote: Sat Jan 15, 2022 7:06 pm I'm still curious about the peculiar/unorthodox choices made by Parker.
Again, many of Ken's choices were informed by common problems he saw as a tech—the need for fret-leveling, for example, informed his choice to use a fret material that is unmatched even by today's implementations of stainless steel. The idea of affixing the frets to a composite material and forming them around a contoured neck in order to avoid removing material at the factory—that was a decision informed by both his sensibilities as a technician and a machinist. At the end of the day, Ken made many unusual choices that most of us here consider to be innovative, but that many musicians (at the time especially) thought were overwrought and stupid. There is a bit of the "do you buy into the ecosystem" mentality with this sort of thing—if someone is insistent on, for example, having the option to swap their pickups with off-the-shelf pickups, the Fly is not a good platform, but many of us here, myself especially, have considered what the pickups actually do, how they can be adjusted or used with different strings to produce different sounds, and so on, as a result of the decisions Ken made.
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Re: Fly Neck

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GM wrote: Sat Jan 15, 2022 7:10 pm Just for comparison, first Steinbergers did not have truss rods then but have now. For a serial production, you can let the client choose what suits him best but for a one-off, either for personal use, of for a luthier, you cannot have an inventory of "near acceptable" setup guitars.
Welcome to the neighborhood, GM! Forgive my characteristically longwinded reply:

Leo Fender tested this and agreed; which is why only the first few electrics he built didn’t include truss rods. On the other hand, Patrice Vigier has proven for the past forty years or so that you can sell trussless guitars, with a factory-set relief, which players are happy enough with that the guitars continue to be built and sold. But this is only made possible by the QC tolerances overseen by Patrice being extremely tight.

Ken had an experience similar to Leo’s and Ned’s: Some of the first production Flys with redwood necks that Ken built were supposedly so rigid that they couldn’t actually be affected by truss adjustment (Hence the move to basswood with less CF; so owners could add their desired amount of relief, in spite of Flys being built and the nut cut with zero relief in mind).

I too prefer the option of truss adjustment, but I’ve seen firsthand that the “set and forget” build approach to minimizing user maintenance can be achieved through the right combination of materials and quality control. That ambition is what I most respect about the quirks of Ken’s design, despite the compromises resulting from the execution not always hitting the mark (repairs are less commonly needed, but made more complicated). From a repair perspective, a bowed guitar neck (Parker, Steinberger, Vigier, Fender, or otherwise) can be clamped and held until it conforms to the new shape. Proprietary part fabrication aside, there isn’t anything essential to a Fly that is truly “beyond” repair or replacement - Though I think I would prefer to repair any other guitar :)
Summary of the Parker Guitars speculator market from 2020 onward: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Greater_fool_theory
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Re: Fly Neck

Post by vjmanzo »

+1 what mmmguitar said in his much appreciated characteristically longwinded reply! 😍
mmmguitar wrote: Sat Jan 15, 2022 9:20 pm Ken had an experience similar to Leo’s and Ned’s: Some of the first production Flys with redwood necks that Ken built were supposedly so rigid that they couldn’t actually be affected by truss adjustment (Hence the move to basswood with less CF.
This is right on, but a minor point of clarification: the change in neck wood and the reduction in CF on the back of the neck were two different decision.

The switch from redwood to basswood had to do with QC concerns Ken had as redwood is more likely to produce wolftones—a batch of guitars that Ken himself didn’t oversee did produce wolftones and ended up in the dumpster.

The redwood neck Flys (I have two!!) were fully-wrapped in CF in the back (much like the FB4/FB5 bass) and that changed to the 1” strip as pictured here.
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Re: Fly Neck

Post by GM »

mmmguitar wrote: Sat Jan 15, 2022 9:20 pm

Proprietary part fabrication aside, there isn’t anything essential to a Fly that is truly “beyond” repair or replacement - Though I think I would prefer to repair any other guitar :)
Very interesting indeed. I was not suspecting this level of quality control compared to other manufacturers. On the longevity of the instrument, I meant a risk of delamination over 40-50 years. I still feel it may become a new facet of repair. On the side, when you compare classical guitars to violins, the firsts are not designed to be easily disassembled. But neither Gibsons are...

From this thread and generous comments, I'm beginning to think Parkers are much more than a step above much everything else... and requires another approach to envision it as a working device :D

Has anybody found cracks due to stress concentration (not from a shock) in some areas of either the body or the neck ?
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Re: Fly Neck

Post by Patzag »

To add a very concise bit as a user since 1994:
1. I have a 1996 classic. The neck has not been adjusted since receipt and it is perfect.
2. On both my Flys, there are no cracks, delamination or other issues. I had one fret pop off partially after a shock, it was re-glued in 2013 and is still there, in perfect position.
Neither of the guitars (a '94 and '94) show ANY wear on the frets after intensive playing for years.

"Nothing plays like a Parker!"
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Re: Fly Neck

Post by mmmguitar »

GM wrote: Sun Jan 16, 2022 8:14 am On the longevity of the instrument, I meant a risk of delamination over 40-50 years.
I’m curious, myself - Each day is uncharted territory with these instruments. Three of my Flys are from the mid-90s, and the bulk of their issues are cosmetic and due to mishandling by previous owners. We’ll see how they hold up over the next twenty five years.
GM wrote: Sun Jan 16, 2022 8:14 am Has anybody found cracks due to stress concentration (not from a shock) in some areas of either the body or the neck ?
I’ve seen photos of common finish cracks at stress points, but no structural ones arising from anything but shock and/or fingerboard delamination (which, at this point, seems more often than not to be specific to a defective batch of glue used after Ken had parted ways with the brand). Murphy’s law notwithstanding, delaminations and CF stress cracks have been the exception; rather than the rule *knocks on guitar*.
Summary of the Parker Guitars speculator market from 2020 onward: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Greater_fool_theory
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Re: Fly Neck

Post by GM »

Hi again,

In the "Anatomy of a Fly", there is a picture of a Fly, showing its back. Image

It tells about a reinforcing " 1-inch wide carbon fibre strip" I would like to know if it is really a strip of woven stands of fibre, impregnated with resin or extruded graphite, that is commonly misnomed as carbon fibre.

Thanks !
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Re: Fly Neck

Post by vjmanzo »

Hi @GM,

According to @Ken Parker, apart from the redwood neck Fly Deluxes (the first 50 or so made in 1993, it is a 1” strip of carbon fiber overlaid with a sheet of fiberglass that covers the entire back of the Fly. The two layers form triaxial fiber reinforcement. The finish (primer and paint) is then applied over this layer. 

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Re: Fly Neck

Post by GM »

Super !

Even if it may be a little less strong (by no mean weak), the bond with other layers is probably much better due to the nature of the fiber. I would have suspected it was also unidirectional to maximize strength...

It is a plus for a oneoff project.
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Re: Fly Neck

Post by vjmanzo »

Happy to help!

Yes, Ken has mentioned in a variety of talks and lectures that the tendency is to inadvertently make things too stiff, which presents other shortcomings.
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