Making a Guitar Neck
The first step into building
my own guitar was to obtain some fool proof reading material. The
book I stumbled upon turned out to be a complete godsend. "Make
Your Own Electric Guitar" is written by Melvyn Hiscock who is
an established U.K. luthier who's been making guitars for over 25
years. The book will tell you everything you need, from wood and tool
selection and how to use them, to design notes, scales lengths, wiring,
tips and tricks and just about everything else involved, the book
also goes through constructing 2 guitars and 1 bass from the ground
The neck is going to be a laminate of two pieces of Maple ( 'cause I like the feel of unfinished Maple necks ) with a piece of Wenge sandwiched between. Wenge is a very hard wood very similar to Ebony and would provide a nice strong center to the neck. The fret board is African Ebony.
The First thing to do with the
neck is thickness each laminate and glue them together.
Here they are clamped together ( with some fasteners for extra stability )...
Planing And Cutting
Part (A) - Planing
When I glued the laminates they
were not thicknessed exact enough, so when I clamped them they slid
for a few mm's in general directions.
|I decided which edge I'd use as my fret board
surface (the one requiring least planing of course) then set to work.
I find it best to use long smooth strokes as oppose to shorter hacking, and took about 1mm off at a time.
When I was happy enough that I'd planed as accurate as I could I brought out the power sander to smooth the whole surface down to 240 grit.
You'll probably notice that
the right maple laminate is a little pinker than the left.
Part (B) - Sawing
The first thing to be done
is mark out the neck on the wood. This involves marking an exact
line (in my case) approx. 24mm's deep. This will allow room for
a 19-20mm heel after planing and sanding, and of course give me
plenty of wood to work with when shaping the neck.
And the head stock angle.
|Initially my plan was to Bandsaw the neck.
Bandsawing = fast and accurate, but I wasn't able to get a Bandsaw,
so rather than wait an age I decided why not do it in the old style
and hand saw the neck! (Is he insane I hear you cry) :)
Now, hand sawing a neck doesn't require the ultimate in accuracy as long as you give yourself room for error. The thing about hand sawing is the hard work you have to put in.
Maple in guitar terms isn't that hard a wood, but it's DAMN harder than the wood you usually saw day-to-day, i.e. Plywood etc...and if you then throw a laminate of Wenge into the equation it makes it 2 times harder.
Overall sawing took me approx. 1 hour, and I now have a right forearm like Popeye. :)
The result of all that sweat...
This is still quite raw looking as I've still to plane and sand the neck.
Routing The Truss Channel
Hmmm, hairy job this one. Not
a job to be taken lightly or lose patience with as a wrong move can
result in a wasted neck. Planning is the keyword for this.
Once the markings are made I
just taped the rod in pace and traced round it.
Another thing you have to remember
is that the center area of the channel has to be routed deeper than
the ends...(we don't want the neck to bow in the middle when adjusting
A final word on measurement's before the pictures. The center of the channel was routed to 14.3mm deep with the ends (approx. fret's 1 to 5, 15 to 24) routed to 10mm deep. The ends were purposely routed 2mm deeper than the rod so I can glue in a cover or fillet of maple over the rod which will also help anchor things in place.
It's difficult to see the channel in the first picture, but I assure you, it is there! :)
|Above you can see more clearly the channel routed out, this is prior to sanding so you may get a glimpse of the "steps" I was talking about earlier.|
And above you see the rod in
place, although just a test fit at this stage.
Cutting Out The Head Stock
I've pretty much finished width
shaping the neck, so all that remains in that department is the back.
Notice above that the board is not yet slotted, this will be done directly before attaching it to the neck.
On to the head stock
All cutting was done with a Coping Saw which is a great tool, allowing you to be quite accurate and giving you the flexibility to adjust the blade to different angles when you hit an obstacle.
|Once it was cut out, all that remained was to sand it down to the correct dimensions and smooth things off. Below you can see a picture of how it looks from the front and the back.|
|And just for good measure here's a comparison between my guitar and the DBK. Mine may look slightly bigger but that's just because it's more in the foreground.|
Fret Board Slotting
Fret board slotting is one of
those "precision" tasks that scare the hell outta' ya' :)
1. What's the scale length of your guitar?
For me it's a scale length of
There is a mathematical formula
you can use to derive the distance between each fret, but I won't
go into it as it's a bit long-winded. I'm lucky enough to have Melvyn's
book which has charts of fret distance's for all the popular scale
The first thing to do now is prepare a small
|It's also imperative that you draw a center
line down the face of the Fretboard so you can line it up with the center
line of your jig.
The best way to attach the Fretboard to the surface is with double sided tape. This will ensure a good contact and prevent any movement when you begin cutting. I used industrial strength tape which you have to be careful with when lining the board up, if you center it wrongly it's a swine to lift up again :)
|The best way to apply the measurements to
the Fretboard (IMHO) is to use the double sided tape again (sparingly
this time) and tape a flat steel ruler to the board starting at the
nut (line it up exact).
This means you can use the above table and then mark out guidelines along the length of the ruler using the measurements in the above table.
This is where you use your 90o Angle Finder and the Stanley knife.
|You can see above where the straight edge
guide comes into play (although the Angle Finder is just loosely sitting
there and not flush for the ease of taking the picture)
I then used the Angle Finder to slide along the Fretboard and mark off the position of each fret above and below the ruler. All I'd need to do after this is join the two lines together, again using the Angle Finder, and scoring them fully with the Stanley knife (seen below and purposely lightened in Photoshop so it's visible)
|All that remains now is to ditch the Angle
Finder and Ruler and cut the fret positions using a Gent's Saw.
This is where you have to be careful, if you made a mistake scoring you could easily sand it out, but when sawing you're taking a few mm's of depth so just take time and be accurate...I think patience is the buzz word here! ;)
|And here she is in all her 24 Fret glory! (although I chopped the picture and you can't see all 24, hmm...anyone have any pointers on using a camera??? :)|
Of course the Fretboard still has to be radiused so I will lose some depth on the fret slots, but that's easily enough remedied by sawing them deeper again, remembering to saw with the shape of the camber and not just dead straight.
All Images and Tutorials on this site
are Copyright Protected by their Perspective Owners and Authors
Project Guitar : 2002-2012