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scarf joint 101


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How are you cutting your scarf joints ?

Whats the bare minium tools i can use to make the cut ?. Can i use a plain old hand saw . i have access to a handheld circular saw and a electric compound mitre saw . What way do you recommend i go ?

ive got a good guitar building book and have seen plenty of pic etc of the glueing up of the joint but can't see how they place all the clamps without the joint slipping . What tips can you pass on to me and others about scarf joints .

your advice would be a huge help .

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I've seen people use all kinds of tools for cutting. You can certainly use a hand saw but if you want to use a table saw or miter saw they will work also. You'll need to practice on scrap though - don't jump right in with the good stuff.

I use a table saw with a home-made jig at 13 deg. It's a little tricky to keep the clamps from getting in the way but it can be done. I've also seen router jigs for doing this as well.

When gluing, I use small drill bits on the outside edges (where the wood will be cut off later). Just unchuck the bits once they have gone in deep enough to hold. Once the bits are in place, you can clamp it with no worries. Just be sure it's lined up properly before committing to the clamping.

There are lots of other ways to do it of course.

One other thing to keep in mind is the thickness of the headstock piece. If you look at Ibanez guitars, the scarf joint is somewhere around the 2nd fret (I could be remembering this wrong) - the point is if you use a thicker headstock piece, you can move the joint back a bit. I think the reason for doing this is to add strength but check around I may be mistaken on that.

Edited by daveq
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I've always thought that my compound mitter saw would do a better job then slidding some jig over a table saw. Then again i don't have the greatest table saw in the world.

Anyways there's how i do mine.

1. Setup a square block, then turn the saw 13deg from that.

2. turn the neck blank on it's side ( so obviously before the back part of the neck has been band sawed)

3. clamp the blank in place so my hands aren't in any danger and i have full control of the saw

4. Slowly cut with several passes.

5. sand out any little variations with a solide sanding block.


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I used to hand saw the scarf with a dozuki saw -- it takes a while, and you have to

- mark the cutting line well on all sides

- saw following the marks it straight & true (no yaw or roll)

- slow and steady

Once cut, use your straight edge to watch progress as you sand down the cut face so that its flat/level

Flip, place, clamp and glue -- hope you have flat surfaces mating and hope you've clamped well enough for a thin/nice joint.


I spent an afternoon building a jig for the table saw. It slides along the channel and allows me to push a neck blank across the blade at about 14 deg angle.

That first hand-saw set of steps now takes about 2 minutes and leaves the piece needing nearly no sanding at all.

-- joe

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I've done two scarf joints. I used a bandsaw to cut the angle, then used a stationary beltsander to smooth the surface. The second one I made I decided to bolt the pieces together to hold them in place for glueing. As the blank was still rough, I just drilled the holes for the two bolts in the soon to be scrap sections, and that held it in place while I clamped it with proper clamps, worked great.

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I use a table saw with a sliding jig to make the basic cut. With blade deflection it will be slightly off, so then I clean that up with a router in a jig like GFrenzy linked to. I have also helped people make guitars with the miter saw method. The router cleanup (or if you are better than I am with planes) hand planing can get you really good match of surfaces.

Regarding criss' glue-up question, if you cut it on a miter saw and have enough wood to spare, make a second cut with the same angle setup. This cut would be on an excess portion of the wood or a piece of scrape, just long enough to get a wedge to use for clamping. By using this wedge reversed from the angle of the scarf, you end up with a parallel clamping surface. And Dave's drill bit technique can also use small finishing nails in predrilled holes, if you don't want to leave the bits in.

Edited by DannoG
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