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Making A Neck - How Scary Or Difficult?

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Since there seemed to be so much discussion of this in the GOTM thread, I thought I'd start a separate one.

For those of you who have made necks before, this would be a good place to weigh in with your experiences (and it would help to state how many necks you've made). Same with guys who have done their own fret installs (and again, how many).

For those who have not made necks but would like to, weigh in on what part of the process gives you the most hesitation; back contour, fretting, whatever.

To partially quote from that other thread:

If you build your own neck which most openly admit is the "scariest" part of building a guitar

I think it is not the most scariest part of the build, but the most critical. You screw the neck, no matter how good the guitar is, it is worthless!

And the neck per se is not the hard part, I find carving a body more challenging, but the fretting! Even the bought ones need a bit of work! Of the 4 necks that I have bought (not that many) all of them needed a bit of attention.

Yes. It's the most critical. That's why folks are "scared" off. Also, fret dressing is also an art in and of itself. Properly levelling frets is something most who try, think they can do correctly. Takes dozens of tries before you really know what you're doing.

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7 necks. Nothing about it is particularly scary, provided you go slow when you're taking the meat away. I had to scrap my 2nd neck because I took away too much around the 1st fret, and that tought me to constantly check with a micrometer, short ruler, and contour guage as I work.

Again, for what seems to be the 1,000th time building necks is not rocket science or magic, it's easy, fun, and very rewarding.

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For me, one of the big reasons for getting into building was so that I could make necks with nut widths that were a bit wider than on stock guitars. My fingertips are a bit fat and it limits my ability to solo somewhat. Sure I could have just bought them from USACG or Warmoth, but I figured if I was going to get into building, I might just as well learn to make a neck.

I'm on my 7th neck (4 are actually on guitars, 3 were trashed :D ), and while I too initially had some hesitation, like !!METAL MATT!! that fell by the wayside after my first neck. For me, the most difficult part was getting the back contour right. After trying various methods with belt sanders and getting all sorts of irregularities, I've now settled on a method for roughing out the back (7/8" roundover bit on a router, then rasps) and fine-tuning it (randomly orbital sanding in long low-pressure strokes w/ 60 grit).

Fretboards are easy with radius blocks and some way to cut the fret slots. I scribble all over them in pencil multiple times when radiusing, to check my progress.

For fretting, I also found that this was not as frightening as I'd imagined. You have to start with a fretboard that is well-levelled and well-radiused (so you need a perfect straightedge), and slots that are deep enough for your tang. I use a Jet arbor press with the StewMac arbor and cauls, but other methods are equally good.

Levelling I also never found to be particularly difficult. For fret levelling I use a 1/3 slice of 12" marble tile (checked before-hand with the straightedge) with 600 grit sandpaper stuck on, then go over it again with 600 grit on a radius block. Just use the "mark up the frets with a Sharpie" trick to check your progress, then after sanding check again with a straightedge and feeler gauges. Just use long strokes and take your time. At the very end, I mill in a gradual fall-away starting at #12, no more than 0.01" at #22 (again, check with feeler gauges), using 600 grit on a radius block. I'll finish-sand the frets with 1000 & 1500 grit Abralon pads on a RO sander, then I'll buff them with the StewMac buffing pads chucked in a drill press while I'm buffing the rest of the guitar. My last 3 necks, I went back and buffed the frets some more with swirl remover on the Dremel buffing tool (low-speed) and that really made them shine.

From my 2nd neck on, I've never had any buzzing issues, I've got the nut width I want, and the back contour that feels great to me. I'll never have to settle for an off-the-shelf neck again.

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Yep, I left out the contour gauge, key for getting consistency along the neck. Only about $10. The back contour is almost as important as the fret job for getting a really comfortable neck.

Micrometer is also essential for consistent thickness, particularly if you want the thickness to change gradually along the neck (e.g. thinnest at the nut, thickest at the heel).

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My two peneth:

As a complete newbie to guitar building, I was a little concerned with the neck, but after I read a million and 1 tutorials, and I knew the exact process and what tools to use and when, it didn't seem to be too bad.

I've now made 3 necks and have to say I have really enjoyed doing the necks (more so than the body) I also feel that its actually quite easy. I did make a mistake on my first neck by not cutting the scarf-joint properly, but after that so far it's been plain sailing.

I can't understand why someone would not want to make their own neck as you don't need that many specialist tools and building on your own neck is so much cheaper than buying one. For instance, the last neck that i've built (still a little in progress) has so far only cost me about £18 - I built the blank out of some scap mahogany I had left over, the fingerboard was part of a pack of 5 I bought from ebay, the fretwire isn't that expensive if you hunt around and it only took a day to build (I forgot to add the cost of a truss-rod which is about £8)

Compare this to a stew-mac or carvin neck and you can see that its much more economical and IMO a lot more fun to build your own.

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I put a pencil mark down the middle of the neck , that way you know not to sand there and expose the trussrod . If you need to take off a fair bit of wood just keep checking your measurments as you go , and once down to where you want to be add the line down the centre .

Used a cheap rasp file from a $2 set of files so i guess its worth 50 cents . And also used cheap pack of $2 sand paper . I spent 4 hours ( not in one session ) shapeing the neck alone .

I have only done a few necks , but if you take your time and measure etc etc its really not as hard as you think . If one man can do it , then you can . im not a expert and may not be the best necks on the planet , but i have no doubt you can easly make great necks if you take your time and ask questions etc .

Same goes for inlay i was so scared by the whole deal , i put it off for ages . But after i did it i found it is not hard . Same thing applys , take your time and be patient .

To me at first guitar building was full of voodoo , but its realy not as hard as i thought . Same applys im no expert but i can already make a very good guitar , not amazeing but still a very nice guitar . Im not trying re invent the wheel , take my time and up to now have had good results .

Theres no reason you to can't build a nice guitar

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8 necks (although the last 4 were done on a milling machine) First one was crappy. But thats how the learning thing goes. Its easy, the tutorial on the main page is pretty much neck buildin in a nutshell. Also check guitarfrenzy's strat tutorial.

I have it almost to a science now for 6 inline necks. 4hrs or less tolerance is +-0.002

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Well, I'm just getting started on what will be (I hope) my first from-scratch body. I'm using a neck that I happen to really like, so I don't feel bad about that.

But I have to say, as I'm getting my skill level up --I've been practicing for a few months now, and today I could clearly see that I'm getting much better at handling the router--I'm more and more tempted to try.

For me, the big issue is fretting --I know that I don't have the accuracy to do my own fret slots, but that's not a big deal, since I can buy those ready made.

And there's the triming and crowning and dressing etc...seems to me there's a lot of specialized tools and knowledge needed there?

As for shaping the neck--that's the part I look forward to!

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Well i'm just finishing off my first from scratch. Although there's been a few, ok quite a few, mistakes it's all gone reasonably well considering my total lack of woodworking experience and fairly limited tool selection. At the end of the day my tack was, i'm going to make mistakes but that's how i'm going to learn and when you take it as a neck blank £6, a pre-slotted fingerboard £15, truss rod £6 and some fret wire which was around £8 it's not so much even if you make a complete mess of it - not even a cheap meal for two !

As the weather's closing in it may take a while to get the body done so i don't know how good it will actually play but if it's that bad i'll just use it as a wall hanging and it's even cheap at that price !

Most scary thing: Actually getting started.

Most fun thing: Shaping the back with nothing more than a microplane, surform and sandpaper - the most fun hour i've spent in a long time.

I will just say that as it's not a clone of anything - sort of based on a variety of Hamer shredders - i wouldn't like to tackle a 100% LP rip off or simular where you have to be .00001 accurate quite at the moment thanks :D

Jem :D

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And here's my two cents:

My first guitar was a neck through, and apart from buying those carvin one's pre-built there's not much of an option besides building your own. So I did. It was too THICK, too big, etc. Which I found was a RELIEF cause the other guy in my woodshop class way back when I did this went too thin through to the truss rod and ended up having to fill it with puddy and it looked HORRIBLE. So yeah, my suggestion, if you're looking to build a NORMAL neck, aim for building a Santana (HUGE) neck (in terms of thickness and width at nut and a little on the sides) because you can always take OFF with some heavy san-paper, a surform rasp, and a scraper. So aim big, and then once you have a NECK, THEN go for making it feel good in your hands. Cause if you make a mistake on a THICK neck, chances are you can carve down a little more and get rid of that mistake and still end up with a normal sized neck. And you would have learned from that mistake and won't make it the second time around when you're thinning it down.


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When deciding to build my first guitar, it was pretty obvious to me to also build the neck.......Readily made neck was not available, and I couldn't life with Warmoth type product on other wise custom built product. And how difficult could it be, right???

Not limited by any knowledge of subject so to say. ;-)

I did my home work by spending nights on this forum and learned from valuable information posted by others. Then there simply comes a time you have to dive in.

I ordered trussrod and pre-slotted, pre-radiused fretboard from lmii.com.

I think these steps ease up process by enormeous amount. The rest of build is just taking your time, measuring and re-measuring.....Slowly and steadily.....the right contour took shape.

Areas that took serious consideration were the tuner holes (making sure they lined-up) and drilling the fretmarkers (same deal).

All in all I'm very pleased with results......and yeah, I would do it again......heck, I'm doing it again.......if it only wouldn't be so darn time consuming.

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When I decided to build a guitar it never even crossed my mind not to build the neck as well. To me, it doesnt seem like you can say, "hey, I built this" if half of it was bought at the store. Thats me though. I know some people just dont find necks interesting and if thats the case, there is no need building them. I agree that the most intimidating thing about a neck is the precision needed to make them well. I have 3 necks that have been scrapped thus far and one that is complete but still probably wont make it on the finished project. I dont think any one part is more difficult than any other, but they all require some practice. Precise measurements, good templates (if that's your method) and patience are the keys to a good neck IMO.

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If you cant make a neck, you cant build a guitar. simple as that. ANYONE can grab a slab of wood and rout out some holes using a template, then stain and lacquer it. The true worth of a guitar maker is in the feel and playability of the necks...

Heh, had to think about this one for a while.

Here's the deal--I'm sitting here looking at the Bocaster on the wall. It was the first guitar project I tried --I didn't build anything on this guitar, I just cut up the sides (and I didn't even do that, I had help) and then did the finish.

And you know what? I had a blast doing it, and I still look at it with pride and contentment. It really doesn't matter at all to me what part of it I built or didn't build. I had an idea and I went for it.

I'm almost ready to polish my second project...another 'extreme mod' in which my principal role was hunting down the parts I wanted on the guitar. And boy, I had a great time doing that too!

Now I'm starting on a new guitar, a real build, and I'm completely excited about it. I mean, I have a chance to build something very similar to one of my dream guitars....I've been practicing up for the last few months and this time I'm going to do ALL the work myself.

The neck? Nope, not doing the neck. And I don't feel bad about that. In fact, quite honestly I COULDN'T CARE LESS IF I NEVER BUILD A NECK. Not saying I won't--for one project I have planned I might not have a choice anyway --but it's just not a big deal for me.

I almost got suckered into feeling bad about it...I mean, peer pressure is peer pressure. But I've always been pretty good about taking my own path.

I can understand Perry's feeling, of course. This is his craft, his career, his business and, no doubt, his passion too.

But that has nothing to do with me. And when I hold up my guitar body by its scrawny little neck, I'm going to say with pride and joy: "Hey, I built this!"

And that's what it's all about.

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I actually agree with Perry on this. In the grand scheme of things, cuting out a body and routning some pickup cavities is simple. Granted, doing it well and venturing past flat top bodies may take some practice. When it really comes down to it, if you CAN'T build a neck it is probably safe to say that you cant build a guitar. The thing to remember here is that just because you havent built a neck, that doesnt mean you cant. Drak for instance doesnt make necks for his guitars, but I don't think anyone would accuse him of not being capable of making one if he wanted to.

I still feel that if you want to consider yourself a guitar builder, luthier, whatever, you need to be building the whole thing. But again, it is about the fun of it and there is no need getting hung up on things like this.

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I still feel that if you want to consider yourself a guitar builder, luthier, whatever, you need to be building the whole thing.

And there it is - the statement I've been waiting for. B) I wouldn't call myself a luthier as I've not by any means got enough skill to do so but a guitar builder I AM!

Routing isn't easy for someone who's never done it before - heck i've messed up my pine prototype only today! :D Making accurate templates needs a certain amount of skill. Building the neck isn't the be all and end all. I'm making a body for this guitar because that's where i feel my skill set lies. When I'm more confident, when i've played with a bit more wood, I may have a go at aneck. This doesn't make me a crap builder, not a builder or anything else but cautious.

But again, it is about the fun of it and there is no need getting hung up on things like this.

And you redeemed yourself there - that's the best thing said here yet. We all should be having fun WHATEVER parts we build! :D

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I'm currently building my first neck, havent even started on anything concerning the body yet... So far things are looking great, but I must say I've read nearly every topic on PG concerning necks, drawn and redrawn multiple full scale models before even drawing a line on the woodblanks.

For me the 'confidence' building activity was drawing and making correct and accurate templates. The templates make it so much easier, but I could still totaly screw this up when its fretting time :/ Oh well, we'll see, I still have fun figuring out how to make all steps 'foolproof'...

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Building ANYTHING for the first time is gona be scary, youve never done it befor, you dont know how your gona ba at it. Necks are fairly simple, grated you have the tools and are confident using them. Practice on scrap, use a off cut of the neck wood, it behave like the rest of the board it came from. But most of all have fun, ive nearly finished my first guitar, all it need is frets.

If you dont try it, youl never know.

Things to watch out for when shaping :- Digging your rasp/spokeshave/surform ect, too far in to a part of the neck. Solution, take shalow/light cuts.

Heres my first, but defenatly not last neck (note this pic was taken befor it was finished, its a bit rough at the edges)


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To me #1 is have fun with building, thats what this is about.

I wish more people would build necks as part of their first builds (I can understand why some don't build necks for all their projects, if they don't care for that part of the process), but I see no good reason not to at least build one so you are capable. There are probably people that have a fear of messing up a project, do a bolt on the worst thing that can happen is you have to buy a new neck blank or fretboard (big deal, practice with less expensive woods). There are probably some that are in too much of a hurry to learn and develop their skills, probably not a good hobby for them. If you tell me that you want to go at your own pace, and not rush into building a neck. Well you are rushing past better than half of a project. This is what I believe. I am not trying to offend, just trying to be honest. One way or the other if you are following rule #1 nothing else really matters (especially what I think).


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I agree with Perry, if your going to say you built the guitar, then you had better made the neck. When I first started, I did a kit, then the next one I made the body and bought the neck. Now, If I'd have went all around showing it off, and saying, "I built this guitar", I would have felt terrible. I don't know how anyone could do something like that, knowing they didn't make the neck. That's why when I showed the guitar off to people, I explained everything I did on the guitar, and telling them I didn't make the neck only made me want to make a neck even more. So, the next guitar was a full build and I've been doing them that way every since. It's really not as hard as you think. Sure, you need to be even more precise if you want the neck to play awesome, but you have to start somewhere. If you can't afford the tools to do it right, then that's cool.. but if you use a premade neck, the fess up and say so. It's just like me without all the proper painting tools, I can't do a top notch quality finish I must have without it, so I have a friend who does all my painting, but I give credit where it is due, and explain that I didn't paint the guitar. I just got a huge blower from work and before long I can paint the guitars myself,, thank god, but until then, I'll just have to fess up.. haha

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Having fun in building process that's what counts. The whole process of dreaming up the guitar, finding the wood and hardware.......developing new skills to create musical instrument out dumb old tree trunk.

(And gosh, have I gotten more respect for dumb tree trunks.)

This whole process is very much a Zen like experience for me. I also don't see the point in rushing guitar build process, cause when I'm done with project.....I'm stuck with a finished instrument.......and I have to start new project to keep the juices flowing. :D

For some people the fun is in assembling parts bought of the bay, others enjoy building a great body and buying Warmoth type neck. Some are more hard-core and build the whole thing ground up. No pre-slotted, and pre-radiused fretboards for these people. It all comes down to skill and confidence level.

And yeah, of course we see the peer-pressure pecking order at play here.

Hand work over CNC work

Scratch built over assembled

Home made neck over Warmoth type product

In the end it's all hog wash.........we love guitars, we love playing with and on them.

And building them is making your dreams come true........and darn is it addictive.


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Isn't strapping bits together 'BUILDING' and manufacturing 'MAKING'

Maybe were all just using the wrong words? I can build a guiltar the same way I build a house - I don't make the bricks or cut the joists necessarily. The same way I don't make the neck.

If I made a guitar or manufactured one then EVERYTING should be made by my fair hand.

Where does this all stop? Should I have made my own pickups, trem/bridge, tuning head, ferrules etc as well?

It's all personal taste- I will be proud of my project when it's done - made or bought neck doesn't matter to me. I'll have a guitar I BUILT and it will look how I want it to and play how I want it to - oh and sound how I want it to - that's what matters to me.

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