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Thicknessing A Headstock


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I'm constructing a neck out of a large maple/walnut/maple laminate. So, rather than doing a scarf joint, I simply bandsawed the profile. Using a belt sander with the angle properly set I was able to clean up the bottom of the neck to a perfect 3/4" starting point. The headstock, on the other hand, confounds me slightly. Because of its width and shorter length it's just not practical to try to use the belt sander to get it to a consistent depth. I've hand sanded it, attached the wings for sufficient width, and hit it on the belt sander to get the wings to the right approximate depth.

But in order to accurately plane both the front and back to a consistent depth, what is the best method? Using a hand plane? I thought of trying a router with a pattern bit, but it would take quite a jig to get that set up properly, and I don't think the router I'm using has sufficient plunge to make it half way across the face of the headstock regardless. What do you guys use in this situation?

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You need to face the top of the head stock accurately by using a jointer to skim it flat or a sanding machine. Once you have a true face then you can thickness the underside by method in have used several times before. Put a router bit in a drill press. Adjust the table height and without moving the feed handle, take light cuts by sliding the headstock flat across the table backwards and forwards under the router bit. Keep taking light cuts until you are about 1/2 mm thicker than desired. that will allow you to sand it smooth without going under size.

A couple of things to bear in mind. Tighten the router bit really tight so it doesn't move in the chuck and have the drill on the highest speed it will go.

Using a router on rails does the same except the bulk of the base doesn't allow you to get right in near the neck. I have a router that is removable from the base and I can use it like a die grinder to carve and shape the last bit by hand. I also use this for the truss nut adjustment slot so I have room to just get a socket on the nut.

Edited by Acousticraft
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I use the same method, except that I use the Wagner Safe-T planer. It removes more wood in one pass and it is safer to use.

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I use the same method, except that I use the Wagner Safe-T planer. It removes more wood in one pass and it is safer to use.

I'm using the same method as Peter.

It's quick and also very precise.

In fact I also use almost the same method to make my two foot long radiussed sanding blocks too. :D There is a tutorial on that also.

DSC03687.jpg

cheers ,Stu

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Hmm...I like the last few ideas...Router bits I have, the safety planer not so much. I think I will try the router bit in the drill press method this time around and maybe spring for the wagner the next time around. Using the jointer on the headstock I was concerned that the length might be too short for it to work properly, but it is over 6", so I guess it's technically long enough. I'll give that a try. Any tips for using the jointer on a headstock? And as far as sanding over depth, I'm going to be putting a laminate over it anyway, so i'm not too concerned there. If I have to route the back down a little extra (due to imperfections) then i'll make up the thickness on the top laminate.

Thanks guys!

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Hmm...I like the last few ideas...Router bits I have, the safety planer not so much. I think I will try the router bit in the drill press method this time around and maybe spring for the wagner the next time around. Using the jointer on the headstock I was concerned that the length might be too short for it to work properly, but it is over 6", so I guess it's technically long enough. I'll give that a try. Any tips for using the jointer on a headstock? And as far as sanding over depth, I'm going to be putting a laminate over it anyway, so i'm not too concerned there. If I have to route the back down a little extra (due to imperfections) then i'll make up the thickness on the top laminate.

Thanks guys!

Router bits are not designed to operate at drill press speed(sounds like a bad choice, and a good way to get ugly tear out). The drill press is not designed to bear the side to side loading like that(a milling machine would be different). Safety plane is designed for this, and will offer a good thicknessing solution on other aspects of the guitar. If you use a drill press. You could use drill bits, setting your depth stop appropriately. Hawg off most of the material and clean it up with a plane and or sand paper(the task should be simple with the bulk of the material removed, and the drilled holes will guide you as you plane the surface down).

Peace,Rich

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I know the router bit is not spinning fast enough ideally in a drillpress but if you take light cuts it does the job ok.

Lack of equipment makes you think outside the square and adapt something to do the job.

I have done at least 4 headstocks this way with no problem but it is certainly quicker using a good router setup.

As far as facing the headstock is concernened on a jointer, use a scrap piece and set it so it has a light cut.

Feed it very slowly and use a block to push the headstock down flat on the table keeping fingers clear and cutting with the grain. You know after the first pass if your going with the grain or not.

Edited by Acousticraft
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Seriously, DO NOT RUN ROUTER BITS IN A DRILL PRESS OR DRILL BITS IN A ROUTER.

Basic shop safety, guys.

Welllll... with a cross slide vise on the drill press it works quite well. Cut many a template using that method before I got my mill. BUT...it is incredibly hard on the bearings in the drillpress. My drill press has many knocks and rattles now and could really use an overhaul.

Drill bits in a router...big no no.

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For the face, I use a Stanley #4 plane, which is perfectly suitable for getting an accurate face when honed and used correctly - pretty easy to use once you know what you're doing too. On the underside though, when it's a Gibson headstock that gets gradually thinner towards the end for strength, I think the best method is bandsawing to almost the right shape and sanding with a sanding block to the right shape.

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Where's that 'bad advice' picture when you need it?

A drill press chuck is downright dangerous if running at max speed with a router bit in it. That's a lot of force applied lateraly, a direction a drill chuck simply isn't designed to take on forces of that nature. It can and will fall off (happens to me from time to time when using a sanding drum, but I set the table so that if it falls off the chuck, it can only drop about 1/4", so it doesn't actually go anywhere, but it remains friggin' scary.

A lot of things are possible. That doesn't mean they should be done. Tool safety is important.

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Where's that 'bad advice' picture when you need it?

A drill press chuck is downright dangerous if running at max speed with a router bit in it. That's a lot of force applied lateraly, a direction a drill chuck simply isn't designed to take on forces of that nature. It can and will fall off (happens to me from time to time when using a sanding drum, but I set the table so that if it falls off the chuck, it can only drop about 1/4", so it doesn't actually go anywhere, but it remains friggin' scary.

A lot of things are possible. That doesn't mean they should be done. Tool safety is important.

Wheres the if you've never done it don't talk picture?

Man ....Ive cut aluminum and some mild steel on my mill using an endmill in a jacobs chuck. It does not budge. Al long as the workpiece is fixed and the chuck is tightened down zingin tight its not going to move.

Yours falling off means you dont have your drill press set up correctly. Heaten up the chuck in the oven for a bit. then use an arbor press to push the chuck on to the taper of the spindle. let it coool and it will be really tight and never fall off again.

And keep in mind that the workpiece should be held using a cross slide vise. its impossible and very dangerous to try and freehand like that.

Edited by GuitarGuy
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Mattia, I think you're scaring people far more than necessary. A decent drill press should be able to handle those forces if you don't mind a little extra run out over time. Also, keep in mind that not all drill presses have press fit chucks. Drill presses most deffinitely shouldn't be high use, dedicated mills of course. A chuck falling out at speed really is not that dangerous though. The tool is balanced and spinning with a path going straight down, should it fall. There's no force being imparted on it once the chuck falls out, and it's not going to fly across the shop. As a mechanical engineering student, I spend a large chunk of my time in a machine shop. This is not dangerous; dangerous is some idiot leaving the key in the chuck on a metal lathe and turning the lathe on to send a 3lb. piece of steel flying across the shop at a hundred miles an hour.

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No, I really don't think I am. If a chuck falls down under lateral pressure with a router bit, it's quite likely to go off on a tangent with something sharp and metallic on the end (not 'just' a drum sander). I'll be the first to admit my drill press is pretty crap, cheap hunk of Chinese metal. But it does what I ask of it, so far, and as long as I can't afford the space or the money for a mill (nothing a drill press does a mill doesn't do better, really), it'll have to make do. And frankly, most folks who need to ask whether a router bit in a drill press is OK likely don't have a much better condition press than I do, and many will go 'oh, it works in a cross sliding table, but that's surely just optional, don't need one of those!'.

Just because there are more dangerous things doesn't make this safe. Most woodworking router bits, if run at too low speeds, will provide a lousy cut, even potentially 'grab' the piece which can either ruin it (best case) or give the tool a healthy whack (worst case), which with carbide tooling (brittle) can send shards of sharp tool-grade carbide flying around where you really don't want them. Remember that wood requires higher machining speeds than metal as well, so what's safe for one is not automatically safe for the other. Thicknessing a headstock is something you might get away with, sure, but why not set up a basic router thicknessing setup (two scraps of MDF and a router, doublestick tape, done.)? It's safer, for one thing.

If you know your tools, your setup, and the limitations each one has, sure, use at your own risk, by all means, but I feel uncomfortable reccomending this kind of thing. If you gotta ask, you're best off not jury-rigging stuff and using machines for purposes they weren't designed. A Wagner SafeT planer won't ever go on my press because I know it's not solid enough for it, for example.

Maybe I'm too paranoid, maybe it's the stuff I've seen in the ER (stupidity with large machines, router/shapers, table saws, and lots of daft DIY quality tool mishaps) that makes me overly safety-concious, maybe I'm an old fuddy-duddy before my time, but I'm sticking to my guns on this one.

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Well, there are plenty of stupid people out there, and while it may negatively impact your salary, I'd much rather have you scare them than repair them. :D . Anyhow, for your own peace of mind, if you use an end mill(or spiral flute router bit, for that matter) in a drill press rather than a router bit for anything involving low speeds and lateral pressure(use a cross slide, like guitarguy mentioned, of course), your results will be better and the process will be safer.

As for me possibly making a mole hill out of a mountain, drill presses are much less intimidating after you've witnessed someone have their shoulder dislocated from a flying metal lathe chuck key.

word to your mother,

russ

Edited by thegarehanman
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Mattia just to put this in perspective. To make radius blocks on my mill i hold the piece to the table with 2 strips of 3/4" double stick tape. I can take a cut that is 1/2"-3/4" deep without any problems of the piece moving or breaking loose. So the forces are not what you imagine.

edit: Also the spindle speed is 1000-1200 rpm. Same as a drill press.

Edited by GuitarGuy
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Mattia just to put this in perspective. To make radius blocks on my mill i hold the piece to the table with 2 strips of 3/4" double stick tape. I can take a cut that is 1/2"-3/4" deep without any problems of the piece moving or breaking loose. So the forces are not what you imagine.

edit: Also the spindle speed is 1000-1200 rpm. Same as a drill press.

Yes, but a mill is designed to take force along that axis, where a drill press isn't. And you get a cleaner finish at higher feed rates. I've broken carbide router bits in a router by setting the speed too low and taking a too heavy bite in a too hard wood (back in my younger, dumber days). Luckily that happened in a cavity, and the thing just embedded itself into the 'floor' istead of flying off. But it was a bit of a rude wakeup call!

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Breaking a router bit at 1000 rpm is way different then breaking one in a router at 10 000+ rpm

If a router bit scares you dont buy a mill. Taking a .100" cut on a piece of steel goes to the point where every tooth of the cutter can be felt throught the concrete floor as it hits the steel. And the machine feels like its going to shake iteslf apart. Yet the carbide end mills dont break.

A drill press as you say does not have the side load capability of the mill. But the router bit has a side load limit too. (less than the drill press spindle no doubt) Thats why you take the same size of cut on the press as you would with a router. maybe less.

Because of the pitch of the screw on a cross slide you cant really move the piece faster then 2 or 3 inches a min. (well maybe thats a little conservative.) but its not very fast. The reward being a perfectly straight cut on the two axis. So pickup routes, wooden pickup rings are all possible and relitavely easy to do.

I can attest to it being just as safe as any other power tool when set up correctly. And by the way you are talking I know for a fact you have never attempted it. So why argue a point you dont have any experience doing?

And dont give me the injury argument. Just because a captain idiot cant keep himself out of harms way does not put the tool at fault.

But it appears you have come to the point that you are arguing the point now for the sake of arguing so do whatever you want.

Edited by GuitarGuy
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