Jump to content

When To Carve

Recommended Posts

I decided just make a new thread for this, otherwise I would have had to hijack someone elses thread, which I didn't want to do, so...

Basically, I want to get a comparison/pros and cons between doing the neck carve early in the contruction and doing the neck carve at the end. I know the subject has been brought up in several places recently, at more than one forum, by different people. I hadn't really heard the subject brought up much until recently and it got me thinking about which route to take and I guess I never weighed the benefits before.

From what I've gathered doing the carve early saves some hassle later in fingerboard/fret leveling and allows any slight neck movement following the carve to be solved. When I say doing the carve early, obviously,I just mean a rough carve with final carving at the end. It seems that it is easier to work with a squared blank for much of the construction, but the benefits of the early carve seem to outweight the benefits of a squared blank. Also, when is the preferred time to do the rough carve? Prefretboard glue up, post, or what? Also, I know that letting it sit following this early carve is needed or suggested, how long is enough, generally?

Anyhow, just curious about the comparison and details of the early carve as it sounds quite beneficial. I just wanted to see what the thoughts on this subject were and when people prefer to do this carve, etc. Thanks guys, I appreciate all the help and info. Jason

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I'm glad you brought this up, unfortunately, I can't offer any insight, but I am in the same boat. In about a month and a half I'm going to finally be able to start working on my first (of many) axe, and I'm trying to maximize the use of the time I'll have (since I have about a month where I hope to have half days from work, before things pickup again). One of the things I have been reading is that if you are using quartersawn stock or a multilaminated neck with vertical grain orientation, the amount of movement is very little compared to flatsawn stock. I'm debating doing the laminate route for that reason, but I'm interested to hear what the experts have to say.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I'm in the 'rough carve prior to fingerboard gluing' camp; in the past, I carved post-gluing, and there's always been a reasonable amount of sanding/levelling to do (not huge, but some); on the last three neck blanks (all wood I've had for over 3 years, was dry when I got it, stable, straight-grained, quartered, some of it multi-laminated necks) I ended up pre-carving the blanks, and they all moved slightly, requiring a minimal amount of sanding to get things even again. Again, minor (think 0.5 mm or less over the length of the fingerboard gluing surface), but it's still some. I leave the back of the neck fairly flat at this stage, so I don't have any problems clamping the fingerboards on (epoxy, no added moisture).

Note: there are all necks with CF reinforcements already glued in, too. I also taper my fingerboard and carve down to said taper anyway, so I don't router trim anything, etc.

Basically, it's about good planning; get the steps in an order where they all make sense to you, and you don't need the squared edge for long. My order (checking for flatness regularly):

- glue up neck blank

- level fingerboard surface, square at least one side (don't have a jointer, so it's usually just the one side)

- cut+glue scarf joint

- make sure fb surface and headstock are square

- cut side profile (bandsaw)

- route for CF +glue, route for truss rod

- rough cut headstock + neck taper (with extra 1/8"+ margin for headstock, 1/16" for neck shaft or so)

- rough-carve neck (leave headstock and volute area untouched

- leave it alone for a few days/weeks (if possible)

- re-level fingerboard surface (80 grit paper on a flat surface - gonna use epoxy, after all, so coarse grit is fine)

- glue headplate veneers, front and back (thicknessing headstock as required, preferably from the back; if you glue them on earlier, on the front in particular, levelling the fingerboard gluing surface becomes near impossible)

- template route headstock + rough-carve volute + drill tuner holes

- glue fingerboard with epoxy

- Finish-carve the back/complete the neck in terms of woodwork.

- Leave alone for a while (if possible...go work on the body or something. Yet another reason to start with the neck), mount to body (if glued)

- Pre-fretting (which is the last thing I do before finish-sanding): level fingerboard, fret.

- Finish

- Dress and set up when it's actually ready to play, preferably levelling frets under string tension.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

wheras personally i like to have the fretboard glued on because i like to hold the neck as i am carving to judge if it is ok or not - thats easier for me with the fretboard on

1. glue everything up a needed.

2. Cut out headstock

3. radius fretboard

4. carve neck till it feels right

5. leave it alone for a few days/weeks (a good time to do other jobs on the body or work on inlays)

6. Re-level fretboard

7. Fret

not as thorough as mattia's but it tends to vary depending on neck construction

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Wes: the initial carve is grossly oversized; neck's wider than it needs to be, and the depth at nut and 12th fret are a good 2-3mm more than required (total depth of 24 and 25mm respectively). It's literally a quick, 10 minute job with some rasps that gets it 'more or less' where it needs to be. After the board is on I start worrying about the feel; those extra 3mm of width (rough taper) make a huge difference in feel. For me, it's about removing the majority of the wood; those final 3mm all around make a huge difference in feel, and I'm at a point with my neck carving that a quick measurement and some eyeballing are usually enough to get it close, but not so close as to be 'dangerous' (ie, removed too much somewhere).

I tend to inlay my fingerboards off the neck, although I think I'm going to start doing them on from now on; it's a risk, but if I can level any serious issues before inlaying, thereby minimizing pearl removal after the fact (which affects the carefully selected grain in the pieces used if you're doing something other than dots or blocks). Might feel differently if I was inlaying in maple (where a mistake would mean a new board, more or less), but for ebony I think I'm fairly safe :D

Example of a rough-carved neck, headstock oversized, volute not carved yet, still too wide overall:


Link to comment
Share on other sites

yeah i know it makes sense but my brain just doesnt work that way, its just the way i am used to doing it :D

Plus i tend to glue on my tapered fretboards while the neck black is still square and taper the neck afterwards. I never had much luck using pins or things like that to glue a fretboard on in the right place so i use strong spring clamps on the oversized neck blank. I line up the fretboard and butt the nose of the spring clamps right up against it, 2 spring clamps at either end of the fretboard so the board is slightly pinched between them. wiggle it all around till i am happy then the fretboard can be removed , glue applied and put back in the same place - when clamping there is only one direction it can slide so as long as i keep an eye on that it generally works well for me

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I knew this would be a split field between early carve and flat blanks. I really appreciate all the posts I really wanted to see what everyone preferred and I wanted to know more about the precarve method. Thanks a ton Mattia for that post, its exactly what I wanted to know and more. I had heard you and many other people mentioning this route and I just hadn't put much thought to it either way.

You answered everyone of my follow up questions in your posts I believe. The major one I had was do you glue in the CF rods before or after and I'm glad you answered. Since, CF is a permanent non-moving piece of the neck I believe it best to glue it in first just in case it affects the shape/movement.

Regardless, I was routing everything prior, which seems almost necessary to me. Again, thanks Mattia for the info! I just got a check from my school today, so I'll be placing an order with Los Alamos Composites, thanks for that great link BTW.

I'm still interested in hearing what order everyone prefers to use on necks, but I am going to go with the early/pre carve. As with others I have seen completely dry wood do some funny stuff and I can see some benefits to this method.

Next, I must convince myself to use epoxy on fingerboard glue up, lol, I know Rich said he was looking to switch (or did switch) to epoxy from wood glue to avoid any excess water to the neck at this stage. Mattia, Did you ever use wood glue for fretboard glue up? Have you noticed a difference since you went to epoxy? Thanks for all the help guys, very helpful information that is much appreciated. Jason

Edited by jmrentis
Link to comment
Share on other sites

I just did what made the most sense to me:

Tapered/shaped neck blank using template leaving sides and bottom squared

Attached and tapered fingerboard (preradiused/preslotted)

Fretted guitar/dressed fret ends

Carved neck to fit my hand

It makes sense to me to fret the neck before carving because it's just easier for me to press the frets in with a flat-bottomed blank. And it's difficult for me to judge the feel of the neck without frets.

But I'm just beginning at this, who knows how I'll end up doing things ten years down the road?

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I noticed significant back bow when gluing with titebond, and the problem hasn't reoccured since I switched to epoxy. This is a joint with massive gluing area, so choice of adhesive isn't critical - any hardware store epoxy will likely work fine.

Also, to pre-empt the inevitable question; epoxy is every bit as easy as titebond to dismantle using heat, so the joint isn't irreversible at all.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I think the key points are covered here.

1. Wood has the potential to store stress. This will strike a balance when it is cut to a given shape or volume. When you remove wood from a piece that has balanced the internal stress it will adjust as it needs to(to balance itself out). How much stress is stored is going to vary from piece to piece. If you want to optimise you would get as close to final dimension as is reasonable, allow it to equalize, make hopefully small adjustments(which should limit changes when it reacts to that change in mass or shape). This should limit and control built in stress in your neck. Personally I try to use a common sense approach that fits my construction methods(same as WezV and Mattia)

2. The effects of moisture in the joining process. We know that added moisture causes swelling initially. If a piece of wood has moisture added it will swell and then as it dries it will try to return to its equalibrium and shrink back to the shape at a balanced level. Glue will set and harden well before wood has reached that level of equalibrium. Using a lot of moisture will build in a bit of stress. All said.... People have used Titebond and the necks have not failed. It will work, but maybe it is worth considering limiting the level of moisture added to a joint like this. If there is no negative trade off and potential for a benifit it seems natural. In the past I have used titebond, and after attaching a fretboard I have allowed my necks to set for 4 to 6 months before fretting(yep I build like a bat out of hell. LOL). I am not going to speed my process up per. sey but have switched to an epoxy adhesive. I have also switched to HHG for many of my other joints, and still use tite bond for others(so I guess it just depends on what you feel is best).

3. As Setch pointed out. Epoxy can be removed much as Titebond. If your goal is to optimise for servicability. HHG may be a better choice. I would weigh the frequency and how likely removal is against the choice.


Link to comment
Share on other sites

Join the conversation

You can post now and register later. If you have an account, sign in now to post with your account.

Reply to this topic...

×   Pasted as rich text.   Paste as plain text instead

  Only 75 emoji are allowed.

×   Your link has been automatically embedded.   Display as a link instead

×   Your previous content has been restored.   Clear editor

×   You cannot paste images directly. Upload or insert images from URL.

  • Create New...