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Neck Building Proceadure?


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Hi all,

I've received all my parts and have been prepping my neck laminates. I'm now ready to start the actual construction of the neck, but I'm a little unsure if my procedure is correct, here's what I intend to do (based on reading numerous threads from here and other sources)

Glue neck laminates

Square and plane to just over thickness and just over length

Cut scarf, thickness headstock piece, and glue together

Sand in volute and glue on 'backstrap' veneer to underside of heastock

Route truss-rod channel

Glue on un-tapered pre-slotted fingerboard

Trim neck and fingerboard to correct size using a pre-made template

Carve neck profile

Apply oil (danish) finish to the neck

Fit and Finish frets..

The reason I'm getting a little confused as on some peoples threads I've seen a mention that the carve should be done before the fingerboard is glued on to re-straighten if the wood moves during the carving, but then others dont mention this as a problem at all - with my neck being a laminate and well seasoned, I dont anticipate any real movement..

Any advice gratefully received.

Thanks In Advance.

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Hi all,

I've received all my parts and have been prepping my neck laminates. I'm now ready to start the actual construction of the neck, but I'm a little unsure if my procedure is correct, here's what I intend to do (based on reading numerous threads from here and other sources)

Glue neck laminates

Square and plane to just over thickness and just over length

Cut scarf, thickness headstock piece, and glue together

Sand in volute and glue on 'backstrap' veneer to underside of heastock

Route truss-rod channel

Glue on un-tapered pre-slotted fingerboard

Trim neck and fingerboard to correct size using a pre-made template

Carve neck profile

Apply oil (danish) finish to the neck

Fit and Finish frets..

The reason I'm getting a little confused as on some peoples threads I've seen a mention that the carve should be done before the fingerboard is glued on to re-straighten if the wood moves during the carving, but then others dont mention this as a problem at all - with my neck being a laminate and well seasoned, I dont anticipate any real movement..

Any advice gratefully received.

Thanks In Advance.

1- Cut the neck profile to the proper thickness, check for flatness.

2- Cut the truss rod slot, check for flatness. INstall the rod.

3- Glue the fretboard while maintaining flatness. This is an important step - start by putting the clamps in the middle then move outwards.

4- Carve with the fretboard on.

5- Check for flatness again.

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Cheers Fella's, I've read up some more today and have pretty much settled on the procedure as outlined by guitar2005, part of my problem is I have many numerous ways of doing the actual job, but not nessacarily the right knowledge to rely on to avoid any problems, but you've put my mind to rest and i'll start the build this evening!

Thanks again.

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Great planning, and well placed question. :D Depending on the neck I do things a little different (be it neck through, set, bolt, acoustic with large heel). Basically though the steps are pretty similar (tools and jigs just change).

1. jigs and a little work table.

a. routing template for the headstock, with guide holes for your tuners(these are also used for my locating pins). I use 3/4" ply, but 1/2" would also be fine.

b. template of the fretboard and neck shape. I use fixed locations to attach guide pins for alignment(first fret slot, and 14th fret slot in my case).

c. Work table. I use a 4'x 2' sheet of ply (nice and flat), and attach guide boards for a few tasks. One is a pair of 3/4" boards that are to act as rails on either side of the blank for routing. I use a straight edge with pre drilled holes and pre-drilled holes for the screws(in the guide boards) to guide the router for carbon fiber slots and truss rod slot. The blank is secured to the work boardon a fixed centerline between the rails, so that the guides always are located correctly. I also use the rails to allow me to pre thickness the back of the blank to within 1/8" of final carve thickness on the shaft. Note; I do not thickness all the way to the volute or heel as these are thicker, and need to be shaped. I have also got guides for routing the scarf surfaces, and you can use guides in this fashion (I personally don't use them because I get a clean scarf cut from my sliding compound miter saw with a very good quality carbide finishing blade). There are other guides I have for my acoustic neck parts, but I suspect that is nothing you need.

2. Lamiate if you are laminating

3. I square one edge and the fretboard plane dead on. I derive my centerline from the true edge. and layout all the critical locations on the blank(you can draw out the whole thing if you like it never hurts). I make sure to mark the centerline with an additional knotch at each end. If I lose my line I can reference these to bring it back.

4. depending on where you scarf you can either cut the scarf now or later. If you scarf at the shaft (below the fretboard) wait, if you scarf just beyond the nut in the headstock area to hide the joint with top and back veneers and ears. go ahead and cut now.

5. I then attach attach the blank to the work table and route for my carbon fiber rods and truss rod, and make sure that looks just right with nice fits(I like to allow a tiny bit of extra depth to re-true the fretboard surface(in case it moves after close ruff shaping).

6. I thickness and slot my fretboard and I then ruff cut the taper of the neck and fretboard on my bandsaw (I use my template to mark and pre drill for pins, and also confirm I have centerlines clearly marked).

7. I surface the headstock to my proper thickness(note; refer to your tuners to confirm your final thickness and I stay .03" over to clean up with my open ended drum sander after I have pre-shaped my volute and before attaching my backstrap).

8. At this point you can attach the headstock, then ears, then headstock top veneer. (note if you are scarfing below the fretboard, you will have to cut it back to get it close, my methods are not based on that style joint). I clean the transition from the veneer to the fretboard plane at this point.

9. I re-attach my templates and clean the fretboard and blank with my router and a pattern bit(note; if you are going to bind the fretboard, now would be the time to do it). Then I attach the headstock pattern and do the same. Be sure to clamp a stop block to the shaft of the neck that will prevent the router from jumping off the headstock template and cutting the shaft.

10. I use an oscillating drum sander to shape my volute. First I use a good size square block of wood that will be clamped to the fretboard surface of the neck blank. I align the blank horizontally using a machinist square(placed on the table, and referencing a line marked on the fretboard blank(nut location or what have you) or the tips of the ears on my 3X3 headstocks. The tip of the headstock and block are the two points that touch the table. I mark the peak of the volute. I generally use a 3" drum for the head stock side of the volute and a 2" drum on the shaft side of the volute. I look straight down the neck and drum, and slowely remove material working up to the peak. I am careful to not cut deeper than the thickness of the end of the pre-thicknessed headstock (it is handy to use a straight edge to transpose that line all the way to the peak of your volute, to make sur you do not sand deeper than you should). I do not do anything to the shaft side of the volute at this point.

11. I take the neck back to my work table lock it back down between the rails (fretboard side down). This is when I mark where I want to surface the shaft close to thickness (I leave it +1/8"). The headstock will not let you cut too close to the end, but that is fine, and you want to mark how close you want to get to the heel(allow for a nice transition carve). I then set the router depth and route away the extra material.

12. I go back to the drum sander and place a 2" drum on the machine. At this point I want to mark a line on the side of the shaft using a straight edge that indicates a continuation of the thickness of the pre thinned shaft all the way to the volute area (this is my go no deeper line). I will free hand away the extra material keeping the blank pretty square to the drum working my way tward the tip of the volute. I then will ruffly round the sides of the volute, but I don't get too close to a finshed volute (I do final shaping after the back strap is attached). At this point I final surface and prep the thickness and back of the headstock to accept the backstrap.

13. I pre-bend and attach the back strap to the headstock. After the glue has set I use the drum sander to clean the extra veneer material away, leaving just a hint around the edges. The final pass all the way around is very light smooth and even to give me a nice tidy edge all the way around the headstock.

14. This is a good time to do your inlays in the fretboard, side dots, and get your fretboard radius close( this needs to be finished with the fretboard attached to the neck). Install your CF rods(if your using them), final surface your fretboard surface on your blank, install your truss rod,and attach your fretboard.

15. I will finish cleaning up the shaft side of the volute and bring it to thickness with the drum sander and rasp. Then go to the heel area and finish my transitions with the same tools. Then I use a spoke shave to bring the two shaped ends of the shaft together. I use a scraper (the one I use has a rounded edge as well as a straight edge) to bring in my final shape. Then I work my way through the different grits of sand paper like you are buffing a shoe.

16 Now I let it set a spell.... Then I proceed with final surfacing on the fret board (and polish that baby so you can see your reflection), installing frets, trim, bevel, check level, crown and polish.

17. Shape and place the nut.

18. Final set up with neck in place. Adjust nut, set relief, set saddle height and action.

Hope I didn't forget anything. That is just kinda my method, you may have different tools or preferences. Hopefully though it is of some value.

Peace,Rich

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Hey Rich,

Thanks a lot for that detailed response, I've printed that out and will be using it as a guide as I go through my build, I've slightly different machine/tooling setup but I'll be following your main procedures. I've already some good progress from yesterday (New thread in the in-progress forum) and things are coming along nicely.

Thanks again rich!

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