Jump to content

Best Way To Remove Substantial Material From An Existing Neck


Recommended Posts

Okay, so here is the situation, back in high school I built a neck through guitar and wasn't aware of online places where I could find all this great information. So now I have a guitar with a bad fretboard and a neck that is too thick. I already pulled the fretboard and will be replacing it, but my problem now lies with the neck itself. I have a hotrod in there, but I have slightly more than a quarter inch of wood behind it. The neck always felt way too thick, so I want to take down around an eighth inch from the back to thin the neck out. It seems to me that this is a little too much for just sanding to handle (except maybe a belt sander), so I guess my question is what is the best way to get rid of this material? I am contemplating a planer or possibly the belt sander. Anyone have any other ideas? I have never done something like this before and just want other people's input. Thanks for all the help.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I'd use a spokeshave as well - I have one set up to really hog away material just for this purpose, and leave my main shaves set up to remove quite thin shavings and leave a very nice finshed surface.

I've also used some heavy duty rasps/surforms, but that can be a hassle at times.

Another option I've used to remove a lot of material from the back of a neck when starting with fairly thick slab, if you have a flat and true surface below (which you probably will have after you remove the fretboard anyway) is to set up a router jig, riding the router on two rails along either side of the neck, and make shallow passes. This might be difficult with a neck through, however - the body may be in the way, and you may have difficulty getting the neck and the rails to sit parallel to each other.

Given that you're not removing much material, this might not be any quicker than using spokeshaves, but it's an option.

If you went the router method, since you're taking off the fretboard, I'd remove the truss rod as well. You plan to be plenty clear of the truss rod, but accidents do occur, and if it were me, I know I'd feel more safe with the piece of mind of not having a piece of steel rod anywhere near a router bit.

How thick is the neck now? I've been building my necks quite thick the last couple of them - (I measured almost an inch thick on the last one) although they are a bit narrow across the width of the fretboard. I've found that a bit thicker neck helps my hand from feeling fatigued after a long playing session. What I have found that really helps a neck "feel" thin to me, however, is the back countour - removing material from the "shoulder" of the neck, increasing the curvature across the back, makes the neck feel thinner to me than actually removing more material from the direct back of the neck. (I don't know if that made sense...) Of course, if you say you have to remove more from the back of the neck, I don't doubt you, and everyone's got a neck profile that feels best to them. I was just amazed at how much better a neck felt in my hand when it was thicker, yet had a tigher radius across the curve on the back, compared to the modern, thin and flat necks on the cheap guitars I had been playing. Just throwing my 2 cents in, I suppose.

Good luck!

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Thanks for the replies so far. As for your question on thickness, j., I measured 1.09" at the 6th fret. My fretboard was like .3 or so and the neck itself was over 0.7. I would think that would be a little thick for anyone. I was originally intending it to be a little thick since the thumb on my fretting hand is double jointed and gets tired quick on some necks, but I can't stand this neck hardly at all. The curve is all wrong too. There is very little shape to it. As I said, I had no idea what I was doing and so now I am paying the price. But that's okay, you live and you learn.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Thanks for the replies so far. As for your question on thickness, j., I measured 1.09" at the 6th fret. My fretboard was like .3 or so and the neck itself was over 0.7. I would think that would be a little thick for anyone. I was originally intending it to be a little thick since the thumb on my fretting hand is double jointed and gets tired quick on some necks, but I can't stand this neck hardly at all. The curve is all wrong too. There is very little shape to it. As I said, I had no idea what I was doing and so now I am paying the price. But that's okay, you live and you learn.

A spokeshave will let you thin and reshape it nicely.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

spokeshaves good if you are familiar with how to use one, how to read grain and how to sharpen tools. you should be!!! - but if your not that might not be the best method for you. i mainly make laminated necks so rarely use a spokeshave.

a rasp makes a good neck carving tool, followed by scrapers or sandpaper to take it to a final shape.

your neck is obviously a bit oversize and this statement:

The curve is all wrong too. There is very little shape to it.

makes me think you have quite a bit of work to do, but thats a blessing really. i would concentrate on getting it round and comfy it your hand first and get used to shaping the wood with whatever tool you choose. then it might still be a little thick but you should have a bit more confidence with the tool to take it to a finalised shape

i would recommend making the new fretboard around 4mm thick at the centre, a little thinner than standard. this will ensure you can get the neck to a more typical thickness without removing too much wood from behind the hotrod - they do go quite deep in the neck

Link to comment
Share on other sites

The first guitar I built, a dreadnought acoustic, I made the neck 22mm thick as the book said, but didn't realise that was with the fingerboard included.

After I built my second cutaway acoustic with a nice thickness neck, I realised the first neck badly needing thinning down. The neck had my homemade single acting truss rod fitted and I wasn't sure how much wood was left in the middle at the back, so I drilled a 1.5mm hole in the back of the neck so I could measure how much wood I could remove.

I clamped the guitar face down on my bench put a rail either side and routed off 5mm as far as I could go before hitting the heel and headstock then shaped the rest with a spokeshave. It ended up with a nice neck instead of the 2x4 size neck before that. I ended up selling it to help finance a new amplifier.

Edited by Acousticraft
Link to comment
Share on other sites

I tend to use rasps for this kind of thing, although I'd probably route it a little thinner if it's a bolt on neck and easily jigged up. To within 1.5mm, anyway. Get the back thickness right, dead on, mark a line down the middle with a pencil, and then shape the curve/neck shape to your liking WITHOUT TOUCHING THE CENTER LINE. Check for straightness with a short rules/straightedge, keep things straight with short flat sanding blocks, and remember that a scraper is a great tool for refinining a carve at the last stages.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

For the rough carving, I use a small Stanley surform with the blade set so the action occurs when I pull toward myself. I like the control I get over that, it takes off the wood fairly quickly, and you can control the depth of the cut as you get closer to the final shape. I use rasps for the transitions points. I like to use 3M sandpaper when I get to the final shaping -- the 100 grit takes off wood surprisingly quickly, just allows you to maintain a smooth surface. In fact, the 3m stuff is so good, I refuse to buy any other type.

So I'd suggest that a relatively coarse grit would be all you need to get this neck into shape, since it's already started. With sandpaper, you can really adjust the neck to your hand.

But then, carving is probably my favorite step in building, I like to take a lot of time doing it. I'll spend three or four days shaping the neck, just because it's a pleasure (and I'm in no rush).

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Thanks for all the responses. I guess my next logical question is this: should I recarve the neck before or after the new fretboard is on? From the sound of things, it seems like I should wait till I have a fretboard on it so that I can get the carve just right for my hand. Is this correct? Thanks again for all the help.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

After. Get the fingerboard on first, otherwise feeling/measuring the right thickness will be a lot more complicated.

Perhaps not an issue since this neck has been finished for a long time... but removing a lot of wood may cause the remaining wood to move, in which case you would want to plane it flat again before attaching the fingerboard.

Just another consideration.

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.

Guest
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.

 Share

×
×
  • Create New...