Jump to content

First Guitar Ever - Basswood/composite Neck


Recommended Posts

Greetings all!

I'm making a strat-style neck out of a basswood-composite laminate that I cooked up. Just because I wanted to try that too. I figure the body will be less strange.

I figured it was time to reach out and prepare to ask expert advice. I'm almost at the fretboard part. I've been making a blog about it, but nobody I know personally happens to be that into it. It's lonely out here.

Here is my blog, detailing my progress: http://buildingthingsbackwards.blogspot.com/

Thanks!

Matt

Link to post
Share on other sites

Wow. Quite a project you're working on. I've thought about doing such a thing before because I've repaired surboards in the past. It was a UV resin, but the same principle - wrap it and glass it. Parker does something like that. Maybe those are carbon fiber? I'm interested to see what happens.

Link to post
Share on other sites
Wow. Quite a project you're working on. I've thought about doing such a thing before because I've repaired surboards in the past. It was a UV resin, but the same principle - wrap it and glass it. Parker does something like that. Maybe those are carbon fiber? I'm interested to see what happens.

I've read that Parker uses basswood and CF (which is on the expensive side for a first project). I don't know if they make a sandwich like mine, which I think might be technically wasteful, or wrap the composite only on the outside where it can provide the most strength. The second way seemed harder to me; I'd have had to make a neck out of basswood, undersized perfectly to make room for the CF/epoxy layer, and then sand down to (but not into) the CF to bring it to final dimensions. It seemed like it would be a lot more about plastic than about wood. That's not a judgement about tone, it's a judgement about my lack of skills. I can barely make a straight cut with a table saw.

Matt

Link to post
Share on other sites

I got the main part of the neck wood down to 3/4", and the headstock rebated to 1/2". This was an incremental router operation with a 1/4" straight bit that was getting very sorry by the end. It took me at least an hour to do the five passes on the headstock (for about 9/16" of material removed) and the two passes on the back of the neck proper (for about 7/32" or so).

HPIM0738.JPG

Here's the nasty step-down back of the nut, which I'll have to grate off relentlessly:

HPIM0739.JPG

I'm going to clean up that and other messes before finishing the neck width, installing the truss rod and gluing on the fingerboard.

Link to post
Share on other sites
  • 3 weeks later...

While dropping off a friend's 12 string to get its bridge shaved down, I mentioned to my luthier, Chris Tatalias, what I was up to, and showed him a block of the stuff I'm making the neck out of. He's worried about what kind of tone this guitar will have. I told him it really doesn't matter at this point; I'm just worried about making a working guitar.

Truss rod installation and fingerboard taper:

HPIM0740.JPG

Bad closeup of the spoke nut at the neck heel:

HPIM0741.JPG

Link to post
Share on other sites
IT will be fine, the laminates will be structurally strong the way you have it, i remember seeing a test done on horizontal laminates for a bass neck online somewhere and it was grand

This thing is a rock. Granted, the neck is not fully profiled, but I can stand on it and bounce a little. It may well be stronger the other way, but it's strong enough this way.

Link to post
Share on other sites

After the fingerboard epoxy dried (had to use epoxy because one of my thicknessing operations took me partially into an epoxy layer) I tried out the truss rod.

I cranked HARD on it and it barely moved the neck. I was afraid to strip the threads in the brass end blocks. This thing is stiffer than hell, and I don't think the strings are going to move it a micron. I guess I'm going to have to:

  1. Profile the neck to take as much laminate out as possible, both for bendiness and weight
  2. Try the truss rod again
  3. If it is still too stiff to adjust, I'm going to have to torque the neck into a backbow by a couple of 64ths, and either sand the relief right into the fingerboard, or take it out of the frets

That last one worries me a bit, but I guess if I go really slow I think I can do it. This kinda puts the kibosh on my plan to put in the frets while I still had flatness on the back of the neck.

Link to post
Share on other sites
After the fingerboard epoxy dried (had to use epoxy because one of my thicknessing operations took me partially into an epoxy layer) I tried out the truss rod.

I cranked HARD on it and it barely moved the neck. I was afraid to strip the threads in the brass end blocks. This thing is stiffer than hell, and I don't think the strings are going to move it a micron. I guess I'm going to have to:

[*]Profile the neck to take as much laminate out as possible, both for bendiness and weight

[*]Try the truss rod again

[*]If it is still too stiff to adjust, I'm going to have to torque the neck into a backbow by a couple of 64ths, and either sand the relief right into the fingerboard, or take it out of the frets

Did any epoxy get into the truss rod channel? That thing should bend real easy. If a Jatoba/Maple laminate neck can be adjusted with a TR, I'm sure that a basswood ply neck will bend.

Edited by guitar2005
Link to post
Share on other sites
Did any epoxy get into the truss rod channel? That thing should bend real easy. If a Jatoba/Maple laminate neck can be adjusted with a TR, I'm sure that a basswood ply neck will bend.

Good point. I can't swear nothing got into the channel, but if it did, it most likely latched onto the red tubing on the top steel rod. The spoke nut turns easy in the 1/8th turn of its unstressed/slack range. I think I'm good there.

But like I said, that thing never did bend easy. I know you think it should be pretty flexible, but I can't really describe how stiff that board is. It's an utter monster. Like I said, I could stand on the un-trussed, fully tapered, un-profiled neck (supported on 2x4s on both ends) and bounce. Deflection of (estimating here) well less than a half inch.

If I had to do it again, I'd use less plies of thicker basswood sheet.

More after the weekend, when I expect to have it profiled.

Link to post
Share on other sites

Fingerboard attached:

HPIM0746.JPG

Neck largely profiled:

HPIM0744.JPG

It looks like it's going to end up a vee. This is because the StewMac Hot Rod is pretty deep and I want to leave material on the back of it. I decided that this material MUST consist of at least 1 or 2 layers of epoxy, or it could easily blow out. Therefore the neck is deep, but I wanted a pretty thin neck (I don't have small hands, it's just how I wanted it to be). Thus a pretty hard vee.

Hand sanding will take place outside in the 40 degree breeze. Because I don't want to die for this guitar and I don't have a dust management system.

Link to post
Share on other sites
you could always take some thickness out of the fret board. That would thin out your neck. take off 2mm. then re-cut your fret slots. Sounds like nothing, but 2mm is a lot in the thickness of a neck.

Unfortunately it's a conical radius, pre-profiled board. I am not qualified to mess with that. I might turn it into an ellipsoidal radius, or even an asymmetrical monkey radius.

Link to post
Share on other sites

I bent the fretwire with a jig I made out of junk in my basement:

HPIM0750.JPG

It's a two-sided jig to keep the axle rollers running true:

HPIM0748.JPG

My first pass made a too-large radius (note the pencil line on the left, which is a 9" radius):

HPIM0749.JPG

My second pass, after re-drilling some new axle holes to bring the washer assembly 1/4" closer to the line described by the two rubber roller axles, did the trick.

Then I cut down a 60lb bag of tube sand (?) into a 25lb bag to serve as a neck support for fretting:

HPIM0754.JPG

Edited by mstjean
Link to post
Share on other sites
  • 2 weeks later...
  • 2 weeks later...

I strung it up, though it's still a baby and lacks pickups. I wanted to make sure all the geometry is good. It is.

HPIM0794.JPG

It sounds very thin - laying the body on the workbench so there is wood-to-wood contact fixes that. Clearly the mahogany I've got on there is going to need some help, in the form of some wicked heavy wings. That's soon.

Here it is next to my S-500:

HPIM0792.JPG

Link to post
Share on other sites
  • 3 weeks later...

Closest So Far to Being Done With This Guitar Part IV!

Fully functional but ergonomically frustrating weird looking guitar: bare wood, unsanded, unpolished, no leg/arm rests. It's got Fender LSR nut with D'Addario 12s, Steinberger Gearless Tuners, EMG 81TWX (bridge) and EMG 89XR (neck) with per-pickup volume/mode-select & tone plus guitar master volume, 3 way mini-toggle, and a bunch of fugly speed knobs that I hate. The craftsmanship should best be described as "completely functional".

HPIM0817v.jpg

It sounds about like I meant it to: cleans cleaner than clean, largely non-resonant, sterile tone, sustain for decades, a tiny bit nasal. The "single-coil" modes do in fact unreasonably approximate that single coil sound, enough to satisfy a tone moron like me. Next will be better knobs, sanding, finishing, fixing a dead note the high-e at 17 (serious leveling failure), and adding some equally funny-looking arm and leg rests. The back control cavities are see-through acrylic so you can eyeball the custom CVS 9 volt.

Link to post
Share on other sites
I'm coming in on this one late, and I'm not going over to read through the blog, so I gotta ask you here....

What in the he11 are you doing making a neck from plywood? :D

And PLEASE tell us what the deal is with the rectangle body.

The next episode in the Mystery of the Non-Standard Guitar Body should be interesting. I'm waiting to see how it will turn out myself.

Link to post
Share on other sites
  • 4 months later...

This is a single piece of 1/2" aluminum rod. I made the S-shaped leg rest, drilled a 1/2 hole through the guitar body between the electronics cavity and the jack cavity, and threaded it through. On the other side I attempted to bend an arm rest. It is, in fact, a functional arm rest, but it's a bit tall and it would look better if it were curled into the body. I'll try that later maybe.

This guitar is far from perfect but it's perfectly functional. It's been my main recording guitar for a couple of months now. It stays in tune very well, it's got a good clean sound, and it chugs like crazy into high gain on the bridge pickup - which is funny because I've been playing mostly clean since I built it.

HPIM0834.JPG

Link to post
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.

×
×
  • Create New...