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neck tutorial (lotsa pics)

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I wanted something different when making my custom neck, so I thought well, guitars have started having 17 odd frets, then 19, 21, 22 and 24 etc… I thought why not go one better and make a 31 fret guitar, I was aware of a 27 fret guitar, the Hamer California, but only top strings got all 27 frets. So I thought 31 frets for all strings, this will be different. I recently found that Washburn in the 1980's offered a 31 fret and a 36 fret guitar, but at the time I hadn't.

I also wanted to make a practical neck, i.e. a neck that can be played on, so a 3-octave neck I thought to be a little impracticable as the frets get REALLY small then! I did my measurements and think that I can access 31 frets alright, so for anyone wanting to make a different neck, or indeed a normal neck with less frets - same process, here is my tutorial for making my 31 fret "B1" custom neck. Dad and I began this a while back, but the neck was almost completed relatively quickly.

1. Wood Choice.

I chose to make the neck out of Walnut, a very workable, dry wood, and on my piece relatively no grain.

This was part of a 50 (at least) year old table, before I got the saw! It was let acclimatize for months, and is very, very dry!

I decided to make the fret board out of Teak, a beautiful, endangered wood that isnt available anymore (to my knowledge) I have a lot of this wood spare, and thought id use it. Beautiful grain, and coulour. Works well, and is naturally very oily! So before gluing degrease the wood with Cellulose thinners, available from car shops.

2. Laminating the neck.

I had little wood to work with to make the neck, so I cut the profile out as in the pic below, and glued these side by side, I haven't seen this done yet, but it has been successful for me!


The glue I used was called Extramite on the tin, but id say its more recognizable by the name Cascamite. This glue is tremendously strong, its binary, i.e. mix with water to form paste. This glue has little gap filling ability, so the wood needs to be planed very flat!!

After cutting the neck profiles out, we planed them very accurately, and glued. Use many clamps to ensure an even distribution of force across the neck, this gives a good joint.

Clamping here.


I also glued ears onto the head stock of the guitar.

Then we thicknessed the headstock, and neck using the electric planer, and belt sander.

We then routed for the truss rod. I decided to have the adjusting bit about 2.5cm from the nut, as this neck is longer I wanted the action of the rod to be approx center of the playing area, ie a bit further down than normal.

Truss rod in neck.


I decided to have a small volute on the back of the neck, for a little stability and extra mass. To increase strength of the headstock we laminated some beautiful teak over the front and back. The wood was in such a way that the headstock

design and the grain orientation was weak, so laminate this on, and its very strong.


The laminates were much bigger than the headstock, so they could be trimmed later.

3. The Fretboard

I am using Teak for my fretboard. This is a beautiful wood, with a nice grain, and naturally oily, and resistant to corrosion. This particular pice had been left in the garden for years, with rain almost every day, and it was still dry inside, because it is soo oily. In saying this i still let the wood dry out, im not stupid B) It also had no signs of rot whatsoever. Truly a great wood!

I am using the standard 25.5" scale length. I used Wfret to calculate the distances.

We used an old tenon saw with the correct kerf to cut the slots for the fretwire, which is medium by the way. We used a mitre block which we made also, this saves soo much money, and is still accurate, if your very careful! Many, many measurements and rechecks were done! Medium fretwire was used.

The slotted fretboard.


4. Attaching the fretboard.

The freboard was attached with Extramite again, with the truss rod in place (I rubbed the truss rod with a candle first). Many clamps again!



5. Profiling the neck.

We profiled the neck exclusively with a beltsander. Again not traditional, but it provided very good results! The neck is perfectly flat and smooth along the back, no ripples anywhere!! Belt sander followed by sandpaper and block etc… the normal procedure of changing from low to high grade paper. The neck was also cut down to size (for a bolt on) using a precision miter saw.

6. Fretting (ooh yeah!!!)

People are afraid of fretting I think, and also think you needs lots of stuff to do it with, but I did it well without fancy stuff!

See below.


List of equiptment:

1 Pin hammer

1 Block of Walnut

1 Tube of Super Glue

1 Pair of pliers

and finally……..

1 Chambers Dictionary!! (for support)

and obviously the fretwire!

When the frets are slotted to the correct depth I radiused the board with a block I made to suit my trem. No pics of the radiusing, sorry! Its not very interesting. The block I made was 14" long I think.

After radiusing the board re-slot the slots, because you loose depth on them after radiusing! Be careful to follow the radius of the board now.

Before I insert the frets I drilled the inlay holes (I use 6mm MOP and 2 mm MOP for the small frets). I drilled these in the pillar drill using a router bit, to give a nice smooth bottom to the inlay hole. I also recessed these below the surface as I am scalloping the neck, and don't want to go through them, they are very thin!

I cut the overhanging fret ends off using a hacksaw (not conventional I think!) And to achieve the chamfer along the neck we used a good file, and manually filed it till the ends were nicely dressed, then wrapped sandpaper round the file, high grades, getting higher each time, to polish the ends up. This worked very well, but again no pics.

Here is the neck with the ends cut and dressed.


Here is a nice shot showing the top frets fretted, and in their glory!


I have since scalloped the neck, but have no pictures. In my scalloping I went through the 9th fret inlay, i replaced this, and its as good as new :D

The guitar is now done, so i will post this later on! Sorry about any bad focus, and the length, that was a marathon!!!

Mike :D

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Jehle, WWW thanks!

the teak is bright, but warm. the guitar sounds soo amazing i couldnt set it down!! it is superior to my ibanez :S spent all that money on it too!!!

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yeap!! same clamps!! extramite is da stuff to use!! the black clamps do kinda skew out sidewards sometimes, but not bad at all! Lidl here too! bought about 10 of em, broke a few, and lost some, hehe.

ill post pics of the whole thing soon enough, dont worrk!

Thanks all for your comments!


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i was thinkin the same thing about the tunes!

the guitar sits more than perfectly, its soo comfortable and easy to hold etc... the upper frets are well accessable etc... oiled finish, ,man it feels good, i prefer it to the ibanez finish on the necks, it feels more real, but i still like my ibanez!!

this was my first neck build btw!


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yeah, it certainly is B) plays soo well :D

ill ul and put some pics of it up asap, wanna included production type things with the body etc...

thanks for your kind comments, well appreciated!!


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yeah, nearing 31 is hard, but not impossible! i must say if violinists can squish their fingers so can i, tho they have less hard time squishing, but even so...


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