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Old 05-22-2009, 03:10 PM   #1
Absent Mind
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How to plan your guitar tutorial

OK so here is a tutorial on how to plan out the important things in your build.

This is the process I use to design my guitars from scratch. There are similar processes to this described in Melvyn Hiscock's book and Martin Koch's book, and although I am an advocate of reading up on information as much as possible and physical books are a great source, I am aware that people want to be able to find all the information needed on the internet.


Most design processes require you to draw out the plans in full scale to find the measurements needed, blank wall paper is good wide, thick paper for this.


*Disclaimer* the pictures used were made in MS Paint and are NOT to scale, they are merely a representation of how you must draw it out.


Onwards and upwards...


Neck and Fretboard taper

So here is how to work out the size of the neck.

You MUST have the nut and bridge you are going to use when you start to plan your build because you canít always rely on measurements displayed on the internet.

You can use ANY combination of bridge and nut you want, as long as you are planning from scratch and not trying to copy tradition measurements of say a strat it doesnít matter what bridge and nut spacing you use, TOM bridge and strat nut it doesnít matter (although obviously you canít use a locking nut without fine tuners at the bridge, but you can use a trem without a locking nut).

Use DECENT quality callipers to measure the E to e string spacing of the nut and the bridge and write it down.


So get your paper on a flat surface and decent ruler and draw a long line in the middle of the paper, it be the length of your chosen SCALE LENGTH, a little bit longer is fine but the start and end of the scale length must be clearly defined on the straight line, as well as being the scale length it also acts as the centre line of the guitar.

Like so...




Then Draw on a line that is exactly perpendicular at the beginning and end of the scale length, this becomes the nut line and the bridge line so make sure the lines are long enough to roughly contain the size of the nut and bridge.

Like so...




Using the scale length as a centre line, draw the E to e string spacing or your chosen bridge on the perpendicular lines at each end of the scale length. So say the string spacing at the nut is 36mm that means you have to make a mark 18mm either side of the centre line / scale length.

Like so...




Now we join the dots, simple really, join the E mark at the bridge to the E mark at the nut, and the same on the high e side. This will give you the taper that the strings will follow with your chosen nut and bridge.

Like so...




Now you must find the position of the last fret on your fretboard, I always use 24 frets so I find the position of the 24th fret in relation to the scale length.

Here is a great tool from Stew Mac that calculates the position of every fret in relation to the nut, and to each other.

http://www.stewmac.com/FretCalculator

From that I can find out that my 24th fret, using a scale length of 25.5" will be 19.125" from the nut (make sure you measure it from the nut) and so I make a mark on my scale length line at that position. Draw a perpendicular line to the scale length / centre line at the 24th fret.

Next we add 3/8" or 9.5 mm to the position of the 24th fret, and make a mark so it is further away from the nut. This is the extra fretboard space beyond the 24th fret that will ensure we donít split the end of the fretboard during fretting. Again draw a perpendicular line to the scale length / centre line at this additional value, this will become the end of the fretboard / neck.

Like so... (this is where it becomes obvious my drawing is not to scale lol, but make sure yours is)




Now we add some extra material to either side of the E, e strings, this is to stop you falling off the edge while playing, I add 4mm but you can add a little less if you want, but make sure itís at least 1/8" or 3.2 mm

Draw a mark (in my case) 4mm on the outside of the E, e strings, at the nut, at the end of the fretboard and various points in between, then join them together to form a line that runs exactly parallel to the E, e strings, but 4mm outside it. Like I said this helps playability, and now you have all the dimensions for the exact shape of your fretboard.

Like so...




Now on the same piece of paper you can draw your body design around the neck that you have just drawn out.

Here is how I work out where to put the body for good fret access.

Anyone who owns an Ibanez RG (providing it is the standard 24 fret design) will notice that the 24th fret is slightly in front of the deepest part of the curve of the lower horn and this is the key.

Continue the 24th fret line on your plan downwards (I have shown it on the pic below in red) and then make a cardboard cut out of your body design, and then place it on the centre line and ensure that you can just see the 24th fret line in front of the lowest part of your cut away, and draw around your cardboard template onto the paper, and now you will have a plan of the body and neck in one.

This will ensure good upper fret access and give a nice position of the bridge in relation to the body. Donít put the the 24th fret line too far away from the body or you will get neck dive.




With the body drawn onto the same piece of paper as the neck, if you are making a bolt on neck you should now see a line where the neck pocket ends (I use the rough shape of the Ibanez AANJ on my body, but route my own specific neck pocket).

In this picture I have added a red line to the fretboard plan to show the end of the neck pocket itís just to show you that you can use the dimensions of the fretboard plan to work out the exact size of the neck pocket you will need to route into the guitar, and you can use the neck dimensions to make a template for the neck pocket, these plans will give a tapered neck pocket and will give you an exact fit for this neck, this is very good workmanship



(I might do real life pictures to show that last step better)


There you have it, the complete process of designing a neck properly.
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Last edited by Absent Mind : 05-22-2009 at 03:15 PM.
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Old 05-22-2009, 03:11 PM   #2
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Old 05-22-2009, 03:12 PM   #3
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Nice work here.


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Old 05-22-2009, 03:19 PM   #4
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Want me to add it to the Resource sticky, Neil?
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Old 05-22-2009, 03:19 PM   #5
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Yes please

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Old 05-22-2009, 03:22 PM   #6
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I'm gonna wait until you are totally done editing and such. Tell me when.
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Old 05-22-2009, 03:25 PM   #7
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Good work Neil.
All I have to say, is that if that was to scale, then that is one wide neck in the first few pics!
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Old 05-22-2009, 03:31 PM   #8
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I clearly stated it is not to scale

and Jim I am done edditing for tonight, it took ages to write, so I'm done for now

You can add a link to the ultimate sticky thread and I'll just edit in some more info 2moz or something?
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Absent Mind, words cant express how much i love you. Id bone you, oh yea.

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Absent Mind is, as usual, completely correct.

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Id like to make my love for Neil public knowledge as he is a beautiful man
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Old 05-22-2009, 03:39 PM   #9
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No, it'd be better it I posted the whole thing. Posting in that thread with just a link may be a bad thing.
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Old 05-22-2009, 03:49 PM   #10
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It would be easier as just a link I think, there is no point having it copied out entirely into the resource thread. Put a link in post #12 of the resourse thread or something?

I dont really mind, where ever it is going to be useful
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Old 05-22-2009, 03:57 PM   #11
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Ok.
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Old 05-22-2009, 04:29 PM   #12
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Ahyh, great guide.
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Old 05-22-2009, 04:38 PM   #13
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Added to the URT.
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