Another one of these tutorials. I see people on these boards and in other places talk about neck building like it is some impossible thing for beginners to do. wrong. Neck building is actually quite easy and can be done with minimal tools if necessary. I have a lot of tools so ill be showing you the easy way to do it with a lot of tools. I also will make suggestions for tool substitutions along the way for some of you that may be limited to a router and rasps.
So first off I will be building a strat style neck with the truss rod access on the heel (I realize this makes adjusting harder but If you have the tools to build a neck you have the tools to take it off of the body and adjust it.) The reason i am putting the access on the heel is simply for looks, I prefer the headstock to be blank. But if you prefer the access on the headstock all you have to do is route the slot differently
The tools I will be using for this project are: Bandsaw, Planer/Overhead sander, jointer, spokeshave, rasp/files, drill press, router, various bits, double stick tape.
okay the first step in making a neck is preparing your lumber. most people prefer quratersawn lumber for necks because of its stability.
I'm just using some curly maple for the neck in this build.
For the fretboard i will be using bolivian rosewood. all species of rosewood are great for fretboards. maple, ebony, zebrawood, jatoba, etc.. basically all woods that are very hard are acceptable for fretboards.
My truss rod is a stewmac hot rod truss rod. this truss rod is easy and straightforward to install, and also gives you good results. the slot for this rod requires a .218 inch wide slot that is 7/16th of an inch deep. you MUST have atleast 1/8th of an inch of wood under your truss rod so the minimum thickness of your neck is 9/16th of an inch.
The first step I take when building a neck is getting my fretboard slotted and ready. their are many ways to do this, I happen to have the stewmac mitre box which makes the task pretty straightforward. You can obviously do this by hand but it requires very accurate measurements.
Once the fretboard is slotted and completed I get my neck wood. my neck wood is 21mm thick maple. You may be wondering why I used the metric system for that thickness, I have no idea why. When this is updated Ill put everything into inches for you.
Then you want to get your neck template (in my case a strat neck) To fit this onto the board I draw the centerline 2.25 inches from the edge of the board (which is planed flat on the edge that is perpendicular to the centerline) The edge will serve as a guide for my router when i route the truss rod.http://i144.photobucket.com/albums/r191/stelmach1117/Picture002-5.jpg
Now that You have everything completed with your wood selection and all of your parts gathered your ready to begin cutting some wood.
first thing you will need is a template of the neck your making obviously.
When you get your template made your ready to start cutting. trace your template onto your blank
through the center of the blank you wlil rout the truss rod slot. I use stewmac dual action hot rod truss rods. these require a .218 inch wide by 7/16ths deep inch slot.
First thing I do is measure out the length of my pocket from head to heel then I mark the length of the route on the centerline on the heel and on the head end.http://i144.photobucket.com/albums/r191/stelmach1117/Picture001-6.jpg
When this is done I set up my router with my routing fence attachement. this allows me to route parallel to the edge of my board which is parallel to the centerline. I route the slots length.
I then route down the center of my neck until the slot is 7/16th inch deep. When this is done I route the little extra bit needed for the adjustment nut.
now that thats done, i rough cut the side of the neck out that wasnt used to route the truss slot.
When thats rough cut I draw the profile of my neck. My headstock is .5 inches thick and the neck is 9/16th inches deep on the playing surface. The heel is 21mm thick. I take the difference of the 21mm and the .5 inches off of the top of the blank.
here it is drawn out.http://i144.photobucket.com/albums/r191/stelmach1117/Picture005-1.jpghttp://i144.photobucket.com/albums/r191/stelmach1117/Picture006-1.jpg
When thats done I cut that out on the bandsaw (sorry no pics)
Then I rough cut the rest of the neck and put the routing template on
I then proceed to route the neck to size with a router bit with the bearing on the top.
After that is completed I am ready to glue my truss rod in with silicon bathtub sealer. This keeps the truss from jiggling in the route and creating unwanted noise.
When this is done I scrape any excess sealer off of the top of the neck with a razor blade.
The neck is ready to be glued to the fretboard at this point. To do this I simply line up the centerline of the truss rod to the centerline of the neck. I then apply glue to the surface of the neck making sure to not allow any to come into the truss rod slot. When the glue is applyed i clamp the fretboard to the neck using a bunch of handscrew clamps and a couple quick clamps to hold it in place while i set up the handscrew clamps completely.
TIP:set up any clamps before gluing, run a dry clamp if its your first time doing this
Okay so this leaves us with only a small amount of cutting until were ready for the carve.
first things first, getting that fingerboard down to size, because right now its a square fingerboard. To do this i first rough cut the board down to the finished taper using the band saw, this is a quick 10 second step that may save you a fingerboard that gets screwed up due to tearout.
so basically i just put my fingerboard onto the bandsaw with the fingerboard on the table. i then cut the board until its about maybe 1/16th of an inch away from the neck. When this is done your ready to route it down to size.http://i144.photobucket.com/albums/r191/stelmach1117/Picture011.jpg
Okay now we are reday for routing the fingerboard down to size. to do this we will use a bit with the bearing on the bottom.http://i144.photobucket.com/albums/r191/stelmach1117/Picture012.jpg
You now will simply route along the neck until your board is flush with your neck. this is a fine way of doing it except it has one problem, overhang. The bearing has nothing to follow on the fretboard overhang.
To cut the overhang off I simply tape a freshly jonted piece of mdf to the top of the fingerboard, use my bit with the bearing on the top again and route. this is a simple way to get everything 100% straight.http://i144.photobucket.com/albums/r191/stelmach1117/Picture015.jpghttp://i144.photobucket.com/albums/r191/stelmach1117/Picture016-2.jpg
At this point the neck is becoming pretty close to done, everything is ready for carving.
The first step of the carving process begins with your headstock. Up until now you probably noticed that my headstock is rough from the bandsaw. this is easily fixed with my small hand plane (pics will come up of this I didn't take any of the actual plane.)
basically your just gonna use a small hand plane to flatten the headstock out. until you have something like this
When you have that your ready to work on your fretboard to headstock transition. Strat necks have a simple taper that starts about 1mm from your nut slot and goes all the way down to the flat portion of your headstock. to do this i use a combination of a chisel and rasp. to clean it up i use a scraper and sandpaper. I first mark 1mm from the nut slot then I score the line with my chisel. I then roughed out the taper with the chisel starting at the score line and going down to almost where the fretboard meets the body. When this is done I get my rasp out and make the transition smooth. When its rasped, its kind of rough. The roughness is easily smoothed out with sand paper or a scraper or both.