Building a Classical Guitar #2: The neck and headstock

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Blog entry by kem posted 09-07-2008 03:25 AM 38040 reads 3 times favorited 3 comments Add to Favorites Watch
« Part 1: The Kit Part 2 of Building a Classical Guitar series Part 3: The heel »

The first step in making the neck blank is to make a scarf joint. This creates the tilt back headstock. I laid out and cut a 15 degree cut on the neck stock with the bandsaw.

After cleaning up both sides of the scarf joint with a jack plane, I glued the joint together. You can see the short piece from the cut is flipped over and glued to the back side of the neck stock to create the angled headstock. The long piece should overhang the shorter piece a little bit.

I made a little mistake gluing this up with my caul on top overlapping the joint. I had to re-clamp after moving the caul back, so it didn’t end up glued to the neck blank.

The next step was to thickness plane the headstock and neck. The final headstock thickness should be about 22 mm. Since the two headstock veneers were about 4 mm thick. I had to make the neck blank 18 mm thick on the headstock end. This was done using a bandsaw and jack plane.

The scale length was then tapered from 17 mm on the nut end to 23 mm on the heel end. This was done by repeatedly making three passes on the jointer. The first pass going a third of the way down the neck, the second pass two-thirds of the length and the third pass full length. I made these three passes on the jointer three or four times to get down to the desired thickness.

Next the two veneers, a thin white and a thick rosewood veneer, were then glued onto the headstock.

Headstock template
For the shape of the headstock, I sketched a number of different designs. I cut out the final design and traced it on a piece of 3/8” MDF.

I used a bandsaw and oscillating spindle sander to cut out the outside of the template.

To cut the inside of the template, I taped another template on top of mine and used it to guide the interior cut.

The cut was made using a drill press and a special bit made by our teacher. The bit was made from a drill bit blank with an edge ground into it. The length of the edge is two times the diameter of the bit.

Taking small bites, the bit transferred the pattern onto my template.

The Headstock

Unfortunately, I think the old template moved a little bit so you can see the holes on my template don’t line up exactly. Anyway, the centerline of the template was then aligned with the center line of the neck blank. The template was positioned such that the nut end of the string holes would be 30 mm from the apex of the neck/headstock angle.

The outside shape of the headstock was then cut using the drill press and special bit.

Next, I used a drill guide to drill the holes for the tuners.

Here you can see the quality of the cut with the homemade bit. Not bad!

With the tuner holes drilled, it was back to the drill press to cut out the interior holes of the template.

Here’s the result with the tuners in place:

One other step here was to trim back the veneers that were glued on with a slight overhang over the scale length. This was trimmed by placing the neck on a spacer and using the table saw so the blade only cut the veneers. I went a tiny bit too far so you can see the slight groove (dado?) just below the veneers. I’ll have to sand the scale length down to get rid of that groove.

-- Kevin

3 comments so far

View ChicoWoodnut's profile


904 posts in 3810 days

#1 posted 09-07-2008 06:17 AM

That is an interesting way to do template routing. I assume the second template is a master provided by your teacher. Did you use anything to stick the master to your template? I always use double sided carpet tape so my templates don’t slip.

Nice work. Keep the blog going!

-- Scott - Chico California

View kem's profile


56 posts in 3713 days

#2 posted 09-07-2008 07:32 AM

Yeah, I used double sided carpet tape but it still moved a little. When I finally used the template on the actual neck, we noticed a little movement immediately after taping but after a few minutes the tape “set” and the template didn’t slip. Maybe I didn’t wait long enough before routing or didn’t push down hard enough the first time.

-- Kevin

View Rick's profile


19 posts in 3731 days

#3 posted 02-04-2011 06:14 AM

I know if I did that glue up it would slip backwards when I wasn’t looking

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