After three months of once-a-week woodworking, my Les Paul Jr. project is finally starting to look like a guitar. I spent the first hour of my class installing frets on the guitar’s neck, a process that involves fretwire, a fretting hammer, a few clamps, flush-trimming pliers, some CA glue and a file. The basic process is to cut the fretwire — which had been radiused to 10 inches — for each fret, leaving an extra quarter- to half-inch on either side.
Cutting the fretwire
Next, I clamped the neck to the bench and began hammering the frets in one-by-one, working each fret from the sides toward the middle. Since the fingerboard is ebony, I was careful to avoid chipping out the wood.
Laying out frets
Once that’s done, I checked each fret by sight to make sure they were properly set into the fingerboard. Then I dropped a little CA glue to down the side to ensure a tight fit.
I used some accelerant on the glue to make sure it was dry, then used flush-trimming pliers to cut down the ends of the fretwire. Once that was done, I used a file on the sides to ensure everything was nice and flush.
Filing the frets ends
Once that process was finished, I routed the neck pocket. This operation involves using a template and a bearing-guided template bit to cut a mortise for the neck. In essence, the pocket is akin to a sliding dovetail in that it tapers slightly at the top to keep the neck in place.
The template, customized for this neck
I worked with Ryan to build a template, which was basically a chunk of plywood that we taped to the body. The only key part here is that it aligns with the center of the guitar — which we had already marked off — and that it’s set in far enough so that the bottom of the fret board is just inside the body.
Lining up the template
Once that was done, and the template taped in place, I used the router to mill out the pocket. It’s a fairly straightforward operation, although I needed to swap out the bit for a longer one to get far enough in to the body.
The neck pocket, completed
Finally, I test-fitted the neck. I’ll probably have to clean up the pocket and bottom of the neck a little, but it’s really starting to come together.
Test fit: finally looking like a guitar
Next week, I’ll start carving the neck. Should be lots of fun — check back next Friday for more details!
For a photo history in progress, check out my Flickr page