A long running project nears completion #5: The Neck

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Blog entry by Tony posted 07-07-2011 11:20 PM 793 reads 0 times favorited 0 comments Add to Favorites Watch
« Part 4: Completing the Top Part 5 of A long running project nears completion series no next part

At some point along the way, I decided the stock neck was not sufficient. I’m pretty sure it was made of Alder, and surprisingly soft for the neck of a steel-string guitar. I was going to install a different style tuner, and messed up the stock headstock trying to cut string slots, so off it came. Turning again to eBay, I found a nice stock of Black Walnut cut in sheets about 3’ long, so after planing them smooth, I laminated a neck blank from the BW and some Maple I had from another project.

Some steps of this construction were too crucial to for hand tools – at least at my level of skill. Maybe Roy Underhill could plane a perfectly square neck blank, but I used my table saw for truing the blank and cutting the slot for the reinforcing rod, then band sawed the basic neck outline using the 3D method. The almost-finished neck is shown with the waste from the neck block.

The string slots were laid out with a marking gauge, and much of the waste stock removed with a drill press. I used a drum sander for rough shaping, then I went to work with the rasps and sandpaper. I also cut a replica of the fretboard from acrylic to use as a carving/sanding template for final fitting of the fretboard to the neck. I am very pleased with the fit. The neck is now ready for the next crucial step: cutting the dovetail to fit the body. I’m waiting delivery on a fine tooth back saw for that step.

This project has progressed in fits and spurts over the past 6 years, but I finally decided to push it to the front of the cue. I did a lot of reading in lutherie publications and forums, and some of the features I selected are rather unconventional. The neck is narrow like a steel string, but it will be a nylon string instrument. The tuners, as shown in the photo below, are violin pegs. The sound hole locations and brace layout were my own conjecture based on some of the more unconventional instruments I read about. The picture of Christ was done with a wood burning pen. I’m hoping to be able to apply the finish before bad weather hits, because wiping varnish in the basement near a gas furnace is a non-starter!


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