Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Thick-Headed (and Necked)

The neck blank is an inch thick, and needs to be thinned. A guitar neck is thicker where it joins the body than it is at the nut. At the nut it needs to be 5/8", and at the 14th fret where it joins the body it needs to be 3/4". That's just a 1/8" taper over the length of the neck, which doesn't sound like much but is actually quite a bit when you are holding the guitar in your hands.

I measure the two marks and and connect them with a line. I take the bulk of it off at the band saw, staying about 1/8" from the line.

I then use a block plane to bring it down to the lines, starting at the edges, and then removing the resulting hump in the middle. A scraper followed by sandpaper flattens and smooths the face. All the faces need to be perfectly flat and square to the sides. Continuing my run of good luck (or maybe my skill with hand tools is improving) a flat and square surface is achieved quickly. There was a bit of a hump at the nut, which could only be detected by placing the edge of the engineer's square across the face and feeling a very slight rocking. It took about 15 minutes of work just to get this area completely flat.

The headstock, with veneers glued to the face, needs to be about 5/8" thick. The veneers are about 3/16" thick, so the neck blank at the headstock needs to be thinned to about 7/16". I repeat the above process with the band saw, plane, scraper and sanding block. Maybe 20 of work and the headstock is finished.

Last year I had a heck of a time achieving a flat surface on the neck. At one point I planed, scraped and sanded so much trying to get the surface flat that I accidentally ended up with a neck that was too thin to be structurally sound. I had to order a new neck blank and start all over. So far everything on this neck is going smoothly, but I'm not going to make any predictions. Not that I believe in jinxes or anything...

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