RSL

Neck Tutorial v1.3

Matt Wickham

You need a piece of mahogany 90 mm wide, 40 mm deep, and 800 length, should cost £60 Oak for the finger board 6 - 7 mm, 500 mm length 80 mm wide probably costs around £15

Transfer your plans on to the neck via paper or draw round a template.

Plans laid out on wood.

After doing this I made the Headstock first the shape and angle which is 4 degrees, This angle can be cut with a band-saw or a plain it down to 4 degrees. the shape of the headstock can be done with a copping saw or a band-saw. I also recently made 2 jigs to handle all the angles on the neck, one at 4 degrees to do the rear and front of the head stock and one at 2 degrees to do the neck pitch on the joint.

Left: Headstock Shape, planned to 4 degrees.
Right: Headstock in my router jig for doing 4 degree Headstock angle

After cutting this I usually cut the joint, which is angled at 2 degrees, you can use shims if you want. I will be using the original loop design of truss rod and bolt. so I need to cut the joint to get the rite depth of the channel so the hole is visible from the joint.

Left: Finished joint angle
Right: 2 degree router Jig for joint angle

The Truss rod is made from 5mm stainless steel rod. At one end there's a loop which goes round the bolt, the other end has an M5 thread for the adjuster. The truss rod on this guitar is not really designed to keep the neck straight, In a discussion with Andrew Guyton back in 2003 who is not 100% sure how it works said to me, when tightened it is supposed to pull the neck in to the body.

This is how the truss rod looks at the bolt end. You can use different types of truss rod if you prefer.

Truss rod looping round the retaining bolt.

After cutting the headstock and the neck joint with a band-saw or router, I use a router to rout a sloping channel in the the deepest end being the neck joint. I used 2 pieces of wood as a guide for the router to slop upwards towards the head stock. Again you don't have to use this truss rod, if your using another type of truss rod, you rout a straight channel 10 mm deep.

Left: The Router Jig for the truss rod, which is angled
Right: Gradually making going deeper in every run

In the bottom layer of the body the piece of oak runs from the beginning of the neck to the face of the tremolo Cavity.

The channel is around 20 mm deep at its deepest and getting more shallow towards the nut at around 10 mm. The router cutter is around 5 mm in diameter. After Routing the channel make a little adjustment cavity near the nut for Alan key adjustment. After this install the Truss rod, and place a mahogany fillet strip which hides the truss rod.

If your using a normal type truss rod, this Mahogany fillet should be made with a curve which when installed makes the Truss rod bow in the middle.

Left: Standard Gibson Truss rod Installed
Right: Fillet strip installed ready to me levelled

Shaping the neck

Probably one of the hardest things to do, to make the guitar neck feel rite, so its starts off as a block of wood, I brought a special router bit for chafing or rounding the edge over, I did both sides of the underside with this tool and it makes the work load easier as you just have to file and round off some bits.

Left: Started shaping with a curved router cutter
Right: The Router Cutter I used to start the Shaping

I used files for rounding off the underside of the neck a sander and a round file. You can also use a surform plain to take the remains excess wood off, to finish I used a Barrel sander, or you could just sand the neck by hand. Whilst shaping, on the back of the headstock some may of noticed the neck Blends in to the Back of of the headstock, I cut the shape whist the neck is on the 4 degree router jig. After, I then blend it in to the back of the headstock using sandpaper, Chisels, and a barrel sander.

Left: Back heal of the headstock, this needs to be blended in to the back
Middle: Finished article blended in to the back of the Head stock
Right: Fully finished just the Tuner holes and finger board to go

The holes for the tuning keys are drilled with a pillar drill, the drill piece is 10 mm. when drill I recommend you either clamp it to or hold it against a piece of wood underneath to stop the wood splitting when the drill comes through the other side.

Another small help I have found is I drill a 3 mm hole first all the way through, then follow with a 10 - 11 mm drill, but don't go all the way through as what happens when your lacquering a neck is the lacquer goes through the 10 mm holes and and builds up on the back leaving a big lump of lacquer.

Fingerboard

The finger board on Mr Mays red special is made of Oak, around 6 - 7 mm thick.

The first step to making the finger board is to slot it first. you do this by making a jig with slots for the fret saw to go in, so these 2 lengths of wood or what ever run parallel to each other leaving a gap for the fingerboard in-between.

Slots being cut with a fret saw in a parallel jig

You can see in this shot I also put the MOP 6 mm dots in the fingerboard, easily installed 6 mm drill 2 - 3mm deep and the the dot is glue in with super glue. These days I usually install the mother of Pearl inlays after the fingerboard is on the neck, and cut to size.

If you really don't have the patients to do all this including radiusing and slotting, Chris Guitars suppliers them pre radiused, and slotted. Come in Ebony and Oak. Link is at the bottom of the page.

Left: Ebony Fingerboard, 24 fret slotted, 7 1/4 inch radius
Right: Oak Fingerboard, 24 fret slotted, 7 1/4 inch radius

When all the slots are finished the fingerboard is glued on to the fingerboard with PVA glue and held in place with some G clamps. Make sure the surface is level and clean of dust and dirt before proceeding.

Fingerboard clamped in position

When the glue is dried which takes 24 Hours again I used the router to trim down the edges, I used a flush router cutter to do this. Although this picture is from another build its the best one I got with the router and the neck in the same view.

Fingerboard made flush with the sides of the neck

Radius

In the help section it will say this but I will say it again if you missed it. The finger board is radiused to 7.25 Inches, same as the old fenders. You can buy these radiusing block from Stewart Mac in the USA.

Radius Blocks From Stewart Mac, 7.25 is the one you need

I use a very abrasive sand paper when doing the radius to get it done quicker, I believe is Aluminium oxide paper found at Halfords or any good car place, after getting the board down to the Radius I then use a fine piece of sand paper to finish off. Its a very long process and the harder the wood is the longer it takes. Here's what it looks after finished.

Depending on if you have installed the MOP dots already this is another time when you can do it. Inlays are around 6 - 6.5 mm in diameter so you will need the same sort drill bit. Drill down only a few millimetres as there not very thick the inlays.

The way I plan out the position is to draw crosses from the edge of the board where the fret is, down to the next one. This should give you a position for the inlay, You can do this for the whole neck.

Finished and radiused

Depending on if you have installed the MOP dots already this is another time when you can do it. Inlays are around 6 - 6.5 mm in diameter so you will need the same sort drill bit. Drill down only a few millimetres as there not very thick the inlays.

The way I plan out the position is to draw crosses from the edge of the board where the fret is, down to the next one. This should give you a position for the inlay, You can do this for the whole neck.

The Finger board marked out for inlays, Left this picture big as you can see the markings

After Marking the position of the inlays you can also use this method for the side inlays, you then use your 6 - 6.5 mm drill to make the hole for the inlay again not too deep, I would recommend using wood drills as they have a pointed tip on them making it easier to locate the drill on the cross. The inlays are installed with Super Glue holding them in, After doing this some of the inlays maybe slightly proud of the surface so take your radius block and some fine sand paper and just sand them down so they are flush with the board.

Inlays installed

I hope this Helps some of you understand how a neck is made from scratch. The next section to do with this is Finishing the neck. If you need any more help or assistance on how to position frets, fret installation, or different neck shapes, see the other guides and tutorials.

If you slightly unsure of how to go about making the fingerboard, help is at hand. I member of the forum brought up during a conversation about a company in Germany called Holz-Faszination, who provide CNC made fingerboards. Radiused and slotted to your spec and scale length.

An Oak fingerboard as per original will cost around EUR 35,50 (£28.10), they also provide an ebony fingerboard, priced at EUR 59.50 (£47.10). They have other woods available and can also provide binding along the edge of the board.

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