Friday, April 3, 2009

WCS Guitar Necks, One of a kind everytime

With the fingerboard and headstock complete, the sides of the neck can be removed with the Ryoba. The neck is then ready to be carved to shape.

When I set about building my first few guitars, there was just enough life left in the old shintzel-bank to carve a neck for each one. But it was really on it's last legs, having sat outside for a while, and wasn't well suited to the necks.

This time around I decided to improve on my lot just a bit. I made myself this little shaving pony based on info provided online. It is in Ash, which is perhaps the best for this purpose, as it is very strong. Pivots are turned of White Oak.
Having sized it to the bench, the long legs provide incredible clamping strength with the slightest foot pressure. I also purchased a carvers drawknife. The combination makes for some very easy carving.

I start carefully, and only gradually bring out the shape I am looking for.

I check against the straight edge almost obsessively throughout.
The neck is taken down as far as possible with the knife,

and then I clean things up with the rasp.At the sanding table the neck is worked with the successive grits, at 150 the rasp comes back into play. Note how the nut end is still thicker here as the taper is fine tuned.

The contour is checked against itself by flipping the guage and leveling the high spots.At the nut, great care is taken to bring the neck down as slim as possible. The calipers tell you when to stop, then you go just a bit more. It's knuckle biting, but I want these babys fine.After countless hours I have four necks. All with their own feel, each one unique, yet all born of the same eye. To be honest, my neck is still evolving in terms of the shape and feel that I am looking for. I have handled relatively few actual necks at this point, but I am intimately familiar with dimensions of the most popular necks as published by their manufacturers, as well as published contour shapes. Having been playing for a couple of years, now, I also have more of an idea where I want things to go from a players feel. The three necks on the left are mostly influenced by the dimensions and contours for an Ibanez Wizard neck. Slim, flat and with a shallow arc. The 3 piece maple neck on the right I have left more full round, aproaching that of a classic Les Paul style neck, but a bit slimmer overall. The headstock is cleaned up with sanding blocks, note the wood nut to protect the fingerboard end from damage.Then it's time to radius the fingerboards. I use a 12" radius block that I made over circular forms. It is faced with paper and each neck is taken down carefully against the straight edge. Neck relief is let in, but almost immeasurably. I am looking for the thinnest possible line of light along the straight edge. With the shop darkened it is like an eclipse along the dark surface of the fingerboard.At some point in the sanding process I remember the holes for the tuning machines.At this point we can install the side dots. I wait until after radiusing the fingerboards so that the dots may be centered accurately in the finished binding. Thin strips of walnut and flame maple are drawn through a metal plate. Successively smaller holes produce a smooth wood wire of 5/64" diameter. This is a very tedious process.Holes are drilled at the appropriate frets and the plugs are glued in place. Once the glue cures they are sheared off and sanded flush.The finished neck is clamped to the body. Red cotton thread makes for a very precise alignment along the center line of the guitar. The mortise is marked out with a knife edge.This jig is used to cut the neck mortise. It is slightly under sized to allow for hand fitting of the neck tenon. It produces a very accurate neck angle of about 2 1/2 degrees. For the first cut I plunge about a 1/32" shy of the finished depth. Once the neck is fitted I go back and shave off a bit more with the same jig. This allows me to bring the neck down carefully, checking against bridge height and exposed binding as I go.The body end of the mortise is under cut slightly to accomodate the angled tenon. The sides are pared with care just to the line.The resulting mortise and tenon joint is exceptionally tight and devoid of any play.


  1. Nice work , man! Michael in Chelsea, Vt.

  2. Thanks, Michael. Appreciate you checking out my stuff. :)

  3. Just found your how-to-handmake-a-nice-neck video here on a snowy Madison, Wisconsin morning. Your shop looks great, your video is cool, and it makes me want to go out RIGHT NOW and straighten up my shop. Great work.