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Neck building - minimal set of tools required?

Discussion in 'Tele Home Depot' started by newuser1, Jun 12, 2018.

  1. newuser1

    newuser1 Tele-Meister

    Mar 1, 2017
    After a year building guitar bodies I feel ready to attempt neck building at last. What is the minimal set of tools required to build a neck (looking to save money and space :))?
  2. TimTam

    TimTam Tele-Meister

    Jun 4, 2010
    Crimson T-style neck build with minimal pro tools. Neck starts at 18:30 ...

    Note fretboard was bought pre-radiused and pre-slotted ... a safe start. ;)
    trancedental likes this.
  3. Sky Bluefeather

    Sky Bluefeather TDPRI Member

    Jan 18, 2018
    I built a neck before building a body. If you buy the fretboard pre slotted. Then a router/router table, rasps, drill press (not needed, I used a hand drill), band saw, and some clamps is really all that's needed. Just go slow, and you should be good.
    John Nicholas and trancedental like this.
  4. Macrogats

    Macrogats Tele-Afflicted

    May 15, 2017
    Auckland, New Zealand
    I haven't built one yet. Scares the cr@p out of me! :D

    Done about 6 bodies so far, so I guess a neck should be attempted soon.

    I've also got minimal tools, so will be interested to see how you get on. Good luck, and keep us posted.
  5. RickyRicardo

    RickyRicardo Friend of Leo's

    Mar 27, 2012
    Calgary, Alberta
    A router, drill and fretting tools.
    trancedental likes this.
  6. guitarbuilder

    guitarbuilder Doctor of Teleocity Silver Supporter

    Mar 30, 2003
    Ontario County
    Router in router table for truss rod slot. That could also be done on a table saw or with a router plane if need be, and filled back in with a plug in strategic spaces.

    5 C- Clamps to glue fretboard with a clamping caul.

    Fret saw....worth the expense over other methods like coping saw or HF backsaw IMO.

    A simple Miter box jig to guarantee squareness and parallel slots.

    Coping saw for peghead shape at the least.

    A small hand plane can be useful for trimming fretboard to neck wood or tapering fretboard.

    Hammer or fret press to install fretwire

    Nippers to trim fret ends. These can be cheap end cutters filed flat to do the nipping.

    Rasp or Spokeshave or surform tool, or drawknife, or boy scout knife to do the shaping.

    1/2 round File, flat file, scraper, abrasive to do the smoothing

    Drill for tuner holes

    small hobby saw and assorted files for nut making

    Abrasive stuck to blocks and dowels can do a lot of work too.

    You'll need to make wood flat, so a plane or jointer or machined surface with good abrasive will be helpful here.

    A preslotted fretboard is a good way to save money and are worth the little extra cost over a fretboard blank. I have used dozens of the stewmac ones very happily over the years.
    Last edited: Jun 13, 2018
  7. maxvintage

    maxvintage Friend of Leo's Ad Free Member

    Mar 16, 2003
    Arlington, VA
    Router or router chisel

    Band saw

    Drill press or drill

    Fret saw

    Fret ruler





    Fine files for the nut

    I like making the necks but my attitude is just carve it till it’s done. I often us a template for the basic neck shape, but then just free carve rather than make a bunch of neck profile templates.

    I have the stew Mac fret miter box and it’s good but you can get as good results with a square, a fret saw and patience.

    For me the hardest thing is laying out the headstock. Getting the tuning pegs spaced right is hard. I use a template and generally build tele style necks
    DrASATele likes this.
  8. jvin248

    jvin248 Poster Extraordinaire

    Apr 18, 2014
    Near Detroit, MI
    Harbor Freight $10 'flush trim saw', use a hammer to tap the kerf out of the teeth (not all of it, test on a piece of wood as you go with the fret tang), double-sided tape and a strip of wood trim to set the max cutting depth and give it stiffness. Block of wood with a square face you can position over your layout lines.

    If you look up cutting coves on a table saw (izzy swan youtube I think has some), and find a friend to do it with you, you can make your own radiused blocks to contour the fretboard use 10inch or 7.25inch blade to cut it. Harbor Freight for continuous strip sandpaper.

    Look up Guitar Builder's thread on building guitar necks.

    Ron Kirn's thread on leveling frets.

  9. philosofriend

    philosofriend Tele-Holic

    Oct 28, 2015
    The same tools you already have. Sharpening stones, plane, chisels, rasps. A truly flat long tool like an aluminum level that you can glue sandpaper to with spray contact cement. A long sharp plane is also great for making things straight. If you don't have a belt sander, a draw knife is perfect for shaping the back of the neck.

    The same tools you are using to build bodies, plus the knowledge of how many aspects of a neck need to be controlled to a few thousandths of an inch to build a satisfying neck. To name a few: the width of the neck, the depth of the neck and the shape of its back, the spacing of the frets, the straightness of the board (in lines parallel to the strings) before pushing in the frets, the whole fret filing, shaping and end beveling thing, the curve of the truss rod channel if using a traditional truss rod, the shaping of the underside of the neck by the nut so it feels normal, the tiny amount of relief in which area of the in board with strings up to tension. With this knowledge you can build a neck with very few tools. Without this knowledge, no tools can help.

    You can build a guitar without a bandsaw, but it sure makes things go faster.
  10. trancedental

    trancedental Tele-Meister

    Aug 15, 2010
    It depends what type of neck, but a Fender type is probably the easiest to make. Guitarbuilder has a great list, hand tools with one power tool, a router.

    If you router before your neck sides are tapered, the truss rod cavity is easily done with a basic jig, a wooden router base, centre hole for router bit, with thick side pieces to run along the wood edges. You can also make a simple router planer jig or two for reducing wood thickness.

    Hand saws are cheap & some of the newer models cut through hardwood without too much trouble. Hand planes are obviously useful when you get them working properly, take out the blade & you can use old spare ones as straight edge sanders when fitted with double sided tape!

    A half decent jigsaw if you already have one is useful for rough cutting hardwood to size when fitted with a metal cutting blade, make sure the wood is securely clamped! Drill some holes along your cutting edge.

    A table saw is an expensive outlay IMO, also takes up a lot of space, maybe they're cheaper in the USA?

    If your doing laminated necks, you could rip long wood lengths to size using a hand saw then tidy the edges with a router & bearing bit along a template guide / straight edge.

    For a second very useful power tool I recommend the spindle sander if you can afford it which is great for getting rough cut edges down to required size, templates, shaping, doing curves ect;
    Last edited: Jun 13, 2018
  11. magicfingers99

    magicfingers99 Tele-Holic

    May 7, 2015
    actually all you need is a set of rasps and a piece of wood. thats how grandpa did it.
  12. magicfingers99

    magicfingers99 Tele-Holic

    May 7, 2015
    yet for the price of a bandsaw you can buy a fully built guitar, the conondrum of modern trade, ie globalism, labor has no value.
  13. Ronkirn

    Ronkirn Doctor of Teleocity Vendor Member

    May 1, 2003
    Jacksonville, FL
    there is no minimum... tools are like money, ya can't really have to much/many...

    John Nicholas, Rclax and DrASATele like this.
  14. guitarbuilder

    guitarbuilder Doctor of Teleocity Silver Supporter

    Mar 30, 2003
    Ontario County

    How did grampa saw his fret slots with a rasp? :)
  15. magicfingers99

    magicfingers99 Tele-Holic

    May 7, 2015
    he bought em already cut from china, came on a steamer in those days, took about a year to get here to the greater Tonewood Valley. I see all this talk about cnc and grand precision, but Brian May and his dad built his guitar and it came out all right and he did okay with it.

    The human hand can adapt to alot of variances in a guitar neck.I'd say the neck angle is the most critical factor as that affects the action of the guitar. A guitar is really just the equivalent to a nice piece of furniture. if you have the tools and talent to make a nice cabinet, you can probably make a nice guitar. An archtop guitar body is much more work than a good guitar neck.
    trancedental and guitarbuilder like this.
  16. newuser1

    newuser1 Tele-Meister

    Mar 1, 2017
    Thanks for all the great advice!

    Here are the tools I have:

    Plunge router (no router table)
    Spindle sander
    Belt Sander
    Nut files

    It looks like it's much easier to buy pre-slotted fretboard blanks, and this is what I'm planning to do at the beginning.

    Should I buy some cheap lumber (pine, poplar maybe) from HD/Lowes to run a few tests before starting wasting my precious maple neck blanks?

    Are there any tutorials online on how to make those 2 jigs?
  17. RickyRicardo

    RickyRicardo Friend of Leo's

    Mar 27, 2012
    Calgary, Alberta
    This is what I use for truss rod channels. The 2 outer upright panels hold the router in and the base rides on the inner panels which are about a 1/4" lower. I have a center line on the bottom piece to line up the neck which I stick down with double sided tape. I run the router along the center line of the neck to make sure the bit is lining up. I screw in a stop piece on each end for the stopping point of the channel. Made from scrap and it's nothing fancy. And it works just fine as long as you have it stuck down well and take shallow passes.

    For a sled just google router sled and go to the images. Lots of examples shown and real easy to make. A base, 2 uprights of exactly equal height and a tray to hold the router. The tray has to be very rigid and that's why you see metal ones. The first one I made was too flexible and created an uneven piece.

    Let us know what you come up with.

  18. trancedental

    trancedental Tele-Meister

    Aug 15, 2010
    RickyRicardo's truss rod jig's more impressive than my very basic one which needs to be used before doing the neck side taper!


    Left is a smaller plunge router planner jig, router moves along until the stop wedges, underneath is two wood support sides 1 1/2" x 2 1/2" to hold the router & bit over the planned wood, on top is my basic truss rod router jig, just slides along the neck using side pieces of wood , just use blocks on neck where you want stop cutting.

    Far right is table saw sled for cutting angle of neck headstock, the other sled with the mini clamps does tapered sides on fretboards & necks.

    Very basic jig stuff, as I said! LOL!
    Last edited: Jun 14, 2018
  19. guitarbuilder

    guitarbuilder Doctor of Teleocity Silver Supporter

    Mar 30, 2003
    Ontario County
  20. mangus

    mangus Tele-Meister

    Nov 2, 2016
    You are making me want to build a neck...
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