Asher Guitars WD Music Products Amplified Parts Mod Kits DIY Nordstarnd Pickups
Asher Guitars WD Music Products Amplified Parts Mod Kits DIY Nordstarnd Pickups
Asher Guitars WD Music Products Amplified Parts Mod Kits DIY Nordstarnd Pickups

you talked me into it: my first neck

Discussion in 'Tele Home Depot' started by papaschtroumpf, Aug 6, 2017.

  1. papaschtroumpf

    papaschtroumpf Tele-Holic

    Nov 24, 2015
    In another thread (here) I shared that I confused myself about the scale length converting an LP Jr to a Fano SP6 tribute and placed the bridge for a 25.5" scale (it was a Tele bridge after all!)

    While I have some (not so great) options, like l fill and reroute the bridge in the right position, one option is to use a "conversion" Gibson-length neck but with a 25.5" scale. You guys convinced me it was the Universe telly me it's time I learn to build my own neck.

    My guitar building experience so far limits itself to a Squier Strat rebuild/refinish build an Electar lapsteel tribute, and a Pine Tele from barn wood using a GFS neck:

    Clipboard01.jpg Clipboard02.jpg Clipboard03.jpg

    I've also started on a Blueshawk tribute that it stalled until I practice cutting f-holes. I bought a cheap $50 Chinese neck for that one although I have not used it yet but it looks pretty good to me so I was not going to try and build my own:

    Clipboard04.jpg Clipboard06.jpg

    My biggest handicap is that I can't spend a ton of money on this hobby.

    This means I don't have fancy tools (even if I had the money I ccouldn't sore most tools due to lack of space). My workspace is "pull the car our of the garage and assemble a foldable workbench". I do have a small drillpress (too small to reach ferrule locations on a body for example), a small bandsaw, a router, and a ROSS. My biggest handicap has been not having planers/jointers/thicknessers and the lack of a real fence on my work table. Well, and skills, I'd never worked with wood before I started this hobby about 2 years ago. Still, I'm happy with the results above and learning a ton.
    I should mention here I also don't have access to high school or community college shops, and the the few "builder spaces" in the area are too expensive for me to sustain this hobby ($100/month membership on average, and my schedule would make it very heard to reserve space in advance or during weekdays, which is another barrier)

    To give you an example of the kind of budgets I'm trying to work with, this Fano SP6 was based off a $50 Craigslist Epi Humbucker LP Jr (brand new) and with some GFS pickups and rattle cans spray paint/nitro, I was trying to stay well south of $150 for this project. It was mostly meant to be an experiment in filling cavities and rerouting for a different pickup combination. So I could continue the experiment instead of building a neck, in fact it's still the backup plan if I am not happy with the neck.

    So my goal if I build my neck is to try and stay well under $100 for the neck so the total project stays under $200. The body is mahogany with a very thin alder veneer, but after filling the HB holes, etc... this is a solid color paint job, so I don;t really care what the neck looks like under the paint. On the other hand I'd rather be a step above a pallet wood neck if I can.

    OK, that's it for the intro thread, we all have different motivations and philosophies, so while I could "Wait a year till I can afford a Warmoth neck", it's not what this is about, or I wouldn't be building guitar in the first place...

  2. papaschtroumpf

    papaschtroumpf Tele-Holic

    Nov 24, 2015
    Living in the Denver area, wood is freaking expensive around here, combined with the fact that I don;t know what I'm looking at in a lumberyard, I think I want to either buy online or buy something "standard" off a big box store.

    By the way, thanks to Marty and his serendipitous "let's build a neck thread" without which I wouldn't make the jump, although the radiusing bit already makes me feel like this is over my skill level. I'm really tempted to go with a pre-radiused (12") and pre-slotted (25.5) fretboard. or maybe just pre-slotted? I've never been happy with my miter-box skills (can't see it in the picture, but the lapsteel fingerboard is acrylic with saw marks to etch the frets, and let's say it's just as well they are not real frets)

    What's going to kill me if I buy online is shipping costs, for example if I only buy a HotRod trussroad from Stewmac, shipping is almost half the cost of the item, so I want to buy from as few vendors as possible.

    So far loks like I can get a $18 sapele neck blank (24" x 3" x 7/8), a $28 radiused and slotted rosewood fretboard, $5 for 4' of fretwire all from LMII. The LMI trussrod seems to be $28, so I could order from SM with shipping for the same price.

    That gets me close to $100 in parts right there....

    I need to hit my local home depot, I know they carry poplar but I think only in 3/4 thickness (that's what I used for the lapsteel and had to laminate it), but the Sapele is actually the cheapest part above (except fretwire).

    What size blank should I go for? looks like 1" thick is sufficient for a neck? will 3" allow me to make a headstock without first attaching wings? Not that I mind since it will all be painted. Not planning on doing a one piece, wood will be a lot cheaper by going the scrf joint route.

  3. Zepfan

    Zepfan Poster Extraordinaire

    Nov 30, 2013
    Horn Lake, MS
    Home Depot and Lowe's stores vary across the country for available wood types. You be able to order online and have the piece shipped to your local store for free.
    My area only has Pine, Poplar and Red Oak. I've built many necks out of Red Oak. It's hard to work with hand tools, but power tools will usually result in tear out, so it can be a pain. It is in 3/4 thickness, but with a 1/4 thick fret board, I'm good. You can do the same or buy several pieces, glue them together stacked and cut out your shape on a bandsaw to get the thickness you want and degree headstock without the scarf joint.
    Poplar is easy to work(Danelectro used it for years), just be sure to use a trussrod.

  4. guitarbuilder

    guitarbuilder Doctor of Teleocity Silver Supporter

    Mar 30, 2003
    Ontario County
    I guess I'd look at some of this as an investment in the hobby and "entertainment". Tools can be used over again and make the next necks that much less costly by comparison.

    Don't forget you can make a single rod out of 3/16 steel and a little brass for a couple bucks. It means you need to do some metalworking though.

    See how much stuff runs on ebay too.

    A guitar neck like a F style is about 25-26 inches long.
    Last edited: Aug 6, 2017
    Indy-Tele likes this.

  5. papaschtroumpf

    papaschtroumpf Tele-Holic

    Nov 24, 2015
    Speaking of trussrod, what is the normal length for a Gibson neck? Looks 18" is the most comments length?

    I'm also looking at fret wire and not sure how to relate it to my guitars' frets. I like slightly bigger frets, what Epiphone calls medium-jumbo. In fact i really like the neck that came with that cheap LP Jr, including the 1960s slim taper.

  6. guitarbuilder

    guitarbuilder Doctor of Teleocity Silver Supporter

    Mar 30, 2003
    Ontario County
    Check out the stewmac website regarding frets. They give the specs of each type. 18 will work in Gibson and Fender style necks. Gibson fretboards have 22 frets plus the extra at the end, making them pretty similar to a Fender neck in length.

  7. zorgzorg2

    zorgzorg2 Tele-Meister Silver Supporter

    Feb 27, 2008
    Norrköping, Sweden
    You seem to have more tools than I do and I got a working neck in the end. To keep the costs down, I used only the wood available at the local equivalent of home depot, thinking that it's a first try anyway, so I don't want to ruin expensive pieces of wood. Turns out they had finger joined birch in 3/4" and cumaru/Brazilian teak, which I bought for under 20 bucks. And now I have fretboard wood for at least ten more necks. In the end, it turned out I'm happy with the neck and it even looks good :)
    So I would recommend to go local. If you have Poplar available, go for it! Oh and 3/4 is enough.
    Regarding the truss rod and other hardware, eBay helped me keep the budget under control.

  8. Macrogats

    Macrogats Tele-Afflicted

    May 15, 2017
    Auckland, New Zealand
    First off, I love your barn wood / pinecaster. Looks like you did a great job. I'm sort of in the same boat as you - I scour our local eBay type trade site for cheap or second hand necks, cos I'm just too scared to try making one. But I've got to bite the bullet, cos I've just got too many project ideas in mind. :D

    I've picked up a couple of lengths of wood called Vitex. It's rock hard and has a great sounding tone when tapped. Only cost me $4.00 each. Makes me kinda excited about making one eventually. I have minimal tools - just jigsaw, planers, sanders, router etc., so will look at a local woodworking shop to make specific cuts for me.

    Truss rod wise, I've considered making my own, but the rod steel appears more expensive than buying one from Australia. Depends on shipping costs though.

    Hope to see you give it a crack - maybe I can use your progress to get me into finally making my own! :p

  9. richa

    richa Tele-Afflicted Ad Free Member

    Apr 23, 2016
    The best encouragement I can provide is to acquire skills and tools in small steps and just keep iterating as budget allows. It is possible to do this hobby with modest budget and space - to some extent you can trade time, sweat and patience to bridge the gap (though not entirely). Getting a pre-cut fretboard and carving a neck could be a good option to allow you to wade in slowly (both from a tool acquisition and skill acquisition point of view).

    If there are any actual lumber stores around you that supply hardwood they often have bins for off cuts at discounts. I always enjoy rifling through these. Good luck.
    papaschtroumpf likes this.

  10. R. Stratenstein

    R. Stratenstein Doctor of Teleocity Silver Supporter

    Aug 3, 2010
    Loganville, Ga.
    Here's my contribution: Bitterroot truss rods. With one exception, everything I've ever built has had them. The adjustment end will need a little chiseling of the rod slot for a flush fit, but very good value for the money.

    As Marty mentioned in your other thread, poplar is a good choice, and readily available in big box stores.
    darkforce, John Nicholas and richa like this.

  11. TRexF16

    TRexF16 Friend of Leo's

    Apr 4, 2011
    Yep, the Bitterroot rod is a good deal. And I really like your strat. What a cool paint job.


  12. MM73

    MM73 Tele-Afflicted

    Feb 24, 2015
    South Lyon, MI
    Don't forget cost of tools.

    • Odd bits for vintage tuner holes
    • Fret saw
    • Radius block
    • Fret end nippers
    • Fret hammer
    • Crown file
    • End dressing file
    • Leveling beam
    • Nut slot files
    • Rasp for neck shaping
    I knew I would need this stuff.
    But it got kinda sobering when the bill came due!
    Arch Stanton likes this.

  13. John Nicholas

    John Nicholas Tele-Afflicted

    Jun 26, 2014
    Poughkeepsie, NY
    A few additional suggestions to those above.

    The Bitterroot truss rods are a great deal and less then half the price you mentioned.

    If you want to keep the cost low, buy pre-radiused fret boards and pre-radiused fret wire. I get my fret wire from Philadelphia Luthier Supply for about $10 for one complete neck. They have differenst sizes and radiuses depending on what you are looking for.

    The really expensive part in terms of tools are the nut files, and crowning file. To save some money in this area, you can buy a pre-slotted nut (bone even!) which will make starting much easier. You can purchase a set of welding tip cleaners to adjust the nut.

    The crowning file is a bit more difficult.

    More important is to watch tutorial videos, the ones from Fletcher are probably the best. Also dig out Marty's written neck shaping tutorial here on the forum, even without the photos this was very helpful to me.

    You can also find maple at Home Depot and Lowes. There are good pieces in the piles, but you have to dig for it. For neck use, you need to look for lumber that is either rift sawn or quarter sawn. I've found these before. The only issue is this lumber is not always dry enough to build a neck.

    Building a neck is very fulfilling. Take your time and ask questions here if you're not sure about something.

    Good luck!

  14. papaschtroumpf

    papaschtroumpf Tele-Holic

    Nov 24, 2015
    I actually have nut files, I asked for them for Christmas since I needed to make a nut for my telecaster (the GFS paddle neck didn't come with a nut). The set I have is for 10s, even though I strung the guitar with 9s.

    I also have a crowning tool (the 3 in 1 type from Stewmac, that has replaceable file tips) that was also on my Christmas list. The GFS neck didn't have very leveled frets so I tried my first fret level job, which in turn means I had to recrown the frets. I don't know that I did the greatest job but the neck ended up playable, although I still have a high fret that I have yet to take care of.

    I am painfully aware of the cost of the tools (and shipping), but I am also painfully aware that bad tools can be worse than no tools, so I like the idea of taking it a step at a time and going with a preslotted and pre-radiused board. Not only does it skip sone steps, but the required tools are rather spendy (the wooden radiusing blocks are are OK).

    Waiting ofr Marty's build to get to fretting and neck shaping to figure out what I need tool-wise.

    This is definitely not a cheap hobby, well compare to say hiking, I keep telling my wife I could be working on vintage hotrods instead :)
    fenderchamp and MM73 like this.

  15. guitarbuilder

    guitarbuilder Doctor of Teleocity Silver Supporter

    Mar 30, 2003
    Ontario County

    Dont' wait for me :) Here is a preview:

    I'll cut it out of the rectangle, drill tuner holes, and sand the peghead.

    I'll taper the neck a bit before carving so it thins out to about 7/8" near the nut.

    I install the dots and sand the fretboard with a radius beam.

    I go over the fret slots with a little triangular file from a jeweler's set. That breaks the corners for the fret fillet.

    Then I press the frets in with an arbor press from stewmac.

    Then I nip the excess fret ends with the stewmac nipper. It's a nice tool.... I made my own before I bought it and it wasn't as nice.

    I use a home made Don Teeter filing jig with a mill file for the fret end bevel.

    I like to radius the fret ends with a little file to remove the sharp points.

    I have a plate glass, stick on abrasive paper, and sharpie for fret tops.

    I have crowning files and nut files too.

    Then the whole thing gets sanded and maybe a coat of finish.
    Last edited: Aug 7, 2017

  16. richa

    richa Tele-Afflicted Ad Free Member

    Apr 23, 2016
    You can make a make a crowning file from a thing called a Cant Saw File (normally used for sharpening saws). But you will need to burnish the edges so they don't marr the fretboard. Grinder and emery paper is easiest. But I you could use coarse sandpaper instead of a grinder. Wrap the paper around another file.

  17. papaschtroumpf

    papaschtroumpf Tele-Holic

    Nov 24, 2015
    I got an add from SM about fret cutters. what'sspecial about fret cutters vs regular "nip" pliers? (say like this one: Do they cut more flush, so less filing? I'm guessing that as long as you use silver nickel wire and not stainless, hardnes is not the issue?
    Last edited: Aug 7, 2017

  18. RickyRicardo

    RickyRicardo Friend of Leo's

    Mar 27, 2012
    Calgary, Alberta
    I use an old 2 foot carpenters level for fret leveling. They are usually dead straight and flat so that'll save you some dollars. I found a set of tiny files for $5 and ground the edges off to do fret ends. You can also try bezdez on eBay for trussrods. I spent my money on a proper aluminum radius beam from philly luthier and a diamond crowning file off of eBay. I had the short wooden radius block but found that it was hard to get consistent results. I had the 3 in 1 crowning tool but splurged for the bigger and better one. You are allowed to indulge once in a while when the budget has room and the wife says okay.. :)

    To save money I do a lot of research before buying. Stewmac is great and has everything you need but sometimes you can find the same thing on eBay for a lot less.

  19. guitarbuilder

    guitarbuilder Doctor of Teleocity Silver Supporter

    Mar 30, 2003
    Ontario County
    Regular end nippers have a beveled cutting edge from both sides, which means the fret doesn't get cut flush with the fretboard. You'd have to file it. The stewmac ones are ground flat at the cutting edge so you can get right up to the wood.

  20. richa

    richa Tele-Afflicted Ad Free Member

    Apr 23, 2016
    Yup. I bought a pair of end cutters and ground them flush (or file). Don't let them get too hot if you have a grinder.

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