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Hand tools only neck build

Discussion in 'Tele Home Depot' started by Yonatan, Nov 5, 2020.

  1. Yonatan

    Yonatan Tele-Meister

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    Hi everyone, I've been working on a hand tools neck build (my first neck) and thought I'd share it here. I'll bring you up to speed on where I'm at in a few installments.

    I realize that my woodworking methods aren't the most refined or efficient (lots of 80 grit sandpaper involved here!), but hopefully in time they will improve. In the meantime I'm sure learning a lot about repairing mistakes with wood scraps and CA glue, it's becoming almost second nature :)

    Just to set the parameters:
    1. The biggest disclaimer is that I picked up a pre-slotted/pre-radiused fretboard. I didn't have a suitable piece of wood. I do have a chunk of maple, but not the skills quite yet to hand plane it into a fretboard, besides I don't have a workbench yet and always have to find creative ways for holding the workpiece, and I think that something as thin as a fretboard would be pushing the limits of my skills and setup.

    2. In terms of "hand tools only" the main exceptions are that I used a handheld power drill for bringing the tuner holes up to 9.5mm simply because the bit wouldn't fit in the chuck of my egg beater. Otherwise I wouldn't have used it, if only because it has a bit of a wobble in the bearings :) Also, I used a handheld spindle sander very minimally, for some shaping of the headstock, and for the very last stage of the headstock to fretboard transition, the bulk of it was done with sandpaper wrapped around a rattle can (I would have used the spindle sander more, I'm not trying to make things deliberately harder, but I don't have a sleeve for it with a diameter as big as a rattle can.)

    A few words on the sequencing:
    I know many people would first rough cut the neck on a bandsaw, route it flush to the template, then route the fretboard flush to the neck after gluing it on. But since I don't have a template or router, and my fretboard is already to specs, I printed out a Tele headstock on some thick paper, paired it up with the fretboard, and traced it out onto the neck blank with carbon paper. Then, after rough cutting the neck and gluing on the fretboard, I'm bringing the edge of the neck flush to the fretboard. I got the "headstock plus fretboard" idea from Marty here:
    https://www.tdpri.com/threads/neck-templates-and-how-to-make-them.712732/#post-7505116

    On to some pictures.
     
    Last edited: Nov 5, 2020
  2. Yonatan

    Yonatan Tele-Meister

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    The wood.

    I found a long piece of walnut in the cutoff section at a local lumberyard. It wasn't wide enough on its own for a neck, but I noticed that it was almost the perfect thickness for a neck blank, and it was very straight (I think it's very dry as well).

    Turns out that having a built in centerline is a bonus anyway.

    I had to do minimal straightening of the edges with a hand plane for gluing up:

    neck1glueup_edited.jpeg
     
    Last edited: Nov 5, 2020
  3. Yonatan

    Yonatan Tele-Meister

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    The truss rod channel.

    It's the first time I put my Cowryman router plane to use. First of all, the blade came sharp! It did take me some time to get into a good routine, the main trick is knowing EXACTLY how much to lower it for each cut. Once that was sorted out it went relatively quickly! The ends of course need to be cleaned up every pass or two with a sharp chisel.

    neck1trchannel_edited.jpeg
     
  4. Yonatan

    Yonatan Tele-Meister

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    The outline.

    As I mentioned, traced out the sides using the fretboard (then rough cut them) and traced out the headstock using a printout of the Tele headstock shape.

    neck1outline_edited.jpeg
     
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  5. Yonatan

    Yonatan Tele-Meister

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    The headstock.

    More or less shaped and tuner holes marked with an awl and drilled out.
    neck1roughlyshaped_edited.jpeg

    Thickenessing. Had a LOT of trouble keeping my saw straight, even after scribing an outline! Fortunately I cut enough away from the line to be able to sand down the whole mess and still have 1/2 inch thickness.

    neck1thicknessheadstock_edited.jpeg
     
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  6. Yonatan

    Yonatan Tele-Meister

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    The truss rod access hole:

    neck1tracceas_edited.jpeg
     
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  7. Yonatan

    Yonatan Tele-Meister

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    Repairs...

    I somehow sanded off too much wood in some places, and there would have been gaps after gluing on the fretboard. I added back wood using some strips saved from planing the truss rod channel and CA glue. After sanding flush, problem solved.

    neck1addwood_edited.jpeg neck1addwood2_edited.jpeg
     
  8. Yonatan

    Yonatan Tele-Meister

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    Fretboard Glue-up.

    Installed the truss rod. If you can make it out, I glued in a small block of wood to keep it from sliding forward towards the headstock when there is no tension at all on the rod. (The ends of the truss rod are also wrapped in teflon tape to keep it snug.)
    neck1trinstalled_edited.jpeg

    Glued on the fretboard. Things didn't go smoothly here, even though a did a dry run of the entire clamping process. What happened was that after applying the glue, I used a bit of salt to keep the fretboard from sliding out of position (Chris from Highline Guitars mentioned it) but I used a bit too much, and had to remove some, then add more glue (this was all after removing the truss rod masking of course!). On top of that the glue I'm using is probably a few years expired, and while it hasn't let me down yet, I think that it's working time is diminished! I somehow pulled it off, but it was stressful!

    neck1gluefretboard_edited.jpeg
     
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  9. Peegoo

    Peegoo Poster Extraordinaire

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    You're fearless, and that is fantastic! Your work looks really good. There are a bunch of vids on YT of people building entire guitars with simple hand tools--some with no power tools at all. Yes, it takes longer all by hand, but power tools will not necessarily give you better results.

    Keep us posted!
     
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  10. Yonatan

    Yonatan Tele-Meister

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    Trimming the sides of the neck flush to the fretboard, getting nice shavings with my block plane.

    neck1handplane_edited.jpeg
     
    Last edited: Nov 5, 2020
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  11. Yonatan

    Yonatan Tele-Meister

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    @Peegoo thanks!
    It's just stubbornness and patience :)
    And of course help from forum members or searching old threads etc.

    And two more pictures brings us to the present state:

    23rd fret made for an easy cutoff (even if it's slightly longer that usual):
    neck1fbcutoff_edited.jpeg

    Headstock to fretboard transition basically done:
    neck1neck2fbtransition2_edited.jpeg
     
    Last edited: Nov 5, 2020
  12. Macrogats

    Macrogats Friend of Leo's

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    Looking good Yonatan. Don’t think I could pull off a neck build with just hand tools.
     
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  13. adjason

    adjason Poster Extraordinaire Silver Supporter

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    looks good! what saw did you use to cut it out?
     
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  14. crazydave911

    crazydave911 Doctor of Teleocity

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    First, always have fresh glue! Second this was a trip down memory lane for me. A block plane, 3" scrub plane, a curved Surform file for shaping and a home built spindle sander :). Just a note, Harbor Freight if you have one has a cheap spindle sander with spools from 3/4" to 3",very handy. I bought my spools years ago as the set for a Ryobi spindle sander (no longer made). If you hunt diligently the spools can be found ;)

    Dave
     
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  15. netgear69

    netgear69 Tele-Afflicted

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    Looking like excellent results there considering well done
     
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  16. Yonatan

    Yonatan Tele-Meister

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    Thanks, it was basically a Ryoba pull saw where ever I could get away with it (e.g. sides) and a coping saw for the headstock shape (this isn't like cutting through a 1.75 inch body blank with a coping saw!)

    I used a small pull saw for thicknessing the headstock, but you saw how that went (once the angle is off even by the slightest it's impossible to correct it), perhaps the coping saw would have been a better fit...
     
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  17. Freeman Keller

    Freeman Keller Poster Extraordinaire

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    I'm impressed.

    I had considered using nothing but hand tools on my classical challenge and decided that was a crazy idea.
     
  18. Yonatan

    Yonatan Tele-Meister

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    Fretboard dots. I had debated skipping them altogether, as they don't have much functional purpose. But it's such a classic look...

    neckfretboarddots_edited.jpeg
     
  19. Yonatan

    Yonatan Tele-Meister

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    Side dots.
    necksidedots_edited.jpeg
     
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  20. Yonatan

    Yonatan Tele-Meister

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    Fretting caul sanding block.

    In theory, the next step is to install the frets (I'll carve the back afterwards), however, I banged one into the 24th fret cutoff as a test (used a hammer over a small flat block of wood, starting with the ends), while result was o.k., it took too much banging in my opinion, and I was advised to use a caul the radius of the fretboard to distribute the pressure evenly across the entire fret (width of the slots seems fine by the way).

    So, using the fretboard radius block that I have, I transferred the radius into a block of pine (saw this online), then using this new tool, I'll sand the radius into a small block of hardwood to use as the caul to bang on. neckfrettingcaulsander_edited.jpeg
     
    Last edited: Dec 2, 2020
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