How long does it take to build a neck?

Discussion in 'Tele Home Depot' started by peterg, Sep 21, 2021.

  1. peterg

    peterg Tele-Meister

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    I'm nearing the completion of building my first neck. I started with a 1/4" x 3" x 24" piece of maple for the fretboard and a 4/4 x 4" x 27" piece of maple for the neck blank. Other than a router, for levelling the blank and head, creating the truss rod channel and trimming the outline, and a hand drill for holes I'm using hand tools. I've spent about 35 hour on the woodworking tasks - it's ready for frets and finishing. Future builds will take less time (I hope).

    Anyone else building necks in a similar manner? How long does it take you?

    My tools are limited to what I can use in my apartment, so no electric saws, planners, sanders or drill press, but I'd also like to know how long it takes to build a neck with experience and those tools.
     
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  2. RodeoTex

    RodeoTex Doctor of Teleocity

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    Actually I think you're doing pretty well.
    Glad to see that devotion.
    Personally, I've got all the work space and tools but still find it easier just to order a neck these days (though I've probably build at least 50).
    Carry on.
     
  3. ghostchord

    ghostchord Tele-Holic

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    I honestly didn't keep track. It took a lot of calendar time but working on it here and there. You can do a lot with the router. You can cut the outline, you can surface, and you can thickness/taper. You can even radius the fretboard with a jig. I just spent hours sanding with a short radius block. If you had to pay my hourly rate this would be the most expensive neck in the world ;)

    A ton of time for me is just pausing to think about what to do next and how to do it. Then there's the occasional fixing of mistakes and things that didn't go well. I also didn't have all the parts upfront either. I think you could probably build a neck in <10 hours with a router + hand tools, easily, if you've optimized the process, have the jigs/templates etc. Just the right kind of jig for cutting slots can turn a job that for me was many many hours into like 20 minutes. I built a miter box and it still took a ton of time. I'm almost inclined to say it could be done in <4 hours (excluding glue-up times) with a router + hand tools. We should check the Guinness Book of Records ;)
     
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  4. Bob J

    Bob J Tele-Holic

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    I’ve been working on my current neck for 2 weeks, put frets in today. Don’t have the heart to keep track of hours…
     
  5. RickyRicardo

    RickyRicardo Friend of Leo's

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    I'm pretty much the same as the other guys here. I don't keep track. That being said, if you have the jigs and templates it can go fairly quick. I have jigs for the truss rod channel, thinning the headstock, a rough radius of the fretboard and a fret slot miter box. You have to allow time for the wood to settle especially after cutting the outline of the neck from the blank. I leave that over night and correct it if needed. For me the task that takes the longest is doing the back profile. That's usually a couple of hours max.
     
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  6. guitarbuilder

    guitarbuilder Telefied Ad Free Member

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    I've made a few necks over the years. It goes faster with experience and knowing when to do what. It's also helpful to know what is a waste of your time. The best things I've have found to build any neck quickly is a radius jig, a long aluminum radius sanding beam, a fret slotting system, a fret press, a router table, and a drill press. Given all that and one clean room with all the tools, I'm sure I could do a neck in one 8 hour day. Using my cnc might result in a half day's worth of work. I'd never try to rush one though, because as Ricky said, the wood needs to move, and there's no rush anymore. I'm sure a hand tool build would take me a week or two, just from sheer frustration.

    I've also found that after a hundred necks, you worry less about the operation you are about to perform, as you know what to expect. That doesn't mean take chances, I actually take more safety precautions now than 40 years ago.

    I still find making a neck the most satisfying of all the tasks.
     
    Last edited: Sep 22, 2021
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  7. Freeman Keller

    Freeman Keller Poster Extraordinaire

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    I've never paid any attention to the time.
     
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  8. peterg

    peterg Tele-Meister

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    Thanks guys. I only know how much time I’ve spent because it’s been my quasi full time job for the last week and a half!

    I did make a 3 in 1 jig for fret slotting, truss rod slotting and levelling which made those tasks straightforward. Modifying the truss rod slot with chisels was a few hours worth of work. Sanding the neck with an 8” long radius block was time consuming - probably the longest task. Cutting out the neck shape with a hand saw wasn’t very quick either. As mentioned a radius jig would have helped a lot. I installed the frets this morning using a hammer and checking with a feeler gauge. Didn’t go too badly. I’ll hold off on an arbour press for a while. Carving the back with a 4 in 1 file was surprisingly fast - and satisfying.
     
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  9. Freeman Keller

    Freeman Keller Poster Extraordinaire

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    Peter, for what it is worth, when I go out in the shop I never have a goal or time line or anything like that. I usually have in mind what I want to do, but thats about the limit. Sometimes I take a cup of coffee and listen to NPR or some nice jazz and I'm amazed at what I got done, sometimes I seem to get nothing done. Carving a neck is a Zen thing - all of the preliminary stuff goes pretty fast but the carving just seems to flow.

    I do neck carving in a different order than most people so its a little harder to judge the time. And my necks are usually more complex that a Fender style so that takes longer too - I might spend 8 or 10 hours just on the inlay.

    I'll bet that if I actually kept track I might have a hundred hours in a nice neck, but since I'm not paying myself by the hour what does it matter.
     
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  10. old wrench

    old wrench Friend of Leo's

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    An appropriate answer might be - it takes as long as it takes :)


    .
     
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  11. fenderchamp

    fenderchamp Friend of Leo's Ad Free Member

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    I'm all about the coffee and the NPR. Usually, I start with cleaning everything up in my shop/garage, and then before I know it stuff has happened. Whenever I get too wrapped up in what I think I have to get done before I've actually started working, I find myself not getting anything done except for stressing myself out. I know I have a lot of time into the the very few necks I've made.
     
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  12. RogerC

    RogerC Poster Extraordinaire

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    I'm pretty well fitted out with all the equipment/specialty jigs, etc one might need (including a completely over-engineered Scheltema jig for carving the profile), and I'm convinced that if I could stay focused for long enough, I could knock one out in a day. I just see no reason to put myself through that, though :lol:.

    It usually takes me about 3 days or so to go from raw wood to a neck ready for finish, but that's only putting in 2 - 3 hours/day at max.
     
  13. crazydave911

    crazydave911 Doctor of Teleocity

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    Bingo! Depending on how life is going sometimes carving is the best therapy I know ;)
     
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  14. Archtops

    Archtops Tele-Meister

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    Necks are not easy there’s a lot to take into consideration. Scratch built necks take some doing but each one may be different so build time may be more or less depending on the details.
    Below is a neck I built from scratch for a CBG. I do have all the tools and jigs I’ve bought or made so time involved is probably less than 35 hours but as others have indicated I didn’t keep track of the time it took.

    40E12257-0FAD-4C46-BCBC-D69162304938.jpeg EDBCC3B0-9605-4948-9154-E83814A6A5D2.jpeg 3E2E83FC-6790-4F89-BA8B-45563E310F7A.jpeg
     
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  15. WalthamMoosical

    WalthamMoosical Tele-Afflicted Ad Free Member

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    Neck? What does it take to build a neck? I kinda figured it's way beyond me and my tools and skills. And then I watched this youtube this morning and my brain exploded.

    I've been away for a week, so my apologies if there was already a mention or discussion of this here on TDPRI

     
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  16. jrblue

    jrblue Friend of Leo's

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    I've done necks from raw wood with zero power tools except a Dremel, back when I was young and poor. Jigsawing by hanbds, lots of rsap work. Still, I don't think it took me more than a dozen hours to do a meticulous, careful job. My way of doing everything in my life is to do really vigorous and therefore fast initial steps and then proceed with caution and care as we get to details, close fit, etc. This allows me to be patient without just dragging along. I did not count fret work in my numbers. I'm slow at that.
     
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  17. EsquireOK

    EsquireOK Poster Extraordinaire

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    If you are set up to do it, it should take 2–3 days, of about 2–3 hours a day.

    If not for the wait time on the glue, it could be done in a single full time work day or less.
     
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  18. tomasz

    tomasz Tele-Meister

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    I never counted to be honest, but I'm with you in saving time on the trussrod channel. I did them by hand in the beginning, but it is not as enjoyable, as carving other stuff, like the heel on a classical :) I guess the only part I'd add to the skip list for hand tools on a tele is the fingerboard to headstock transition, as I found it fairly time consuming to get that pristine.

    There you go :)

    IMG_20191214_203255-01.jpeg

    IMG_20191214_204255-01.jpeg

    IMG_20191215_163009-01.jpeg
     
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  19. crazydave911

    crazydave911 Doctor of Teleocity

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    Boatbuilding gave me a heads up on neck carving and planning. You always have other things to do while glue dries etc. Also I find it easier to do at least two at once (usually three) that way while one is waiting a step you're doing another ;)
     
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  20. Curt Wilson

    Curt Wilson TDPRI Member

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    Fender neck, 12 hours from a block of wood to a completely finished product.
     
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