Order of operations for neck building?

Greplington

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Dec 7, 2021
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Oh man but winding pickups is good fun! And wiring has become my favorite part of building over the years. It was the thing I was most intimidated about when I started. So intimidated in fact that I drove 3 hours to meet up with a friend of mine and have him do it for me. But just watching him made me realize it wasn't so bad.

Now I'm drawing up my own wiring diagrams, and that's a blast too.

But back to the original post, what I was really getting at is on a forum where so many people are doing such incredible things and sharing their talent, I wish we wouldn't discourage each other from building by suggesting the neck should just be bought.
I may or may not already be window shopping for pickups to upgrade the cheap hardware kit I bought online. And thinking about taking the electrics on the budget strat clone my teenager is cosmetically making over... 🤔
 

Steve Holt

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Location
Kansas
I may or may not already be window shopping for pickups to upgrade the cheap hardware kit I bought online. And thinking about taking the electrics on the budget strat clone my teenager is cosmetically making over... 🤔

Do it!! I'd recommend bootstrap pickups, they're cheap and awesome. Being that you're in Australia though, that may be cost prohibitive. I think they're struggling with shipping to Australia and NZ right now. I bought a baby telecaster kit to make for my unborn son last year. I pulled apart the pickups that came in the kit and the ends of coil were literally taped to the lead wire...I threw them out and bought some good stuff. No son of mine is going to have bad pickups in his first guitar.

And look at him now!
20211208_190501.jpg
 

Greplington

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Posts
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45
Location
Australia
Do it!! I'd recommend bootstrap pickups, they're cheap and awesome. Being that you're in Australia though, that may be cost prohibitive. I think they're struggling with shipping to Australia and NZ right now. I bought a baby telecaster kit to make for my unborn son last year. I pulled apart the pickups that came in the kit and the ends of coil were literally taped to the lead wire...I threw them out and bought some good stuff. No son of mine is going to have bad pickups in his first guitar.

And look at him now! View attachment 937454
Adorable!
 

epizootics

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Feb 11, 2017
Posts
470
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Lyon, France
Different strokes... Some people would rather buy a neck, some would rather build a partscaster than do a scratch build, some would rather buy a complete guitar instead of building at all. I'm ultimately not doing this because I want a guitar. I'm doing it because I want to build one and with that thought behind it, I'm not going to buy major components that I can make myself (if there's a challenge to it, even better...). That said, I'm also not going to wind my own pickups or wire up the controls, because I'm less interested in those parts. For now. 😁

True fun doesn't begin until you start making your own pickups, bridges, tailpieces and jack plates on top of everything else 😁.That's when a build truly starts to take epic proportions (and a lot more time to complete).

Building a guitar because you want to build it is an excellent reason to do so. Pick whatever process makes more sense to you to begin with. As you build more necks (and you will!) you can start adjusting the order of operations to fit your working habits and relationship to geometry.

Here's my process (edit: in too much detail):

-Square up blank.
-If building a tilted-back headstock, put the scarf joint in.
-Mark the center line on the neck blank.
-Decide where the template will go. Trace the outline and nut location.
-Slot the fretboard. Mark center center line on it. I make my slots deep enough so the fret doesn't bottom out after radiusing.
-Clamp the FB to the neck blank, aligning both lines. Locate FB onto the blank with three or four brad nails (I clip the head off one of those, put it in a cordless drill and drill my holes prior to that). I like to have a few because the fit can be loose on some of those holes. I do this before routing the truss rod channel because said channel erases the center line on one side of the fretboard. In my case it's always at the heel as I prefer heel-adust.
-Route truss rod slot, making sure the slot stops before the nut. I use a straight 1/4" router bit for the channel proper, then box core bit a tad larger than the adjustment nut diameter to have a round channel at the bottom there.
-Cut outline on the bandsaw.
-Trim everything as close to the line as possible with a sanding drum. Lessens the risk of tearout.
-Align the template to the blank and secure it with brad points or double sided tape. To this effect I always drill two 1/4" holes bang on the centerline of the template. I then use two 1/4" rods that go through it and into the slot. Instant alignment.
-If building a tilted-back headstock, add the headstock template.
-Route outline. When using maple or cherry, I add one or two layers of tape around the template, route the whole thing then make a final pass after removing the tape. This ensures that the last pass takes off very little wood and prevents burns at the end grain.
-Drill tuner holes
-Align fretboard with brad nails. Mark the outline, cut on the bandsaw reasonably close to the line.
-Glue fretboard on. I use a top caul into which I drill holes where the brad nails will be so I don't clamp them too deep into the fret slots. Makes them easier to remove. I add a layer of tape all around the shaft before gluing, which I remove after an hour or two. This prevents the glue from dripping onto the sides and making the trimming harder.
-Trim the fretboard.
-Drill the top fret marker holes.
-If making a Fender-type neck, cut top of the headstock on the bandsaw and thickness down / create transition with a sanding drum.
-Use that clever contraption designed by a member of this board (was it Peegoo?) to drill side fret marker holes. Basically a piece of aluminum square profile with a line going down one side onto which a hole has been drilled. Use the top of the fretboard (which is still flat at this point) as a reference surface. Every hole will be perfectly aligned.
-Radius the fretboard. I used to do this freehand with short cauls but after giving the long aluminum beans a try I don't think I'll go back. A lot less finnicky to use. I made a jig that keeps the beam going in a straight line so the sides don't get over-radiused.
-One swipe of the file at the top of fret slots.
-Hammer the frets in. I always wipe down my fret wire with acetone before that to make sure I remove all the factory grease off them.
-Trim excess
-Drip CA glue down the slots from the sides. If needed, I clamp the fret down with a small fretting vise I built.
-Bevel the ends with a file (be careful with the angle. Too much and you risk string slippage at the sides. Too little and you will feel every fret going up and down the neck. The higher your fret crowns, the steeper an angle you must use)
-Fill the little space at the bottom of the frets with FB dust and CA glue
-Determine neck profile
-Cut along the length at the bottom on the bandsaw, leaving about 1/16" off the line for safety
-Trim to final thickness with a sanding drum (or a rasp)
-Draw facets.
-Chisel out transitions at the headstock and heel
-Remove unnecessary wood with a rasp, block plane, spokeshave, sanding drum, chisel, plasma cutter, whatever you feel comfortable using.
-Shoe-shine evenly with 80 grit
-Sand length-wise with 150 grit until all the lines from 80 have been removed
-Shoe-shine again with 150 grit
-Sand length-wise with 220 grit, etc.
-Install tuners
-Final sand everything to 320
-Level frets, re-crown, dress ends, sand, polish
-Attach tuner
-Apply finish of choice
-Make & install a nut of sorts
-Oil fretboard with olive oil (no, it doesn't get rancid - I once finished a whole guitar body with olive oil, re-oiling the surface every six months - years later no foul smell to report)

That's only one way to skin that particular kitty, but some of the tricks in there might be useful to you. :)
 

Greplington

Tele-Meister
Joined
Dec 7, 2021
Posts
238
Age
45
Location
Australia
True fun doesn't begin until you start making your own pickups, bridges, tailpieces and jack plates on top of everything else 😁.That's when a build truly starts to take epic proportions (and a lot more time to complete).

Building a guitar because you want to build it is an excellent reason to do so. Pick whatever process makes more sense to you to begin with. As you build more necks (and you will!) you can start adjusting the order of operations to fit your working habits and relationship to geometry.

Here's my process (edit: in too much detail):

-Square up blank.
-If building a tilted-back headstock, put the scarf joint in.
-Mark the center line on the neck blank.
-Decide where the template will go. Trace the outline and nut location.
-Slot the fretboard. Mark center center line on it. I make my slots deep enough so the fret doesn't bottom out after radiusing.
-Clamp the FB to the neck blank, aligning both lines. Locate FB onto the blank with three or four brad nails (I clip the head off one of those, put it in a cordless drill and drill my holes prior to that). I like to have a few because the fit can be loose on some of those holes. I do this before routing the truss rod channel because said channel erases the center line on one side of the fretboard. In my case it's always at the heel as I prefer heel-adust.
-Route truss rod slot, making sure the slot stops before the nut. I use a straight 1/4" router bit for the channel proper, then box core bit a tad larger than the adjustment nut diameter to have a round channel at the bottom there.
-Cut outline on the bandsaw.
-Trim everything as close to the line as possible with a sanding drum. Lessens the risk of tearout.
-Align the template to the blank and secure it with brad points or double sided tape. To this effect I always drill two 1/4" holes bang on the centerline of the template. I then use two 1/4" rods that go through it and into the slot. Instant alignment.
-If building a tilted-back headstock, add the headstock template.
-Route outline. When using maple or cherry, I add one or two layers of tape around the template, route the whole thing then make a final pass after removing the tape. This ensures that the last pass takes off very little wood and prevents burns at the end grain.
-Drill tuner holes
-Align fretboard with brad nails. Mark the outline, cut on the bandsaw reasonably close to the line.
-Glue fretboard on. I use a top caul into which I drill holes where the brad nails will be so I don't clamp them too deep into the fret slots. Makes them easier to remove. I add a layer of tape all around the shaft before gluing, which I remove after an hour or two. This prevents the glue from dripping onto the sides and making the trimming harder.
-Trim the fretboard.
-Drill the top fret marker holes.
-If making a Fender-type neck, cut top of the headstock on the bandsaw and thickness down / create transition with a sanding drum.
-Use that clever contraption designed by a member of this board (was it Peegoo?) to drill side fret marker holes. Basically a piece of aluminum square profile with a line going down one side onto which a hole has been drilled. Use the top of the fretboard (which is still flat at this point) as a reference surface. Every hole will be perfectly aligned.
-Radius the fretboard. I used to do this freehand with short cauls but after giving the long aluminum beans a try I don't think I'll go back. A lot less finnicky to use. I made a jig that keeps the beam going in a straight line so the sides don't get over-radiused.
-One swipe of the file at the top of fret slots.
-Hammer the frets in. I always wipe down my fret wire with acetone before that to make sure I remove all the factory grease off them.
-Trim excess
-Drip CA glue down the slots from the sides. If needed, I clamp the fret down with a small fretting vise I built.
-Bevel the ends with a file (be careful with the angle. Too much and you risk string slippage at the sides. Too little and you will feel every fret going up and down the neck. The higher your fret crowns, the steeper an angle you must use)
-Fill the little space at the bottom of the frets with FB dust and CA glue
-Determine neck profile
-Cut along the length at the bottom on the bandsaw, leaving about 1/16" off the line for safety
-Trim to final thickness with a sanding drum (or a rasp)
-Draw facets.
-Chisel out transitions at the headstock and heel
-Remove unnecessary wood with a rasp, block plane, spokeshave, sanding drum, chisel, plasma cutter, whatever you feel comfortable using.
-Shoe-shine evenly with 80 grit
-Sand length-wise with 150 grit until all the lines from 80 have been removed
-Shoe-shine again with 150 grit
-Sand length-wise with 220 grit, etc.
-Install tuners
-Final sand everything to 320
-Level frets, re-crown, dress ends, sand, polish
-Attach tuner
-Apply finish of choice
-Make & install a nut of sorts
-Oil fretboard with olive oil (no, it doesn't get rancid - I once finished a whole guitar body with olive oil, re-oiling the surface every six months - years later no foul smell to report)

That's only one way to skin that particular kitty, but some of the tricks in there might be useful to you. :)
Thankyou! There's definitely multiple ways to flay a feline, but reading everyone's processes helps me to get things straight in my own head...
 

JohnnyThul

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Joined
Nov 18, 2021
Posts
265
Age
39
Location
Germany
I see a lot of people doing the brad/toothpick thing you have listed on step 4 drilling all the way through the fretboard. No problems with that if you hide it well, but I do it a little differently.

I don't have a real neck to show you on, but I went out and took pictures of some scrap.

Get some nails like this, or anything small. This is what I have had laying around so it's what I use.

View attachment 936742

I always put one around the the first fret on one side of the truss rod, and another around the 21st fret on the opposite side of the truss rod from the first nail. You don't need to hammer it in too deep. Just enough. And certainly not deep enough that you'll find the other side when you shape the neck. So be aware of that especially on the first fret.

View attachment 936743

View attachment 936744

Get a good pair of nippers and cut it off as short as you can.

View attachment 936745

So you'll be left with this little hazard.

I always mark the centerline on the fretboard and neck, and then a line perpendicular to that for the nut. I make sure everything is lined up correctly and then I press the fretboard into my sharp mail ends.

View attachment 936746

Press hard. You should get two like marks that look like this

View attachment 936747

I use a 1/16" drill bit to fill a hole where my marks are, but not through the fretboard.

View attachment 936750 View attachment 936751

Your fretboard should slip right on with no problem. And you can be sure it'll be perfectly aligned when you go to glue.

No worries and nothing to fill.

That is a cool method, I will try that out! What I do is, I slot the fretboard up to the 24th fret when I am doing a 22 fret neck for example. I then drill through the 24th fret slot, as this gets cut off later anyway, and through the first fret slot. So, at least I am left with only 1 hole through the fretboard in the end :)
The process of making a neck is kind of painful for me, as it all looks messy and close to disaster up until the very last steps, when everything seems to come together, like magic. I am also suprised at the outcome somehow and still feel uncomfortable, as this means, I am still not a master of this process through every step, by a long shot.
 

guitarbuilder

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Joined
Mar 30, 2003
Posts
24,949
Location
Ontario County
The brad thing works well if you have enough brads and they are stout enough to resist bending sideways a bit. Too big and the holes will peek out under the frets. They should be waxed and removed promptly after the glue sets. You need enough sticking out of the fretboard to grab for removal too. Using dowels that stay in there would be a surprise to the guy down the road trying to get the fretboard off, should that be necessary. Gibson uses 2 small plastic parts that look like bead rings or ditalini. You know they are there, so you can plan for it.

On a neck with parts that aren't warped, you don't need a lot of clamp pressure to hold the fretboard down, and a caul helps that out immensly. I rarely keep the clamps on beyond an hour with yellow glue,and most of the time I take them off after 30 mins. That's what the manufacturer recommends. They know about their glue. Read the bottle directions for your specific glue. You don't stress a joint though for 24 hours with Franklin Titebond.
 
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