5 Best Tips for Carving Your Acoustic Guitar Neck

  • More than 20 Years Woodworking Experience
  • 7 Woodworking Books Available on Amazon
  • Over 1 Million Words Published About Woodworking
  • Bachelor of Arts Degree from Arizona State University
Join the Facebook Group Here!

I receive Commissions for Purchases Made Through the Links in This Post.

This is the 5 Best Tips for Carving Your Acoustic Guitar Neck. In this post you’ll learn some helpful ways to make the carving process a lot easier on your body and your mind.

If You Like My Posts, You'll Love My Books

See My Woodworking Books Here

Carving an Acoustic Guitar Neck

5-Best-Tips-for-Carving-Your-Acoustic-Guitar-NeckIf you haven’t done any carving before, then carving the acoustic guitar neck is going to be a big treat. It may also be a little bit intimidating, but I assure you that you don’t have anything to worry about.

The guitar neck itself might be very large, but it’s actually pretty easy to shape. It’s also a very similar shape on both sides, and a fairly straight shape. This means if you are willing to put in the time, you can carve a great looking neck.

That’s what it’s really all about. The process itself is not difficult, it just requires your time and your patience. If you can give those two things, then you will be fine. These tips will also help, so get ready to carve a beautiful guitar neck. I’ll show you how.

See Also: Acoustic Guitar Making For Beginners

Start With the Right Species

One of the absolute best things that you can do as a beginning guitar maker is start with the right species of wood for making your guitar neck. Resist the urge to be super creative, at least for right now.

Free Woodworking Tips Every Monday

Add Me to the List!

Carving the guitar neck is already going to be a new process for you. You definitely don’t want to compound that process with choosing a piece of wood that resembles carving a brick. When you do that, you double your chances of failure.

In the beginning, stick with one of the traditional wood choices for guitars, which are all strong enough to work as a neck, but also soft enough to carve easily. These include Maple, Mahogany, and East Indian Rosewood. Of the three, the Maple will be the most challenging.

These wood species have a long track record for making guitars, and they also carve easily enough that you won’t have to fight the wood the entire time. In contrast, if you were to pick something much harder, it will not be enjoyable.

See Also: How to Make an Acoustic Guitar Series – Part Twenty Eight – Roughing the Neck

Use Very Sharp Tools

Your next tip is really a tip for life, and woodworking in general. However, it applies to making an acoustic guitar neck really well. You need to use very sharp tools.

If you are using edged tools at all, make sure that you have a sharpening stone, or sharpening system in your shop before you get started. Then, make sure you actually use it before you start any type of carving at all.

Sharp tools can make carving an absolute pleasure. Dull tools make it an absolute nightmare. If you want to learn carving for the first time, don’t set yourself up for failure by using a butter knife.

If you struggle with dull tools, it’s likely the tool that is the problem not you. Well, technically you are still the problem because you didn’t sharpen your tools, but that’s not the point. The point is that you are making the process more difficult than it should be.

Free Woodworking Tips Every Monday

Add Me to the List!

Instead, sharpen your tools to the point where you could shave with them, and it will be a transformative experience when you begin to carve the back of your guitar neck.

See Also: 50 Things I Wish I Knew When I started Making Guitars

Take Breaks When Fatigued

Another thing that I recommend is that you take breaks. Particularly, you definitely want to take a break when you get tired, or you feel fatigued. Both of these situations cause you to rush, and that’s when you make mistakes.

If you’ve never done any carving before, it’s going to feel a little different. Normally your tools do all the work, and that’s not the case with carving. Even with sharp tools, you’re still going to feel like you’ve done a little work.

When your hands, arms, or body starts to feel like you’ve been at the gym for a while, it’s a good time to stop. This way, you’ll have a safer experience, and you won’t run the risk of making any mistakes that aren’t reversible.

After a good rest, two things will happen. First, your body will feel better when you go back to your carving. Second, you’ll have a fresh set of eyes and a fresh perspective on the job, and that can help with your positivity level and motivation.

If You Like My Posts, You'll Love My Books

See My Woodworking Books Here

See Also: 9 Easy Ways to Know When to Take a Break From Your Guitar Build

Stop Often to Check Symmetry

It’s also important to take breaks to stop and just take a look at the progress that you’re making on the guitar. It’s important that everything remain symmetrical when you’re making an acoustic guitar neck, so that’s kind of what you’re looking for in the beginning.

If you just keep going and going, and you never come up to take a look, you can end up jumping way too far over the point where you were supposed to stop. However, if you take a lot of breaks, and you look often, you’ll be able to sneak up on it.

It’s much better to carefully arrive at your destination then to drive right past it. Take a few seconds every couple minutes and stand back and evaluate your work. This will help you see where you’re going, and it will help you get there more easily.

See Also: 10 Helpful Tips for Using a Guitar Side Bending Iron

Don’t Skip Sandpaper Grits

Finally, don’t skip sandpaper grits. There is a temptation in the beginning to jump right from the chisel to 220 grit sandpaper, and that’s just a recipe for wasted time.

When it comes to abrasives, no matter what type they are, you always want to go for the most aggressive version that will still improve the surface. In most cases, after edged tools, 80 grit is going to be your starting point.

Start there, and get rid of all of your rough tool marks. Then, go to 100 or 120, then 150, then 220. Though you are using a lot of different types of sandpaper, you’re only going to sand with them for a very short amount of time before switching again.

Free Woodworking Tips Every Monday

Add Me to the List!

In contrast, if you were to dive directly into 220, you’ll be sanding for hours and hours to finally get yourself to the same place. Instead, work through the grits and use their aggressive cutting properties to your advantage.

To illustrate this example to the level of ridiculous, think about if you were to switch to 4000 grit right after carving the neck with your chisel. It would take you months to finally create a smooth surface, but you would still be able to do it.

The same is true for switching to 220 grit right after the chisel, though not as extreme of an example as switching to the 4000 grit. Do yourself a favor, and progressed through the sand and grits like normal and you’ll have a much better carve.

See Also: The Ultimate Guide to Sandpaper Grits

Your Action Assignment

Now that you know all of these tricks for carving an acoustic guitar neck, it’s time to get out into your shop and take action.

Hopefully throughout this series you have been getting closer to finally pulling the trigger on making a guitar. Especially if you play, or you have a loved one that plays, you’ll really enjoy this project.

Making a guitar is not much different than making any other project. There are things that need to be a certain size, and that need to be done in a certain way. It’s no different than a cabinet, it just sounds a whole lot nicer in the end.

If you have any questions about carving your acoustic guitar neck, please post a question and I’ll be happy to answer them. Happy building.

Post Author-

  • More than 20 Years Woodworking Experience
  • 7 Woodworking Books Available on Amazon
  • Over 1 Million Words Published About Woodworking
  • Bachelor of Arts Degree from Arizona State University
Buy My Books on Amazon

I receive Commissions for Purchases Made Through the Links in This Post. Join My Woodworking Facebook Group


You Can Find My Books on Amazon!

woodworking and guitar making books

An Exclusive Member of Mediavine Home

Westfarthing Woodworks LLC is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for us to earn fees by linking to Amazon.com and affiliated sites.