This is the 5 Best Tips for Making an Acoustic Guitar Neck. In this post, you’ll learn several things that can help you make a better neck on the very first try.
Making an Acoustic Guitar Neck
When building your guitar, making the neck can seem like one of the most stressful and difficult parts of the build. While there is some precision involved, making a neck is really pretty straightforward.
Most of the problems with making an acoustic guitar neck come from the knowledge that you need to create a surface that is very flat in order to play well. This may initially seem like something that’s out of your control, but it’s not.
The tips coming up will help you get started on the right foot by selecting the best piece of wood, and then making the neck in a way that helps you in the end.
If you get a good start, you’ll have a good finish. I’ll show you how.
See Also: Acoustic Guitar Making For Beginners
Pick the Best Wood in the Beginning
The way to start making your neck is by picking the absolute best piece of wood that you can possibly pick right at the beginning. There are only a few things you need to look for, but each one of them is important when you select your piece of wood.
First, choose a species that has a good track record for guitar making. If you have a little more experience, you can branch out into other species that have a similar set of properties.
In the beginning, Maple, Mahogany, and East Indian Rosewood are good choices. These have all been used extensively on guitars in the past, and they are very reliable.
After you decide on your species, you need to find a piece with the right grain orientation. For guitars, one of the strongest and best looking grain orientations is called quarter sawn. This is where the grain lines run perpendicular to the faces of the board.
If you were to look at the end of your board, the grain lines would go up and down. Look for straight lines, and a tight grain pattern depending on your species.
After that, screen for any defective pieces and discard them. Defective pieces include those with warps, bends, cracks, and knots. All of these things will create problems down the road as you make your neck, so just avoid them while you’re at the store.
If you are buying your wood from a luthier supply house and having it shipped, you won’t be able to make the individual selections. However, any good guitar making supplier will already have screened their stock for the same things that I’m telling you to check for.
After that, just make sure it’s big enough to make the style of neck that you are interested in making, and you have a perfect start for a great guitar neck.
See Also: Laminated Guitar Necks
Plane the Piece Smooth on Both Faces
After you have the perfect piece of wood, you need to do a little bit of surface preparation before you start gluing everything together. I recommend making a stacked neck as a beginner, and a little bit of prep work goes along way.
Since you are going to be gluing things together when you make your neck, you need to have the surfaces completely flat in order to get the best joint. Flat surfaces glue together without gaps or separations. This makes them stronger, and better looking.
Instead of fussing over this or worrying about what the neck will look like, simply pass both sides through a thickness planer to clean them up.
If you don’t have a planer, check with your local wood store and they may be able to charge you a few dollars to run it through one of their machines. This is pretty common, and it will help you get the best start for gluing.
Make a Stacked Neck
As a beginner one of the easiest types of acoustic guitar necks that you can possibly make is called a stacked neck. This is where you chop your board into several smaller pieces, and then stack them up into the shape of a guitar neck.
After all of the pieces are stacked and glued, you carve the shape of your neck from the stack. In the end, your neck looks very good, and it’s an economical way of using one flat board to make a large three-dimensional piece for your guitar.
There are a few different methods, but the basic method is to cut about a 6 inch piece for the head stock area which is glued under the large, long board that makes up the bulk of the neck. Then, 3 to 4 smaller pieces are stacked on each other to create the heel.
Pay attention to the individual pieces, and do your best to keep them in the same order that they were in before you cut them apart from the bigger board. If you maintain the same order in your stack, your glue lines will most disappear.
Also, resist the urge to glue everything up in one round. Instead, glue a couple pieces together and then the next day, glue the rest. This will be a lot easier to manage, and you’ll get better results.
Build the Neck Away from the Fretboard
As you build your neck, it’s also a lot easier to build it away from the fretboard. When you build in two pieces, you get access to all sides of the piece, and in general it’s just easier to work with the item.
For example, it’s easy to turn your neck upside down and carve the back side when you know your fretboard isn’t in the way. If your fretboard was there, you’d have to take a lot more precautions as you clamp and carve so that you don’t ruin that piece of wood.
This is a good strategy, because you don’t have to worry about anything but the one piece that you are working on, and that’s a big stress reliever. You also won’t lose both pieces if you mess one of them up.
Keep the parts away from each other for as long as possible until you finally have to join the two of them together to complete the neck.
See Also: Making a Stacked Neck
Make the Rod Slot Before Carving
Many times, in the haste to get started, you’ll saw off too much, and then it becomes a problem making the rod slot. It’s easiest to mill this when you have one flat edge to work with as a reference.
Once your reference is gone, you get the pleasure of creating a trust rod slot by hand, which is no pleasure at all. It’s actually quite a pain in the butt, but thankfully you’ll get to cover that ragged little slot with a fretboard, so nobody will know but you.
Just remember that after you take the clamps off of your stacked neck, you can do a little work to true up the edges and remove the glue residue, but don’t do any cutting or carving until you create your rod slot.
Your Action Assignment
Now that you know these five excellent tips for making a guitar neck, it’s time to get out into the shop and take action. Have you been wanting to make an acoustic guitar? If you have, it’s time to get moving.
Start with a few good books on guitar making, and begin to consume the information. The more you can get in your head academically about guitar making, the better you’ll be prepared when you run into different situations in the shop.
I recommend a few of these step-by-step books, because they’ll give you the practical, blow by blow instructions. After that, you can get my acoustic guitar making book, which teaches you how to make your own tools and jigs.
My guitar making book also explains a lot of the processes that may seem a little difficult or foreign as a new guitar maker. This is super helpful, and I had to solve all these problems myself when I first got started. Thankfully, you won’t have to do the same thing.
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