How to Make an Acoustic Guitar Series – Part Twenty – Making the Stacked Neck

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This is How to Make an Acoustic Guitar Part Twenty, and in this part of the series I’ll show you how to make the stacked neck. This is one of the easiest ways to make a guitar neck, and it takes a lot of stress out of the process.

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Making the Stacked Neck

How-to-Make-an-Acoustic-Guitar-Series-Part-Twenty-Making-the-Stacked-NeckMaking the guitar neck is, at least for me, one of the most stressful parts of making an acoustic guitar. I think it’s because the neck has so much riding on its construction, and a poorly made neck will result in a poorly formed guitar.

Something that you can do to alleviate some of the stress in making a guitar neck is to choose a construction process that is easier. When compared to doing a one piece neck, or a laminated neck, or a scarf joint, the stacked neck is pretty darn easy.

Even though it’s easy, it’s still a very good construction method. Once the blank is constructed, you can treat it like any other guitar neck, and do the same process. It’s a lot easier than other methods, and the stress reduction will lead to a better build for you.

If you missed last week, here is How to Make an Acoustic Guitar Part Nineteen.

Picking the Right Piece of Wood

How-to-Make-an-Acoustic-Guitar-Series-Part-Twenty-Making-the-Stacked-Neck-neck-blank-on-the-table-sawMaking a stacked guitar neck all starts with picking the right piece of wood. For starters, you are looking for a well quarter sawn piece of material that is free of defects, straight, and in general looks very good.

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The straighter the grain, the better when it comes to an acoustic guitar neck. Because of the tension, grain that goes all over the place can cause an uneven resistance to the string pressure, which can cause the neck to twist or bow.

After that, look for a piece of wood that is 4/4 thickness, and 3 inches wide, and about 40 inches long. Once you find a nice looking piece that meets those dimensions, you have a good looking candidate for a stacked neck.

As far as the species goes, necks can actually be made out of a lot of different types of wood. However, the most common are going to be Mahogany, East Indian Rosewood, and Maple. When in doubt, choose one of these three species and you’ll have a good experience.

See Also: Acoustic Guitar Making For Beginners

Layout and Marking of the Guitar Neck

How-to-Make-an-Acoustic-Guitar-Series-Part-Twenty-Making-the-Stacked-Neck-stacked-heel-areaMost stacked acoustic guitar necks are made the same way. There is one long piece that spans the entire length of the neck from the heel all the way to the tip of the headstock. Then, there’s another piece below the headstock adding room to cut the angle.

On the other side of the blank, there are at least three additional pieces of wood stacked together to form the heel blank. This area is later cut and shaved into the heel section of the guitar neck.

Pay attention to your specific plans for the actual dimensions. Most acoustic guitars measure about 14 inches to the body from the nut, and then about another 6 to 8 inches for the head stock.

This would mean about a 22 inch long piece for the largest segment. Underneath the headstock requires a piece about 6 inches long, and then the heel can be made out of three pieces that are all about 3 inches long.

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See Also: Making a Stacked Neck

Milking the Pieces and Stacking

How-to-Make-an-Acoustic-Guitar-Series-Part-Twenty-Making-the-Stacked-Neck-gluing-the-neck-blankThe one major thing that you need to pay attention to is how you mill your pieces. The main goal of a stack is the guitar neck should always be straight, but right after that it’s looks. If you align the pieces right, you can make it look like one piece of wood.

The easiest way to do this is to mill pieces that are going to be near each other from a portion of the board that’s also near each other.

For example, don’t take the 6 inch piece that goes under the headstock area from the far end of the board.

Take that piece from the first 6 inches that are nearest to the headstock area, and then put that piece underneath. Because the wood was so close to the original location in nature, the color and grain should be a pretty close match.

If you surface the pieces really well, and create a very good glue joint, you can make the fact that it’s two pieces almost disappear. It does take a little bit of practice to get this part down, but it’s worth the effort.

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See Also: Woodworking Tip Of The Week – Gluing Wood

Gluing up the Stacked Neck

How-to-Make-an-Acoustic-Guitar-Series-Part-Twenty-Making-the-Stacked-Neck-gluing-together-the-neck-blankOnce you have all the pieces lined up as close to the way that they were milled from the original board, it’s time to glue them all together into a stacked acoustic guitar neck blank. This is best done in two phases.

First, ensure that all of your surfaces are nice and flat before you start. If you milled your board carefully, you probably already ran it through a sander or a planer while it was one piece. Starting out with nice flat faces means very good glue joints.

Start out with the piece that goes under the headstock, and carefully apply a layer of glue to both of the faces that will meet together in the center of the joint. Then, carefully apply several clamps with even pressure to hold the two pieces together.

Make sure to use clamps along the edges as well, because you don’t want to pieces to slide around next to each other. Use as many clamps as you need, and it will keep the pieces together.

Next, arrange the pieces for the heel section and apply glue to all of the mating faces. Then, stack them up and add clamps to hold them down. You may end up doing this in a couple phases as well, because sometimes the pile can get a little slippery.

If you want to be cautious, glue one or two of the heel pieces in place first, and get all of your clamps fully set. After several hours, you can remove the clamps and add your last piece. This will be much easier, and it will just add a pinch of time to the build.

See Also: Woodworking Tips Cards – Clamp and Sand

Making a Stacked Neck Tips and Tricks

There are a few little tips and tricks they can help you along the way to making a stacked neck blank, and here they are:

  • Know that a stacked blank is in no way inferior to any other style of neck.
  • Start with the flattest possible piece of wood that you can find in the store.
  • Look for a quarter sawn piece of wood, with no run out or defects.
  • Pick the straightest grain that you can possibly pick in your neck wood.
  • Use a strong woodworking glue with a long track record of success, like Titebond.
  • Glue the neck together in phases rather than trying to accomplish the entire job at once.
  • Allow the neck to fully dry before going onto the next steps.

Coming Up Next Week

Now that the stacked neck is all glued up, next week will go into making the initial cut on the headstock, and planning out a design. This is a fun part of making a neck, because you get to be a little creative with your head stock design.

I’ll show you how to add wood to the headstock area if necessary, and how to ensure that you have a nice flat area to work with. You’ll see a headstock template in use, and learn quite a bit about this part of the process, including tips and tricks of course.

If you have any questions about how to make an acoustic guitar, making a stacked neck blank, please Post a Question in the Q&A Forum and I’ll be glad to help. Happy building.

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