Monday, January 30, 2012

Inlays and radius

Fret Position Markers
So, I started drilling the holes for the 1/4 position inlays on the Firebird and headless necks yesterday. I first marked the position for each hole in pencil, the lined up the brad drill bit points on the drill press with the intersection of the points. The holes are drilled less than 2mm deep to accommodate the inlay dots. (Window light is the best for photos.)

I've chosen a black abalone dot for the maple fret board on the purple heart Firebird neck and white for the Pau Ferro fretboard of the headless neck. And, yes, I did offset the dots to the bass side of the neck. No real reason for doing this, it's just a personal preference. I superglue the dots in place, leaving a slight bit of the dots elevated over the fret board. This will be sanded down when I radius the fret board.

Fret Board Radius
Both of the fret boards will be sanded to a radius of 16 inches. This will look like a slight arch in the fret board when viewing it long ways. I first clamped down two pieces of wood about the distance apart of the radius block. The neck is then positioned with a piece of wood on either side to hold it steady. (I picked this technique from a Telecaster forum on This helps insure that I get an even sand on both sides.

Because of the arch of the radius block more wood gets sanded away on the sides than in the center. The pencil line that I put down the center of the neck for measuring the placement of the dots comes in especially handy here. I'll know that I've sanded down far enough once that line starts to fade and disappear.

This is a fairly labor intensive workout and I need to be careful not to rush the job. I first start with 80 grit sand and use that to take off most of the wood. Once the center line starts to disappear, I slowly move up in grit - 120, 220 and finally 320.

In the bottom three photos, I've cleaned the fret board with mineral spirits to remove the dust and help make the grain jump out.

Next up for these two neck will be to drill the holes for the side dots. Then I'll be ready to start shaping the profile.

Before I get to that I will run the one-piece neck through this same process above. But I'll need to acquire some new white abalone dots first.

Saturday, January 21, 2012

One-Piece Neck Progress

Fret Slots
Today's progress: cutting fret slots and gluing the truss-rod in place. First I very slowly and carefully cut 22 fret slots on the face of the neck. Remember there is no fretboard here. Since the truss-rod is sitting about 6mm behind the face of the neck, I had to be careful not to cut the slots too deep. I marked both sides of the neck at approximately 3.5mm. And as I cut the slots I checked both sides trying to insure that I did not cut too deep. I also used two clamps and a block of wood along with my fret miter box to keep the angle of my cuts straight.

Before I seat the frets I will radius the neck to 16 inches using sand paper and a radius block.

Skunk Stripe
After I slotted the frets, I ran a thin line of regular household caulk down the truss-rod channel, before setting it in place. The truss-rod that I am using on this neck is a double action rod that I purchased from LMI.

I then prepped my skunk stripe - a 1/4 inch strip of maple 17 1/2 inches long and 1/2 inch deep. I rounded the edges using my table router. I roughed  up the sides with 120 grit sand paper, and then covered it with Titebond wood glue.

I then very slowly pushed it into the truss-rod channel. Covering it with wax paper before applying the clamps. I let this sit for about 30 minutes.

After the glue dried, I used the scraper to take off the excess glue and wood. The final shaping of the neck will smooth the back out further. I'll get to that in a couple of weeks.

Next up, I will drill the holes for the face position markers and side dots. I'm also eyeing another piece of maple as another potential one-piece neck. This was a very satisfying process for me - very little frustration on this neck.

Monday, January 16, 2012

Latest Update on the Firebird and Headless Necks

Today was a great day to work on a couple of necks. I glued the fretboards to both the Steinberger-type headless and Firebird necks and cut them straight with the router. On the Firebird neck I also cut a piece of curly maple as a truss rod cover. I followed all of this with marking off the position for the dots on the face of the fretboards. I have not drilled the holes for them yet.

Bellow are photos of the latest update. (note to self: I'm a professional photographer, I really should pay attention the the temperature of the lights. Seriously, it's not that hard to match lightbulbs. I guess I'm just lazy?)

Firebird progress

Steinberger-type Headless Progress

Saturday, January 14, 2012

The neglected Firebird project

Back to work on the Firebird. This last week I worked on the third neck for this guitar, cutting the headstock, drilling the truss rod hole, and drilling the tuning peg holes. Today, I slotted the fingerboard - a nice piece of curly maple.

Next up will be gluing the fret board to the neck, sanding the heel to 320 grit and re-routing the neck pocket on the body to fit this slightly wider neck.

The curly maple wings have not been glued to the center body piece. I have been holding off until I finished the neck since the location of the bridge will ultimately depend on where the zero fret ends up.

I also slotted a Pau Fero fretboard today for the Steinberger copy's neck. I'll have detail photos of both projects either tomorrow or later in the week.

Monday, January 2, 2012

More Neck work, both good and bad

First the good. Today I did some more work on neck blanks. Above is a neck blank for a headless guitar that I have had on sitting on the shelf for the last few months. The body will be a copy of the Steinberger P series guitar at the top of the frame. I picked up the body off of ebay early in 2011. The body that I am building is made from Ash with a Curly Maple top. I've already joined the two pieces of Ash. The hardware was purchased from JCustom, a South Korean company that specializes Steinberger-like parts. They sell through ebay, and deliver in about 1 week.

The headless neck is only slightly longer than truss rod. I routed the channel today and cut the sides straight.

The neck was constructed out of three strips of Curly Maple with two thin strips of Mahogany veneer. Above is a closeup of the heel of neck.

And now the bad. While shaping one of the Purple Heart necks, it splintered and chipped at the heel. While the Maple and the Bloodwood necks routed easily, the Purple Heart appears to be more brittle. This is the precise reason that I don't work on a single neck at one time. Mistakes will happen.

Not photographed today was the progress on the Bloodwood one-piece neck. I routed the front of the headstock where the truss rod adjustment will be accessed and cleaned up the sides.

Sunday, January 1, 2012

New Neck Blanks

Today, I continued working on the three neck blanks that I started on late last week. The neck on top is the one-piece Bloodwood. I routed the truss rod channel to slightly more than 3/4 of an inch deep. The truss rod channels on the two Purple Heart blanks was closer to 1/2 inch deep. I made several passes with the router, taking off about 1/16 inch each time. I still need to route a hole on the opposite side of the Bloodwood neck where the truss adjusting nut will stick out on the headstock.

I also used a neck jig cut the sides straight on the table router for the Bloodwood neck and the top Purple Heart. I still have to work out some of the dimensions on the bottom Purple Heart, since that neck blank will likely end up on the Firebird project.

I will be installing three different types of truss rods in these necks. The Bloodwood neck on the right will be taking a small double action rod. The Purple Heart on the left will be using a slightly larger double action rod. While the purple heart in the middle will be taking a single action rod. The double action truss rods will adjust for both upbow and backbow. On the two Purple Heart necks the rods will be covered by fret-boards. The Bloodwood neck will have a maple plug (or skunk stripe down the center.

My next step will be to cut the thickness of the headstocks down to about 5/8 of an inch. Later, I will sand them down to about a 1/2 inch. I also will drill the tuner holes at that time.

In addition to these three necks I have another piece of Purple Heart that will yield two more blanks and a piece of Padauk and a couple if pieces of Maple, that I'd like to start working on for more necks. Given the number of mistakes that I have made on neck construction over the past two years, it's not a bad idea to have several neck projects going at the same time. Expect more neck updates in the coming weeks.