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Shaping a neck

Earlier this week I shaped a neck for a new guitar model, my 'OM' size folk guitar. It mainly differs from my 'OOO' model in that it has 14 frets to the body. This is one is being optimised for playing trad folk music with a pick, as opposed to a fingerstyle guitar, so the neck is a little narrower and the string spacing will be different. Here's a few shots to demonstrate my process...

1) There are the two main tools I use - a coarse rasp, and a bastard file. After the neck profile has been roughed out and the front outline of the neck has been shaped to size, I file down two steps in the neck in two areas to the final thickness...

2) ... and join up with a bull-nose plane, ensuring the neck stays flat.

3) The desired side angles on the heel are cut with my Japanese pull saw.

4) The finished heel, planed smooth.

5) A portion of the headstock-end of the neck is profiled on one side. I either use templates to check the profile, or in the case of this guitar (which is for me!) I'm shaping it by feel alone.

6) The most important part of this stage is not to go beyond the bottom edge of the guitar, and to not remove material beyond the middle of the neck, otherwise the symmetry and dimensions will be wrong. Same process at the heel end.

7) And joining up the two ends. I use the big rasp first, and then the bastard file two remove the coarser tool marks. A lot of other makers prefer to use a spokeshave for this task.

8) Messy work...

9) Finally, I use a board with sandpaper to just level out any bumps caused by hand filing. This is a method I learned from my teacher, Godefroy Maruejouls. It's great because it helps to get the neck really straight.

10) And then the other side.

11) So now the central portion of the neck is done, blending the headstock comes next. This can be carved in numerous ways. Gypsy jazz guitars have a noticeably different design in that they have an almost circular volute, but for my folk guitars I prefer to go for something a bit more traditional. First, the blend of the back of the headstock into the neck is achieved with some delicate chiseling.

12) Then the fun part! Chiselling away the corners of the headstock. Getting perfect symmetry is the real challenge. I use chisels, round files, mini cabinet scrapers and finally a bit of sandpaper to achieve the desired affect.

13) One side finished.

14) Headstock blend completed.

13) And the heel... I've gone for flat non-traditional heel, taking inspiration from the gypsy jazz guitars that I often build. The heel will only be visible up to the faint pencil line in this photo, the excess materials will be needed for the dovetail tenon. Again the heel is carved using chisels, files and then finally sandpaper. One side, and then the other to match.

14) The finished neck, ready for fitting to the body. Don't forget to leave your comments on the facebook page!


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