Initial Neck Shaping

Unfortunately I didn't have a digital camera when I started the project so I don't have any photos of the neck when I first received it.  I bought what is called a Stage 4 neck from FQMS.   My neck is presentation curly maple.  Stage 4 is the basic neck with earwood, truss rod installed, and peghead overlay.  In addition to the Stage 4 neck I had additional services applied as follows: peghead shaped and drilled (double cut), fingerbard installed, heel cut for 1 pc. flange, heel cap, machine round back of neck, drill fifth string hole.  (You can see a picture of the neck in the FQMS online catalog.)  When I got it the back of the neck was roughly shaped and both the heel and the handstop were basically a block.

(This is just the initial shaping step.  The final shaping comes after the peghead and fingerboard are inlayed and the fingerboard is fretted and bound.)

Here's what the neck looks like now after initial shaping:

Never having built an instrument before, getting started with the initial shaping of the neck looked harder than it actually turned out to be.  Luckily, I have a friend, Neil Ostberg,  who is a luthier and he got me off to a great start.  (I would encourage you to visit Neil's site to see some of the instruments he builds and moreover, how he builds them.  He's been building them for nearly 50 years.  I am very grateful to him for his unbelievable assistance on this project.)

I had to make the initial shape of the neck, form the handstop, and shape the heel.  I used the shape of the handstop and heel on my Gibson Earl Scruggs Standard as a model.  The shaping was performed using cabinet scrapers and files.  (If you haven't used cabinet scrapers before you need to.  They are an unbelievably simple and unbelievably useful tool.)  As with all material removal procedures, slow is the only approach.  You can't put the wood back on once it's removed.  You have to be careful to watch the way the wood grain flows so that you don't cause the wood to chunk out as you shape it.  I used a combination round\flat rasp to rough the block that was the handstop and heel down close to where I wanted it.  I then used a cabinet scraper to take it the rest of the way.  I used a special contour measuring tool to monitor the progress as compared to my Gibson neck.

Here are some close-ups of the neck.  First, the handstop:

Then the heel:

Then the peghead back:

and the side.  Note the saw marks from cutting the shape of the peghead.  These have to be carefully filed and scraped away so as not to break nice square edges of both the front and back of the peghead.



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