Neck Builds (Now With Truss Rod Jig Plans: Page 3)

Talk about modding or building your own guitar from scratch.

Drilling Tuner Holes

Postby Strider13 » Fri Mar 23, 2012 6:45 am

For drilling the headstock tuner holes, I use the 6 in line tuner jig from Stewart MacDonald. You could use a drill press and some precise measurements to get your holes all lined up, but by drilling through a solid block of steel it really helps to keep everything accurate and neat.

I start by clamping the outer edges of the jig so that the long edge is flush up against the headstock. I also put a clamp on the neck itself to keep the neck resting level while I drill. The jig is clamped to the back side of the headstock, to prevent the wood from tearing out on this side. It will tear out a bit on the front, but that doesn't matter as we'll plane the headstock down a bit later, which will clean it up. If you don't want the wood to tear out so much, you can clamp a flat piece of wood on the headstock face, so that the jig, headstock, and piece of wood are all clamped together. I use a 1/4" brad point bit on the drill press, but you could use a handheld drill if that's all you have. The first two holes I drill are the middle two holes on the headstock.

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Once I have those holes drilled all the way through, I place the two metal pins included with the jig through the holes, so that they hold the jig to the headstock. It should be a fairly tight fit, which allows us to remove the clamps. I then drill the remaining holes.

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This is what we end up with. Perfectly spaced holes, which we will ream out or counterbore to fit whatever tuners we'll be using.

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Routing For The Truss Rod

Postby Strider13 » Fri Mar 23, 2012 7:30 am

We can now move on to getting the channel routed for the truss rod. I use the traditional Fender style of a one way truss rod, which is easy and cheap to build, but requires a special jig to rout the curved channel the rod sits into. My jig was constructed out of poplar boards from the local home improvement store, and was fairly easy to build. It consists of a removable "sled" that the neck blank fits into, which then slides between two concave wooden rails that follow the curve of the truss rod channel. The sides of the box are the same width apart as the base of the plunge router, which keeps the router stable as it routs the channel. The sled and jig are clamped to my router table, to prevent anything from moving around.

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Here's a closeup of the neck in the jig. Aluminum angle pieces keep the neck in place, and the wooden block above the headstock acts as a stop for the router base.

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And here's a closeup of the heel end. A small piece of the aluminum angle keeps the neck from wanting to move backwards while routing the channel.

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The bit I use for routing the channel is a Whiteside 3/16" cutting diameter round nose bit (part # SC40), available here. A flat bottomed bit would work alright, but having the curved channel will do a bit better job at holding the rod in tightly. I set my plunge router up so that the bit extends out 3/4" from the bottom of the base at the lowest depth gauge setting. I want the truss rod rout to be 1/2" deep in the middle of the neck, where the channel is deepest, and the rails the router rides on are 1/4" above the neck in the middle of the jig. This ends up giving us the perfect routing depth.

Before I actually do the rout, I lower the plunge router with the bit into the wood while it's turned off, on both the headstock and heel ends. This is to check and make sure that the neck is lined up appropriately. If something is off I unclamp the sled and move it around a bit until it's squared up again, then reclamp. I do the actual routing in 4 passes, cutting about 1/8" deeper each time. I rout from the headstock towards the heel end only, so the neck presses up against all of the aluminum rails as I rout.

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Between passes I clean out the channel with a flat bladed screwdriver, to clear out the sawdust that gets packed in as I rout.

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The completed truss rod channel:

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I'll try to get some plans up for my truss rod channel routing jig, so that people can build their own. It's designed to work with a Porter Cable 690 router, which has a 5.75" wide base, but this could probably be adapted to whatever router you use.
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Re: Neck Builds

Postby andrewdoeshair » Fri Mar 23, 2012 7:44 am

Top notch thread. Instant classic, IMO. I really wish I made necks more often- I do it just often enough that I feel like I'm re-learning each time... I've so far only used those double action rods from eBay, but I REEEAALLLY want to start making my own vintage style rods. I can't wrap my head around the anchor, though...
If you wish to make an apple pie from scratch, you must first invent the universe. - Carl Sagan
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Drilling The Truss Rod Nut Holes

Postby Strider13 » Fri Mar 23, 2012 7:52 am

Another use of my truss rod channel routing jig is that I can flip the sled around and clamp everything to my workbench. This gives me a very stable platform for drilling the truss rod nut hole, as well as the connecting hole into the truss rod channel.

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I put a 3/8" brad point drill bit in the hand drill, and get everything lined up for the hole. I drill at a slight 2-3 degree angle, a little more than an inch deep. I want the hole to be able to fit the nut as well as a brass washer.

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I then switched the bit out to a 3/16" aircraft bit. This kind of a bit has a longer shaft, and also works well for drilling between control cavities on guitar bodies.

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I line the aircraft bit up into the pointed hole the end of the brad point bit makes, and drill the same slight angle to connect the truss rod nut hole with the truss rod channel. You should get a perfectly centered hole and be able to see through the channel.

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The truss rod nut should also fit in nicely.

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And here's all of the necks so far:

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Re: Neck Builds

Postby Strider13 » Fri Mar 23, 2012 7:58 am

andrewdoeshair wrote:Top notch thread. Instant classic, IMO. I really wish I made necks more often- I do it just often enough that I feel like I'm re-learning each time... I've so far only used those double action rods from eBay, but I REEEAALLLY want to start making my own vintage style rods. I can't wrap my head around the anchor, though...


Really cool to get props from you Andrew! It was you and Stereordinary that inspired me to getting into guitar building in the first place. I hear you about the relearning thing, as there's so many different techniques that can be used. Vintage style rods are easy enough to build, I'll be getting to that in my next post.
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Building A Truss Rod

Postby Strider13 » Fri Mar 23, 2012 8:45 am

We have one more thing to do to the neck before we can build our truss rod. We need a spot for the anchor to fit into. I drill two small holes about 1/4" deep or so on either side of the truss rod channel, near the headstock.

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I then use a small chisel and hammer to clean out a spot for the anchor to fit into. It doesn't have to be pretty, just functional.

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With that done we can now start building the truss rod itself. I build my rods out of 3/16" cold rolled steel rods from Home Depot or Lowes. They come in 36" lengths, which is enough for two rods. I prefer cold rolled as it's stronger, and I'd rather the truss rod nut get stripped and fail than the rod itself. The anchor is made from 1/8" thick, 1/2" wide steel bar, also from Home Depot or Lowes.

I cut a small length of the steel bar, about 3/8" long, and put in in my drill press vise. Using the drill bit included with a 10-32 tap set, I drill a centered hole in the steel.

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I then swap the bit out to the tap and thread the inside of the hole.

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The rod is then tightened into the vice, and threaded with a 10-32 die.

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I aim to get about 1/4" of threads on the anchor side of the rod.

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The anchor is then screwed onto the rod, and I use a hammer to peen the end of the rod around the anchor.

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I then take the rod over to the grinding wheel to grind the anchor down so that it will fit in the slot on the neck. I round off the edges, and grind the thickness of it down so it isn't much thicker than the rod, so it fits nicely into its slot.

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I test fit the rod in the anchor slot and channel, and mark with a pencil about 1/4" inward from the heel end.

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I cut the rod at this mark, and thread it about an inch deep. I sprayed a little WD-40 in the die as I was threading it, to help it cut the threads better. They still aren't too pretty, but they will do.

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The last thing to do to the rod is to cover it from the anchor down to the threads. I wrap it with teflon plumbers tape, but you could also use heat shrink tubing. This is so it doesn't get glued to the neck itself. It also helps to fill the channel up more, preventing the rod from rattling around.

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Installing The Truss Rod

Postby Strider13 » Fri Mar 23, 2012 9:17 am

Before I install the truss rod, I prebend the heel end of the rod slightly. This is so as we hammer the rod through the hole towards the heel, the end of the rod stays straight and doesn't want to dig into the wood in the hole. I clamp the neck to my workbench, and tap the rod through with a hammer until we can seat the anchor into its slot. I use the hammer to get the anchor firmly situated in its slot.

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The rod should fit quite snugly in the channel.

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We now need to cut a filler strip of wood to go on top of the rod, pushing it down into the channel so that the truss rod works properly. You can use strips from the scrap of the neck blank, offcut fretboard material, whatever you have access to. I'll be using some of the ebony cut from a previous neck build, as well as poplar left over from a Thinline Telecaster guitar top. I like to use 1/4" thick material to start out with, so I can sand it down to fit nicely into the channel rout.

I begin by tracing the outline of the channel onto the filler strip, so I can cut and sand it to size. Here I'm using the acrylic template I used to help me build my jig.

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I then used my belt sander to sand it down to the line, and to get it to the right thickness. I test fit it constantly, as I want it to be a tight fit. I also round the edge near the heel end, so there's no gaps when it's installed.

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I end up with three strips of wood for the necks I'm working on.

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I then apply Titebond to both sides of the filler strip, and hammer it down into the truss rod channel. Starting at the heel end and working towards the headstock, I begin putting clamps on alternating sides to clamp the filler piece down nice and tight.

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After drying overnight, I removed the clamps and used the belt sander to sand the filler strips down flush to the neck surface. I've also heard of people using planes to do this, but my jack plane sucks so I don't use it. Here's how the necks look right now, along with another Jaguar neck and baritone conversion neck being glued up.

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Re: Neck Builds

Postby DrOctagon » Fri Mar 23, 2012 11:22 am

This one of the reasons this websites so great, gotta love the DIY ethic. Great job and great thread strider
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Planing The Headstocks

Postby Strider13 » Mon Mar 26, 2012 8:43 pm

Now it's time to turn our attention to planing the headstock down to thickness. Some people do this on a bandsaw with a fence, like Fender did back in the day. Others use something like a Safe-T-Planer, which unfortunately was discontinued not long ago (though some copies/knockoffs exist.) My method involves using the plunge router on a metal sled/jig as a rudimentary thickness planer. The jig looks like this:

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I also make use of the neck holding sled from the truss rod channel routing jig once again. I have it clamped to my router table to hold the neck down. A piece of wood clamped across the neck helps hold it down even more, and also serves as a fence for the router sled.

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Before routing, I measure and mark 5/8" from the back side of the neck, to help us set the depth of the plunge router. I set the depth of the router right above the line. We want the final thickness of the headstock to be a bit less than 5/8", so this allows us a little room to sand the headstock down flat and smooth.

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I do the routing in a couple different depth passes, making sure to keep the sled stable and not tipping it to any side. I only take off a little material at a time on each sideways pass with the 3/4" diameter bit I'm using.

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The waves will go away pretty quickly with a little bit of sanding. We'll do that later when the fretboard is glued on, so we can also blend the fretboard into the headstock.

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Here's all of the necks at the moment. I got a little bit of burn on one headstock, but like the waves it will disappear with a little sanding.

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Re: Neck Builds

Postby CROSS_guitars » Mon Mar 26, 2012 9:16 pm

very impressive. Your jigs are very simple in construction. It makes it easier to follow what you are doing.
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Re: Neck Builds

Postby Amber » Tue Mar 27, 2012 3:30 am

Do you make necks for people? I'd be interested in buying a lefty one if the price is good.
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Re: Neck Builds

Postby A_saVANT » Tue Mar 27, 2012 4:36 am

This is an awesome thread. Library worthy for sure.
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Re: Neck Builds

Postby Loco3 » Tue Mar 27, 2012 5:00 am

YES!

Thanks for making the time to put this together, it's people like you with threads like this that give me the guts to give it a go myself, de-mystifies the whole process and makes it seem possible.

Any chance one of those necks will have blocks and binding? :whistle:
Excellent job, cheers!
It don't mean a thang if it ain't got that twang!
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Re: Neck Builds

Postby Strider13 » Tue Mar 27, 2012 9:10 am

Tree's wrote:Thanks for sharing , good point on not using the router on the heel. Made me realize, all the vintage necks I've owned had some bit of vertical saw lines still visible on the heel. Fender didn't rout around the heel to avoid tearout also.


lokalfuz wrote:This is awesome indeed. Thanks much!


DrOctagon wrote:This one of the reasons this websites so great, gotta love the DIY ethic. Great job and great thread strider


CROSS_guitars wrote:very impressive. Your jigs are very simple in construction. It makes it easier to follow what you are doing.


A_saVANT wrote:This is an awesome thread. Library worthy for sure.


Loco3 wrote:YES!

Thanks for making the time to put this together, it's people like you with threads like this that give me the guts to give it a go myself, de-mystifies the whole process and makes it seem possible.

Any chance one of those necks will have blocks and binding?
Excellent job, cheers!


Thanks to everyone for the warm reception! To anyone that wants to start building necks but is intimidated, I say go for it. It's very rewarding to have something that you have built yourself.

As for the blocks and binding, one of these necks may end up with a maple cap and black blocks and binding. I'll eventually get some mother of pearl to do '66 style white binding and pearl blocks.

Progress on these builds should continue soon when my fret slotting templates come in. I've been working on my Jaguar projects as well, and I really need to update that thread. It's looking really great.
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Re: Neck Builds

Postby CROSS_guitars » Wed Mar 28, 2012 11:22 pm

I've copied some of Strider's ideas and made my own trussrod routing jig.

The difference is, I have only got mine set up to rout a flat channel. When I get more confident I'll fit a sled to it, so I can do swooped routs.
but for now, this guitar is just being fitted for a two-way trussrod, which I'm still waiting for.

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