Acoustic Guitar – Neck and Fretboard construction

I’ll say in advance that I somewhat neglected photographing the following stages of my guitar build. Partly because most of the steps involved fun and games along the lines of: “chisel a bit of, errr, it’s not quite straight, a bit more… nope that made it worse, try sandpaper…” Also I was concentrating so hard at that I forgot the camera most of the time.

The neck in the kit comes rough carved so it’s very neck-like when you get hold of it. This is handy because cutting the joint between neck and body is quite difficult and I was not keen to tackle it on my first build. 

As you can see from this picture from the StuMac instructions the peg head comes with holes drilled for the tuners. The string slots come with rounded ends, which I personally did not like so….

As you can see I decided to square them off after gluing the headstock veneer in place. You can see quite a lot of excess wood where the headstock joins the neck – this is chiseled and shaped later.

Here I have prepared the fingerboard (which came with the fret-slots pre-cut) by marking out an accurate center-line and then marking out the edges of the fret-board…

Then, chop, chop, chop, and the edges come off. t was at this point I realised that I was allergic to ebony dust so on with the rubber gloves. My cuts were a bit wobbly but that’s fine as they will be planed absolutely straight before being glued onto the neck. 

After truing the edges I start to hammer in the frets using a very cute nylon headed hammer. The nylon head protects the soft metal of the fret which is driven into the neck with a light tap on each end to ‘seat’ it and then firmly driven home from the middle outwards with as few strokes as possible. I fret up to the 12th fret, the other frets will go in after the neck is joined to the body. Next step is to drill and install little fret dot position markers – It all went well until…

In hammering in the side dot I managed break off a fragment of the fret-board. My heart sank when this happened and it was all my own fault for drilling the holes a little bit to small and being to lazy to go out and buy the correct drill bit. It was fixed invisibly by using epoxy glue mixed with some ebony dust.

This potentially confusing photo shows the finished (and fixed) fret-board being glued to the neck. You can just about make out the neck has been left a little bit wider than the fret-board so that it can be filed and sanded exactly in line with it later. The massive rubber band comes into its own again here to clamp the fret-board in place while the glued dries. 

Once unclamped I began shaping the neck, it took about 3 or 4 days as I really took my time to get it perfect. I was very aware that If I was not very carful with my chisel I might ruin the neck.

I wanted to add have a deer on the headstock so after finding a suitable image to trace I transfered the image onto a little piece of gold coloured mother or pearl and began to cut it out using a small jewelers saw. The saw blade is tiny and cuts very very slowly. A great deal of care has to be taken to avoid breaking the blade or the brittle mother of pearl shell. I spent quite a while cutting out the deer shape and then broke off one of the front legs which flew across the room never to be found. I could have cut another leg but I wanted to have my deer in one piece so I spent another couple of hours cutting another one – again a broke the thin front leg and agin it flew off, but this time I managed to find it. The deer is about 20mm from head to tail it is show above sitting in position on the headstock. Next I drew around it’s outline and removed the wood so the dear would sit into the headstock veneer. I used a little Dremel tool for this and it worked out well.

Here the deer is set into the headstock and epoxy glue mixed with wood dust of a similar colour to the headstock veneer is used to glue it into position and fill any gaps around the edges.

The finished headstock all cleaned up. Next time no broken legs.

>>On to Finishing

5 Comments to Acoustic Guitar – Neck and Fretboard construction

December 8, 2008

cheers for this, it demystifies quite a bit!

now… to see if I can get this damn fret board on straight…


Leafcutter John
December 8, 2008

Cool, Just to let you know I did a dry assembly of the neck and with the fretboard clamped exactly in the center I drilled two tiny holes through the fretboard and slightly into the neck (one at the nut end and one near the 12th fret) when I glued the neck i inserted pins (the round part of the drill bits) through the holes and into the neck to keep it centered while the glue had chance to dry.

Good luck!

July 26, 2009

Truly inspirational I am thinking of building one myself, your blog has more or less made my mind up for me.

Many thanks – will you build another do you think ?

May 11, 2012

Beautiful work on that headstock inlay. I’ll probably use a decal and then spray finish my guitar when I get around to my first build.

Philip McHugh
April 4, 2013

Yes, its very inspirational. I think its stuff like this, sharing experience and information where the internet really comes into its own. Besides your build I have come across another ‘kitchen guitar’ builder:
I am very close to finishing my first acoustic guitar which I built from scratch. It has been a strange journey with so many mistakes and so much learning along the way. When you do this for the first time you discover how wood acts/responds, how tools work and even stuff about how glues work is really important. Unless you are tooled up as a woodworking hobbyist you can spend a lot of money just on tools. I have kept a careful record of expenditure just on woods and all the stuff that makes up a guitar (for example: tuners, nut, saddle etc etc) and my guitar will have cost in the region of £185 and that excludes consumables like glue and sandpaper and does not include the cost of the finish. I tell you its a labour of love.

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