Carving Necks

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Benjamin Powelle
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Carving Necks

Post by Benjamin Powelle »

Hello all,
New to the forum. New to building. Please excuse the novice tone of this post. Everyone here seems rather reasonable and accommodating, but I figured I would just throw in that little disclaimer :).

Anyway, my question for the masses has to do with neck carving. Here's the deal: I've been working on making a 3 piece laminate neck for this first little build. I've been buying the maple from my local Home Depot for it's availability and price, and it isn't sold in dimensions adequate for making a 1-piece neck. While digging through the pile, I found a piece in the very back that had obviously been there for quite some time which had a really nice curl to it. I bought it, and made the neck blank placing the pieces showing the most figure on the edges. Some of the more seasoned vets probably already see where this is going. I've been using a draw knife I got from my grandfather (which is probably about a century old) to shape it. The problem is I keep getting pretty gnarly chip out on the curly sides. At this point I still have a decent amount of waste to spare, but it's getting pretty close, and I would really rather not cut into the truss-rod channel and have to scrap the neck (obviously).

So my question is this: How do you out there tackle figured woods in this process. Is the draw knife just to aggressive of an approach for this? I've got it about as sharp as I think it's going to get, which is rather sharp, but perhaps more research on honing technique might be an option. If so, what are some alternative methods? I do not have a belt sander, which to me seems the next logical choice, and really dread the idea of sanding with 60 grit or so by hand but I guess you gotta do what you gotta do. Thanks everyone for your help.

*** as an aside, I noticed in another post that we aren't allowed to use "handles" on this forum. I seemed to have missed that part in the t&c's. If an admin happens to see this, please direct me to the proper channels for correcting this. Thanks again! ***

Mario Proulx
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Re: Carving Necks

Post by Mario Proulx »

Rasps and files are your friend; they cut faster than your drawknife, yet leave a nicer finish, with no tearout issues.

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Greg Robinson
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Re: Carving Necks

Post by Greg Robinson »

Benny_jay wrote:*** as an aside, I noticed in another post that we aren't allowed to use "handles" on this forum. I seemed to have missed that part in the t&c's. If an admin happens to see this, please direct me to the proper channels for correcting this. Thanks again! ***
Hi Benny_jay,
Yes, you're correct, we require the use of real names on this forum. Members are not able to change their usernames themselves, so you will need to let me or one of the other staff members know your name either here or in a private message. Once you do, we will update your registration for you.

Thanks.
MIMForum staff member - Melbourne, Australia

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Mark Swanson
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Re: Carving Necks

Post by Mark Swanson »

Yes, I agree with Mario and use a rasp to rough out all the necks I make. I used a "4 in 1" file/rasp combo before I got a good dedicated rasp and it worked ok.
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John Kingma
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Re: Carving Necks

Post by John Kingma »

Another vote for the rasp here. I've got a really good pattern maker's rasp that makes short work of carving a neck... even hard maple. And I've got a set of small rasps from Stew-Mac for doing the transitions at the ends.
John Kingma,
Builder of Fine Sawdust & Expensive Kindling

Rodger Knox
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Re: Carving Necks

Post by Rodger Knox »

+1 more for rasps and files, and scrapers for finer work. I_still_use one of the "4 in1" rasps for most of the neck shaping.
A man hears what he wants to hear, and disreguards the rest. Paul Simon

Thomas Dooher
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Re: Carving Necks

Post by Thomas Dooher »

Another vote for Rasps, Files, Scrapers, and adding Sandpaper, of course!

Jeff Mills
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Re: Carving Necks

Post by Jeff Mills »

Spokeshaves, razor blade and glass for me. Spoke shave for roughing, razor blade for shaving, glass for the finer stuff - I really dislike sanding...
Experience is a strange thing - You get it right after you needed it.

Jim Bonnell
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Re: Carving Necks

Post by Jim Bonnell »

Glass?

Chuck Tweedy
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Re: Carving Necks

Post by Chuck Tweedy »

Jeff are you a violin guy??
Glass is a violin-culture scraper thing.
Likes to drink Rosewood Juice

Paul Gransee
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Re: Carving Necks

Post by Paul Gransee »

Another vote for files and rasps. I start with a very aggressive rasp used for trimming horse hooves. Then on to the 4 way file.

David King
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Re: Carving Necks

Post by David King »

I have a trick for determining truss rod depth in case you aren't sure where it is. I just slide a little rare earth magnet from side to side across the back of the neck and that gives me a very good approximation if I check it against a 1/8" thick scrap of wood with a section of steel rod (or and 8-32 bolt) underneath it.

A Farriers rasp is a good place to start, they come cheap if you have a farm supply store nearby. A city dweller may need to prevail on their local hardware emporium to order one in.
You can get a Heller Legend rasp or a Save-edge but you must tape up you fingers or wear gloves when using it. Anvilbrand.com has a huge selection and good prices if you can't find one locally.

Most hardware store woodworking rasps are total garbage which you would know instantly if you ever used one. I'm always been partial to Nicholson's #49 and #50 furniture rasps but recently I ordered a "pre-sharpened" #49 from Boggs tool in LA and it's about 2 times better than a factory fresh one. Boggs has a unique abrasive slurry sharpening method and it's the bomb for any rasp that isn't too dull (they'll let you know if it is). You can expect to get about 3 sharpenings which triples the life at a fraction of the price.

Jeff Mills
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Re: Carving Necks

Post by Jeff Mills »

Chuck Tweedy wrote:Jeff are you a violin guy??
Glass is a violin-culture scraper thing.
:lol: no but I'll do anything to minimize sanding - I've developed quite a glass collection over the years, lots of different profiles, shapes and sizes... Be careful glass not only cuts wood like butter, it'll also cut you in a heartbeat. I know of nothing better for wood scraping than the edge of a good ole piece of glass.
Experience is a strange thing - You get it right after you needed it.

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david frassetto
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Re: Carving Necks

Post by david frassetto »

Rasps, files, scrapers, and sandpaper. I'll have to talk to my friend and get some pieces of pyrex and give that a try. Having worked with glass for 27 years I know how easy it will slice you up even when your being extra careful!
Lap steel fanatic

Mario Proulx
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Re: Carving Necks

Post by Mario Proulx »

I'll do anything to minimize sanding

I'm with you on this! But a small handful of cabinet scrapers works better than broken glass, and are easily re-sharpened in seconds, while glass? Glass dulls pretty quickly and I know of no way to sharpen it other than breaking or cutting it. Yes, I have tried glass...

Also, using a glass scraper aggressively is pretty dangerous, and a proven way to slice-through flesh(deeply and dangerously) when the glass scraper unexpectedly breaks.

Chris Flynn
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Re: Carving Necks

Post by Chris Flynn »

I have a farriers rasp that my neighbor gave to me. huge, and removes a lot of matierial

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Dave Anderson
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Re: Carving Necks

Post by Dave Anderson »

Yes, rasps and files are great for neck shaping and I sometimes use this pneumatic drum sander.
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Benjamin Powelle
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Re: Carving Necks

Post by Benjamin Powelle »

I've been busy and haven't got a chance to reply, but I'm grateful for all the insight . Thanks everyone!

I've since finished the shaping of the neck. As per most of your suggestions, I modified my approach slightly. Finished "rough roughing" with the drawknife being careful over the really curly spots, then went to rasps to get a cleaner shape, and finally 220 grit sandpaper on an orbital sander for smoothing it all out. This method probably could be a bit more.. refined.. but hey it worked alright this time. The rasp I was using is about a 6" long 5/8" wide chisel/rounded rasp/flat rasp combo. Again, not the ideal tool but its all I have at the moment.

Dave, I really wish I would have seen your post in particular sooner. I bought a cheapo 2 way truss-rod off of Ebay that has a sort of cowling over the adjuster nut, which sets the depth of the channel toward the nut about .06" or so deeper. I chiseled out this portion of the channel (more, scraped relatively indiscriminately with a chisel) until the rod fit. Low and behold, as I was sanding, I noticed that a spot toward that end sounded like I was tapping on cardboard. Low and behold, a little more pressure and Presto! I easily broke into the channel. I still cannot explain 3 things:

-First, why I did not think to be a little more diligent with this process to begin with.
-Second, why I chose rosewood to make the patch when I have plenty of scrap maple sitting around.
-Third, why I didn't cut away the entire part of the channel and patch the whole thing, because shortly after sanding the first patch flush, I began to notice the same sound and sure enough, another break. This one I DID patch with maple, and now everything seems to be good.

The entire neck should be done as soon as the nut and tuning machines come in the mail. Then it's on to the body. Thanks again for the help everyone!

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Mark Swanson
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Re: Carving Necks

Post by Mark Swanson »

Benny Jay, we have asked you once already for your complete name so we can change that for you- please let one of the moderators know, or just post it here and we'll fix it. Glad you're getting the help, now let's get that name right! And thank you!
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Benjamin Powelle
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Re: Carving Necks

Post by Benjamin Powelle »

Im kind of confused Mark... I contacted a mod about the name change, and it appears to have been done. Is it still sowing up the old still showing up?

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