First Neck forming - 28.625" Baritone maple back

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Philip Donovan
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First Neck forming - 28.625" Baritone maple back

Post by Philip Donovan »

Hello,

I have a question that I'd sure appreciate some guidance on.

Tonight I'm beginning (or would like to begin) the shaping of the neck back on a 28 5/8" scale baritone electric. Fortunately, I am being tutored through this by a very well know luthier in Wilmington Ma, that has seen through the fretting process. Interestingly, when I told him I wanted to him to do the fretting and set up once I arrived at that stage, he told me "Nope Phil", YOU are going to do the fret job. Upon that remark I said, "Jon, I thought fret jobs was something on the artisan/surgical level of Lutherie?" He said that Yes, it was if it was a substantial refret. He said I had done the hardest part already and that my neck was in very good form for me to do the installation of frets, and that he would guide me through each and every step, sending me home with the knowledge and tools needed to do this. I was scared, no doubt about it but, he convinced me that I would be in good hands and would have what it takes to do a good job with his guidance.

So this brings me to tonight when I begin slowly, thoughtfully and carefully beginning the process of removing hard maple to form the back of the neck. I have installed the frets and that purportedly went very well.

My question is, when determining neck thickness and taper, is it customary to reflect the thickness values from back to top of fingerboard? Or, from back to top of fret? In measurement there appears to be about a .05" difference. When we see industry neck thickness specification are they Neck back-to-Fingerboard or, Neck back to-top of fret?

Thank you very much for your input!
Best,
Phil D.
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Bob Gramann
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Re: First Neck forming - 28.625" Baritone maple back

Post by Bob Gramann »

The height of the frets is a variable depending on the frets you select. So, the specification has to be to the fretboard face. Stop short of your desired depth so you have room to adjust. If this is your first time, you might want to carve up a 2x4 section first just for the experience. Hard maple is not among the easiest woods to carve, but the carving can be fun. Enjoy.
Philip Donovan
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Re: First Neck forming - 28.625" Baritone maple back

Post by Philip Donovan »

Thank you Bob,

That makes alot of sense and suspected that would have been how it is determined but read somewhere of someone measuring from top of their fret to back of neck. It was good to hear someone say it.

I was aiming for around .86 at first fret and made a depth template in work at .87. I'm thinking now it may be a good idea to leave a bit more than that for an adjustment. I will likely make another template at around .97 for about an inch short of the heel. I wanted to keep the neck a tad on the medium to large thickness in case it helps sustain.

I"m just going to go slow and not make any moves unless I know exactly why I'm doing it.

Thanks again Bob,
Best,
PJD3
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Bryan Bear
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Re: First Neck forming - 28.625" Baritone maple back

Post by Bryan Bear »

I think that in the end, you are going to end up carving to the feel you want rather than any hard numbers. The specs will give you a good guide to work to until the final stages when your had will tell you when you are done. I think a lot of people tend to error on the thick side the first time around (I know I sure did), your specs and templates will be a good way to help you with the courage to keep carving when you start to get nervous.
PMoMC

Take care of your feet and your feet will take care of you.
Freeman Keller
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Re: First Neck forming - 28.625" Baritone maple back

Post by Freeman Keller »

For what it is worth, I find it very helpful to make a couple of templates for each neck I make. You can either find neck cross sections on plans if you are trying to duplicated another guitar, or using a little tool made for duplicating moldings you can make your own from a neck you like. I also established width and thickness at two points - usually the nut and often the 12th fret. The width at the body joint is important if you are doing cutaways since the cut needs to flow into the neck. My thickness measurement is the center of the fretboard not including the frets, I know they will raise the fret plane by 30 or 40 thousands and that needs to be considered when you get to setting the neck to the bridge.

I'm sure your builder friend will walk you thru all the steps but a couple of things I have found helpful:
- route your truss rod channel before you taper the sides of the neck. Make as many saw cuts as possible while you have flat square surfaces, once you start introducing angles and curves you can no longer use a saw fence. I built a fixture to hold my necks while I'm carving that gives access to all side and can be moved around and clamped to my work bench. It allows access to the heel and the head that I can get into with the tools I use.

For me carving the neck is one of the more pleasant parts of building. Take your time and savor the process - sharp tools are a real pleasure.
Philip Donovan
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Re: First Neck forming - 28.625" Baritone maple back

Post by Philip Donovan »

Thank you all for your generous guidance and feedback.

I went forward to carve and shape the back of the neck. Ha, at first, I felt like the 3-stoogers workshop on steroids with voices in my head saying "This looks terrible! This neck doesn't look good enough to burn in a campfire! But, after a couple of hours of very slow and attentive removing of wood, it started to look like something that emulated the back of a guitar neck. To your advice I did create a couple of templates, one for the first fret and another for around the 10th fret. I stopped short of those templates by about .02" to leave some adjusting room if needed. It looked quite good where I left off and the neck is going one last time to the luthier for some final questions and any adjustments that could or should be made before finishing, assembling, and finally passing it on to him for cutting a nut and diligent set up. I want him to do those steps as I'm looking for the best performing guitar I can get, not the "best I am capable of". Right now, the neck dimensions are that of a classical guitar, which has more shoulder with a flatter back. I want to assess that this is compatible with the application of the guitar which will be for strictly acoustic type fingerstyle. I have no interest in strumming or using a pick, and plan to have 14-68 gauge put on and adjusted with. I figure 14's should give some ample firmness on a 28.625 scale guitar. Should the luthier and I determine that the guitar and playability would benefit from sliming the neck down a bit, then thats what I'll do. I realized very much during this process that a person learns how to do this by actually "doing it". The first two hours of wood removal was wrought with panic and self-doubt. The 3rd to 5th hour of wood removal was replaced with a quickly developing confidence on and up to knowing what I wanted and basically what I needed to do to achieve those ends. That was a really nice place to be. But to be sure, I am very eager to get this guitar in the hands of the luthier and get in back in my hands having been set up to his standards. Then, to see if it fulfills what I set out to achieve with it, an electric baritone that is optimized for acoustic fingerstyle musical material. I'll surely let you all know how that goes.

Thank you all again for being around for this.
Best,
Phil D.
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Bryan Bear
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Re: First Neck forming - 28.625" Baritone maple back

Post by Bryan Bear »

I know what you mean about learning neck carving by doing. Back in 2004 when I was getting ready to carve my first neck, I looked and looked for a good tutorial, discussion or description of how to carve a neck. All I was ever really able to come up with was some form of the answer "you just carve away all the wood that doesn't look like your guitar neck." I was very frustrated and scared. It sat for a good long while before I finally just decided to go for it and risk ending up with firewood. Once I was done and people asked me how I carved the neck, the best description I could muster was "I just kept cutting away all the wood that wasn't part of the neck." <G>
PMoMC

Take care of your feet and your feet will take care of you.
Nick Kitchener
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Re: First Neck forming - 28.625" Baritone maple back

Post by Nick Kitchener »

Philip Donovan wrote: Wed May 01, 2024 7:14 pm Hello,

I have a question that I'd sure appreciate some guidance on.

Tonight I'm beginning (or would like to begin) the shaping of the neck back on a 28 5/8" scale baritone electric. Fortunately, I am being tutored through this by a very well know luthier in Wilmington Ma, that has seen through the fretting process
That's good you have some guidance!

I think 28.625" starts to push neck stability - both the longer lever effect, and the tighter strings can lead to magnifying the traditional effects of heat, humidity etc, especially with thinner neck profiles:
6 string 28.625" you should be fine.
7 string 28.625" is ok with laminated neck and single truss rod.
8 string, however I think would need additional support. Options of carbon fibre secondary trusses (can reduce truss rod effect so build needs to be even more accurate) or dual truss rods were you have all the fun of getting them balanced to stop twisting.

Not that I have experience of multiple trusses or >8 string. I did find that with a 7 string 28.625" laminated neck, it took a little time to settle in. It's stable over weeks now with a tuning, rather than over night. I have found that in the last couple of months the relief has changed so I will probably arrange a fret session with a local lutherie.

Slow and accurate but if you're using jumbo frets (mine are the large Jascar stainless steel) that you will need to take into effect playing style as the string has pressure to detune on each fret if you're not used to that style.

Looking forward to pictures :D
Philip Donovan
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Joined: Mon Mar 02, 2015 7:05 pm

Re: First Neck forming - 28.625" Baritone maple back

Post by Philip Donovan »

Thanks for the good encouragement and your findings.

This is a 6-string that will likely be tuned to around a B. I expect the guitar to be in alternate tunings most of the time with a capo on, so, I'll need to play with "capo vs tuning" to see where it plays and sounds best. These alternate tunings will likely be DADGAD, Orkney, and variations on those.

Although I did go back and relieve some of the shoulder, the neck still maintains a chucky feel with a good amount of hard rock maple left. It probably a D shape of some sorts, still some shoulder left. And that was on purpose. Since this guitar will be played with a classical type of hand/finger position a little shoulder shouldn't get in the way as it might on a "blues/rock Strat". I already have one of those for the classic rock weekend warrior gigs.

There is just one part where the neck meets the heel that I will tend to to make for a better transition. I think I can make it straighter for longer before it hits the heel part. That should be simple, just some focused and slight wood removal an inch or so before the heel and making sure it continues the angle of incline that I had provided for the rest of the neck. I have a couple of good straight and true sanding blocks and cauls that will help with that. Then, just some final prep sanding and figuring out a finish that both matches the body and looks a bit aged as the body does. I'm finding that hard rock maple is not going to be an easy wood to finish to my liking without allot of experimenting on samples. And even finding out that different forms of maple react differently to different stains and finishes. AHHHH. We'll get there.

thank again everyone, I'll be sure to have you see some pics and coverage of the final result. Ha, it won't come soon enough!
Best,
Phil D
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Barry Daniels
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Re: First Neck forming - 28.625" Baritone maple back

Post by Barry Daniels »

I made 36 necks from rock maple about ten years ago for a run of high end archtops. It really isn’t that different than a mahogany neck. Just takes a little longer to sand out the tooling marks. I used a pneumatic rolling pin sander from Grizzly Tools to get the heel sanded smooth. For finishing, I like to apply a lacquer sealer and then apply toners for sunburst on top.
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