Monday, January 19, 2015

Inferno Construction Pt.2 (neck & fretboard)

Hi everyone!

In the last post we dealt with the majority of the body construction so here we'll be dealing with the neck and fretboard. Again this is not intended as a how to guide just a peek into what goes into making these instruments.

Like the body, the order requested that the neck woods be a 3 ply of Maple, Sapele and Maple.

So, again, like the body, we select suitable boards, clamp and glue them over a 24hr period

Once the glue has dried the boards are unclamped, planed and sanded flat. The next step is to draw out the dimensions of the neck and rout the truss rod channel.

This and other tasks have to be done before cutting the shape of the neck as it's far easier to rout a straight truss rod channel if you can run the router against the straight edge of the neck wood.

Next we have to create the headstock angle. We choose an angle of 13° and drawn a line from where we want the angle to start to its natural end point. It's then a case of doing the same on the other side and putting it carefully through the band saw. This is the result of doing so.

Another pic just to better show the results.

We then need to flip the top section of the cut angle and glue it to the bottom of the lower section. This creates the angled headstock. This, like all others, is clamped and left 24hrs to dry.

After the glue has dried we can unclamp it and then sand away all the residual glue and get it nice and smooth.

Just a pic to show how the neck stands at this point. The next task is to measure the thickness we want the neck to be and cut the excess off so it's ready to have its shape cut. We also drill the holes for the machineheads here as there it eliminates the chance of the drill bits causing tear out as they go through.

The order wanted a reverse headstock on this guitar which is why the holes have been drilled reversed. Next we start to cut the shape of the neck out on the band saw.

We will then need to sand all the edges and make sure that the neck is equal and straight adhering to our original drawings on the wood.

Just a picture to show the back of the neck. This will also need sanding and smoothing before we start to round it.

Here is a snap of the fretboard after we had cut the fret slots. Unfortunately we couldn't get a pic of that in action as, to be honest, we forgot to bring the camera to the workshop on that day! oops! As such we also couldn't document us cutting the shape out.

For those that are interested as to how we cut the fret slots and shape the board: We do that by marking the position of the frets on the wood with a fret ruler and cut to the required depth with a special mitre block. The shaping is done by marking out the dimensions on the wood and cutting with the band saw.

Once we're happy with the fret slots and shape we install the truss rod and glue the fretboard to the neck. This can be done in a variety of ways but we've found that using heavy duty elastic bands are the most reliable and least damaging way to go about it. It provides just enough pressure to glue properly and gives consistent pressure across the whole board.

Here is the fretboard after drying for 24hrs. We have also drilled the holes for the inlay at this point as they will need to be radius'd with the rest of the board.

The next job is to sand the edges flat to the neck and top of the fretboard to make sure it's flat and straight.

This is done before gluing as well however we like to do it again just to take away any residual glue and eliminate the chance that the gluing process has altered the state of the board.

Here is the neck after sanding and with the inlay glued in. we now need to radius the board. This guitar is going to have a 16" radius which isn't that much but it still takes a good amount of time and precision. We do this using a specifically radius'd sanding block.

This is the fretboard after being radius'd. You can see how small a radius the 16" actually is but it makes a big difference to how the guitar plays!

With the fretboard complete it's time to start rounding the back of the neck. The first job is to draw where we want the contours to start and how deep we want them to go. You must keep in mind at how deep the truss rod channel is routed so you don't inadvertently make the neck so thin it could be a structural issue.

After a few hours of planing with a spokeshaves, surforms and rasps we get a more recognisable guitar neck!

This will need a little more progressive sanding before it's smooth enough to go on the guitar but its well on its way!

We're nearing the end of the neck's construction but not before one of the most important aspects, the fretting! We're using jumbo Jescar stainless steel fretwire on this guitar. For those that don't know, fret wire usually comes in reels. This reel is nearly finished but you get the idea.

After measuring the amount of wire needed for each fret we cut the required amount from the reel and place them in order.

There are 2 primary ways of fretting a guitar. One is using a hammer to tap the fretwire in and another in to use a special fret press like this.

We use this as we find it quicker and easier than hammering in. It comes with various radius adapters so you get a nice uniform pressure on all radii.

Once we've pressed the frets we're left with this, as this guitar has no neck binding we don't have to cut of the fret tang. It's now just a case of snipping the ends of the frets as close to the edge of the board as possible and then file them flat with either a whet stone or a fret file.

Here is what it looks like once all the ends a flush to the board. We now have to give the fret ends a beveled edge of 30°. To do this we, unsurprisingly, a fret bevel file.

After beveling the fret ends we get something like this, a bit more familiar looking fret. These frets will need further shaping, filing and polishing before they are finished.

This pic is a little later down the line as you can see by the fact it's already strung up. However you can see how we've further filed the fret ends so they are more rounded and don't catch your hands on sharp points as you move up and down the neck.

All that is left for the neck work now is for a final progressive sand to make it nice and smooth, paint the headstock black, attach our decal and lacquer it over! Tune in for part 3 to see the results of those steps and the final result!

Many thanks for reading! If you have any questions or comments please leave here or email us!

Best regards,
Mike & Martin


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