Carving bodies and necks

This thread will be a drawn out, largely photographic commentary showing you how not to build an electric guitar(s), assuming I don’t give up of course.

The core topics I’ll be covering, in no particular order are…

  • Lack of planning
  • Poor technique - with both power and hand tools
  • Basic errors - focusing on how to make the same cutting mistake at least 3 times.

If things progress as I expect, there’ll be mini tantrums culminating in throwing work pieces in the wheelie bin (and retrieving them later).


Neither am I.


Here’s the first part of the saga…

A fret slotting jig. I didn’t want to spend £150+ on a fancy prebuilt one and I didn’t fancy taking my chances with an online calculator and a marking knife so I paid £25 for a precision fret slot spacing template and basic plans to build a jig.

Pics should explain this better than I can. The small pin locates into the template to which the fretboard is attached with masking tape, cut the slot, move template on one notch and repeat.
The stop prevents over cutting and creates consistently deep slots, washers allow for fine depth adjustment. It worked.
Scale length is 25.5 inches (Fender standard).

fret slot jig 3s

fret slot jig 6s

fret slot jig 5s

fret slot jig 4 location pins

Fretboard blank
neck blanks

fret slot jig 2s

neck with fret slotss


Most guitars have some sort of radius on the fretboard. This one is going to have a 12" radius (very common). If you don’t have a guitar factory, a curved sanding block and 80 grit paper become you best friends.

Tape fretboard to a work bench and add guides either side. Set about sanding a curve into the wood.

When your fingers really ache, add a clamp to alter your hand position.


Hours and days later



This looks both impressive and outstandingly ambitious. Are you building to an established plan or ‘going Brian May?’

Going to make a telecaster shaped guitar. As simple as they get - ideal for a first attempt.
I’ll construct the body out of scrap wood, becuase I am going to bugger this up. Will invest in some decent wood If I get good at this.



I take my hat off to you sir !

Perhaps the most technically capable staff member I ever had quit ultrahigh-power laser physics to make guitars. He turned out to be good at that too

I’d have been, and would still be, literally hopeless at it.

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Checking in for the really-clever-person-being-endlessly-self-deprecating gig. :popcorn: :popcorn:

Guitars are cool too tho’ :ok_hand:

Could this be the start of something big.


Looking great Graham.
Even a ‘simple’ guitar is quite a challenge on all sorts of levels.
Given your normal attention to detail and determination I am expecting great things :grinning:

Made some decent progress with the neck this afternoon.
21mm thick Maple neck blank from that ebay (£20 delivered). Not quite the right size (a few mm too narrow), but close enough that it doesn’t really matter.


For anyone that doens’t know, the long blue thing in the picture is a dual action truss rod. Truss rod’s are housed within guitar necks so any movement in the neck, due to humidity and or string tension can be adjusted. Tigthening the rod (with an alen key) in either direction casues the rod to bend, pulling the neck in the desired direction. The Aim is for a very slight concave neck to prevent string buzz while playing.


Marking out the neck blank. The Centre line though a guitar is critial an the key reference point, have to get this right.



Another DIY, money saving jig for my router.
This helps cut the channel for the truss rod, keeping the router dead straight It is taped down precisely onto of the neck blank. Pencil curves either end are the stop markers.


After fine adjustment with some chisels, job done.


Very small holes to mark tuner locations, before removing that part of the headstock.




A rough cut neck


The internet says to attach a template and use a router table to shape the neck to it’s final outer dimentions. I decided not to use a router, instead I set about using a plane, files and the amaing Shinto rasp to do the work by hand. The benefit is that this more or less eliminates the risk of tear out. It does take an hour or 2 rather than 5 minutes but there’s no rush.




So far so good…

(Edit for typos)


How you getting on with the neck Graham?

I buggered up the fretboard while I was sanding it during last week so had to bin it and start again, I had a spare blank so no big issue.
This one is going to plan (so far). Will post a few pics later.


The fretboard error was hiding in plane sight from more or less the moment I started. You don’t radius thefretboard and simultaneously aim to thickness it.
Thickness accurately and then radius, two separate procedures, always (imo).


I made a new fretboard, correctly this time, and set about marking and drilling fret dots.


Setting up the drill’s depth stop for a 1.5mm deep hole was a challenge, but got there after some trial and error.



Next is gluing the fretboard on to the neck.

Cocktail sticks make for excellent alignment pins, one at either end of the fretboard & neck to stop it sliding around while the glue sets. Sinking them into a fret slot means they will never be seen once the frets are installed.


Don’t forget the truss rod (I nearly did), masking tape to minimise any glue from sticking to it while spreading it around.

You can never have enought clamps.

Clean up


Carving, lots of carving.

Loads more to do, but that’s it for this weekend.


I don’t want to jinx your work, but that is a mightily impressive project, well done.

Making a basic guitar neck like this isn’t particularly hard, what is tricky is managing the process to insure you do things in the correct order - I’ve watched numerous YouTube videos over the last 6 months they all offer their own methodology, some incredibly skilled luthiers out there…
I should probably write down what I’m doing in a note book, I haven’t so this blog thread will be a good future reference I guess.

I’ve been chipping away at small jobs for 30 mins here and there over the week.
Fret markers are a resounding success along with the curved transition from fretboard to head stock. Even drilling the truss rod access hole of doom produced an acceptable result for a first attempt. Bugger up any of these steps and it’s very hard if not impossible to correct or hide.



300mm long drill bit, better get this right…


Bingo - the allen key fits and the neck moves in both directions


Fret board markers were glued and sanded flat.






So far so good…


Very impressed!

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Brilliant !

Looking really good!

^ what they said ^ :star_struck:

+1 :+1: :heart_eyes: