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Neck Tenon and Truss Rod Channel

Making a Plan

Last week, with some great input from the folks at ProjectGuitar.com (amazing site if you are at all interested in guitar building), we put together a plan of action to get the neck finished off, complete with the fretted and bound wenge fretboard. The plan looks like this:

  1. Cut the neck tenon and route the truss rod channel
  2. Cut and thickness fretboard blank (keep sides parallel)
  3. Cut fret slots
  4. Trim fretboard to final dimensions (taper and length)
  5. Radius the fretboard (with our new, amazing radius sanding blocks)
  6. Bind the fretboard and trim/tweak to final specs
  7. Install the frets
  8. Attach fretboard to neck (with pins, cauls and caution)
  9. Trim the neck to final width using a router and pattern bit following the edge of the fretboard
  10. Shape the neck (rasps, files and sandpaper)
  11. Attach the neck to the body

I Love It When A Plan Comes Together

Over the weekend, we successfully dealt with the first two steps of our plan. We started by rough-cutting the shoulders of the neck tenon at the bandsaw. The neck meets the guitar body at a roughly 14.4 degree angle, so I trimmed the shoulders to that angle with a chisel, and, of course, had a chip-out issue. Fortunately, the chip was pretty big, and all in one piece, so it was pretty easy to glue back in with minimal hassle. Then I smoothed down the sides with the low-angle plane.

With the shoulders done, we had to remove a ‘bottom shoulder’ as well, which we started at the table saw because it gives a smoother cut. We finished the rough cut at the band saw, then into the vice for finishing with chisel and plane.

The tenon ended up clean, straight and smooth, so we were very happy. That should make our lives much easier when we get around to cutting the neck pocket in the body.

On To The Truss Rod Channel

With the tenon cut, we turned our attention to the truss rod channel. I have to admit that we made this harder on ourselves than it really had to be. If we had done this before rough cutting the side profile in the neck, we could have just put the edge guide on the router and had an easy go of it. However, we had already rough cut the side profile, so our sides were not parallel to the centerline of the neck. We started by clamping a fence to the workbench, then trying to clamp the neck down with the centerline parallel to the fence. At some point, we realized we were doing it backward, and we just clamped the neck into the end vice. Then we clamped the fence to the workbench so that it was parallel to the centerline. From there, we could run the router down the neck with the base firmly against the fence.

We did several passes with a round bit (the truss rod is rounded on the bottom) to get to the proper depth. Then we expanded the top end of the channel to accept the larger head of the truss rod. A little cleanup and we had a great result.

We’re excited to be getting to the fretboard next, so watch this space. And let us know what you think about the progress so far. As a bonus for reading to the end, here are some pics of the fully manual dust extraction system/shop assistant.

Uh... I don't think that's how it works, Josh.

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