Tools and Materials:
Table Saw & Miter Gauge
Japanese Pull Saw
Rough-cut The Neck – Acoustic Guitar & Ukulele:
GLS Tip#1: This step should be completed after you have cut your neck joint, whether that is a mortise and tendon or a dovetail joint. See the articles on Cutting The Dovetail Joint and Cutting the Mortise and tendon joint. Secondly, cut out your peghead contour after these steps outlined in this article.
GLS Tip#2: This is also the ideal time to cut the slot for the neck reinforcement and or an adjustable truss rod as the neck is nicely squared up and a table saw or router table can easily be used to cut the slot.
After removing the neck from the Neck Assembly Jig, take the heel contour template, which is the side view of the neck on the Template Sheet, and trace the heel configuration onto each of the faces of the stacked heel blocks. Now flip the neck blank so the heel is up and the face of the neck is lying flat on the work bench.
Mark out the center of the blank on the top heel block. Also strike a mark on either side of the center for the width of the heel at the guitar back. You can also place the contour of the heel cap on this block if you wish.
Next, trace the neck outline onto the top face of the neck blank. Flip the blank over and repeat the process on the back of the neck – as far as you can that is.
Finally, trace the heel contour on the back side of the stacked heel blocks. The top lines should line up with your neck width contour.
Tip: I usually use a medium to thick dry-mark for all of these contour lines because I don’t want to miss seeing some of these important cuts. Your eyes may be better than mine though
Cut The Heel Contour:
The first step in rough-cutting the neck is to cut out the heel contour, as indicated in the top photo of this post. Set up the Band Saw to the proper cutting height and cut about 1/8″ outside the line to keep a bit of wood for final shaping.
Table Saw Setup:
While the neck and neck blocks are still square and all of the same dimension, you will want to rough-cut the heel curvature. If you have plans other than the Plans from Georgia Luthier Supply, you may want to handle this step a bit differently due a differing heel contours.
The contour shape of my heels conforms exactly to the radius of a 10″ table saw blade. This was not by accident. Take the neck to the table saw and do proper setup. Run the blade up so it is within about 1/8″ to 1/16″ proud of the line that was traced as indicate in the enclosed photograph.
Check for proper setup by placing the neck with the fingerboard facing the miter gauge. Now place the back side of the heel blocks next to the saw blade (without it running of course), and check the contour vs blade position. When this looks exactly right, place a stop block into the miter gauge slot to keep from sawing into the fretboard portion of the neck. I usually like to stop the cut about 1/4″ or so from the top surface of the neck, giving adequate excess for final neck shaping.
Repeat this setup process for the miter gauge stop on the right side of the blade. These cuts can be made progressively down to where the heel joins the neck and then stop. Check your work and cleanup as necessary.
Cut The Neck Contour:
If you have a Band Saw, this will be very easy. Just lay the neck blank fingerboard side down on the band saw table and carefully follow the contours from the body joint to the nut – try to stay at least 1/16″ outside the line. This will allow you to mount the fingerboard and have enough play to accurately contour the neck. Keep a little more stock outside the line if you are unsure of yourself or this is a first time build.
Using this method will drastically reduce the workload for final shaping of an acoustic or classical guitar neck as about 50% of the excess wood has already been removed. Note that this method can also be used for a classical guitar neck, however more care needs to be exercised because of the connected head block and foot on the neck.