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Thread: How to do a bolt-on neck?

  1. #1

    Default How to do a bolt-on neck?

    First build, tenor uke. Planning to do a bolt-on neck with no mortise/tenon and no reinforcement rod(?)

    I have the sides joined and not sure what to do next. Should I install the top and then figure out how to do the neck joint? Or... ?

    A step-by-step guide for the boy-child would be nice.

    Again, I'm very grateful for all who've helped me through this first instrument build. I promise that I will ask fewer questions once this is done!

    Attached Images Attached Images

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Nov 2012
    The Ceiriog Delta


    You can find some details on the method I use from my contributions on pages 15 to 17 of the 2x4 thread.
    You will need to make some form of drilling jig to ensure everything lines up correctly, and on centres. Essentially involves drilling a 10 mm hole down into the neck heel to accept a 20 mm long barrel nut. Then a 6 mm hole in the end of the neck to meet the barrel nut hole. Use the same jig to drill the 6 mm hole through the headblock of the completed body. I usually enlarge the hole in the neck end to 1/4" to give some wiggle room.

    It is best to do all the drilling work on the neck before you do any carving work on it. A rectangular section makes aligning and clamping the jig so much easier. I use the piece I bandsawed out to create the heel curve, taped back in place as a packer for the horizontal clamps.
    Last edited by Wildestcat; 11-14-2017 at 09:38 AM.

  3. #3
    Join Date
    May 2011
    Greenville, VA.


    I recommend that you finish the body first. Do your best to maintain a 90 degree angle between the top and the neck area of the ribs. Then you have at least three choices. You could glue a threaded rod into the face of the heel and put a nut on it from the inside of the box (the banjo method). Or you could use a threaded insert that screws into the front of the heel and accepts a bolt from inside the box. Or you could drop a threaded steel dowel into the neck (usually from the top) that accepts the bolt from inside the box.

    The first method is the easiest, but if you have to make adjustments to the heel to get it to follow the centerline of the body you'll likely have to pull the threaded rod out after heating it.

    The second method is fairly easy too, but if you carve a delicate heel it may crack from the stress of having screwed the insert into the end grain.

    Number three is the most sophisticated but also the most difficult to pull off accurately.

    You could also sink a long screw through the heel and into the neck block, using a strap button as sort of a washer. It works fine, and you won't have to fiddle about with nuts or bolts inside the body.

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Dec 2008
    Stockholm, Sweden


    Weighing in after Chuck Moore isn't something I'm really comfortable with since I'm a hobby builder and a big fan of his, but what the heck.

    I attach my necks before glueing on the back because 1) I think it's easy, and 2) I like to cover the heel with the back rather than doing a separate heel cap. So I'll put a link to one of my blog posts that show my jig and my method.

    The jig in the pics have two holes. I use both when drilling in the neck but so far I've remembered to use only one when drilling the body and into the heel block.

    I'd recommend taking Chuck up on that offer. If I were close he'd have had to kick me out of his shop many times by now!
    Building blog -
    Music and atrocities -

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Feb 2008
    Big Island, Hawaii


    Like Sven, I'll temporarily attach the neck after the top is glued to the sides but before the back is glued on. After the neck is properly adjusted I will then clamp the assembly (through the sound hole primarily) onto a solera of sorts which keeps the neck aligned to the body while I glue on the back. Once the body is closed in then I'll unbolt the neck and bind and finish the two elements separately. Before I glue the fret board onto the neck I will again temporarily attach the neck to the body to make sure it is still aligned properly and I very occasionally have to make minor adjustments. That's the beauty in bolt on necks as I see it; the ability to build and finish the neck and body separately and the ease in making adjustments along the way.
    Chuck Moore
    Moore Bettah Ukuleles

  6. #6



    We've been to Oahu, Maui and Kauai, but never the big island. I mentioned that to Mary Lou this morning and we just may have to do that! Grateful for builders who take the time to help others. There is one near us -Brian Griffin in Bellingham, who has been very encouraging thus far! I also know a guitar builder in Edmonds, WA, Bob Carnahan ,who makes a run to Hawaii now and again.

    Chuck B

  7. #7


    Thank you, Sven. I looked at your blog -well done! Okay, a "barrel nut" is different than a 'threaded insert' used by some folks. Thus the larger hole in the neck at 90 degrees to the one drilled for the bolt. Only one bolt? The neck won't twist? And how to accurately align the block with the neck heel to drill is a bit of a challenge for me. I can understand gluing the top on (I'd assume the neck has to be pretty-well flat by this point) and then using a jig like yours to drill the block. Some people use "hanger bolts" that screw into the neck and offer a threaded stud through the heel block.

  8. #8


    I didn't think of extending the back as a heel cap. My plan from LMI calls for a different level for the back and the heel cap. I'll just make something.

  9. #9


    Excellent overview of options. I am getting a better grasp of all this as I read. Thank you!

    Looks like Chuck Moore and Sven do a barrel nut in the neck, drilling down through the neck for that. I like that idea at this point. Just trying to grasp how to line things up to do that and why it works without the neck swiveling at that point.

  10. #10
    Join Date
    Aug 2008
    Wales, UK


    Make a simple jig - some things just don't require sophistication. Bolt-on necks make alignment and neck angle a simple solution. Finishing is simpler than with an integrated neck as is executing binding. Cannot understand the slipper heel method or dovetail. Some things make sense to me, othersleaveme scratching my head... why make it difficult for yourself? I've had a masterclass in slipper heel making too and it simply reaffirmed my views on it. All praise to those who can do this work.

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