View Full Version : bolt on neck or spanish type ?

03-30-2016, 08:33 AM
Just thought I d ask the question on here regarding the type of connection you guys use on here. The hana lima book shows the spanish type so I ve stuck to that as I ve not really got instructions on how to make the bolt on.

The bolt on I guess offers more ease for edging before adding the neck right?

Is there a sound difference or anything else or is it just personal as to which to go for?

Must admit I like the woodworking purity of the spanish type but most i guess seem to go bolt on?

like to hear form you about this,


03-30-2016, 08:39 AM
I do mine like Beau. . .;)

03-30-2016, 08:54 AM
Just thought I d ask the question on here regarding the type of connection you guys use on here. The hana lima book shows the spanish type so I ve stuck to that as I ve not really got instructions on how to make the bolt on.

The bolt on I guess offers more ease for edging before adding the neck right?

Is there a sound difference or anything else or is it just personal as to which to go for?

Must admit I like the woodworking purity of the spanish type but most i guess seem to go bolt on?

like to hear form you about this,

thanks, there are other alternatives...Tennons, dowels, dovetails,biscuits,epoxy butt joints...Here is a joint I like,this one is on a mandolin.
http://i219.photobucket.com/albums/cc143/shiregreenbod/parts_FAQ_neckj-SimV_zpsasl08gqa.jpg (http://s219.photobucket.com/user/shiregreenbod/media/parts_FAQ_neckj-SimV_zpsasl08gqa.jpg.html)

03-30-2016, 10:09 AM
Hi Robin, the first ones I made were with the Spanish neck connection as I too started with the Hana Lima book. But when I made my first soprano I tried the bolt on method and have stuck with it since. I made a jig that helps me align the holes for the screw and the barrel bolt.

What I still do according to the Hana Lima process is I set the neck before I glue on the back, and when I do that I may shim the nut end of the neck to set the final neck angle.

I paste here a couple of links to my blog, one to show my drilling jig and one that shows how I glue a back on.



03-30-2016, 10:29 AM
Pro's a and Con's to each method.

Spanish heel is the one I've chosen because it's dead easy to have a more feminine shape to the upper bout and get a good fit, whereas this is rather a lot more work with a bolt on or dovetail etc. That's why for the overriding majority that use those methods the upper bout where the neck meets the body, this area is dead flat or very little shape to it.

Alignment of the neck is also easy and dialled in on a Spanish heel right from the start of construction, whereas fitting bolt-ons or dovetails is much less so.

Binding instruments with a Spanish Heel is only slightly more difficult once you wrap your head around the process. It also gives you some design freedom that you can't do with a bolt on. The very slim shape to the heel, and heel cap on my instruments being just one.

Some might say that finishing the neck and body separately is quicker and easier. It comes down to personal preference here, as I don't feel that there truely is an benefit there either way. Only depends on your skill level.

Bolt-ons have one advantage that I can think of. Being that it's possible to build up an instrument with a Spanish Heel and when carving the neck find a flaw in it that wasn't evident at the start. With a bolt on, you'd have discarded that neck, but with the Spanish Heel the instrument has already been built, and will now either be scrapped, or sold as a second.

All in all it comes down to picking which method suits the design of your instrument and working out the process that suits your equipment and skill level.

03-30-2016, 11:41 AM
ah.... thank you both for your help,

From the design point of view the flatter top is for me slightly less attractive though I guess some curve them and do the skilled work to get them to fit?

I do have gut feeling that the spanish method seems somehow more integral to the instrument. Its not a crit on the other method in any way.

Timbucks mandolin pic looks really luvly and has some sort of purity to it. The design group the Bauhaus said that 'Form follows function' which I guess I am all for. I also love the Quaker forms of working with wood so fits more in that line of thought for me.

With my first uke I pretty much finished the neck and head before gluing it on so finding a fault in the wood less likely I guess maybe that's a weird way of working though.

Routing for the binding though I am lost as to how do that once the neck is on.... unless route the channel then hand cut the last bit? I dont know if my skills will cope with that but guess would need to try if indeed that's what you do?

I do struggle with deciding when something is straight which is why I ve opted to go the cnc rough for some stuff putting in location holes in certain points, so that said perhaps if the spanish neck method aids this weak area of mine.

I am thinking that so long as I can do the binding side soon on future ukes then I stick what I done before but never say never !

Thanks guys,


Pete Howlett
03-30-2016, 10:50 PM
Robin - I'll have to come and visit with Tommy and give you a master class. I am going to research using the Spanish heel when I visit the US on my Fellowship tour. However there are huge advantages to constructing an instrument in two parts, regardless of the type of neck attachment. As far as I am concerned, it doesn't matter how good you are at finishing, avoiding build-up, meniscus effect, sanding out on a one-piece instrument around the heel/body join is always going to be a challenge, even for the highly skilled. There is a reason why these methods exist and why, for most of us, a two piece construction makes perfect sense. I often think that too much guitar and violin making theory is applied to ukulele making. Tradition is very important and offers a sound and vital starting point for any craft. In my humble opinion, I think we have evolved and the only reason I could ever think of using the slipper heel is when the sides of the upper bout are fully curved, offering no flat surface to join to. All of my design have a flat area, look OK and work with the bolt on method...

03-30-2016, 11:53 PM
I think the Spanish heel is rather easier for the beginner, because as Allen says you can get the geometry of neck and body locked in comparatively easily.

Re Allen's point about carving the neck - there's no difficulty in setting it all up while the neck is square, to make sure the geometry is right, and then carving the neck before assembly. You do lose the parallel sides of the neck to reference its alignment on your building board, but I just use a pencil mark at the top of the headstock for that. Thinking about it, I could leave the headstock a fraction long, cut a notch in it, and use a peg in the board for alignment. Or even better, glue a sacrificial block to the end of the headstock, drill through that and insert a pin into the board. Might try that out.

Jim Yates
03-31-2016, 03:27 AM
About a decade ago I bought a 1958 M-26 Goya guitar that needed a neck set. I took it to my luthier and was quoted a price at least half what I paid for the guitar. When I came back to pick up the guitar, the luthier said, "Why didn't you tell me that was a bolt on neck? That was the easiest neck set I've ever done." The price was half the estimate.

03-31-2016, 10:42 AM
I pencil a centreline down my neck blank on the fret board side, and use that to align to the centreline of the soundboard to glue up. I don't glue these on the work board. Just a couple of clamps to fix the sound board to the rebate in the neck block part of the neck. Then hang to dry. Afterwards it's moved to the work board. Perfection is assured right off the start.

To cut the binding rebates I use a laminate trimer with a round base. With it off I position the cutter so it just stands off from cutting into the neck by a couple of mm's. Then use a pencil to trace an arc on the neck / soundboard. Do this for both sides so I don't forget where to stop. Cut the rebates to that point. Then for the rest I use a perspex template of the soundboard and align it with the edge of the rebates and score a line the rest of the way with a scalpel. Finally use a dremel with a small bit to clean out the rest.

On the back of the instrument it's much easier unless you are attempting to do something like I'm inlaying as part of the heel. That's for the advanced class.

Once you do a few it's quick and easy.

03-31-2016, 12:22 PM
thanks Pete and look forward to meeting you at some point then i d love for some teaching from the masters.... so thank you.

Also allen forgive the stupid questions : you mean you glue the sound board to the neck before you add the sides of the uke? this does of course make sense when i think about it. You d have to be certain of where the edge of the sound board is and trim that part allowing no excess in that area as this stage is that correct... maybe though I am understanding wrongly!

I ve just done couple of necks and have marked a centre line on the neck in fact all way down it and even cos I am paranoid about losing that centre during the making process that I tap a panel pin to make tiny dot hole and pull it out every centimeter or so.... yes over the top I guess! I did think about a pin locator like you mentioned but not as yet got to that stage of the build again yet... slow going with kids work and mother in laws.

And prof chriss the hole location thing is something I am trying with the cnc.... but currently on the jig I have for the holding and gluing the sound board to the sides bit.. have got holes in the base board of the jig then holes in the sound board x1 where the fret board covers then x1 where the saddle covers only 2mm holes but hope this takes the is it lined up question for me when putting it all together as thats my weak spot and I am full of self doubt so foolproof for me makes it more pleasurable! this pics I hope shows locator test bit. 89846

I ll drop the sound board into the jig and put cocktail sticks in the holes to secure it then drop the sides and jig over it. I am sure theres simpler ways but I am a worrier! I leave the house knowing I ve locked the door for certain but will still go back and check it just to make sure! I then come back home only to find I ve left the back door open!

Beau Hannam Ukuleles
03-31-2016, 02:37 PM
I do mine like Beau. . .;)

I do mine like Aaron :)

Beau Hannam Ukuleles
03-31-2016, 02:41 PM
Pros and cons of each.

Bolt on is super easy to work on, carve the heel, finish, repair, change the neck angle etc

Spanish heel is none of those...

Actually one type has all pros and one has all not pros.

But all joking aside- ukes should never really need a neck reset (not enough tension) if the neck is set well and top is braced well- which is the main reason in guitars that spanish heels suck as there is double the strings tension.

04-01-2016, 03:44 AM
I suppose it's my fear of commitment, but I've never even considered doing a Spanish heel. I like to finish my necks separately.