View Full Version : Fretboard or neck?

09-06-2016, 04:42 AM
So far I've done a neck blank but no shaping as of yet. Would it be easier to do the fretboard now before continuing?

09-06-2016, 05:09 AM
I'm sure there are lots of ways to do it, but I rough carve the neck without the fretboard installed so I don't risk damaging the fretboard. I leave wings wide on the neck so I can glue in locating spacers to keep the fretboard from sliding when I glue it on. I fret before gluing the fingerboard, but everyone has their own way. After the fretboard is glued on, I cut off the wings and do the final shaping.


09-06-2016, 06:05 AM
Thanks Nelson !

I was thinking about finishing the fretboard first, then rough carve the neck, glue it together and then finish.
How about small pins to keep the fretboard in place for gluing?

09-06-2016, 06:38 AM
That works. You can drive two small brads through your fret slots and then pull the brads and fret those two (or the whole thing) afterwards if you prefer. I like the block method, myself.


09-06-2016, 08:48 AM
I cut the fret slots and glue the fret board on relatively early with the neck only roughly shaped. My fret boards always have some overhang at this point so I can carve everything down to final shape at once, without having to worry about fit.

09-06-2016, 10:07 AM
Not sure how helpful it'll be with yet another method, but I've tried many and gravitated towards this one. I carve and shape the neck but leave maybe a mm extra on each edge. I attach the neck before the back so I have good access to the screw that goes into the barrel nut in the neck. Then I set the neck angle when glueing on the back. I don't bother with heel caps since the back covers the heel.

I slot the fretboard and taper it, then press in the frets. Once they're in I file the edges and fret ends so the shape is exact and final. Then I put two staples into the neck and cut them off so I have two pairs of sharp brads. I locate the fretboard with regards to the soundhole and centre line of the body and press it onto the brads. Then I glue it on and the brads prevent slipping. I use a slotted caul and rubber tubing for clamping.

Once it's dry I take the neck width down to the fretboard with a sharp knife or scrapers. Any issues with alignment in the neck and body joint can be dealt with (I must say I have fewer of those now) when adjusting the neck to the fretboard. Does it seem backwards? It probably is, but it works for me.

09-06-2016, 10:16 PM
For yet another variation, here is the sequence that works for me. The pictures show a guitar neck, but I do exactly the same for ukes using a bolt on neck. I accurately clamp the fretboard (already slotted and tapered) in place on the rectangular blank, then drill 1.6 mm holes through two fret slots (1st & 11th in this case) down into the neck. Remove fingerboard, knock in a couple of 1.6 mm panel pins and cut them off so the tops will be below the bottom of the fret slots - no need then to pull them out. Glue on fingerboard which will now sit accurately in place and not slide about. I bandsaw off the neck wings and use a bearing guided template bit on the router table to profile the neck sides using the fingerboard as the template. The fingerboard is still flat at this stage. The board is then radiused and fretted. For radiusing, fretting and fret end profiling, the fretboard extension is supported by a hardwood block substituting for the body, bolted to the end of the neck and the same width as the neck heel. Although tapered, the straight sides of the neck blank are easy to hold securely in the parrot vice using round-backed jaws. Final neck carving is done on a neck holding fixture.

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09-06-2016, 11:36 PM
Thank you all for all the insightful replies. I like the idea of small small staples that you dont need to pull out, that way I can fret before gluing the fingerboard to the neck.

09-07-2016, 05:43 AM
I use small nails about 0.0430 in dia. I drill thru the fretboard in a fret slot, usually 2 and 10 and on opposite sides of the center line. Then tap the nails into the neck a little ways and clip off the excess with my fret nippers making sure the clipped nails won't interfere with the tang on the fret wire. Fretboard locates perfect every time. I don't remember where I learned this but it could have been from Dr. David Hurd's website.

09-12-2016, 03:18 AM
For yet another variation, here is the sequence that works for me.

I see in photo 4 you have established the neck profile at both ends. Do you have a template to do this? Or??

09-13-2016, 10:50 PM
Hi Pahu. I learned the method from Pete Howlett. I don't use a profile and just do it by eye, usually with the half round microplane. Obviously it is possible to use a profile gauge, but I have found it simpler without (though I do carefully measure the thickness/depth of the neck at both locations). Profiling the two ends gives my spokeshave room to operate cleanly on the neck. I make sure I leave a land about 5 mm wide at the fingerboard edge to allow for final blending of the profile. I usually carve the heel and blend it into the neck profile before moving onto shaping the neck with the spokeshave. That way any slips during the heel carve process don't mark the neck shaft and there is even more room for the shave. I had a senior moment during the photo sequence above, and launched straight into shaping the neck - hence the protective sandpaper shown below!

Here are a few more pictures from the sequence.


PS This is a guitar neck, hence the dual barrel nuts for the Cumpiano style bolt on arrangement. I don't use a tenon on ukes, just a butt joint with a single barrel nut embedded vertically.

09-26-2016, 01:45 PM
How does your sequence vary if you are binding the edges of the fretboard?

-- se

09-26-2016, 10:57 PM
How does your sequence vary if you are binding the edges of the fretboard?

-- se

Hi Steve. No easy answer as I have never bound a fretboard ... maybe I will one day. I can't see that it would alter anything in the sequence though. The bound fretboard would be glued on and fretted as per an unbound one, bar the additional hassle of cutting back the fret tangs!

09-27-2016, 05:33 PM
The bound fretboard would be glued on and fretted as per an unbound one, bar the additional hassle of cutting back the fret tangs!

Yes, binding the fretboard has nothing really to do with the neck except it needs to fit on there. I would encourage you to try a bound fretboard. Really more time consuming than technically difficult. It does take time and patience, but a better feel and look if you ask me... By the way, very nice looking neck and good photos documenting the process.