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View Full Version : I know it's my first, but still... (neck joint problems)



herbsandspices
05-08-2009, 07:32 PM
I've been procrastinating gluing the neck onto the body for the past couple of weeks - making sure the butt fits perfectly, getting my dry clamping down, etc.... but something about this step had me really nervous.

Well, tonight I decided to stop worrying, and just DO IT! So, I got everything ready, got 'er glued in place, had tubing wrapped around it, and then noticed something: the fretboard extension wasn't sitting flush on the soundboard. :eek: So I quick took the tubing off (with the hope that I could start all over) - but in the little bit of time that had passed, the glue had set enough where I couldn't remove the neck, without fearing that I'd rip the wood from the sides right out.

I tried cranking the bar clamp to slide the entire neck down, but the neck wouldn't budge (and in fact, the force ended up bending the fretboard extension...), and eventually, I realized that it was staying just how it was. So I'm stuck with a little bit of a gap there; I'm just hoping that it won't affect the action too much (and that I can compensate with the nut & saddle heights).

Goof-up: I didn't clamp the fretboard to the body first, cause I couldn't figure out a quick way to wrap the tubing around with the clamp in the way (should've had a longer reach clamp).

Lucky for me this SM kit is a practice run for Pete's kit, so I'm learning from my (many) mistakes. But it's still heartbreaking! :o Oh well! :shaka: It's been fun, and I'll look at this little guy fondly, no matter how it turns out!

:) john

Pete Howlett
05-08-2009, 08:17 PM
It's surprising how thislast operation can ruin a good job.It's an operation i dislike but have learnt to prepare for doing a dry run with clamping. Going over to a bolt on joint has simplified matters greatly - except when the pilot drill wanders...

dave g
05-09-2009, 01:46 AM
Spanish heel - no such problem :rolleyes:

herbsandspices
05-09-2009, 03:43 AM
It's surprising how this last operation can ruin a good job.It's an operation i dislike but have learnt to prepare for doing a dry run with clamping. Going over to a bolt on joint has simplified matters greatly - except when the pilot drill wanders...

Even with a soprano? That sounds nice - and even more structurally sound.


Spanish heel - no such problem :rolleyes:

'Twas a kit! But I have a book that talks about Spanish heels, and it's something I want to try out.

Thanks guys! :)
john

Timbuck
05-09-2009, 04:49 AM
Don't be afraid to scrap it :eek: :wallbash:..And start again :D.

Bradford
05-09-2009, 09:41 PM
Those of you building the Stew-Mac kit may consider trying this. I use a 3" x 1/4" lag screw as a temporary bolt-on to secure the neck to the body during gluing and to check the fit before gluing. The beauty of this system is there are no external clamps to interfer with checking the final measurements before gluing, and as the screw provides secure clamping pressure, nothing is going to move after you glue it.

1. Fit the neck to the body.
2. Drill a 1/4" hole at the center of the neck joint, thru the body and end block.
3. From the inside of the body, use a 1/4" brad point drill bit to mark the neck, while holding the neck in the final position.
4. At the marked point on the neck, drill a 3/16" hole in the base of the neck, about 3/8 " deep.
5. Make a spacer out of a small wood block, drill a clear hole for the lag screw thru the spacer. The size of the spacer should be such that when the screw with spacer on it is pushed thru the end block and body, about 3/8" of the screw protrudes after it is pushed out all the way.
6. Position the neck against the body, and use a 1/4" drive socket thru the soundhole to tighten the lag screw and secure the neck against the body.
7. With the neck being held securely in place, check your final alignment carefully.
8. If you need to adjust the neck position slightly, you can enlarge the hole thru the body and end block to provide some wiggle room.
9. After you are satisfied with the fit, disassemble the joint, add the glue, and reassemble.
10. Double check your alignment and let the assembly dry. Remove the lag screw and spacer block and you are done.

If you have any trouble understanding this process, let me know and I'll try and clarify it.

Brad

Sven
05-10-2009, 04:31 AM
Brad - I might be thick but... Should the numbers 1 and 2 switch places in your (otherwise very good) list?

Sven

Bradford
05-10-2009, 08:17 AM
Hi Sven, you could do it that way if you prefer. I was referring to setting up the neck to body joint about 90-95% of final fit in step 1. Most of the time you need to make some small adjustments after the initial dry bolt on anyway.

Brad

Moore Bettah Ukuleles
05-10-2009, 09:38 AM
Congratulations Herbsandspices, you have just discovered on of the approximately 7,850 things that can go wrong during a build! A friend of mine who is a hobby builder described his building process as a continual series of correcting mistakes. Another friend who has over 500 ukes under his belt claims to having never built the perfect ukulele.
Keep up the good work. You'll learn from every one you build.

Sven
05-10-2009, 11:05 AM
Brad - I overthought it. Of course the fit must be good before drilling, I just read with such a sense of revelation that I saw before me the drilling being done with the neck in place. That could be like semi-possible with a 90 degree extension to a small drill but...

My best tip: glue and screw/bolt the neck before glueing on the back. Saves you trouble, and you can let the back cover the heel.

All the best / Sven

Timbuck
05-10-2009, 11:57 AM
How about we start a list of things that often go wrong..like the seam at the lower bout end not neat enough.. so a fancy inlay has to made to cover it up... or when pressing in fretwire, one kicks over and breaks the fingerboard in two:eek:..neck centre line do's not line up with sound hole....Routing body sides flush and a piece splinters off, and you have to search the shop floor to find it so it can be glued back in place (and hope no one will notice)..cutting out the sound hole before the rosette is fitted and glued, and chunks break away from the edge into the groove....Slotting finger boards then cutting them with the narrow end where the the fat end should be.:(...gluing the bridge facing the wrong way....Scraping away the finish to glue the neck or bridge and you go past the line of no return (I've done all of these)....there are loads more...so come on lads time to be honest:)

Sven
05-11-2009, 03:47 AM
How about cleaning off sawdust with the hoover, and accidentally covering the sound hole with the nozzle, just to create a vacuum in the uke and hearing the back cave in with a loud crack?

Heh... imagine doing that... And imagine telling folks about it. I would never...

:eek:

Timbuck
05-11-2009, 03:58 AM
How about cleaning off sawdust with the hoover, and accidentally covering the sound hole with the nozzle, just to create a vacuum in the uke and hearing the back cave in with a loud crack?

Heh... imagine doing that... And imagine telling folks about it. I would never...

:eek:Thats a great vacuum cleaner, you wouldn't expect that.... one that made me smile was the guy on the "Cosmos" who used a party balloon to hold some bracings in place for a repair job...and the uke exploded.

herbsandspices
05-11-2009, 05:19 AM
How about cleaning off sawdust with the hoover, and accidentally covering the sound hole with the nozzle, just to create a vacuum in the uke and hearing the back cave in with a loud crack?

Heh... imagine doing that... And imagine telling folks about it. I would never...

:eek:

Uhh... :eek: Ok, that's something I won't do anymore!


Congratulations Herbsandspices, you have just discovered one of the approximately 7,850 things that can go wrong during a build!

2 down, 7,848 to go! :D

:) john

E-Lo Roberts
05-14-2009, 11:40 AM
It's surprising how thislast operation can ruin a good job.It's an operation i dislike but have learnt to prepare for doing a dry run with clamping. Going over to a bolt on joint has simplified matters greatly - except when the pilot drill wanders...

I'm with Pete, try considering the barrel bolt method on the next build. It's worth checking out. Also, I recommend using Hide Glue. It allows for removal of a neck, bridge, binding, or whatever if you mess it up first time around using heat and moisture to loosen up the joint. In addition, if you have some unwanted glue you didn't clean up initially on a joint, warm water and a soft cloth will take it right up. Beautiful stuff! I've even removed back bracing once because I didn't like the way it was laid out...good luck with future builds...e.lo..

Of course Pete never makes a mistake so he doesn't need to use it! hahaha...sorry Pete, just a little American humor from the other side of the pond...

herbsandspices
05-14-2009, 11:56 AM
Thanks E-Lo... if Pete does a video on bolt-on necks, I promise to do one with my Howlett kit! :D If it's good enough for the UK Uke dude, it's good enough for me! :)

As for using hide glue, I try to stay away from using animal products as much as I can (I'm one of them cooky vegans). So I'm "stuck" using Titebond... :wallbash: sorry, couldn't resist a little glue humour. (UK spelling to appease Mister Pete)

:p john

Pete Howlett
05-14-2009, 12:55 PM
Mistakes - can't think of a single build where ar least 10 things didn't go to plan!

zog
05-14-2009, 01:09 PM
I am on my 7 and 8th ukes - built to the body and the neck is still giving me fits! I built a jig to cut the face of the body flat with a router, and one to drill the neck and body for dowels and a bolt but am still having problems getting it all to line up perfectly, maybe i should go to the spanish style neck? But i do bindings on some of my ukes.
Chuck I admire your ukes very much and am planning on moving to the big island in a couple years, I am looking at the Hilo side, my sister has a condo in Wiakola and it is too desolate looking over there!
Mike
Anchorage Alaska

Moore Bettah Ukuleles
05-14-2009, 02:44 PM
Zog, the neck joint is just something you have to find your own way with, trying different methods until you're comfortable with one. Many builders use some type of bolt arrangement that allows them some latitude in adjustment. I've never used a dowel joint in my life so I wouldn't know about that. On the other extreme I have a friend who wouldn't consider anything but a dovetail but that comes from his guitar building background and is what he is comfortable with. It only takes him about six hours to make the joint however! With 7 or 8 ukes built, you're only now at the level where you can start thinking of the right questions to ask. I've built something over 300 and I still keep changing the things I'm unsatisfied with. And I still got a million questions!
Hilo (Puna really) is really a great side of the Big Island. If you get yourself down toward the water you'll find it sunny most of the time, unlike Hilo, Mountain View, Volcano, etc that can be quite wet.
Good luck and keep building! Aloha.

Pete Howlett
05-14-2009, 11:36 PM
I've tried dovetail, spline, dowel and now use bolt-on exclusively. My current thinking is:

Saves time
Makes alignment easy
Gluing is a before or after finishing option
There ain't much torsion on the neck so the triangulated joint with its glue on the fretboard tongue works well
Like Chuck says, you have to find your own path. I am seriously considering dovetail methods again...

joejeweler
08-06-2011, 06:04 PM
How about we start a list of things that often go wrong..like the seam at the lower bout end not neat enough.. so a fancy inlay has to made to cover it up... or when pressing in fretwire, one kicks over and breaks the fingerboard in two:eek:..neck centre line do's not line up with sound hole....Routing body sides flush and a piece splinters off, and you have to search the shop floor to find it so it can be glued back in place (and hope no one will notice)..cutting out the sound hole before the rosette is fitted and glued, and chunks break away from the edge into the groove....Slotting finger boards then cutting them with the narrow end where the the fat end should be.:(...gluing the bridge facing the wrong way....Scraping away the finish to glue the neck or bridge and you go past the line of no return (I've done all of these)....there are loads more...so come on lads time to be honest:)

Hehehe,....i won't ask how you know all these things! :rolleyes:

trjohnson
04-03-2013, 04:47 AM
Those of you building the Stew-Mac kit may consider trying this. I use a 3" x 1/4" lag screw as a temporary bolt-on to secure the neck to the body during gluing and to check the fit before gluing. The beauty of this system is there are no external clamps to interfer with checking the final measurements before gluing, and as the screw provides secure clamping pressure, nothing is going to move after you glue it.

1. Fit the neck to the body.
2. Drill a 1/4" hole at the center of the neck joint, thru the body and end block.
3. From the inside of the body, use a 1/4" brad point drill bit to mark the neck, while holding the neck in the final position.
4. At the marked point on the neck, drill a 3/16" hole in the base of the neck, about 3/8 " deep.
5. Make a spacer out of a small wood block, drill a clear hole for the lag screw thru the spacer. The size of the spacer should be such that when the screw with spacer on it is pushed thru the end block and body, about 3/8" of the screw protrudes after it is pushed out all the way.
6. Position the neck against the body, and use a 1/4" drive socket thru the soundhole to tighten the lag screw and secure the neck against the body.
7. With the neck being held securely in place, check your final alignment carefully.
8. If you need to adjust the neck position slightly, you can enlarge the hole thru the body and end block to provide some wiggle room.
9. After you are satisfied with the fit, disassemble the joint, add the glue, and reassemble.
10. Double check your alignment and let the assembly dry. Remove the lag screw and spacer block and you are done.

If you have any trouble understanding this process, let me know and I'll try and clarify it.

Brad

I'm bumping this up since I am at this point in a StewMac build and found this to be the best suggestion for ensuring a good neck to body alignment. The new Stewmac kits call for two dowels at the neck to body joint, but my experience with dowel joints suggests that these will be nearly impossible to align precisely, especially if drilling by hand as in the video and instructions. So the question is whether the above approach with Titebond only will produce a strong enough joint? Or should I use something like epoxy instead?

Todd

ukegirl13
04-03-2013, 05:52 AM
It's surprising how thislast operation can ruin a good job.It's an operation i dislike but have learnt to prepare for doing a dry run with clamping. Going over to a bolt on joint has simplified matters greatly - except when the pilot drill wanders...

Yes, or I have to admit, drilling through the heel! I was going to fill it with a plug and then put a strap button over it but decided to cut off the two stacks of wood that make the heel and put another two stacks on. Now nobody knows what I have done but me and you! =p

Flyfish57
04-03-2013, 06:44 AM
Yes, or I have to admit, drilling through the heel! I was going to fill it with a plug and then put a strap button over it but decided to cut off the two stacks of wood that make the heel and put another two stacks on. Now nobody knows what I have done but me and you! =p

I had a wise old luthier (err let’s just say wise) tell me once "It’s not that we don’t make mistakes, but how recover from them that’s important" I don’t think a week goes by that I don’t have to repeat those words to myself! The best part is when a uke comes back to visit that you recall what a PITA it was and the owner is just happy as ever with it.

Maverick47
04-03-2013, 09:24 AM
"It’s not that we don’t make mistakes, but how recover from them that’s important" I.
As another old luthier once said, "The man who never made a mistake never made anything"......

bariukish
04-05-2013, 07:08 AM
Interesting thread. I'm a life-long woodworker with a fairly complete shop. I also love ukuleles, so it was natural that I tried building one myself. I chose the Stew-Mac tenor. I won't go into all the custom jig making, the fixtures, tools that I made or bought, but , after several months of "blood,sweat, and tears", I got 'er done! With my modifications I would say that (from a reasonable distance) it doesn't look too bad. Sounds like crap because of the terrible fretting job that I did, but I won't go into that. The purpose of this post is to caution first time builders about, what I think, is the most frustrating part of the process: the neck to body joint.

I followed the instruction workbook and the video carefully and still botched it. The BIG thing that is not mentioned is the fact that, by following the instructions, you are forced to join a 90 degree sub-assembly (the neck and fingerboard) to an assembly that is Not 90 degrees. ie, the body assembly that is tapered back to front. If you glue the fretboard to the neck first, and the body assembly is complete, you are forced to taper either the body at the neck-block or the neck. Good luck trying to correct this mismatch. After several days of wishing that I had dry fitted the joint and made adjustments before gluing the dowel assembly, I made a sizeable pile of sawdust and still didn't have a decent joint. So, I glued it anyway and reached for the homemade sawdust and glue putty. I called one of the tech support folks at SM and politely suggested the mention this issue in their instructions. They politely suggested that, as a student luthier I would soon figure out these little problems myself. Now I vow to leave the building to you talented luthiers out there. You have my utmost respect for your skills. For all you first time builders, I recommend that you dry-fit the joint before glueing on the fretboard.

My custom hand built tenor now hangs on the wall in my shop...I'll make music with my Kala or Pono. What a great learning experience.