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Thread: Neck Grain Direction

  1. #1
    Join Date
    Apr 2019
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    Default Neck Grain Direction

    Hi

    First post here - from a novice Ukulele builder - and in the process of building my first instruments.

    This might be a an old Chestnut - I did find some stuff in the Archive - but a simple clarification would help me out.

    I've managed to get hold of a decent piece of Sapele for my necks.

    I've overlaid on a pic of the wood - Hopefully the pics explain better than I can !

    If I cut the necks in what seems the natural direction with the grain - I can get Four necks.

    Neck_Cut_View_1.jpg

    If I cut with the necks side on - I can get Six

    Neck_Cut_View_2.jpg

    So - Question 1 - does it matter how I cut these for a soprano ukulele

    I can probably cut an extra 2 from the 4 up option - but the grain would run in a different direction for Two of them.

    Neck_Cut_View_3.jpg

    So - Question 2 - I've never carved a real neck before** - does the direction of grain help or hinder neck carving. - If I had two with the grain direction running one way and Four the other - would I realistically notice any difference.

    ** I've made necks before - but I don't think planks - nails screws and glue really counts

    I could get more necks if I stacked the heel and scarfed the neck - but I don't have a bandsaw to help with the re-sawing - and for my first time out - I think that single piece necks are probably a bit easier to master.

    (If I had a decent bandsaw - I'd probably slice this piece for tops, backs and sides - then find a decent plank for the necks)

    ALSO - just a thanks to everyone who has contributed to this forum - I've been following for a while now - and joined a couple of months ago - I've learned lots from your experience - and hopefully one day - I'll be in a position to offer advice to others.

    Cheers
    Mike

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Feb 2019
    Posts
    227

    Default

    Cut a piece of scrap timber into a thin cross section then try to break it along the grain, then try across it.

    That should answer your question.
    Col.
    From the UK with a bad case of MIAS.
    Korg PA700, Korg Kross 2, Gibson LP, Fender Jazz Bass,
    + Amps, PA, Boss GT100, mixer.
    Ukes - Kala KA-TEME and Risa ST electric solid body.
    Uke wish list, a Bass, make and model yet to be determined

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Jul 2009
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    UK
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    Default

    There are two considerations here - stability and ease of carving. Stability is most important!

    The most stable necks will have the grain running either vertical to the fretboard plane (vertical grain) or parallel to it (flat sawn). From these pictures (looking at the end grain) it seems that yours runs at about 45 degrees. I wouldn't let that worry me for most ukulele necks with sapele - it's pretty stable, and any slight twist in a short neck from releasing stresses in the wood as you carve it can just be planed out at the fingerboard surface. Once it's carved and settled, I doubt it will move again (unless you're very unlucky - wood is wood, and sometimes has a mind of its own).

    If this were a long, thin neck, like a banjo, I'd cut the board lengthways along its thinnest dimension and then glue it together with the end grain angles opposing each other, like this: \\\\\\\/////// This make for a very stable neck, used so the fretboard surface is either the top or the bottom as I show the grain here - which you choose gives a different appearance to the back of the neck.

    So far as carving is concerned, again the grain direction in sapele doesn't tell you much in my experience. Sapele has lots of reversing grain direction which makes it awkward to carve. Your blade of choice is happily slicing along and then suddenly digs in as the grain changes direction. Usually I find that each side of the neck prefers to be carved in a different direction, whatever the apparent grain direction seems to say! And there are always awkward spots. Just go steady and don't try to take too much off in any one go - you have to feel what the wood wants and go along with that.

    I just rough out the shape with blades (knife, chisel, drawknife, spokeshave, whatever works best for that neck) and then do my final carving with a rasp which doesn't care about grain direction.

    So I think you can go for the six necks from this one, so long as that leaves you enough margin for wood movement once the cutting and carving has released any internal stresses.

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Aug 2018
    Location
    Australia.
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    Mike, my personal rules for neck grain orientation are:

    For electric solid body and acoustic steel string guitar with adjustable truss rod/s : Quartersawn or flatsawn stable neck woods.

    For classical guitar : Quartersawn stable woods, with no more than 10 - 15 degrees deviation from true quarter unless fitting a carbon fibre reinforcing rod.

    For large bodied ukulele: Quartersawn with next-to-no deviation unless fitting a carbon fibre reinforcing rod, where some deviation is permissible. (The fact that the fret board makes up a significant percentage of the total neck depth on ukulele helps to enhance the overall neck stability).

    For small bodied ukulele: Quartersawn with little deviation unless the wood is mature, dry and stable, as may be found in aged recycled furniture or fittings, where a some deviation can be considered.

    I find that most well made luthier or factory built ukulele necks are cut close to the quarter, whereas the necks of cheaper instruments are cut for yield and as long as they are (mostly) knot and defect-free, any orientation can be used.

    The problem with using non-quartersawn neck wood is the unpredictability of possible lateral instability. This can lead to interesting long term alignment issues on long neck instruments, but is less of a problem for shorter necks. Some woods you think you can trust, other woods you know you shouldn't....the more you deviate from true quartersawn, the more the lottery odds increase.

    You can probably get away with being less pedantic than this, but this is a place to start.
    Hold out for other opinions...... if you are only building for yourself you can afford to experiment a little, but if you build for others, reputation and warranty claims must be considered.

    In the photo, your billet seems to have diagonal grain, (or are those circular saw kerf marks I'm seeing).
    Last edited by bazuku; 07-19-2019 at 12:32 AM.

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Apr 2019
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    19

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    Thanks for this Prof.

    This is perfect - just the information that I’ve been looking for.

    I hadn’t considered any movement when releasing the stress in the wood when carving, so I’ll keep this in mind when I’m sorting out my final cutting plane - and give myself a wider margin to work within.
    Depending which way I cut there should be enough slack - and having the option of six necks is a bonus - should I mess one (or more ! !) up.

    If there isn’t enough ‘wiggle room’ I’ll keep to four necks just to be sure as this is my first time.

    I'm used to working with English and European oak - primarily for furniture restoration - so aware of the problems and surprises that a seemingly straight grained piece can give - but I’ve never worked with Sapele before so the tip about the alternating grain is welcome.

    I also suppose using your idea of cutting and re-glueing \\\\\\\/////// will equalise the tension/ stresses - and could actually be a great way of adding some figure/ pattern to the neck if you select your wood well.
    That’s got my mind ticking on the posibilties
    I’ll certainly give this a shot when I’m a little further along the journey.

    Again - many thanks for this

    Cheers
    Mike

  6. #6

    Default

    Quote Originally Posted by mike_tatt View Post
    Thanks for this Prof.

    This is perfect - just the information that I’ve been looking for.

    I hadn’t considered any movement when releasing the stress in the wood when carving, so I’ll keep this in mind when I’m sorting out my final cutting plane - and give myself a wider margin to work within.
    Depending which way I cut there should be enough slack - and having the option of six necks is a bonus - should I mess one (or more ! !) up.

    If there isn’t enough ‘wiggle room’ I’ll keep to four necks just to be sure as this is my first time.

    I'm used to working with English and European oak - primarily for furniture restoration - so aware of the problems and surprises that a seemingly straight grained piece can give - but I’ve never worked with Sapele before so the tip about the alternating grain is welcome.

    I also suppose using your idea of cutting and re-glueing \\\\\\\/////// will equalise the tension/ stresses - and could actually be a great way of adding some figure/ pattern to the neck if you select your wood well.
    That’s got my mind ticking on the posibilties
    I’ll certainly give this a shot when I’m a little further along the journey.

    Again - many thanks for this

    Cheers
    Mike
    This method also allows you to glue a thin, contrasting wood in between the 2 sapelle pieces as decoration.

  7. #7
    Join Date
    Apr 2019
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    19

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    Thanks Bazuku

    Thanks for the feedback, great detail here and all appreciated.

    These instruments are my first Ďseriousí ukuleles and at the moment - just for personal use and getting my skills re-honed.

    If I ever started making them for others - I understand where you are coming from - always use the best materials you can - Iíd expect it if I was purchasing - and as you say - it does cut down the chance of future problems.

    Once I know that I can craft a ukulele to a standard Iíd be happy with - and proud of - Iíll definitely be searching out some higher grade woods to work with.

    The billet Iím using only cost GBP 6.50 - and the grain is pretty diagonal - the saw marks exaggerate the effect on the pics - - but still - not a prime piece.

    Itís a while since Iíve had the opportunity to spend some time creating things with my hands rather than on a computer - and Iím looking at this a decent piece of learning piece - and if it all goes to hell in a handcart - at least Iím not too much poorer

    Cheers
    Mike

  8. #8
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    Apr 2019
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    Quote Originally Posted by eclipsme View Post
    This method also allows you to glue a thin, contrasting wood in between the 2 sapelle pieces as decoration.
    .. that was just what I was thinking - creative part of the brain is tingling now

  9. #9
    Join Date
    Aug 2018
    Location
    Australia.
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    Mike,
    This is the beauty of UU.
    Lots of opinions open up all avenues of thought.
    My response was a little narrow and assumed that the available wood was a bit nearer to quartersawn.
    I should also point out that every neck that I have made has been scarf joint and stacked heel, so I only buy shallow true quartersawn sticks with little or no run out. The exception to this is necks for solid bodies … I now buy them in from one of the big makers.
    A one piece neck is usually a more difficult and expensive proposition when it comes to finding and selecting suitable billets.
    You have a few options with ways to cut your wood... pick the best option (for your thinking) and go for it.
    You'll certainly get more than six quid's worth of experience from it , no matter how it turns out.

  10. #10
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    Apr 2019
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    Bazuku

    I Have to agree on all fronts

    This is a great forum - I'm amazed at the level of skills of the people who contribute - and their openness in sharing.

    I've been considering stacking and scarfing as I move on - certainly more cost effective when after my first batch of necks - and the choice of available woods is wider.

    I've decided to just cut four necks from the billet - it gives me plenty of wiggle room - allowing for thinks like any movement in the wood - when tension is released whilst carving - and my lack of much in the way of power tools.
    It also gives be a good sized block left over for extrasBazuku

    I Have to agree on all fronts

    This is a great forum - I'm amazed at the level of skills of the people who contribute - and their openness in sharing.
    Even the ‘disagreements’ have some humour to them.
    If I can come anywhere close to the ukuleles made by the people here - I’ll be delighted.

    I've been considering stacking and scarfing as I move on - certainly more cost effective when after my first batch of necks - and as you say - the choice of available woods is wider.

    The low cost of this wood has just made be thing sod it - have a go at one piece necks - see what happens - the absolute worse that can happen is that I end up sawing them up into strips for kerfing - even then I’d be quids in and have learned lots.

    For this first run - I’ve decided to just cut four necks from the billet - it gives me plenty of wiggle room - allowing for any movement in the wood - (mentioned by Eclipseme) - Grain direction will (should) match and I should be able to get into a carving ‘rhythm’ if that makes sense - before trying other methods.

    It also gives be a good sized block left over for bridges and such - and I need some hardwood for making tools I’m planning to make - rosette cutters and the like.

    Cheers
    Mike

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