Home > Lutherie > Telecaster Style Neck – Part II

Telecaster Style Neck – Part II

The neck building saga continued this past weekend. Out of clamps and with the finger board secured, it was time  to make a pass on with the template bit to flush up the finger board to the neck and figure out how to add side fret markers. There was a problem with the latter, I didn’t have any 1/8″ maple dowels to use for dots so I was going to have to make some.

Side Fret Markers

I did have a 1/8″ poplar dowel but I wanted to keep it consistent and use maple. After some minor experimentation I realized it was going to be just a tad tricky making them.

I started by finding a small sheet of mild steel from my junk bin and drilled a 1/8″ hole in it. One would normally facet the blank then pound it through to size it only at 1/8″ faceting wasn’t an option. I ended up riving several narrow strips from off cuts from the maple neck. They were way too big and irregularly shaped so I chucked them up in my hand drill and took them over to the edge sander. With the drill powered, I brought the edge of the piece close to the belt and sanded to slightly over-sized with a narrow taper on the end. I realized that using calipers to gauge the diameter would save me time in the long run. Still hammering such a delicate piece through an 1/8″ hole was a dicey proposition. Fortunately the end that had been held in the drill chuck was beefier allowing a hammering surface and the dowels didn’t need to be very long, I was making fret marker dots so 1/4″ to 1/2″ was plenty long enough as long as they were somewhat round!

Using my best brad point 1/8″ bit I drilled a hole in a test piece to make sure I was going to have a proper fit and was pleased to see that it was perfect. I was ready to set the fence on my drill press table and using the still flat neck back as the reference surface set-up where to drill. I ran a piece of masking tape down the top side of the neck and marked the fret marker locations and made a best guess at setting the drilling depth stop. I wanted them deep enough so as to not sand through them on accident.

Maple side fret markers Markers flushed up

Carving the Neck

In a long line of “firsts” this one had me concerned. I had a plan but until I started, I was never going to know what to expect. I must say doing it once has been a great learning experience and will definitely help me a lot on the next one. I started by marking cut lines as a surgeon might do before an operation.

Neck carving layout

I followed instructions as detailed  by David Fletcher during his Stratocaster Build on his YouTube channel. My notes read something like this:

Draw Center-Line (CL) down back of neck
Measure 5 mm either side of CL at the 1st fret
Measure 10 mm either side of CL at the 12th fret
Connect the lines

Draw a line down both sides of the neck measured 2/3 of the way up from the bottom

Draw a line across 85 mm up from the heal (this will fit in the neck pocket of course)
From there draw a point 35 mm up on the CL. Connect lines to from a V

To from the volute, extend the curve of the head-stock back toward the CL
Complete the volute by connecting that end point the lower side of the head-stock forming a similar angle

Begin taking facets leaving plenty of room at head and heal of neck which should be blended in later.
The very back of the neck should be left mostly intact if you want a beefy neck.

You'll have to figure out the side of heal which angles from the end of the heal line side back towards the head. Middle of the 13th fret (check example)

These instructions along with the Fender authorized replacement neck I purchase as a model/template were invaluable in this learning process. And a learning process it was to be sure.

I began with my StewMac course dragon rasp and began hogging away the first large facet. I was tentative and it was pretty slow going. Later in the process, I pulled out my block plane and spoke shave which I think I use more of in my next build. The first facet on both sides requires quite a bit of material be removed and was slow going even using a course rasp.

I worried a little about the transition areas at the head-stock and heal but actually these areas are fairly straightforward to blend especially given that I had two example Telecaster necks on-hand as a reference. With these area there can be a fair amount of creativity they are predominately cosmetic.

Headstock transition blended=

It would also seem that I was not “brutal” enough taking facets for after three “sessions” my neck was and remains very beefy. I finally decided to go with it as it seemed comfortable enough although time will tell if I really like playing a baseball bat or not!?!

Neck carved enough?

Fret Wire

So ever onward I figured I would try my hand at adding frets. This is where things got a little wonky. This is my first build and I either don’t have the specialized equipment or I’ve made it myself for the occasion. Such was the case with the fret wire radius bending machine that I made ages ago. This was my first opportunity to use it and I found problems with it. First off the groove is too wide for the fret wire tang which allowed the wire to twist during the bend. Secondly I haven’t calibrated the adjustment so the first time through it was on the most gentle bend which I thought was enough and started cutting frets to length. Only later did I realize that the needed a tighter bend but at that point it was too late to use the machine. Instead I pressed the wire in a vise pulling the wire to arc in the correct direction. This mostly worked but sometimes the wire twisted on me.

I also didn’t have a special fretting hammer so I used a regular medium weight hammer and a block of wood. Results were mixed but it mostly worked. The most difficult frets were due to a) not enough radius b) twist. I did take the advice of one YouTube luthier and ran a triangular modelers’ file through the fret slot to add a slight bevel to both sides of the fret slot opening. This worked well although care must be taken every time a file, saw or rasp is engaged on or near the finger board. I’ll learn.

After installing the 22 frets I cut the excess wire off using a rotary tool with a cutting wheel being careful not to nick my neck. The last bit was to bring the frets flush using my fret bevel 90 then after to 35 degrees. I was like a bull in a china shop and managed to mar the top of some of the frets in the doing. I’ll learn (see above).

Don't fret he says?

I’m finally ready to fit the neck to the body and route for pickups and control cavity.

Are we having fun yet!

Categories: Lutherie Tags: ,
  1. July 26, 2016 at 8:51 am

    Looks good, and so what if it is a little chunkier than usual, it’ll be less prone to breaking! You’re brave for daring to make a neck in the first place I think!

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