Necking

There are many ways to create an instrument neck. My method will vary depending on what size neck I’m making, and what wood I have available. For the mandola, I went with a laminated neck in order to get the best grain orientation, and the maximum strength.

So I first glued up a curly maple—walnut—curly maple sandwich. Then, after the glue had well dried, I cut and faired the headstock angle. I don’t do any other cuts at this point, in order to make the next steps that much easier. I leave it long on both ends until the truss rod is installed. I will size it according to the scale length.

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With the channel for the truss rod cut at the table saw, I also rout out channels for some carbon fiber reinforcing strips; truly a belt and suspenders approach. Then I can install both the truss rod and CF strips. The truss rod gets a strip of walnut glued in over it, encasing it in the wood.

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Now the neck can be rough sawn at the band saw, and the V-joint tenon cut at the heel on the table saw. With those cuts made, I use some of the offcuts to make two wings to make the headstock wider.

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While the glue is drying, I go to work cutting the inlay from a mother of pearl blank and inlaying it into the headstock overlay. This is then glued to the headstock’s face.

The back of the headstock now gets sanded to thickness, leaving a little curve at the juncture of the neck for forming a volute, giving a little more wood where the truss rod pocket is. On this I glue a walnut veneer, providing yet more strength. The whole headstock now gets routed following the template.

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With all the wood on, now is the time to start actually carving the neck. I start with the volute, getting it to a pleasing curve.

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Then its just a matter of working the wood down the neck until it feels right; rechecking for any bumps or off spots. The curly maple is a little less friendly than mahogany to work on, but you just have to keep on whittling away with knife, spokeshave, rasp, file, sandpaper, and scraper. Whatever works best, going from coarser to finer.

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After fitting and attaching the neck joint and gluing on the fingerboard (down the road) the final sanding to a glass smooth surface will be done.

Hm… a glass neck. I wonder how that would work?…..

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