Oh dear, that title. They can’t all be great.
I’m not entirely sure how to encapsulate the tedium of the next piece of the guitar puzzle. They had warned me about it. They told me it’s the worst step, somebody else had spent a week and a half on it, it’s worse than the last thing you thought was the worst, and so on. I can’t lie, it wasn’t a lot of fun. But I got through it.
Fitting the neck to the body sucked. There isn’t much redemption in it. Relief, when you finally get it on there, but outside of that, it is an ugly process. Basically, I had to hollow out a bit of the neck at the heel, place the neck rather carefully onto the body of the guitar where it would sit when it was all said and done, and sandwiched between those two pieces was a sheet of sandpaper. Pull sandpaper out. Place carefully again. Pull. Place. Pull. Repeat. So many times. Then check to see if the neck is all squared up. If it’s not, fix it. Then do the sandpaper thing again. Then check it again. Then hollow it out some more. Then your brain turns to mush for a bit. Keep going for a few hours after that and you’ve got it. Maybe. Or maybe keep going.
Like I said though – I did it. It came out looking like this:
It’s hard to talk about without repeating myself, but it was really boring. With that fitting well though, it was almost time to attach the neck to the body. I had to create some shims to sit underneath the part of the fretboard floating above the body itself so that it …well, so that it wasn’t floating over the body, but attached securely to it. Using the same wood as the fretboard (wenge), I shaped some ramp-lookin’ things to slide into the sides of the overhang so that it sat flat on top of the body. At that point, it was finally time to join the two pieces to make a guitar!
Writer’s note: I know I keep saying “I did this step and now it’s a guitar!” But this moment was the most this-kind-of-momenty moment out of all of these types of moments so far. A guitar is effectively a body and neck, with some strings over it. Everything else is secondary. So, y’know, just…it was pretty awesome.
In creating the neck block (documented in an earlier chapter), There were two holes that I predrilled and countersunk before gluing it into place. These two holes would house the screws that would be threaded into the neck to keep the guitar in one piece, meaning yes, they’re important. I used these to test-fit my neck and to make sure it would sit dead straight.
Here’s how it looked outside:
Before gluing it up and joining these two permanently, I took off the neck and shaped the fretboard where it hangs over the soundhole. As you can see in the photos, it doesn’t look super great as a squared off thing that goes out way farther than it should. Or, maybe you think it does. I don’t. So I rounded it off, with a similar curve to what I had done on the headstock, this sort of wave-like thing, that – …well, it’s this sort of wave-like thing:
Once I knew everything was fitting right and tight, it was time to make this joint permanent. With some glue to keep the fretboard in place, and a few different clamps and cauls, I tightened those two screws to make sure this thing wasn’t going anywhere soon.
I left that all clamped overnight, and when I came back, it was solid as a rock. Without taking time to pat myself on the back, since I mostly wanted to distance myself from the memory of fitting the neck on there (I swear, I’ll stop complaining about it. …soon), I started fretting. Not like, worrying. I mean, putting in the frets. This was a little repetitive, but otherwise a smooth and quick process. They’re held in place with a bit of glue, and each one is hammered in by hand, then cleaned up so as to not turn my hand into a bloody mess when playing it.
Each one is measured and cut roughly to length first. After that, they’re cut right to the end of the fretboard, then they’re dressed, levelled, crowned, and finally polished. That takes a lot less time to say than it takes to do. Still better than the neck joint.
Okay that’s the last time.
I’m getting very, very close here. The end is nigh…check out the blog next time to see the bridge come alive!