Les Paul part deux

Now we can concentrate on the neck and what a set neck entails.

Much of what I’ve said about a bolt on neck applies here as well.  The obvious difference being that once the neck is attached to the body the angle is set for the life of the guitar.  Other than that its truss rod, fret board, etc. are the same.  The fretting is slightly different because of the binding.  The way Gibson did it on their guitars was to fret the board before the binding and add a piece of binding taller than the board and routing the binding to follow the board and the frets.  Stew-Mac has a great description of this on their site.  http://www.stewmac.com/tsarchive/ts0131.html

I’m not a fan of this type of fretting because you lose about an 1/8″ of fretting surface.  I notch the fret wire to go over the fret board.  This is also a bit quicker. 

Here you can see the finished board.  I did two guitars at once. This one is Madagascar rosewood, the other Brazilian.  They are almost impossible to tell apart by looks alone.  Gibson and Martin both fret their boards at this stage but I like to get it on the neck first.  I have less issues with leveling later on.

The next issue is cutting the tenon on the neck.

Here’s a picture of the finished tenon with the truss rod installed.  This is a crucial part so getting it right is imperative!  The angle has to perfectly match the angle on the body.

I made both sides of the template at the same time so as to give them perfect symmetry.  I then made sure they were lined up during construction.  I used a pattern makers bit in a router making sure I double checked the depth.  The finished tenon should be a tight fit.  If you’ve gone a little to far in your depth don’t throw it out you can shim it with veneer.

When I’m satisfied with the fit I start carving the neck and cutting the binding channel.

A lot of people I know spend a lot of time making all sorts of torture devices to carve necks by machine.  I don’t have any problem with this except to say I get a lot of enjoyment carving the neck by hand and after doing it for so long can get the job done in about the time it takes to set a machine up.

After that it’s binding and gluing the neck in place.  Since this is a ’59 the binding is the same width all the way around.  You can see the maple cap in the cutaway.   Also notice the tight fit on the neck joint.  This has more to do with my skill at making templates and jigs than chisels and saws.  This is also when I do the fret work.

Another picture showing both guitars at different stages.

Now we’re ready to finish.  The trapezoid markers are real pearl and not MOTS and the headstock veneer is real ebony, not dyed holly.

See you next time in part three… finish.


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