|Exceptionally Rigid Neck Construction
|John Alden Robinson of Maliposa Music
There are several ways to make a guitar neck I wish to propose new one that I have not seen anyone else use. My method
is a laminated neck. I have seen many laminated necks the most common and I have use it myself are necks made with 2
outer pieces of wood with an inner core of something contrasting. Then we can add even more laminations with more
contrasting layers for ascetics. For economy I have seen 1/8” thick strips glued together on end to make a neck.
My choice of laminations is not for ascetics or economy but will deliver the strongest and most rigid neck possible. The
truss rod actually will set the minimum thickness you can make a neck.
Most of my necks use 1/16” ready cut veneers. I have been able to get them in maple, mahogany, black walnut, and
cherry. Some times I have to make the 1/16” veneer if it is in a wood not available in veneer. I have built a number of
necks out of Paduak and Canary wood. To give you an idea of strength of one of these necks, (2) 1/16” layer with
carbon fiber on each side will support me 240 lbs when it is suspended at each end the length of the fingerboard! My
method requires a forming table. Well, lets make a list or what is required.
Forming table with uni-strut reinforcement
Block neck heel filler jig
6" bar clamps
12" bar clamp
Uni-directional Carbon Fiber 9-11 oz.
8 laminations of 1/16" wood
Neck Heel Filler
Begin by making the neck table. Mine has a large
enough pegboard area for a 12-string may be more
and the flat part is long enough a bass fingerboard
scale. What I guess I am trying to say is make the
forming table big enough for the instruments you may
decide to build. It is 4” wide and I used 3/4 MDF
board two layers thick there is a scarf joint for the
break to the pegboard 1 3/8” in 8” drop for the
pegboard. Drill a 3/8” centered hole (best with a drill
press at the long end 2” from both sides and 2” from
the end. Make a 3/8 T pin.
The T pin is a length of 3/8” dowel glued into
center of a 3/4” dowel. Round off the ends of
the larger. It will hold your neck filler jig in the
4-5 clamping strips will also be needed 4” long
¾” by ¾” round a surface these will be used in
the neck heel area later on in the laminating
Lay out the neck fingerboard scale on the neck
table leave enough on the flat part for you nut.
Mark where the body/neck junction will be from
the fingerboard scale. If you build a guitar like
mine the neck sits 3/8” into a neck pocket so add
that to the line for the neck junction. You will
You will need to make 2 more blocks of 3/4” MDF one the length of the pegboard of your table and one the length of
the flat part of your table. Chamfer the pegboard board so the contact surface will meet in neck pegboard junction.
You should prepare your 8 lamination of wood by cutting to size 4” wide by what is necessary. 9 if you have someone
that prefers a heftier neck. I have been criticized for getting my classical guitar necks too thin. For the first lamination I
use a contrasting wood to the fingerboard and the neck usually maple. Being it is the first layer down, I bend the
pegboard relief on a 3/4” bending iron (A piece of copper pipe) so the first lamination will lay flat on the forming table
Cut 8 strips of uni-directional carbon fiber 9-11 oz to 4” wide and it will very with different necks from 28 to 31”.
Cut 2 sheet of wax paper the length of your forming table and fold it the long way so you will have 2 layers of wax
paper between the forming table and the first lamination of carbon fiber/epoxy and 2 layers between the lamination and
the clamping blocks.
Make sure you have enough 6” clamps near by -within reach of the table- before beginning. 3-4 clamps for the
pegboard 8-12 clamp for the fingerboard part you will need them about 3” apart. You need your clamping blocks
within reach as well.
Put down one piece of the wax paper on the forming table. Tape it in areas that the first lamination will not be in
Coat the upper surface of the first lamination with epoxy resin. This is the surface that will be going down onto the
forming table. Lay into the resin a strip of carbon fiber and work it smooth. Add resin to the carbon fiber to guarantee
saturation. Place lamination #1 with the carbon fiber strip, down on the wax paper with the carbon fiber going on to
the wax paper. Centered the lamination on the table.
Apply the second piece of wax paper and put your clamping blocks in place and clamp.
Let the resin cure –preferable, is a full day and overnight.
Peal off the clamps, the clamping blocks and the wax paper setting them aside where they can quickly be retrieved. If
necessary sand the laminate to a smooth removing any excess resin from surface in preparation for the next layer.
Repeat the laminating process two more times. But you can put the carbon fiber on the laminate on table this time. But
make sure you laminate going down is well coated. The laminate no longer needs a relief bend for the pegboard break.
You can just force it with the clamping blocks.
You should be at three layers and time of the neck filler heel for steel-string guitars. Classical guitar neck do a forth
layer before the neck filler go down.
The neck heel filler is a block of matching wood or a laminate of 2 blocks of wood that is cut to shape with a band saw.
It is time for that neck heel filler jig we made earlier. Install it over the laminations with the T pin. Place your neck heel
filler up against it and mark with a pencil where the curved blends. Remove the heel filler, T pin, and jig. The mark is so
you can apply a short layer of uni-directional carbon fiber from just little beyond your mark (1/2”) to the end of
fingerboard of the neck lay down wax paper block and clamp. Let resin cure.
Again remove the clamps the block and wax paper. Sand any excess resin.
Lay down wax paper. Install neck heel jig with T pin. Clamp it down this time. Lift back the wax paper and coat the
mating surface of the neck heel filler with resin place it up against the jig wrapped in wax paper and clamp. It will require
the one 12” clamp. Let resin cure.
While the resin is curing the remaining laminations now can be bent to match the neck heel filler 3” copper pipe bending
iron. A slightly tighter radius in the laminates than the heel filler is desirable because it makes the mating the surface easier
The long clamping block now has to be cut so it will fit between the heel and pegboard. Cut it smaller you will be adding
laminations and there is no need to trim after each lamination.
The 12” clamp is not removed from the neck heel filler until the laminating process it over.
Lamination process is about the same as before prepare by sanding any excess epoxy then lay epoxy on the last
lamination and the neck heel filler and lay in the carbon fiber strip. Coat it and your lamination with resin to make sure of
saturation fit in the lamination where it curls more than the neck heel filler clamp with wax paper and blocks as before
the with the sticks clamp to the neck heel filler so there are no gaps. 2 clamps per stick are required because the 12” bar
is in the way.
Repeat until laminations are done.
Let the neck cure clamped for a week. Warm temperatures are a blessing at this point.
The blank can now be removed
from the table, excess trimmed,
the routing for the truss rod.
When routing for the truss rod
because of all the carbon fiber it
requires a carbide bit and speed
control of the router. You have
to keep the speed down to
where it does not’t over heat the
bit. The carbon fiber will eat
carbide bits up.
Fingerboard installation, pegboard
cap are standard except I use a
twill weave carbon fiber for my
peg caps on my steel string
guitars. (Not a requirement).
However, I do something
very few builders do; an
almost finished neck goes in
a neck jig for a month at full
tension. At the end of the
month, neck support screw
are installed and the strings
removed and the fingerboard
is sanded flat with 18” long
Even with carbon fiber all my necks seem to develop a compression hump between the 10th and the 14th (when they are
a 14th fret body junction) that the truss rod does nothing about and requires sanding. I will recommend Dan Erlewine's
videos on re-fretting. If you don’t do the fretting right you can so screw up a perfectly straight neck so easily!
need ablock of the 3/4 MDF 4” wide with one end squared off. Place the squared end on the line you marked for the
end of the neck heel. Clamp your block to the table and drill up through the previously made hole into this block. Mark
the block so later it can be trimmed flush with the table. Label the block -now a neck heel filler jig- for the fingerboard
scale and fret number at body junction, so if you build another one for a different junction or scale you will not have to
check to find which on you need.
|John Alden Robinson
17415 N. 75th Ave.
Glendale, AZ 85308
A classical guitar neck of Canary wood and carbon fiber. The light yellow color reviels the carbon fiber layers very well.