Operation Plaid Hammer: Necking in Public

Y'know, I was going to title this blog post "Three Hairy Men Neck on Camera" just to really mess with Doug's website traffic stats, but I'll behave. (#BEARS) Ok, I'm done now.

Where was I? Right! Necking! So as you saw in the last blog post, the body for Operation Plaid Hammer is pretty much wrapped up, which means it's time to get the neck dialed in. As mentioned before, the neck is going to be maple with a wenge fretboard. So how do we kick off? The process begins, (surprise) with one big hunk o' maple. First step - rip* the board to useful length.

*I have been informed that ripping is cutting with grain instead of against. In the interests of maintaining a fart joke at Andrew's expense (see caption below) I have opted to retain the error. HAPPY NOW, ROBERT?

Andrew rips one in public

Andrew rips one in public

This piece of maple is wide enough for two necks (unfortunately, that became important later). First step is to take the blank to the CNC to route the truss rod channel, and drill holes for the fretboard alignment pins.

Chocked, docked, and ready to... what means route and rhymes with rock?

Chocked, docked, and ready to... what means route and rhymes with rock?

The truss rod channel has to be juuuust deep enough for the channel to accept the truss rod with the fretboard on top. Careful measurements are important.

Andrew holds the board while an off-camera Hairy-Armed Northern Sasquatch checks the channel depth

Andrew holds the board while an off-camera Hairy-Armed Northern Sasquatch checks the channel depth

When attaching the fretboard, there are a few things of great importance. First is getting the fretboard lined up exactly on the truss rod. The second is making sure none of the glue used to hold the fretboard seeps into the truss rod channel and binds it up. The alignment issue is handled by drilling matching holes in the bottom of the fretboard and in the neck, and using rounded steel pins for alignment. The glue issue is solved by using a thin strip of packing tape over the entire length of the truss rod channel.

Simple. Elegant. Tape.

Simple. Elegant. Tape.

Artsy pre-glue under-the-hood shot

Artsy pre-glue under-the-hood shot

A tight fit is super important, but instead of clamping with clamps, Kauer Guitars has a home made vacuum table! This thing sucks - but that's a good thing. It provides an even solid pressure over the WHOLE piece, instead of just certain pressure points from clamps.

Not, in fact, an air hockey table

Not, in fact, an air hockey table

The channels in the base are for removing air across the whole table. The vacuum table is used with rubber mats, not to protect the piece being clamped, but to protect the vacuum bag from being damaged by sharp edges.

I swear there's a neck in there.

I swear there's a neck in there.

RIGHT! All glued up? Next step - to the CNC to cut the neck and headstock outline, and to put down the headstock inlays. Want pictures?

... TOO BAD! 'Cause Doug and Andrew did all that over the weekend while I was gone. Thanks, guys. *shameface*

Skipping lightly over the NO PICTURES for that section - time to add inlays!

The tackle box of many inlays and a Kauer logo!

The tackle box of many inlays and a Kauer logo!

The inlays are the small pearloid dots in the bottom right of the tackle box pictured above. They're superglued so they're just at the surface of the fretboard, and then they're leveled and radiused along with the rest of the fretboard for a smooth playing surface. Speaking of leveling and radiusing...

Radius block party

Radius block party

This is the radius block, a chunk of aluminum with a perfect cutout of a 12" radius circle running its whole length. With a piece of sticky-backed sandpaper applied by Andrew and some furious stroking by me (there go Doug's website stats again) the fretboard is radiused and the tool marks from the CNC are removed.

Do NOT grab this stuff instead of TP. Don't ask me how I know this.

Do NOT grab this stuff instead of TP. Don't ask me how I know this.

"Commence to rubbin', you just keep on rubbin' on that same old thing" - John Lee "Sonny Boy" Williamson, "Rub-a-Dub"

"Commence to rubbin', you just keep on rubbin' on that same old thing" - John Lee "Sonny Boy" Williamson, "Rub-a-Dub"

To make sure of the success of the 'leveling' part of leveling and radiusing, Andrew uses a super-accurate straightedge (made by Stewart Macdonald for this specific purpose) to look for high or low spots. 

Andrew does MORE SCIENCE

Andrew does MORE SCIENCE

Last step involves a final rubdown (heh) with a fairly fine piece of sandpaper and a sanding sponge.

SO! Radiused and leveled fretboard, but on a square neck with no frets.. Next step? Fret slots. You'll have to wait for the next installment - it involves SHARKS and LASERS. I'm not even making that up.

Sharks with frickin' lasers beams attached to their heads

Sharks with frickin' lasers beams attached to their heads

Dave Segal5 Comments