So You Want to Build a Guitar? Pt. 4
Welcome back to our series on building a Step 2
guitar. Last month we spent our first day For drilling tooling holes, I use a 1/2” thick
gluing our guitar’s sections together. By the Plexiglas template with two 3/4” drill bush-
end of the day two, we want the fretboard ings and a centerline scribed to align. The
and headstock veneer glued in place. fixture has two screw holes located out of
the work area – use two wood screws to
keep it in place and drill through the holes
with a drill press.
We will surface sand the front and rear
flat, with the rear being of most concern.
We want a final thickness of 1.915”. If you
don’t have access to a wide belt sander,
try your local door/cabinet workshop, or
even a school woodshop. If there’s enough
material to sand the front and rear, great!
The body face will be later planed down to
1.780”, with the neck face at 1.895” when
We now need to create our headstock
angle. This can be whatever you want – flat
and offset to the fretboard surface like a
Fender design or a pitched headstock of
your choice angle, like a Gibson. I am using
a 12-degree cut with a 5/8” ball end mill.
This can be bandsawed and edge sanded
just as easily.
route the channel, anchor hole and the
opening at the headstock. Keep in mind,
you can reverse the rod installation and
put the adjusting area at the butt end;
it doesn’t have to be at the headstock.
Once routed, lube the rod with beeswax
to keep glue from sticking and install.
Bending the rod to match the channel’s
shape is a key element to not loading
your neck with tension.
Whether building with a bandsaw, pin router, hand-held or CNC router, tooling holes
located in your templates that are universally located for front and rear routing aid
in the accurate alignment of all machining
operations. Leo Fender used 1/8” tooling
pins in their bodies and necks. Suppliers
offering a variety of template kits for DIY
guitar building – including 1/4” templates
with every detail needed to build – can be
easily located. If you draw your own CAD
templates, a blueprint shop can plot prints
to the exact size, which you can adhere to
Masonite with adhesive spray. Bandsaw,
route and sand to the final size with draw-ing/dimensions as a reference.
The truss rod slot will vary based upon
the dimensions of the rod used – most
will have specs included. I use a custom-made rod installed in a 7/32” round bottom
channel, which matches the truss rod size
without binding. The channel can be routed
with a plunge router or table router. A fixture with arc’ed guide rails can be made
for a vintage rod; some use a flat bottom
channel. Using a thin, metal yardstick on
edge, bend the stick to create your arc,
based on the depths needed for the rod
used (start, middle and end points of
depth). I use a 7/32” ball nose cutter to
Installed above the rod is a 7/32” wide,
1/2” tall, X long (length of slot) fillet. This
fillet matches the channel’s arc, glued only
on the sides. Make sure not to get any
excess glue between the fillet and rod
– don’t force it, as it may split your neck
later. I use a few Quick Grip clamps, light
pressure and make sure the fillet is pulled
all the way in to avoid rod rattle. An hour is
all you need before pulling the clamps and
surfacing the fillet flush.
Unfortunately, we’re out of space, but next
month we’ll get the headstock veneer and
fretboard glued in place.
Any questions or comments visit
Fine Tuned Instruments LLC, home of his “b3” instruments.