Friday, December 16, 2011

Brendan’s Mandolin Part VIII

The last piece of woodwork that I do is to shape the neck. I like leaving the neck square until the end as it makes fretting easier- the flat back of the neck blank can supported to stop it bouncing and the instrument can be held in a vice to work on the frets. Also with the fingerboard finished, you can get a better feel of what the neck will be like.

Spokeshaves and rasps are the tools that I prefer for this.

Whilst the mandolin can be held in the vice, I rough shape the heel and nut area, and then I work on the middle section.

On my more recent necks I tend to keep the depth of the neck constant from the nut towards the heel and take more material away from the heel area. To my mind this gives easier access to the higher frets. Compare my finished heel with this plan for a Gibson style mandolin.

I think that many luthiers feel that by removing too much wood in the heel area the neck will be weakened. However, consider the length of a bolt on electric guitar neck and how thin, long and strong they are. This is one the reason I’ve enjoyed making a variety of fretted instruments over the years- everything feeds back into your pool of experience.
As the neck is the last phase of construction I keep working on it until it’s ready for polishing and then clean-up and prepare the rest of the instrument.
When you’re using a cork sanding block this size and 500 silicon carbide paper you know that you’re nearing the end....

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