Friday, December 29, 2006

Head Joint

The neck and head are now made. The photo above shows the scarf joint; the head is cut from the neck blank at an angle, flipped over and glued back on, giving the correct angle for the head.

It is essential that the head is made this way (or a variation of this method) and that the profile of the neck and head is not cut from a single piece of wood, this results in short grain running through the head and any impact is liable to snap the head off. When I was at College in the 1970’s, I use to do all the repair work for “The Spanish Guitar Shop” in London’s Fulham Road. The most common repair was a broken head, always on cheap Spanish guitars, constructed in this way.

You can also see in the photo a strip of rosewood running down the neck. I always laminate my necks, I feel that the result is a much more stable neck and the stripe effect looks nice! Even if I don’t use a stripe, I will often cut the wood to relieve any stresses, plane it flat and glue it back together. The small holes that you can see in the photo are for wooden pins, these allow the head veneer to be held perfectly in alignment with the neck whilst it’s being glued on.
I’m surprised how many luthiers are using v-joints on their classicals’ necks. The reason for using a v-joint on early guitars was to keep the joint in compression and not stress the glue; however modern glues are much stronger and more reliable and this joint is unnecessary from a structural point of view.

It does however, look good and shows off the luthier’s skill. What concerns me (and this is the reason that I don’t use it) is that there is a fair amount of end grain, being stuck to end grain and that is not good. Woodworkers always avoid this as the glue is absorbed up the wood’s pores, as sap would be, and therefore, it doesn’t do its job. Torres used the scarf joint on his guitars and if it’s good enough for him…….
You can see below the finished head.

When making a guitar you don’t just work on one element at a time so, the soundboard and back are being braced at the same time too.
The wood for the fan bracing is spilt from a billet to ensure that the grain is dead straight and running the length of the brace. I’m not going to say too much about the soundboard; I like to have some secrets!


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