Is a "Scarf joint" absolutely necessary?

Discussion in 'Luthier's Corner' started by Arnie, Apr 23, 2012.

  1. Arnie


    May 14, 2005
    Kingston, NY
    My built up neck thru has enough depth on it to actually cut the head stock angle out without making a scarf cut. Doing a scarf scares the hell out of me even though I sent some cheap sacrificial lumber to the saw blade. The cuts needed a lot of clean up.

    So could I just cut the angle out of the stock?
  2. Rickett Customs

    Rickett Customs Commercial User

    Jul 30, 2007
    Southern Maryland
    Luthier: Rickett
    That depends, on the angle that you plan on using on the headstock...... on a non-scarfed piece, (IMO, IME) I would not do any more than a 12 degree, although I normally do an 8 degree to 10 degree myself. Just remember that you are exposing more end grain of the wood, with the more that you angle it, you can however do the 13 degree, but you may want to consider capping the front and back of the headstock with veneers (that would strengthen it slightly).
  3. Big B.

    Big B.

    Dec 31, 2007
    Austin, TX
    I do both scarfed and non scarfed necks depending on what the instrument and the thickness of materials allow. Volutes are a common fix for reinforcing the short grain in a non scarfed angle. Personally I despise the feel and look of a volute so I route in my support rods so they run through the joint and out the headstock end like the truss rod slot. I then work them flush to the angle before I apply the headstock veneer. That being said I owned a Roscoe fretless 6 for years with a non scarfed neck. I had no more problems with it than I did with my fretted 6 Roscoe 6 with a scarfed neck. The neck on that fretless was super thin and it never had any issues.
  4. You can definitely cut it out of what you have built up. I made a neck out of poplar (with lots of reinforcement) and it hasn't had any issues.
    Not sure how many builders do it, but I do know my Pedulla is made the same way. No laminates on top or bottom either.

    Having made it that way, I'd probably do the scarf joint next time. It saves alot of wood.
  5. rythman6969


    May 29, 2007
    most definitely not . my favorite builders all do non-scarfed neck/headstocks.
    I for one can not stand the look or idea of a scarf joint. and having anymore angle than a few degrees doesnt seem to do anything. I have basses with 13 degree headstock and basses with 1 or 2 degrees. No noticeable difference in sound or playability.
  6. Musiclogic

    Musiclogic Commercial User

    Aug 6, 2005
    Southwest Michigan
    Owner/Builder: HJC Customs USA, The Cool Lute, C G O
    I have been doing non scarfed necks for years, never had a problem, I do like doing stacked headstocks now with veneered tops and backs for added substrate strength as Jason said above, but have done without for many years before that with no real problems for me or my customers. If you worry about dropping and snapping the headstock, you can add a headplate or a couple veneers on each side to stiffen it up.
  7. Arnie


    May 14, 2005
    Kingston, NY
    Well I said "Screw it" and did my scarf cut... I was cringing cutting into $100.00 worth of board.... but it turned out better than I had hoped.

    Boy my table saw was crying and blowing smoke. I had a good freud diablo blade on it also but it still choked. However my table saw is an old delta / rockwell with a 1 or 1.5 hp motor.

    Pics to come..

    I appreciate all of the advice guys, thanks so much.
  8. mikebpeters

    mikebpeters Guest

    Aug 29, 2011
    NS, Canada
    I feel your pain brother. I had a hobbiest blade on my saw that used to smoke and fuss at a full hardwood cut. I just replaced that blade with a professional grade cabinetery thin kerf blade and what a world of difference. Makes a cut so smooth you can glue it straight up - if it is straight of course :)