This is how I cut a scarf jointed neck

Discussion in 'Luthier's Corner' started by wilser, Jun 18, 2005.

  1. Hello,
    inspired by Scott French's great tutorial on carving a top, I thought it would be a good idea to do a series of several different techniques each of us use for different things. Hopefully this will inspire others in here to post pictorials on the way they do things and in the way help us all do things better or inspire new ideas.

    This is how I cut a scarf joint:

    1) First thing is to mark the victim. I really take my time, generally spend a couple of hours the night before I cut things measuring, marking and then measuring a couple more times. A mistake cutting the neck could ruin an expensive piece of wood (you did get the best wood possible for your neck, didn't you?). I mark the diagonal line using the tool you see below. I cut my scarf at 13 deg.
    [​IMG] [​IMG] [​IMG] [​IMG]

    2) Then I use japanese and german handsaws to 'rough cut' the diagonal line maked on the side of the neck all the way through. I use a caul to help me cut a straight line. It helps, but it is very difficult to get it right by hand. Those who have the equipment can use a bandsaw or tablesaw. Don't sweat it too much if the cut is not straight or too clean as you'll have to level both surfaces later anyway ...might just be a little more work planing if it's not straight.
    [​IMG] [​IMG]

    3) Here you can see that it's very easy to cut an UNEVEN scarf.
    [​IMG] [​IMG]

    4) I got this neck blank wider than needed because I plan to make 2 necks out of it. My supplier doesn't like it, I'll keep him anonymous for his benefit. I cut the scarf first because the neck blank was not wide enough for the headstock of both necks. I'll use another piece of wood for the headstock of the second neck.
    [​IMG] [​IMG]

    5) I marked the thickness of the headstock, the top part will be removed by means of router planing.

    6) I've always used a block plane to level the scarf. This is my first wenge neck and it was proving very difficult to do this by hand. So I got lazy and instead of spending the night sweating (it's already too hot in VA) I just cut a couple of pieces of MDF and made a scarf joint jig for my router. I left this to dry overnight and went to watch a movie.
    [​IMG] [​IMG]

    7) The next day I made the router slade and clamped the neck blank and headstock for routing with the new jig. Then routed away.
    [​IMG] [​IMG]

    8) I dry clamp the 2 pieces to test the fit. Not too bad, the jig worked great!

    9) Then I glue and clamp and let dry overnight. I use two staples trimmed to leave little studs on the waste side of the blank. This helps align and prevents glue slipping problems.
    [​IMG] [​IMG]

    10) This morning I removed the clamps, scraped a little, and it's done! came out great!
    [​IMG] [​IMG]

    Now, who's gonna do the next one?
  2. Worshiper


    Aug 13, 2004
    New York
    wow..great tutorial. I never thought of cutting it by hand. I made a jig and used a table saw. Great idea.
  3. PasdaBeer


    Nov 2, 2002
    Santa Rosa California
    SandStorm Designs
    very interesting....ive been trying to figure out how im gonna scarf joint a 6 inch wide neck blank for a 6 string im working on here and there. This should help a lot , never thought of using my router!
  4. haha, when i first saw you said you usually plane by hand with a block and then saw that it was a wenge neck i thought "hes gotta be kidding me...." ive spent the last month searchin for ways to level my scarf cuz no hand meathod is worth it but DOH! i never thought of a router! maybe ill actually make some neck progress tommorow...
  5. Thats how I do it. I cut the scarf with a bandsaw but I have the same jig for my router. Good stuff!
  6. Nice. Very helpful. I'm (actually my brother-in-law and I) new to building. Is there a benefit to this method over just having a blank that is thick enough to cut the angled headstock out of it and having one piece? I can see where aesthetically (especially if there is an accent layer between the two) this method could be much nicer.

  7. Yes, this is actually my first neck with that jig. I hand planed all my previous necks. It's not hard at all on maple. I even did my first neck, Ipe/Jatoba, this way. Wenge is just too brittle and hard. The plane iron was very sharp and could only make slight dust when set for light cuts and just jammed up when set for a bigger cut.
  8. There are two obvious benefits to this method:

    1. stock waste. you can take a 3/4" or even thinner piece of wood and make a neck out of it. With a piece that is thick enough for 1 neck using the other method, you can actually make 3 or 4 necks using this method.

    2. No short grain, which makes for a stronger headstock. If you cut the angled headstock from one piece, you'll get 'short grain'. that means the grain of the wood will run almost perpendicular to the headstock face, which makes for a much weaker headstock. Of course, this could be minimized by glueing a face plate over the headstock (or even one over and one under).

    Personally, I like this method better. For me, it is easier as I have done it enough times to be very comfortable with it. Besides, just as you said, you can get some really nice creative effects by using a scarf jointed headstock.
  9. I agree with wilser.

    I put a laminate over the face so the line where the pieces join doesn't show. It also adds some additional strength to the joint.
  10. Luke Sheridan

    Luke Sheridan Commercial User

    Dec 30, 2004
    Yonkers, NY
    I build guitars and sell them. Strings, too
    Wilser. Thanks, this is great. Would you want to share instructions on how to construct the router jig?
  11. not to mention buying one 1x3xwhatever neck blank is a lot cheaper than buying 3, or a 3x3xwhatever blank
  12. sure, I took some left over 3/4" MDF and drew one wall side on it. Rough cut it, then used the router and straight edges to trim it to final size. Then I took another piece and used the first one as a template. Then a 7x36 piece was squared (rectangled?) and had the two walls glued on it. I cut one of the ends of the 7x36 at about 1" and used that as the support block you see on top. Clamped everything up and left overnight. After that, I drilled and sawed out a 1" section so the clamps can go in and hold the wood while it's routed. It's very simple, only took me about 35 mins to build.

    Here's a higher res pic (remember, this is scrap mdf):
  13. Great stuff! Now since you have a blank with a scarf joint, are you just going to continue the thread and walk us through a neck build up? :hyper: :hyper: :hyper: :hyper: :hyper: :hyper:
  14. nateo

    nateo Schubie Fan #1

    Mar 2, 2003
    Ottawa, Ontario
    I was just about to defret a friend's bass. I could take a few pics and show just what kind of hack work I do.

  15. Now we're moving!
    Great! please do, I'm sure all this stuff is helpful for a lot of people. I was about to carve a top when Scott posted his tutorial I'm gonna use his methods. I hope someone is inspired by what I posted, and further more, someone will be inspired by your defret tutorial.

    More volunteers please.
  16. Did you say you were volunteering to finish that neck build? :hyper: :hyper: :hyper:
  17. i must say yesterday i used this to make my scarf joint and it worked great, now its gonna take me another month to find ways to cut out and carve this neck, it seems like everything used on every other wood just wont work on wenge, either that or it takes forever. we'll see how it goes
  18. Scott French

    Scott French Dude Supporting Member

    May 12, 2004
    Grass Valley, CA
    ehiunno, With a rasp I actually find a wenge neck easier to carve than hard maple.

    Cool post wilser. I actually use the simpliest/lamest technique for this... Cut the angle freehand on the band saw then get it close on the edge sander. I true them up with a scraper and pin them just like my fingerboard glueups: with a bamboo toothpick.
  19. ArtisFallen


    Jul 21, 2004
    i noticed every Alembic is made this way. they get really creative with their headstocks. they use all sorts of layerd veneers and different woods before they glue it all together. it's quite amazing to look at.
  20. Techmonkey


    Sep 4, 2004
    Wales, UK
    Would it matter if my headstock and neck were the same width when I glued them together? So if I got the blank, drew the neck in, but didn't cut it, created the scarf joint, then cut the neck up to where the headstock starts?