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To scarf, or not to scarf?

Discussion in 'Luthier's Corner' started by Joey.Ogden, Sep 9, 2008.


  1. Joey.Ogden

    Joey.Ogden

    Aug 11, 2008
    I have arrived at a dilemma. My peice of wood for the neck and headstock is about 1 7/16" thick. I was originally planning on doing a scarf jointed headstock, but after looking at loads of pictures, I've realized that many of fender's headstocks are carved out rather than scarf jointed. With my tool set, carving the headstock would be far far easier than jointing it.

    But how does one go about doing such a thing? Should I carve it so it's on a slight angle, or flat? Should the initial dive be very deep or no? What are the good/bad things about this design? And I guess most importantly, is it a good idea?:confused:

    Ignore the periods lol. its the only way i could get my diagram to work. :p
    .............................__________________
    ..................dive-->/
    _________________/.....__________________
    |___________________/
     
  2. i feel that scarfing is best for long headstocks (4 a side, or extended range basses). flat works well until the headstock is so long that it needs string t's to keep a reasonable angle over the fretboard. 2 a side basses with a lay back headstock work great, and are easy to make.
     
  3. asad137

    asad137

    Jan 18, 2007
    Minneapolis
    Physicist
    There's always string trees/retainers.

    Asad
     
  4. uprightben

    uprightben

    Nov 3, 2006
    Boone, NC
    The only problem with the carved style you've illustrated is the way the grain will run out, which is actually illustrated by the periods in your drawing! You need to assess how likley your wood is to crack along the grain lines, maple is usualy pretty strong in that respect.
     
  5. XylemBassGuitar

    XylemBassGuitar Supporting Member Commercial User

    Aug 14, 2008
    Durango, CO
    Owner and Operator, Xylem Handmade Basses and Guitars
    Joey.Ogden,

    You'll be fine if you carve out the headstock like Fender does. I'd take a look at some Fenders in person to get an idea of how to design and cut the "dive." I'd copy their design pretty close for your first bass, then play around a little bit with the design when you are a little more confident. You'll probably want to install string trees with this design.

    BUT, if you are good with a block plane, I'd highly recommend making a scarf joint. Cumpiano and Natelson's book Guitarmaking Tradition and Technology has a very good, detailed guide on making a scarf joint.

    One headstock design is not necessarily "better" than the other, they're just different. An advantage to the scarf joint is the steep angle you can make, increasing sustain. An advantage to the Fender headstock is its relative ease of fabrication.
     
  6. what i was saying, was refering to them as string t's. they are a fix to a problem, but a scarf or shorter headstock avoids the problem.
     
  7. Joey.Ogden

    Joey.Ogden

    Aug 11, 2008
    it's a pretty short headstock with two per side. And my monster maple neck should help compansate for the grain runoff. That said, the runoff is in a direction which is hard to break off anyways. I'm gonna measure up the J-Bass and go for the ease of fabrication.

    And I'm guessing string tees can be bought at music stores? the one in my area is pretty good for selection on parts. If not, I'll just make my own. They seem eerily similar to a washer or nut... lol.

    Thanks for the advice :)
     
  8. asad137

    asad137

    Jan 18, 2007
    Minneapolis
    Physicist
    Oops, somehow I missed that, sorry. I for one think string trees are fine, and probably a reasonable tradeoff for the ease of construction. Neither of my basses have tilt-back headstocks and they work fine with string trees..

    The circular ones actually have slots on the underside so the strings don't slip out. A bar-type string retainer (see Sadowsky 5-strings, for example) is even simpler.

    Asad
     
  9. XylemBassGuitar

    XylemBassGuitar Supporting Member Commercial User

    Aug 14, 2008
    Durango, CO
    Owner and Operator, Xylem Handmade Basses and Guitars
    You should post pics of your build when you're finished Joey.Ogden.
     
  10. Joey.Ogden

    Joey.Ogden

    Aug 11, 2008
    I'll make sure to. these forums have been alot of help.

    And I know the majority of string trees have slots, but I am currently holding in my hand a fender jazz which has no slots on the tree. it works just fine, the tree is just slightly wider than normal.
     

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