Making a Guitar Neck and Fretboard By Hand

you know I'm fretting a little bit about

people being bored during this video all

right I know it's been a little while

since I've posted a video on my channel

so thank you for sticking with me and I

want to talk a little bit about what

I've been up to lately but I'll do that

at the end for now

let's get into this so I just finished

building my third guitar and I actually

just posted a full build video on the

forest furniture YouTube channel so go

check that out if you haven't seen it

yet you can even go watch that now if

you just promise to come back and finish

watching this they probably aren't

coming back are they

anyways the full build video kind of

glosses over a lot of things and there's

just so much detail in making a guitar

neck and fretboard from scratch that I

figured I would go a bit more in depth

with this video so I've made two other

guitars in the past but for both of

those I've used pre-made necks and at

this point I figured it was time to dive

in and give making my own a shot and I

figured I could make this video as kind

of giving a first-timers perspective in

case there's somebody else that has been

thinking about giving it a try as well

so the first step is to cut a template

and trace it onto your neck blank and as

you can see here I have a centerline

marked on my template the centerline

might be the most important part in all

of this as everything is in relation to

that line with everything traced out I

could figure out where my nut was going

to be and from there I could figure out

where my truss rod would be installed as

you want the end of the truss rod to be

pretty much in line with the nut the

truss rod needs to be a perfect fit when

installed into the neck to work properly

and the one I was using was 7/32 of an

inch thick but luckily I had a router

bit that was exactly that size so I used

my router table to get the majority of

the cavity

out from there I could fine tune it and

of course the tightening nut at the top

of the truss rod was slightly wider so I

had to do a little chiseling to get it

right not too bad and I was able to get

a perfect fit with the truss rod in I no

longer needed my neck blank to be square

and parallel so I could first rough-cut

the next shape then get it to final

dimension with my template and a flush

trim bit



with the neck at a good point I could

start working on the fretboard which is

very possibly the most difficult thing

that I've ever made difficult not

impossible so I started with a piece of

bird's-eye maple that was a bit wider

and a bit longer than my finished

fretboard size with all four corners

square and with that I'm ready to start

cutting my fret slots getting the frets

perfectly spaced is extremely important

and you can find proper fret spacings on

line but they're not easily measured

distances so I opted for getting a fret

spacing ruler which took all of the

guesswork out of it with my frets marked

I used a square and a marking knife to

establish a line that I could easily

start a saw kerf in and at this point

the fret slots don't need to be cut to a

certain depth as I will dial that in

after I have radiused the fretboard so

all fret boards have some sort of radius

to them and it's usually a matter of

personal preference but I decided to go

with a twelve inch radius for mine which

is fairly flat there are different ways

to radius a fretboard but I decided to

go with a sanding block with the proper

radius carved into it you can buy these

pre-made but I figured I would have Greg

knock one out for me to sand in the

radius accurately I attached to guide

rails to my table saw with double-sided

tape then did the same thing with my

fret board making sure to line up my

centerline on the fretboard with the

center line between the guide rails


with the fretboard radius I could

finally glue it to the neck the

fretboard needs to be glued to the neck

extremely accurately so that all of the

frets are perpendicular to the

centerline and so that the nut lines up

with where we had it marked originally

and a way to do this accurately is to

use two small locator pins so that the

fretboard doesn't slide around when

gluing up you also want to prevent as

much glue as possible from going into

the truss rod cavity so some blue tape

is used to cover it up when applying the

glue and then removed just before

clamping once the glue had dried I could

then flush trim the fretboard to the

neck then start shaping everything and I

started with the headstock the headstock

needed to be trimmed down so that the

strings are pulled over the nut when on

the guitar and I use my table saw to cut

away the majority then use my spindle

sander with a fence clamp to it so I

could sand in the transition to the


with the headstock shape I could drill a

hole for access to the truss rod and

this is where I made my first big

mistake I don't really know what I was

thinking but I drilled way too low and

actually went underneath the truss rod I

didn't go all the way through so I

plugged that hole and REE drilled and

the crisis seemed to be averted but I

promise you it will come back to bite me

soon you'll see at this point I was

ready to start carving the neck and

again the shape of the neck is very much

based on personal preference but one of

the techniques to get an even neck car

is to first carve the shape at both the

first fret and the 12th fret by hand

this makes it much easier to get it

right and to get those fairly close to

the finished shape then you essentially

use whatever method you want to carve

the space between those two frets


I was able to mostly do that especially

as it was my first time doing this but I

did go a little too far at the 12th fret

so I have a slight indentation in the

finish neck also remember just a minute

ago when I said that truss rod hole I

drilled would come back to bite me well

it did and when I was carving the neck

I found that hole on the bottom side not

the worst thing in the world but

certainly not the best I could then

drill in some holes into the headstock

for the tuners as well as drill some

small holes on the side of the fretboard

for the side dots


and from there it was time to put in the

frets and the first thing I needed to do

was cut the fret slots to their final

death you can see here the piece of tape

on my saw blade indicates how deep I

should be cutting I then needed to bend

my fret wire and they sell fret wire

benders online but they are pretty

expensive I was able to buy the parts

for this for like $6 they're all parts

that are used for sliding doors so I

think I saved like 130 bucks not bad

there was a little bit of experimenting

with where to place the wheels to get

the bend right but you essentially want

to bend the fret wire slightly more than

the radius of your fretboard and I was

pretty much able to get just that I then

went about hammering the frets and this

might have been the most difficult part

for me I think it probably could have

used a better hammer for this and a lot

of what I read online said that setting

the frets after carving the neck would

be difficult and I can see why trying to

support the rounded side of the neck

enough to hammer in the frets was not

easy so I think if I were to do this

again I would definitely hammer in the

frets before carving the neck another

overpriced tool for guitar making are

the fret end cutters they are

essentially regular end cutters that

have been ground down so that you can

trim the fret right up against the

fretboard so I figured I would just make

some myself


from here it's all just fine-tuning the

frets so I started by chamfering the

ends and rounding them over they make

fret end files that are angled to get

this chamfer just right but I just used

my leveling beam and held it at an angle

that I thought looked good each fret

then needs to have its end rounded over

and all of this is just so that there

aren't any sharp edges against your hand

while playing I bought a small fret end

file for this which was very useful as

it has one smooth edge that won't Mar

the fretboard as you're doing this from

there the frets essentially need to be

leveled as hand hammering in frets will

never be perfect and I know mine

certainly weren't so the first thing is

to make sure the fretboard is perfectly

flat by adjusting the truss rod next I

masked off the areas in between the

frets to protect the fretboard then mark

the top edge of each fret to help

indicate where the high and low spots

are while leveling then it's just a

matter of using a perfectly flat surface

to sand or file the frets and in my case

I'm using a leveling beam


once the frets are level they'll most

likely have a flat spot on the top of

each one so they need to be shaped again

so a bit more marker on each one then by

using a triangular file you can slowly

bring them back to the desired shape the

marker will show when you've rounded the

fret to the top center of each one when

there's just a thin line of ink left

after the frets are back in shape some

fine sanding and polishing can get the

frets smooth and shiny and the final

thing to do with the neck before getting

everything put together is to install

the nut the nut slot needs to be cut to

the exact width of your nut material and

it also needs to be cut flat across the

fretboard instead of following the

radius I just used a couple small

chisels to cut out the recess then set

the nut in place by taking a pencil

that's been cut in half I can mark a

line that's even with the height of my

first fret then sand the nut to just

above that line I then glued the nut in

place with just a bit of CA glue then

got strings onto the guitar with the

strings in place I could file in the

individual string slots into the nut

using special nut slotting files I

assumed this could be done with other

tools but having the proper width files

really took all the guesswork out of it


and with that the neck was finished all

right thank you as always for watching I

really appreciate it hope you enjoyed

this one like I mentioned at the

beginning I know I haven't been posting

much here but that's because I have

teamed up with Chris Salamone over at

four-eyes furniture I have been posting

videos on his channel lately and we're

hoping to maybe get some stuff going on

here but go subscribe to his channel if

you aren't already but just to explain a

little bit about what we're doing we

figured that by working together we can

offer so much more to everybody more

videos and more content and more things

outside of YouTube like plans on top of

that we're also just trying to make this

whole thing more sustainable for both of

us designing and building a brand-new

piece of furniture a few times a month

is crazy but then on top of that

producing and filming and editing these

videos is even crazier so by going at it

together we are trying to make this

whole thing a much more long-term

endeavor for both of us all right

short and sweet let me know if you have

any questions or any guitar making tips

I'm still learning obviously and go

check out the full build on Chris's

channel alright that's it for now until

next time like I said at the beginning

while making this video I was spreading

about people being bored but hopefully

at least some of this will possibly

strike a chord

I used that pun in the other video -

sorry that's all I got