Summer Uke Build #18: Fitting the neck

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Blog entry by onoitsmatt posted 02-25-2017 09:15 PM 875 reads 0 times favorited 0 comments Add to Favorites Watch
« Part 17: Neck Mortise Part 18 of Summer Uke Build series Part 19: Rough Shaping Neck and Aligning Fingerboard »

My initial attempt to fit the neck was a utter failure. The mortise and tenon fit pretty well, though the shoulders of the tenon were not flush with the body. So I tweaked and tweaked the shoulders some more trying to get a good fit. This resulted in breaking the heel of the neck, regluing, then cleaning up too much on one side, then cleaning the other to match, which invariably lead to more difficulties. After all of this, I wound up nibbling down the joint to where I really needed a new neck in the end. I also noticed that the mortise is just slightly angled from top right to bottom left which makes the neck sit slightly twisted (one side sits higher than the other) where it meets the body.

Ultimately I took a mediocre neck and decent though not great mortise and tenon and made it significantly worse. Here’s the end result in all its gappy glory:

Anyway, I wasn’t crazy about the doug fir neck anyway and was able top pick up some S4S mahogany that is 3/4 and 24” long, which is plenty to make a new neck blank.

I also decided to make a jig to rout the tenon on the new neck. All of my practice runs on with the new jig yielded substandard results so I went with free-hand sawing the tenon like I had done on the previous neck.

The results were promising:

Though this looked nice, there was still the matter of the “twist” so I glued some additional material to the tenon so I could carve the tenon to match the angle of the mortise. This worked out well, but when all was said and done, the neck/body joint developed a bit of a wobble. So once Again I began removing material to correct for the wobble. The more I removed, the worse things got So am back to this business again. Fortunately, I made this neck blank with plenty of room for tweaking. I should be able to lop off the tenon and start over three times before running out of room to re-do it. In the meantime, I am going to keep nibbling at it to get it to work (hopefully without having to recut the tenon.

At the moment I am taking a break while some glue dries from some tear-out I have going on from all the nibbling at this endgrain. I should probably hone a new edge on my favorite chisel while I’m waiting.

Glue is dry, tear-out continued, but all in places that will be covered by the fingerboard, so not going to worry about it.

The neck fits well enough, so decided to go ahead and get the dry fit going and will fret the fingerboard and attach it and shape the neck next.

I’m using a barrel nut to secure the neck to the body. I drilled a hole in the body first fairly well centered on the neck block. Then I put the bolt through the hole and colored the tip of it with a pencil to use as a means of marking the exact spot on the neck where the hole needs to be drilled.

Then I drilled the hole in the neck through the tenon.

And then the hole for the barrel nut. I wanted the hole to be hidden from view, so drilled it down through the top of the neck where it will be covered by the fingerboard. The only issue is that I’ll need to glue the fingerboard down after installing the neck because I’ll need access to the barrel nut when attaching the neck to ensure I get the bolt secured easily. If the fingerboard is already glued down, I won’t have access to the barrel nut anymore. The tear-out is clearly visible here too.

And here is the neck fitted with the bolt tightened a bit. There’s still some slop in one side:

The heel looks pretty snug, though my “center seam” in the back isn’t actually centered, which is a little more obvious with the neck in place.

And here’s the bolt (fairly easily tightened) through the soundhole.

Next will be figuring out the best order for installing frets in the fingerboard (before or after gluing to the neck). Will also need to redo the scarf joint for the headstock, since this neck hasn’t had that done yet (like the old doug fir neck). And then shaping the neck to look more like a neck.

Feeling like i’m on the home stretch, though the fretwork will be tedious and still need to get the bridge placement figured out, glued-up. And lots of other finishing touches like trim, nut, saddle, headstock veneer, finishing and final setup.

-- Matt - Phoenix, AZ

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