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This has probably been covered in depth before and if so, please point me in the right direction.  I keep getting stuck on what order to build and assemble the parts of the neck.  Is it preferable to glue and finish the neck/bridge then cut the fret slots, mount the frets before finishing, etc. I like the idea of doing the frets last, but one bad cut and a lot of work goes down the drain.  if I wait to spray the finish last, then I get lacquer over the frets, and I don't like that either. What's the best way? 

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If the neck tapers, cut the slots while the board is still square.

Only mark the positions and finish first, then cut the slots to depth and mount the frets.

A separate fingerboard works for me, Tape the top of the neck to keep the finish off the glue area.

A lot of players like bare wood on the fingerboard.

My method:

Cut neck to basic size - rough sand

Cut heel, which goes from neck butt to just outside box

Glue feet to heel piece - oversize so they can be cut to proper height later (feet will rest on box bottom)

Shape heel/front foot, glue to neck

Attach headstock wings and/or cut & glue scarf joint

Cut fretboard to basic size

Using belt sander on both, match width of fretboard to neck

Using belt sander or router or spokeshave shape back of neck

Shape headstock (bandsaw?)

Drill tuner holes

Final hand sand neck back & headstock & fretboard

Cut box for neck and dry fit - sand or cut feet to proper height

- - > Feet/neck should contact top & bottom edges of the box snugly

* * Using my method the neck slot goes from top to bottom of box

Drill any screw mounting holes if needed

Cut 'scoop' on neck that's inside the box so it doesn't contact box top except on outer edges

Apply tru-oil to neck, except where it mates to the fretboard

Cut fret slots

Apply lemon oil or grape seed oil to fretboard top & sides

Install frets

Glue fretboard to neck using Titebond - wipe ALL EXCESS GLUE with wet rag before it dries

A thin coat of glue is all that's needed

- - - > TIP: sprinkle a few grains of salt or sand into glue to keep fretboard from shifting when clamped

Install neck to box

Install tuners & nut


More progress pics when this build is finished...

Ted, you make a reference to a "heel".  But I don't see a tailpiece  I can understand this since the "heel"  butts up against the box from the inside, and the neck gets additional support from gluing the feet to the bottom.  But for the most part most of my designs have a through-the-box tailpiece.  As such, do I need the additional support/weight/work of the feet for a 3- string?

I also saw where you'rer suggesting Tru-Oil for the neck.  I really like that idea. It not only can save me a lot of headache waiting for warmer, dryer weather but also some aggravation of having dust settle on a fresh coat of laquer or urethane.  A

lot of my necks are poplar.  Can I get a bright enough shine or gloss from such a soft wood, or should I soak it with a thin Super-Glue before a final sanding & buffing? 

By the heel I mean the curved end of the doubled up part of the neck that sticks out of the box under where the fretboard ends.  I double the fretboard for strength when I eventually cut notches for the pickups.  It also adds weight to the box for better balance and it just feels good to have some weight to the instrument.

The builds I use this method for tend to be serious.  You can certainly get by without the reinforced and braced neck like those above for a simple neck through.  Most all of the ones on that 70 instrument job I did were a simple neck thru like you described.

I don't use poplar and can't give you an answer about the tru-oil finish.  You'll still have to worry about dust, etc because in cooler weather it takes longer to dry - hours.  I'm actually thinking of switching to clear lacquer to get them done quicker.

Thanx for the comeback Ted.  I started learning and gathering materials & info about CBGs back in the summer of 2011, after hearing John McNair's Delta Blues Classic and gathering a personal library of CBG blues, gospel and country.  I got a neighbor excited about the sound, in June of this year and although he knew almost nothing (like me) about gits, he jumped right in and began building.  I realized at that point, if I didn't start, I'd always be a wannabe.  So I jumped in and ended up with a 3-string git on a 26" scale that another git player hounded me until I sold it to him (regretfully, it was my first and a good one).  Regrets are now centered on two areas. 1- I didn't jump right in from the git-go.  You learn so much by making mistakes and trying to correct for them.  2 -  I didn't find the clubhouse earlier.  I can't express the appreciation I have for having you and other "learned" members as my mentors.    

To you, Ted, and all of you fellow members who throw out these valued suggestions and critiques, I thank you from the heart.


"i may grow older, but i'll never grow up!"

There is a saw called a "Fret" saw that's the right size for Dunlop, StewMac, and other brands of fretwire.

Fret saw is the one with the blue handle, Vermont American blades measure .023.

I mark the slot with a pocket knife. There is a "Marking Knife". It is ground at 45 degrees in two directions at the tip so it can cut in both directions.

Then I use an Exaco Knife with a block of wood clamped to it for a depth gauge to rough out the slot.

I don't usually finish fretboards - I like the feel of bare wood when I'm playing - If you choose to finish, now is the time.

Followed by the fret saw.

Cutting til the back of the blade is flush is a bit deep. I haven't had any trouble with this, but with a thin fingerboard it can cause a tendancy to bow. I go 1/4" or heavier for the board.

Clamping is a good idea.

Exacto makes a small, hobby sized aluminum miter box, I don't know how big your boards are.

Using a coping saw or a fret saw, they seem to work better on the pull stroke.


I know the total frustration of flying blind.

My first Indian flute, I wound up buying one and took it apart to find out what made it tick.


I stopped looking for a "fret" saw when I discovered this jewel over at Lowe's.  It's an Irwin with a replacement blade, Item No. 213104.  I just mic'ed it and it measured .0135 in. in thickness.  I use CB Gitty's med/med fret wire, and it's a little snug to set the wire, but once in, it's in to stay.  

Also Ted H., I have included a picture of that mini miter box I use.  It's great for cutting the fret slots.

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