I build laminated necks which look very similar to the ones Jim Olson and several other luthiers make.  When I started building I found myself leaning towards laminated rather than solid necks.  There are several persuasive reasons for this:

  • Sustain can be improved by using denser, harder woods like maple and rosewood, but by using a proportion of mahogany the weight doesn’t climb to an objectionable level.
  • Laminated necks are more stable.  All woods have internal stresses.  We use processes (most noticably aging) to allow those stresses to lessen but they don’t go away.  Using several layers reduces the final input that any single piece of wood can have on the neck.  Additionally, the laminates can be flipped so the stresses of each type of wood in the neck oppose each other and cancel each other out.
  • Laminating necks allows smaller and thinner pieces of wood to be used which results in much less waste.  The woods used for making guitars are simply going away and using this process allows the builder more options without sacrificing quality or structural integrity.

I wasn’t sure just how I would laminate my necks until I saw Jim Olson’s which I thought were beautiful proportionally.  Thus the resemblance.  No point in change for change’s sake.  Or, if you’re going to steal, steal from the best.

preliminary thicknessing gluing heel stack glued and clamped all glued up preliminary shaping on bandsaw gluing on the “ears” routing the truss rod slot

Anyway, in the first photo I’m using a 13″ planer to do the preliminary thicknessing on the laminate pieces. Once they’re close I’ll use the drum sander to bring them to their exact size.

In the second photo I’m stacking the heel of the rosewood which will constitute the inner pair of laminates on this neck.  I use Titebond for this operation since I plan these joints to be permanent. (Titebond, a PVA or polyvinyl acetate glue, will come apart with heat but at a higher temp than plain aliphatic resin [white] or hide glues). The outer laminates are made from a solid piece of mahogany.

I use titebond and then glue it all together on the flattest surface I have in my shop, my table saw.  After sitting overnight the neck is ready to continue.  I first flatten the neck where the fingerboard will attach using the jointer.  This gives me an index surface for all the other operations.  Next I cut the heel using my chop saw with a 1 degree angle which reduces the amount of stock I then need to remove during the neck set.  Then it’s back to the jointer to flatten the headstock.  I use a bandsaw to cut away stock from the back and then glue on the ears. 

The last photo shows the truss rod slot being but on the router table. 

Next I cut the headstock to shape, glued on the headplate, bind and purfle the headstock then glue on the fingerboard. 

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