Building a One-Piece Stratocaster Neck (Part 4)

Part 4 details the installation of the walnut filler strip and headstock plug, and rough cutting the fret slots.

Now that the truss rod channel and truss rod are completed, it is time to hide the mess. First up is the headstock end where the truss rod anchor resides. Modern fender necks have the adjustment at the headstock end so that the neck doesn’t need to be removed to adjust the neck. From a practical standpoint, this is a good idea, but I like that classic look of the walnut plug on the headstock. I buy 3/8″ walnut dowel pre-made since it is a real headache to make your own without the right tools. I get mine here. They ship very quickly, and pack it for the apocalypse. Here is the dowel, and a cutoff installed in the headstock:

After the glue dries, I sand it flush:

Next, I cut a strip of walnut and plane it to 1/4″ thick (the width of the truss channel route), and cut the curve of the channel into the strip (I just trace this curve off the routing template for the truss channel).

I cut it to length (marking the nut endpoints from the jig) and then round the edges, then test fit until I get the rounded edges and length perfect.

The strip then gets glued and clamped. It is important not to put too much clamping pressure on the strip. If it is clamped too hard during gluing, it will also freeze the rod beneath it. The truss rod needs to be snug, but still able to move if it is going to be functional. Once the glue dries, the filler strip is planed down with an ibex finger plane, then sanded flush.


Now it is time to rough in the fret slots.

Astute observers will notice that in this shot, it looks like it would be impossible to have cut the first few slots because of the size the headstock. One of the neat features of the Stewart MacDonald fretting mitre box is that all four panels are removable. 

Here is the neck with the slots roughed in. The slots will be cut to final depth once the fretboard have been cambered.

The last step before I begin shaping the back of the neck is to drill and install the inlay markers. I simply intersect two lines to give the centerpoint for each marker, then drill and glue in the black plastic inlays with duco cement.

That’s all for now, next the neck will be shaped.

Continue to Part 5


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