Building a One-Piece Stratocaster Neck (Part 5)


In part 5, the neck profile gets carved.

The first step is to rough-mark the contour lines at the headstock and at the body joint. These are the do not cross lines.

I used to carve all of the neck out by hand. This works great for mahogany necks, but on maple, particularly on figured maple, this is a bear. To speed up the rough shaping, I use the belt sander and oscillating spindle sander.

Here is the rough profile sanded into the neck:

Once the back is done, it is time to camber the fretboard surface. Vintage 50s fenders use a 7-1.4″ radius for the fretboard curvature. For my tastes, this is way too round. It makes chording easy in open positions, but makes bends in the upper registers fret out. I have a 50’s reissue strat that has a more manageable 9.5 radius, but having played mostly Gibsons most of my guitar-playing tenure, I am attached to the 12″ radius, even on fender necks. This next shot shows a 12″ radiused aluminum sanding block with 150 grit adhesive sandpaper. At this stage, the pencil lines from the inlays are a helpful guide. The pencil marks show how much wood has been removed, and how much is left to go. This is fairly slow work, and wears the tips off your fingers.

After sanding the radius onto the fingerboard plane, and then sanding some more to ensure that the entire surface is perfectly level, I switch to a shorter block with 300 grit paper.

The next step is to mark the side of the fingerboard for the side dot markers.

The holes are drilled

The the plastic rod is glued, inserted, and the cut flush.

After installing the side dots, I clean up the back of the neck with planes, a gouge, and sanding. This is not the final sanding, but it is getting pretty close at this point.

This last shot shows the progress, along with the stratocaster that I used to take measurements for this neck.

The next chapter covers tuners and fretting.

Continue to Part 6


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