“Wise care keeps what it has gained”
In my opinion, the best designs are a seamlessness collective of materials, form and function. As wood is the dominant material in guitars, we allow it to play a prominent role in determining the design of our instruments. I refer to this as Material Matching. It consists of two basic considerations – physical measurements and aesthetics. Weighing rough wood stock gives indications of whether the body will be chambered; receive a top and/or what the general shape might be. It also gives us a preliminary indication of possible tonal qualities and what combinations will be used to achieve optimal comfort, balance and tone.
These pieces of Swamp Ash at over 10.00 lbs. while relatively heavy in their raw form, will balance out to somewhere between 3.65 and 5.5 lbs. when shaped and dimensioned. At this stage, we can also determine if the figure is interesting enough to warrant a transparent finish.
If however; there are uninteresting grain lines, knots or voids in the wood, the guitar may be best served with an opaque finish and possibly capped with a figured hardwood top. It is also worth examining, the amount of grain run out in the rough stock to help determine if the proposed shape of the instrument will work with or against itself after joining the pieces together.
Here is an example of how the figure in a wood top helps determine the body style. This piece of redwood has beautiful figure that runs perfectly through our Stingwing model.
Contrarily, this piece of maple will make an excellent top for a Rattlecaster due to its more horizontal pattern and the Rattlecaster’s wider more traditional body form.
These are just some of the things we consider before starting a build. Wood by its very nature is aged over many seasons and with age typically comes wisdom. Experience has taught that if you are attentive to the materials and pay close attention to what they tell you. The wood will guide your design and it is rarely wrong.
We believe that our necks provide exceptional stability and tone transference while retaining the intimacy of being carved by hand.
I have successfully built necks from both single pieces of flat sawn and quarter sawn stock. However, I have found that for superior stability and tonal optimization a three (3) piece laminated neck is the best choice for my instruments. While it is a bit more work and incrementally increases the cost, in my opinion it is worth the time and money put into it.
Materials we start with a 1 – 1/14” thick solid board of either maple or mahogany approximately 8-1/2“X 36”. A fretboard of appropriate quarter sawn hardwood, a two way adjustable truss rod and four threaded brass inserts.
We then cut rough neck profiles from the board so that the pieces and grain are mirror images or “book matched” with each other. Unmatched grain in a laminated neck can result in uneven tensions resulting in warp and instability. The third piece is usually a contrasting piece of mahogany, maple or purple – heart that will run along the center of the neck. These three pieces are carefully joined together, glued ,clamped and left for at least two days to fully dry. We are now ready to square and even out our blank.
And here is the 3 piece neck blank ready for the next process
The rough blank is then routed to accept the truss rod. We cover our truss rods with a wooden spline to keep the introduction of glue to the truss rod channel at a minimum. At this point it is time to prepare the fretboard and the headstock laminate. Each fret slot in our fretboards is painstakingly sawn by hand. Additionally, headstocks must be routed and inlayed by hand with the TR logo of pearl and maple.
The fretboard and headstock laminate is then glued to the blank and left to dry overnight.
We are now ready to cut the final neck profile and headstock shape. In addition to dimensioning the blank we also will drill our tuner holes in the headstock.
It is now time for the most challenging and rewarding part of neck building – carving the profile into the back of the neck. This is again done by hand using spoke shaves, rasps, scrapers, and sandpaper. We first carve the transitions into the headstock and the end . This particular photo shows a one piece neck with the transitions carved .
At each step the profile is measured with calipers and sighted for symmetry. We strive to produce a neck that is comfortable and familiar to the hand. We believe that our necks provide the instrument exceptional stability and tone transference while retaining the intimacy of being carved by hand.
When the neck has received its final shape, it is then fretted and fitted to the body. The fitting is done to ensure alignment to the body and to mark the access holes for the brass inserts that attach the neck. All necks are attached via four bolts and four brass threaded inserts that are installed into the heel of the neck. This attachment system provides superior clamping force compared to the more traditional wood screw method. Necks installed with the brass inserts and machine screws can withstand torque tests of 30in.lb providing a clamping force in the range of 400-600 lbs. This creates a very stable neck joint and helps deliver superior tone transference.