ES-Tele Black & Titanium Guitar Neck Build – Part 1

This is the third blog article that’s posting about our ES-Tele Black & Titanium Guitar Build over at where we are starting the guitar neck build, but it is sorta the second step in build sequence. Our previous post about making the Titanium Neck Reinforcement Rod really sits in the middle of this post, but I wanted to make that one as it’s own seperate post.

Starting on the Guitar Neck Build

Getting started with the neck, here’s the maple going through the thickness sander. I wish I was better photographer, since it looks much nicer in person. Debating whether this neck will need nitro, since some oil would really bring out the figure.

Thickness Sanding Maple for Guitar Neck

Rough cut out the profile pieces and you’ll notice that I left the material on the face of the headstock there, as you’ll see why later.

Rough Cutting Maple for Guitar Neck

And then glue and clamp it overnight. I’ve found that an old mirror works well here, as the surface is so nice and smooth and flat, as well as the dried glue just scrapes up with a razor blade. Just make sure that your mirror has the edges pencil ground so you don’t lose any digits!

Guitar Neck Clamped

OK, good day and welcome to tomorrow…

After quickly flattening the fingerboard side of the neck, I drew my centerline and layed out the truss rod placement. Don’t want to see a maple truss rod wrench route underneath the ebony headstock cap, so first thing is to glue up an ebony block about 1/2″x5/8″x1-3/8″. Then, I positioned the back of it at the nut, routed the hole and cleaned up the corners with the chisel.

Ebony Block for Guitar Neck

Next day, routed the truss rod channel with the 1/4″ square end bit and then changed to a 3/8″ round nose bit. Tried to remove as little material as possible while still getting that allen wrench in there. Probably have to shave some shallow angles on the sides to give the wrench enough swing, but there should be plenty of ebony to remove a little after the veneer is on.

Truss Rod Wrench Clearance

Finally, ready to route for the titanium rods. Purely by guessing, I’m going for 1/8″x1/4″ rods which will extend 1-1/2″ above the nut. While it’s only a 2-1/2 degree headstock angle, I’m still going to try for something as strong as possible here, EVH-inspired. Set up so the route just barely kisses the side of the ebony block, thinking to let the epoxy bond maple to one side and ebony to the other?

Guitar Neck Strengthener Route

And finally, last neck route. Just routing the titanium bars straight wouldn’t leave any titanium in the headstock after it’s cut to shape. So, made up a couple of cedar 2-1/2 degree wedges and placed them on the figerboard side of the neck, dropped the 1/8″ router bit to 7/16″ and cut the angle. The 7/16″ depth I just figured to leave me a 1/4″ of titanium in the headstock. I also made a pencil mark where the router bit first touched the slot, hopefully will make life easier when I make a little template for those titanium rods.

Guitar Neck Strengthener Angle

OK, here’s where the Titanium Rods are installed, which is in its own post HERE

Fretboard slot, radius and dots

So, while waiting for some glue to dry, figured that I’d work on the fretboard for our guitar neck build…

Decent looking piece of maple here. The body-side end is probably the nicer part of the flame figure, although the headstock-side isn’t too plain.

Maple Fretboard Raw

Using the stewmac rule and table saw blade, it’s just so fast! But, it’s also so fast that I make sure to ‘block off’ the frets that I’m not cutting. Otherwise, I can get so happy just cutting slots that I forget to stop at 21!

Marking Fret Slotboard

I’m usually pretty happy at this point when all the slots look like they should.

Guitar Fretboard Slotted

I totally forgot to take any pics of radiusing this thing, but you can probably just image me starting with 50 grit sandpaper and a 9-1/2″ radius block and then putting in the elbow grease?

Went through plenty of different ideas for the fret markers, from fancy (for my talent) down to none at all. Finally I thought to just KISS and go traditional dots, keeping it a little bit more Tele. I had some 1/8″ ebony left over from the headstock, so I used a 1/4″ plug cutter to make the dots.

Cutting Ebony Fretboard Dots

And then just drill, dab a little glue and press in.
Installing Ebony Fretboard Dots

And here she is, sanding the dots down and everything flat with 220 grit

Maple Ebony Fretboard

Although nothing fancy here, I’m pretty happy with this. Keeps things simple and hopefully won’t detract from the rest of the cool parts of the finished guitar.

Headstock Veneer

OK, guys, let’s bring the guitar neck build posts up to date with the ebony headstock veneer. This piece started out at just over 1/8″ thick, which I wasn’t sure that I could bend very easily. It doesn’t need much of a curve, but I did thickness sand the piece down to just over 1/16″ to make life a bit easier.

Thickness Sanding Headstock Veneer

Next, I sanded a piece of maple into a clamping block and bent the end of the ebony. It wasn’t too bad to bend, but it did take a few easy bends to make the curve. With the rough-cut shape of the headstock, it was difficult to keep the piece bending square with the iron. Anyways, here’s the piece bent and test clamping for the fit.

Clamping Headstock Veneer

Also, I put some tape in that channel and trimmed with an razor, hopefully will catch some of the epoxy squeeze out?

Taping the inside of the Truss Rod Route

I used the same Smith epoxy on this, letting it fully dry. I had coated the pieces pretty well and had plenty of run out coating the overlap of the ebony, so I could just check every day until I could feel that the epoxy wasn’t at all sticky. Instructions said about 30 hours, but it took 3 days before I felt it was ready. And here it is glued up.

Headstock Veneer Dry

Next, getting rid of the excess before I sand it down level. I must have checked that piece of tape 6 times before I made that cut!

Trimming Headstock Veneer

Flattened with some sandpaper and made a 2-1/2 degree wedge to support the router.

Routing for the Truss Rod Wrench

I first tried to just follow the 3/8″ route with a 1/4″ trim bit, but instead of following the route, it followed the epoxy squeeze out on the inside. I also had better than a 1/16″ of solid epoxy at the very end of the channel. So, I switched to the same 3/8″ roundnose bit that I originally used for the route and cleaned the whole thing up.

Final Truss Rod Route

Testing the clearance for the wrench, I’m thinking that it’s looking okay.

Truss Rod Wrench Clearance

And here is the side, showing the work that I’ll have to do after the fretboard is glued on to sand out that joint between the maple and ebony.

Fretboard Veneer Curve

Next on this neck should probably be to put in some side dots and then glue on the fretboard. I’ve made some progress on the body, too, which I’ll show you guys next time.


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