Curious to hear how yall shape your necks?  I usually use the bandsaw to get a rough shape, then smooth it out on the sander.  I would use hand tools, but have wrist problems.  Any router users out there (table or hand held router)?

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Originally, I chiseled, filed, then sanded. This took a while and it was hard to get consistent results. After I saved up some money, I bought a palm router. Much faster and very consistent results. Sometimes I miss the individuality of using the chisel, but I also ruined a few necks by accident.
I'm sure you'll get a variety of responses here.
Find what works for you and go with it!
Happy building!

I use an electric sander these days, then shape and fine sand with a file and a sanding block, not as Artisan as a spoke shave but does the job in a fraction of the time (-;

For my guitars, I start with the bandsaw and to shape it I start with a draw knife to get the rough shape, then use rasps and files to get it almost smooth. Then I use a cabinet scraper, followed by progressively finer sand paper. Once I get it smooth I'll use craft paper (the stuff paper bags are made of) and rub it to a glass like polish. It usually takes about 4 to 6 hours for the entire process.

 I do it the easy way with hand held router with a round over bit  and finish with a sanding block .

I use hand tools. I prefer a wood rasp for rough shaping, then file and sand. Usually, I'm just rounding the two lower edges of the neck so that it fits in my left hand between my thumb and index finger comfortably. But lately, I have been focusing on how to shape a banjo neck with a heel. The part causing me difficulty is how to shape the heel. Anyone who knows a good (and easy) way using hand tools is welcome to reply.

I guess that I need to glue a block of wood for the heel onto the neck blank first, then shape it as one big block of wood. My first attempt at shaping a banjo neck was to shape the neck and the heel pieces separately and then glue them together. But the result of this method was a heel that looks like a separate piece from the neck. While the result looks okay, its far from the ideal shape that I was picturing in my mind. So, maybe next week I'll begin shaping a new banjo neck again.


Do you mean like this Rand? The wenge timber I got was only 1/2" thick so the heel is built up with an extra 3 blocks then shaped first with a rasp,then with files followed by sandpaper wrapped around anything handy that was about the right radius.Off cuts of broom shank,dowel,even a superglue bottle.The radius on the back of the neck was formed with a router.  

Hi Michael,

Yeah, now that's a nicely shaped heel!

I guess all I need to do is practice working at it -- maybe starting with a softer wood than the hardwood I normally use these days for necks. That way I can at least get develop my "technique" for shaping a neck using hand tools without all the "pain" of working hard hardwood.

My first "banjo" Reso-CBG turned out pretty nice (and real loud), but the neck and heel on it looks like two separate pieces, rather than the "single piece look" like what you show in your photo. When I have a chance I'll upload some photos and an article describing the build. It turned out to be a 4-string banjo with the 4th string the short drone string because I misjudged the width of the board I used for the neck (rather than measuring it with an eye to number of strings and 3/8"-to-1/2" string spacing). But it plays quite nicely. I have it tuned to a-D-A-d, and I have it chromatically fretted using color-coded frets (gold frets for the natural notes and silver frets for the accidental notes), so I can play the instrument pretty well using by rather limited (dulcimer style) playing skills. I'm thinking this is a half-way cross between a 3-string stick dulcimer and a 5-string banjo. Hopefully, I can use it to practice clawhammer and other banjo playing techniques.

Sorry folks, for hijacking the thread.


Like you I also have wrist problems. Damaged nerves in my right one. But found with a bit of practice and tenacity I can get hand tools to do what I need.

Like Rand I use a hand held rasp. I made a few practice necks before doing my first playable one. Found it was best for me to have the head stalk and heal in place. Because this allowed me to create a smoother transition to both. After shaping with the rasp I sand. For areas I wasn't able to get a good bite with the rasp I'll use an orbital sander with 60 grit. That's also good to use if you bite down to hard with the rasp and leave grooves. The trick with a rasp is 'less is best". Then I sand down by hand. Going from 60 grit down to "0" steel wool.
I like an over all flat C shape. And thin because I have small hands. Not to worried if both of the curve doesn't match up. As long as it feels good between my palm and thumb.

i depend on a table router and an 3/4 roundover bit.... works great on simple 1x2 neck stock.  If you're doing multiple builds and time is important, it's the only way to go.  Also helps with adult adhd... I know that for a fact :-0

I agree with the spokeshave, I've done three necks with it so far.  Easy on the hands!


I use band saw and belt sander to get a rough shape.

For CBGs I just round over the edges on the back of the neck and don't make a complete "half baseball bat" like on a regular guitar. I've used a router before, but it's a pain to have to get it out and change bits, so I'm just as likely to use a spokeshave.

Then I sand it with an old piece of belt sander belt, doing it like a shoe shine. Then progressively finer belts, then switch to regular sandpaper until it's smooth.

I do the same thing on regular guitars, except I use a rasp in the places where the spokeshave doesn't reach. Of course, there is a lot more spoke shaving because you're trying to achieve the "half baseball bat" shape.


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