I don't claim to have invented this design, but here's how I make a robust neck through with a heel, leaving plenty of space under the lid for pickups/bracing etc. There are plenty of ways to go about this, and no right or wrong way. However this design helped me overcome a number of obstacles in my early builds. I will skip over quite a few basic aspects of CBG building so it might be an idea to have a grasp of scale lengths etc. first.

This article is not aimed at seasoned builders, but rather those who were just starting out. Or even more specifically, myself about 3 years ago when I started making these!

The only thing this diagram doesn't show is 'back angle', which I use on all of my builds to improve ergonomics. Just imagine the block at the front on the box is lower than the one at the back. It's that simple, and can make a big difference to how well a guitar plays. This, along with some other tips is covered in another how-to here.

So - you need a 1 metre length of hardwood, and a separate fretboard (6.5mm/1/4"). Cut the neck blank into 2 pieces. This will depend on the kind of box you are using. You want the upper piece to extend into the box by about 100mm, and the lower piece to extend roughly 40-50mm from the front of the box, creating an overlap of roughly 6"/150mm (see the picture above). You can use whatever headstock design you prefer, scarf etc.

The first job I do is cut and glue up the scarf joint. I cut the scarf using a jig and a big chop saw. Along with the Dremel and drill, these are the only power tools I use to make necks.

To glue up the scarf, I clamp the two pieces of the neck to the bench and then apply a clamp at the joint. If it slips, move the pieces back and try again. You want to get this right. Some people swear by sprinkling a little salt on the glue to stop it slipping. I haven't tried it myself. Once the glue has fully cured I slice off some material from the top side to bring the thickness of the headstock down to about 15mm.

While this is drying, time to take a look at the fretboard:

So at this point I've marked the frets using a metre ruler and Stew Mac's Fret Calculator, scored them with a knife and they're ready to slot. It is worth investing in a purpose made fret slotting saw and mitre box for this job. I've drawn a centre line and marked across the frets diagonally to place the marker dots. Carefully drill them out to the required depth. This would be much easier with a pillar drill but I don't have one.

Once the fret slots are cut, I taper the fretboard. This step is completely optional, but since trying it I have found it impossible to go back to square necks. If you want some tips on doing this, I wrote a 'how to' here. Once you're happy with the shape of the fretboard, you can add your side dots, if you wish.

In the below picture, I am gluing all of the remaining parts of the neck together; the fretboard, the lower portion of the neck that runs through the box, and the headstock 'wings' which will allow me to get a bit more creative with the design. These are made from fretboard scraps. 

I leave the neck in the clamps for 24 hours. I know many people would say this is unnecessary but I prefer to err on the side of caution. This is what it looks like after taking the clamps off. In this picture I have already used my mitre box to create a 'slope' where the two neck sections meet which will be the basis of the heel.

...and after tapering. Again, this is an optional step, and there is a 'how to' here.

So here's the neck so far. Time to get shaping - in part 2!

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Comment by Ducati Scotty on November 7, 2017 at 6:02pm
Great information, thanks very much!
Comment by Charles Z on August 22, 2016 at 6:47am

very cool

Comment by Richey Kay on August 10, 2016 at 1:39am

Hi Mike. This is just the design that works for me. I've been building CBGs with this design for a few years now with no problems. Yes, there is a glue joint, but good quality wood glues are very strong, much stronger than a single piece of hardwood which has been 'notched' out to fit underneath a cigar box lid. The string tension from 3/4 strings is not really a problem. It's when you start going beyond that that you need to build a bit more conservatively.

In short, it works for me!

Comment by Cigar Man Mike on August 10, 2016 at 12:26am

Are you concerned about weakening the neck by building it in two pieces? While the design is neck-thru there are two glue joints, one in front and back, instead of a single piece of wood end-to-end. It would seem like all the string tension will be applied to these two joints. Great post and appreciate your comments!

Comment by Richey Kay on June 16, 2016 at 2:16am
Thanks Toofy. Glad you're getting some use out of it!
Comment by Toofy Peg on June 15, 2016 at 11:08pm
Jesus man!! your a complete pro!! This is very useful info and thanks for sharing ! I've got lots to read yet and it's great 2 read and learn! Cheers
Comment by Richey Kay on March 22, 2016 at 11:36am
Happy to be of service David. I try to treat every box differently, I choose the box first, the make the neck. A one size fits all approach doesn't work for me either!
Comment by Dave McGrain on March 22, 2016 at 11:25am

This is great! I'm on my 4th build and neck building still is a bit confusing,mainly the in box part. I see people building necks for future builds and don't know if that would work for me but at the same time I'd love to have a back stock of necks so I can focus on my boxes.  

Comment by Philip Hale on March 6, 2016 at 6:28pm
Thanks for this, I am contemplating my first build and answers the problem I was anticipating.
Regards and many thanks Phil Hale
Comment by Joe Caruso on November 7, 2015 at 3:23pm
Have never thought of doing the body as you've shown - solves a few questions I've had - will try on my current build, waiting for the glue to set on the scarf joint - many thanks for posting Richey.

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