So up until this point, we have the basic shape of the neck, and the fretboard is as good as done. This would be a good time to level, crown and polish the frets, if you wish. I wrote a 'how to' on that here:
This would be an ideal time to take another look at your cigar box, and cut the neck to fit neatly inside. In the below picture, I have marked out the cut on the neck to fit under the lid of the box, and allowed for room below the pickup:
Once I have made several small cuts down to my markings, I flip the neck on its side and pop the material off with a sharp chisel. Don't go right down to the line, though - it's easy to make a mistake and remove too much material. I use a rasp, file and sandpaper to neaten things up. Notice the angle on the line - this is to allow for the 'back angle' on the neck.
Now it's time to get sanding. I start with 80 grit, and work all the way up to 320 for the whole neck and headstock. Once I'm satisfied with it, I give the neck a rub down with white spirit (mineral spirits) to remove the wood dust. This will also highlight any scratches or imperfections. If you see any...yep, more sanding:
At this point, it would normally be time to start applying finish. However, I like to use oak for my necks, so I find it necessary to use grain filler to smooth over the pores of the wood, and get a smooth finish. I wrote a blog post about the process here. This adds a few more hours onto the process, plus you need to sand again, starting from 220 grit up to 600. For the end result, its worth it!
The below picture shows a grain-filled neck, with the first coat of Tru-Oil.
Nowadays I use Tru-Oil on all my necks. It's difficult to work with, compared to Danish etc, as it dries so fast. Here are my Tru-Oil tips:
1. Store the bottle upside down - you do not want the lid to sieze up!
2. There is a foil cover on top of the bottle. Do not take it off - just make a little hole to squeeze the oil out of. This stuff dries very fast when exposed to oxygen.
3. Work on an area at a time. I apply Tru-Oil to the neck and headstock separately.
4. Wipe the oil on with a lint free cloth, give it about a minute and gently wipe off the excess with a clean cloth
5. I wait 12 hours between coats. If you live somewhere warmer than Manchester (not difficult), you might be able to get away with less.
6. Every second coat, I (very) lightly rub the surface with dry 600 grit sandpaper. Give it a wipe down before applying the next coat.
7. I generally do about 8 coats of Tru Oil. Apparently you can get a mirror shine if you do about 40, then polish, but who has time for that?!
8. About a week after the last coat, I wet sand with 1200 grit and Tru-Oil, then quickly buff it out for a silky smooth feel.
This is what you come out with:
So there you have it - a finished neck. Here are some completed pictures of the guitars these necks were made for.
I hope this has been of some use.