I’ve logged over fifty-thousand hours in my trade.
Countless boards have passed through my hands. But one piece of wood taught me more than all the others.
Years ago, I made a guitar neck copied from a Fender Telecaster electric guitar. Some of the job bordered on space age engineering, like drilling the truss rod hole through the headstock. This was the only neck I ever carved, but I was able to use the skills elsewhere.
All guitar players have accessories like strings, picks, string winders and tuning forks. It occurred to me that we should have a special box for this stuff. Why not a box decorated to look like a guitar neck?
I chose to make my box with two of the wood species used on Fender guitars. They carve their necks from maple and hide the truss rod with a skinny strip of walnut on the back of the neck. The box was the easy part, just walnut sides with mitred corners.
The fret board box lid was the challenging task. Fret boards are gently rounded, aka cambered. I copied this camber by using a block plane.
Fret wire is shaped like a T. You make a shallow saw cut and tap in the wire with a hammer then file the ends. The saw cuts have to be the correct width to accept the fret wire. To get this right I used a saw set to adjust the kerf on an old backsaw.
Fret markers are a point of pride for guitarists. Tony Iommi has pearl crosses. Ace Frehley has lightning bolts. I used knitting needles. Before you think I’ve angered the gods of rock-and-roll, let me explain.
Fender uses quarter-inch round fret markers. Turns out knitting needles come in a quarter-inch diameter. Using a brad point drill bit I drilled shallow holes and glued in thin slices of knitting needle then I sanded the plastic flush with the maple fingerboard. At first, the markers looked dull and scratched but after spraying the maple with lacquer the dots looked shiny and professional.
For fun, I inlaid a strip of walnut on the underside of the lid just like a real Fender guitar neck. Some tiny barrel hinges, lots of fine sanding, and several coats of lacquer finished the job.
You’re probably thinking this was a lot of work just for a guitar knickknack box. I know it’s only a rock-and-roll box but I like it.
Bruce MacNab, a Red Seal carpenter, has taught carpentry courses for NSCC and the Guysborough County Adult Learning Association. Visit him online here.