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I am about to begin building my first cigar box ukulele and I need
Some help on making a neck. What kind of wood do most use for fret
board and neck? How do I shape the neck? And What is just the best way 
To make a neck? Any and all help is welcome thanks!!

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nylon strings don't cause nearly as much tension as steel strings, so you don't have to worry so much about what wood to use as anything that's not really weak like pine, will hold up well. honestly, even pine might hold up well enough. As far as shaping the neck, i've used a dremel with a sanding bit, a belt sander, a draw knife, and even a pocket knife. the draw knife was the easiest for me, but the others also worked well. Some guys even use a router with a round over bit  and make super quick work of it. most uke's i've seen have bolt on necks, but i don't know any reason that you couldn't us a neck through design.

A cigar box uke is basically just a short scale 4 string CBG, so the tips and instructions throughout this site basically apply. Methods and materials depend on your experience, skills and tools.

You indicate it is your first, so I will assume beginner/limited tool status, and point out the "how to build a cigar box guitar" or "free plans" link at the top of the home page, the "building a CBG 101" group and the "cigar box ukelele" group as starting points. Join those groups and do some digging around in the discussion threads and that should get you started.

If you have the desire and ability, some tools and want to get a little more ambitious than the basics there, join this "intermediate" building group, where I have posted some neck building tips that happen to show some ukelele neck carving.

Any more specific questions, and I am sure you will get plenty of helpful advise here!

You can get away with pretty much anything for a uke neck, as it's short and  the nylon strings exert very little tension, and the fretboard too..I've done quite a few with mahogany for the fretboard, which would usually be considered too soft, but it works just fine. Also, because they are nice and small, shaping the neck is quite easy, ..a rasp file and plenty of sandpaper will do the job. you don't need to be tooled-up to make one.

I made a cigar box banjolele for my father. I used red oak for the neck and some bloodwood for the fretboard. You can use whatever you like though.  If you want a tapered neck, you might want to invest in some kind of protractor so you can get your angles right, but I don't have a lot of experience with it. I'm sure someone here can advise on that.

 

I've seen a spokeshave make very short work of shaping out uke necks. In fact, I mean to invest in one asap.

Since you are a beginner, I'd recommend poplar wood over red oak as it is softer and easier to work. Yoiu can get it at most home building supply centers like Lowe's and Home Depot. You will likely have to make a scarf joint to form the head stock and you will likely have to glue two or three short blocks of wood to form the heal. Once this "neck blank" is formed you can begin to shape it with a wood rasp or spoke shave. Once you have it roughly shaped you can fine tune the shape with a finer files and sand paper. When sanding, start with 60 grit, then 120 grit and then maybe 360 grit. I rarely use finer sand paper, but some people do.

You should also draw out your planned instrument to scale before you begin your actual build. Doing so will help you spot problem areas and formulate questions (which you can ask us here) so you can have work-arounds planned out before you get too far along in you project to be able to do them. Here is a drawing that I did for one of my projects that tuned out as a 4-string stick dulcimer but would otherwise have been a concert sized CBU (cigar box ukulele).




This as it will bring up questions that need to be answered before you get too far into building you project.

Well, as I was saying...

 

Here is the drawing I did for my concert Ukulele sized stick dulcimer (at the last minute I chickened out and did a diatonic fretboard instead of a chromatic fretboard).

As you can see, I chose to do a "neck-thru" (neck through the cigar box) design rather than a "bolt-on" neck. The bolt-on neck generally requires a heal on your neck and some more bracing inside your cigar box. As a beginner, I think you'll prefer doing the neck-thru as there is less work involved and your first CBG is already a complex enough project.

 

The piece of wood you choose for your neck should be long enough for the head (5 or 6 inches), the neck (including where it goes through the body (cigar box)), plus a couple of inches for the tail piece (where your strings will be tied down. On my project, I cut the top 5 inches off the neck using a hand saw. The cut was about 15 degrees. Next I had to do some planing, filing and sanding so that the two surfaces would join perfectly (always a problem with hand cut scarf joints). I then flipped the head upside down and glued it to the neck. But, really it's not that simple. You need to clamp down your work pieces as you glue the parts together and you have to watch out for slippage, something that often happens when you tighten down your clamps. Often times you can minimize slippage by having clamped down a couple other "stop blocks" to stop the head from slipping in relation to the neck. You can also wait 5 or 10 minutes for the wood glue to get very tacky before mating the head to the neck and clamping it down. Once clamped down, it should dry for a good 12 hours. Then to make the headstock wider than the neck, I took another 5" length of poplar and cut it length wise into 2 roughly equal sized pieces and glued them to either side of the head piece. Again I had to use clamps and let it dry about 12 hours. When done I had to shape the head and neck using a wood rasp, some files and sand paper. I just rounded the corners on the neck, but if I had to do over I'd round the back side of the neck so that it would fit comfortably between your thumb and index finger of your left hand when holding it like you are playing it. I think they call it a "D" shape. Also, on most cigar box guitars and ukuleles the builders don't bother with tapering the neck so that the neck and fretboard is narrower at the top and wider at the bottom. That makes neck building a whole lot easier. After shaping the neck and head, you will likely want to fret it. There are a number of different materials you could use to fret it with and there are a number of online fret calculators (and fret calculator programs you can download) that will tell you where to put the frets. But, as fretting can be a bit complicated, it's easy to mess up. For this reason, I recommend that you you have a separate fretboard about 1/8" thick and then add the frets to the fretboard before you glue the fretboard to your neck. This way, if you mess up your fretboard, it won't waste all the labor (blood sweat and tears) you put into making and shaping your head and neck. If you mess up the fretboard, just start over on the fretboard "blank".

 

Anyway, there are many good discussions on making the head and neck, and several different designs that you could employ. I would recommend searching this web site for some good plans, photos and advice and put a lot of thinking into your design before you begin the work stage of your project. Good luck on your project, and remember don't be afraid to ask us even "dumb" questions if that is what you need to get on with your build. 

-Rand.

 

 


Rand Moore said:

Since you are a beginner, I'd recommend poplar wood over red oak as it is softer and easier to work. You can get it at most home building supply centers like Lowe's and Home Depot. You will likely have to make a scarf joint to form the head stock and you will likely have to glue two or three short blocks of wood to form the heal. Once this "neck blank" is formed you can begin to shape it with a wood rasp or spoke shave. Once you have it roughly shaped you can fine tune the shape with a finer files and sand paper. When sanding, start with 60 grit, then 120 grit and then maybe 360 grit. I rarely use finer sand paper, but some people do.

You should also draw out your planned instrument to scale before you begin your actual build. Doing so will help you spot problem areas and formulate questions (which you can ask us here) so you can have work-arounds planned out before you get too far along in you project to be able to do them. Here is a drawing that I did for one of my projects that tuned out as a 4-string stick dulcimer but would otherwise have been a concert sized CBU (cigar box ukulele).
I ran out of time (15 minutes) to edit my post...
I forgot to ask about the cigar box itself. what is a good size cigar box? I have got a ashton that is 2in thick by 6-1/5in wide by 6-5/8in long is this a good size or do i need somthing bigger?

It's a fine sized box.

http://home.comcast.net/~kathymatsushita/otherinstruments/htmlpages...

Don

ukeplayer said:

I forgot to ask about the cigar box itself. what is a good size cigar box? I have got a ashton that is 2in thick by 6-1/5in wide by 6-5/8in long is this a good size or do i need somthing bigger?

See my reply at the bottom of the thread and follow the link to Kathy's site:

http://www.cigarboxnation.com/forum/topics/ukulele-neck

Don

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