Part 1

OK - so we're ready to start shaping the headstock. The first job is to mask off the wood, then draw the design. I've also measured and marked out where I want the tuners to be.

The headstock is now pretty much done. I cut out the rough shape with a coping saw, then use half round rasps, files and sandpaper to neaten things up. I use a Dremel with a barrel sander to work on the curves.

Now it's time to drill out the holes for the tuners. I prefer to do this after shaping the headstock, just in case I slip up and need to radically change the design! Again, this job would be much less of a headache with a pillar drill, but I make do with what I've got :)

The shaping of the neck begins. First of all I mark a line down the centre of the neck, and another down each side about 3mm below the fretboard. This indicates the material to be removed. The first job is shaping the 'shoulders' where the headstock meets the neck with a half round rasp:

Then on to the 'heel' where the two pieces of the neck meet. Again, using a half round rasp - take it slow, a rasp can remove a lot of material in a short time:

Then I move on to the spokeshave. Get the neck securely clamped, then take off equal amounts of material from either side, making sure to stay within your markings. Once I'm happy with the basic shape, I use the spokeshave to run straight down the centre of the neck to remove a little thickness. Just a little is all that's needed - mainly to blend in the headstock transition, and give the neck a gentle taper:

Then I round everything over with the rasp, followed by a cross cut file, making sure that the scratches made by the previous tool are all gone. I then take a long strip of 60 grit (a sanding belt is good too) and run it up and down the neck using a 'shoe shining' approach - this is effective for both removing file scratches and ensuring a nice rounded profile to the neck. Just make sure you sand with the grain afterwards with the same paper to remove any cross-grain scratches!

As a recap: I recently made this video, which shows my technique for shaping a CBG neck (sped up to double speed)

Once I'm happy with the basic shape of the neck, I turn my attention to the fretboard. I gently squeeze the mother of pearl inlay dots into the holes with a dab of superglue, then file them down a little, before using 120 grit sandpaper to get them flush with the board. I sand the fretboard down to 320 grit, then apply finish. I find it much easier to get a good finish on a fretboard before the frets are in than after. After a couple of coats of oil, an hour apart, I wet sand with oil and 600 grit wet & dry to get a nice smooth, polished surface on the fretboard. I then use a utility knife to scrape the dust and oil gunk out of the slots before adding the frets:

I then use a resin mallet to hammer in the frets. A few tips on this:

1. Hammer in the fret wire from the centre outwards

2. Cut the fret wire after you've hammered in into place

3. If you aren't able to hammer the fret wire in place (one side is raised, for example), first check your slot is deep enough. If it is, use a soft jaw clamp to hold the fret in place and move on to...

4. Once the fret wire is seated to your satisfaction (i.e. flat across the surface of the fretboard), allow a small bead of superglue to wick into the bottom of the fret slot on either side. This should keep things steady while you dress the ends:

When dressing the fret ends, I use a good quality flat file and simple run it lengthways up and down the sides of the neck, first at an angle, then flat. This gives a consistent bevel on the sides of the frets, and takes those sharp edges off. Keep checking with your fingers until they've all gone. I finish up the job with sandpaper, starting at 80 grit and going up to 600. The fret ends should now be super smooth, and the higher grade sandpaper will give a bit of polish to the fret ends.

A fret end dressing file is useful to take off the tiny sharp bits on the corner of the frets. I think I saw someone mention using an emery board to do this. I haven't tried it but it sounds a good idea!

On to part 3!

Views: 1579


You need to be a member of Cigar Box Nation to add comments!

Join Cigar Box Nation

Comment by Richey Kay on August 10, 2016 at 1:44am
Hey Mike. I don't apply finish to the fretboard sides until the very end of the build. I put a light coat of Danish oil on the surface of the fingerboard before fretting, but all other finishing doesn't happen until the frets are fully dressed.
Comment by Cigar Man Mike on August 10, 2016 at 12:50am

Do you end up needing to refinish the fretboard sides after dressing the fret ends? Getting the ends smooth with the neck always causes me grief as it's easy to scratch the fretboard finish. That's a great looking fret job! Thanks.

Comment by Jim Morris on July 22, 2014 at 4:19pm

Ahhh Richey.... it's the circle of life!

Comment by Richey Kay on July 22, 2014 at 3:36pm
Cheers Jim, it was my pleasure. How odd that instead I learned a lot of this from you!
Comment by Jim Morris on July 22, 2014 at 3:06pm

Well Richey, I wish you had posted this 5 years ago then I wouldn't have had to figure out so much on my own! These 3 posts will be a great help to new builders and also to folks like me who've made a few but are open to new ways of doing things. Thanks!

Comment by Glenn Watt on July 19, 2014 at 9:26pm

Numero dos is well written. You explain your approach clearly. Excellent images.

Great stuff!

On to post three.

Comment by robert jones on July 17, 2014 at 1:13pm

LOL Holding the bare ends makes my fingers cramp, easier for me with the blocks attached.

Comment by Richey Kay on July 17, 2014 at 1:02pm
Just beautiful Bob. And infinitely more complex than mine, which is just a long strip of 60 grit which I hold at eother end :-)
Comment by Ron "Oily" Sprague on July 17, 2014 at 1:01pm
I do the same thing, sorta, but flip my belt sander upside down in my Workmate, using 80 grit, then run the neck through a few passes until I get the shape roughed out. Takes me maybe 10 minutes from quarter to there. Then I rasp out any high spots, rasp out the heel and headstock curves, then start in with a rubber block sander with progressively finer grits to about 320. Then steel wool it, one more pass with the 320, and it doesn't even really need stain. I use two pieces of laminated 3/4" plywood, with the lams standing up.
Comment by robert jones on July 17, 2014 at 12:44pm

Well then here's a pic of the tool in all it's complexity. :-)

The Essential Pages

New to Cigar Box Nation?How to Play Cigar Box GuitarsFree Plans & How to Build Cigar Box GuitarsCigar Box Guitar Building BasicsCigar Box Guitar Parts Store

Site Sponsor

Recommended Links & Resources


VIDEO: A Tour of Daniel Hulbert's Ukulele Collection

Started by Shane ( in Feature Articles. Last reply by Daniel Hulbert 3 hours ago. 3 Replies

Your latest Music find.

Started by Cause the Blue rat in Other stuff - off topic, fun stuff, whatever. Last reply by Fomhorach 11 hours ago. 25 Replies

Piezo Secrets from Cigar Box Nation Members

Started by Shane ( in Feature Articles. Last reply by John Sawyer 12 hours ago. 5 Replies

Weird singing pole thing

Started by Fomhorach in Other stuff - off topic, fun stuff, whatever. Last reply by Cause the Blue rat 15 hours ago. 4 Replies

mailing a cbg

Started by Ben houghton in Other stuff - off topic, fun stuff, whatever. Last reply by Ben houghton 20 hours ago. 5 Replies

Strung her up

Started by Richard Wilkins in Building Secrets, Tips, Advice, Discussion. Last reply by Wayfinder 23 hours ago. 34 Replies

VIDEO: Michael Martin Murphey Plays Slide Cigar Box Guitar

Started by Shane ( in Feature Articles. Last reply by Jim Morris yesterday. 2 Replies

Extra lug on mono 1/4" jack

Started by Jon Leslie/Runaway Veal Music in Building Secrets, Tips, Advice, Discussion. Last reply by JL yesterday. 15 Replies

Neck eood

Started by Andrew Courtney in Performances, How to Play, Lessons, Concerts. Last reply by Mark Bliss yesterday. 3 Replies

Christopher Ameruoso Jams on Cigar Box Guitar with Jose Feliciano

Started by Shane ( in Feature Articles. Last reply by Tucker James CBG's on Thursday. 4 Replies

Blog Posts

Quick bridges

Posted by Michael Fred Johnson on October 22, 2016 at 8:04am 1 Comment

z Mragowa

Posted by Marek Dłużniewski on October 19, 2016 at 1:33am 2 Comments

Tea Chest Bass

Posted by Hal Robertson on October 16, 2016 at 1:09am 1 Comment


Posted by Monterey on October 15, 2016 at 8:39pm 3 Comments

Latest Activity

Uncle John commented on Kigar's photo


49 minutes ago
Uncle John commented on Andries D. EKER's video
51 minutes ago
Brian Walak left a comment for John Matrishon
"Thanks for the kind words. I have not built anything in years. I have a few builds in progress that…"
55 minutes ago
Derek Rose and Stephen Cohen are now friends
58 minutes ago
Derek Rose commented on RTZGUITARS's video

Baby What You Want Me To Do

"Hope you are getting healthier, as we enjoy your posts."
1 hour ago
Richard Wilkins joined Andy Stone's group

CBG wiring & electronics.

Want to plug that thing in? Here's a place to share ideas about pickups (Both magnetic and piezo)…See More
1 hour ago
John Matrishon joined Diane in Chicago's group

CB Fiddles

Idea trading post for bowed instruments. Share photos and tips of fiddles and whatnot that you've…See More
1 hour ago
James Conder commented on James Conder's photo

My First 2 Diddley Bows

"Thanks. Also thanks for your other comment. I deleted that picture, when I realized it was out of…"
1 hour ago
John Matrishon left a comment for Brian Walak
"Hi Brain, Western Mass I see. Saw some of your builds, pretty nice! Just looking for other folks in…"
1 hour ago
Kigar posted a photo


Had to do it early as I won't be around at Halloween!
1 hour ago
John Matrishon left a comment for Bruce S
"Hi Bruce, are you still on here? Been looking for others into this addictive fun CBG that are more…"
1 hour ago
Ron "Oily" Sprague liked Ben "C. B. Gitty" Baker's page Free Cigar Box Guitar Music & Albums
1 hour ago



© 2016   Created by Ben "C. B. Gitty" Baker.   Powered by

Badges  |  Report an Issue  |  Terms of Service