|Here are some basic tools that I used to measure out my neck because I couldn't get a hold of full size plans.|
|This is what the grains on a cross section of my wood block look like. Of course, I exaggerated everything to make it easier to draw.|
|Here, the cross section of my neck is shown in relation to the cross section of my wood block.|
(X/Total distance indicated on the plan) = (Pixels from centerline to edge/Pixels from edge to edge)
I know this looks confusing, but it's really not. It's just a simple proportion. You probably learned about them in 6th or 7th grade. If you don't have a pixel counter, just measure the distance on your computer screen with a ruler. Be careful not to scratch your screen. Anyway, it would be much easier to just get full size plans and trace them. Unfortunately the guy at my local print shop (Pak 'n Fax) tried to print scale drawings for about an hour and then failed. I wasn't upset until he said it was possible, but it would just take too much time. He didn't think there would be a net gain for the store, because his wages would not be outweighed by the $3 I would pay. Unfortunately for the store he failed to consider the possibility of return business which they will not get from me. Anyway, I am ranting now. I'll get back on topic.
Once you have the top (fingerboard) of the neck marked out you can move on to marking the side profile. It is pretty easy. Just measure the appropriate distance from the nut (as indicated on the plans) and then measure the correct depth of the neck at that point. Make a few of these measurements and then connect the dots. Again, it would be easier to trace from a full size plan.
At this stage (before you rough cut the neck) I had to decide if I wanted to make a fretless banjo or not. If I was going to add frets (which I did not) it would have been much easier to measure them and cut slots for them while the edge of my neck block was still square. I decided not to add frets, but I still took advantage of the square neck blank to measure out where the frets would be and then burn some markers into my neck. This way, I could still have a fretless instrument but I would have some sort of visual aid to help me get a feel for a fretless instrument. You can add frets to your banjo if you want, but they require precise measurements from the nut (if I had to guess I would say at least 1/64", but don't quote me on that) and they all need to be level on the plane that is parallel to the fingerboard (or you can get a buzz). Adding frets is beyond the scope of this article, but there is plenty of other information online. I didn't want to fret about all the extra trouble, so I just went fretless.
|Using a square and a wood burner to put marks instead of frets on the neck. Doing this step before rough cutting the neck allowed me to utilize the edge of the wood block and the square.|
There really isn't much to preparing the neck for rough cutting. It did require a lot of measuring though. This could be reduced by using this helpful page or just tracing the layout from full size plans. I have since rough cut my neck and I am now awaiting final shaping. I'll keep updating as I do more and have time to write. Oh yeah, I have now spent $17 dollars on my banjo. I bought screws (used later), poplar, and gorilla glue (which will surely be used for other projects as well). By the time I finished marking the neck I had probably spent about 5 hours on the banjo, most of which was measuring and re-measuring. I also met a guy at a bluegrass festival who made his own banjo and has some leftover goat skin. I think I know what I'll use for my head.
|Looking down what will soon be the fingerboard on my banjo neck.|