Shaping the neck
This is the point at which the guitar starts to feel finished. Just a few more days work, though Dave’s lacquering work has of course yet to begin.
First I shape the neck to the desired depth and profile; this one has the shallow V neck I like so much on my 1931 Martin. Then I true and camber the ebony fingerboard, making sure its projection at the bridge position is at the correct height.
It’s satisfying to see the curves of the heel and headstock and the neck profile appearing out of rectangular stock. Wengé is stiff, so a slim neck is still rigid and stable.
However, the satisfaction is tempered with frustration; Wengé is tough to work. It has ribbon grain, so whichever way I plane or chisel, the blade will always dig in or lift grain. This means extra sanding and rasping, really hard work on such a hard wood. Wengé also blunts tools like no other wood I’ve worked with.
And Wengé dust is not nice. I’ve been told that because it’s so nice looking, a man keeping tropical fish made a Wengé cover for his fish tank. It wasn’t quite big enough, and when he came back after a weekend away, one end had fallen into the tank and all the fish were dead. So I use a seriously effective mask when working on it.
But when it’s finished, all is forgiven. It looks so good, feels so smooth and stiff, and makes such nice sounding guitars.