Neck carving---hand vs CNC (Full Version)

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NorCalluthier -> Neck carving---hand vs CNC (Mar. 23 2019 16:00:32)

Hello All,

I'm in the process of using up my last six CNC carved necks, and am considering going back to hand carving. It's a real toss up whether to invest the time and money in one of the now low priced CNC's, or spend enough time practicing hand carving to get good at it.

If there is enough interest in the topic I'll put together and post some of the information on both sides of the issue that I've collected.

Cheers,

Brian




Andy Culpepper -> RE: Neck carving---hand vs CNC (Mar. 23 2019 16:19:28)

quote:

It's a real toss up whether to invest the time and money in one of the now low priced CNC's


Really? They must have come down a lot in price. It takes me a couple of hours to completely carve a neck start to finish. I think I would have to be mass producing hundreds of necks a year for the CNC machine to eventually pay off.

When I was first learning guitar making, my lutherie teacher had recently acquired a CNC machine. He liked playing around with it, and finally after a few weeks he had figured out how to use it to cut out a sound hole, a process I could do in 5 minutes by hand [:D]




NorCalluthier -> RE: Neck carving---hand vs CNC (Mar. 23 2019 17:24:30)

Hello Andy,

An entry level CNC kit that is just large enough to carve the body of the neck is available for $698 from bobscnc.com

An online student of mine has put together one, and has put in the learning time to actually be carving necks. I think that his total investment including software upgrades is around $1500.

Hand skills are not my forté, though I have acquired considerable skill with planes and scrapers, after many years of using them. Though I really enjoyed the process of carving necks, I think the fastest I ever finished one was around eight hours. As I got close to the finishing stage, I got way cautious. I don't know a way to fix a neck where I've taken off a bit too much---Bondo?

I have a friend with a CNC who roughed out a couple of dozen necks for me several years ago. He is willing to do another batch, but that has its drawbacks, and I would rather be doing them myself.

I would be grateful for any guidance that anyone can give me, though I suspect that the real answer is "carve necks, in fact, carve a lot of them".

I've been researching rasps, and have found a couple of unusual types that look promising:

https://kutzall.com/collections/hand-rasps

iwasaki from Amazon

And then there are the Dragon rasps from Stew Mac and the hand stitched French ones---links provided if anyone is interested.

I've got a Stanley spokeshave, but am lusting after one of the Veritas ones from Lee Valley.

Cheers,

Brian




Andy Culpepper -> RE: Neck carving---hand vs CNC (Mar. 23 2019 18:45:51)

quote:

An entry level CNC kit that is just large enough to carve the body of the neck is available for $698 from bobscnc.com


Ah, interesting. I was thinking of my friend's CNC milling machine that was well north of 20 grand. He also has a CNC router table that was about half that.

As far as carving necks by hand, it's all about developing a process I suppose. I rough it out with a rasp and a spokeshave, then adjust the spokeshave to take a finer cut, and finish it with a cabinet scraper and a flat sanding block. The trickiest parts are probably just smoothly blending it in to the heel and headstock, and getting the thickness right with an even taper. But I find it to be enjoyable work.




Andy Culpepper -> RE: Neck carving---hand vs CNC (Mar. 23 2019 18:50:23)

I have a rasp I got from LMI, similar to this but with a nice handle: https://www.lmii.com/rasps-files/2858-coarse-rasp-no-49.html

I love that rasp for taking wood off quickly, but I only use it to roughly define the neck shape and thickness at either end where the spokeshave can't reach, and do the rest with the spokeshave.




NorCalluthier -> RE: Neck carving---hand vs CNC (Mar. 23 2019 18:56:42)

Hello again,

One consideration that I haven't mentioned is that I'm 79. I'm in excellent health, thanks to my being on the ketogenic diet for 18+ years---details on request---but I don't have the stamina of a younger man.

I need to make around ten guitars a year to stay ahead of the bills, and it looks like I'll be needing to do that for another ten years or so. So there may inevitably be a CNC in my future.

Off topic: I'm a sucker for a slow Rumba, and here is one I stumbled across with a Middle Eastern twist:

Cheers,

Brian




JasonM -> RE: Neck carving---hand vs CNC (Mar. 23 2019 23:09:56)

I have been using a really nice Laguna CNC at a co-op workspace I belong too. Machine has a vacuum table, water cooled spindle etc.
I’m only on my very first build but I’ve used the machine to make a Solera and mold, radius dish, various templates, a side bender, and right now I’m working on the fretboard.

I like the fact that the machine can give un-human accuracy [:D] But I cant stand the amount of time it takes to set up the parts and ensure that everything is super flat, level and aligned. And it only takes one stupid mistake setting up a tool path to destroy a neck. I’ve seen my mentor mess up some necks. It takes the enjoyment out of working with hand tools for me as well.

Have you seen Pablo Requena’s videos on carving necks? Really good and methodical. He mostly uses a block plane and chisels to do the job.




NorCalluthier -> RE: Neck carving---hand vs CNC (Mar. 23 2019 23:25:37)

Hello Jason,

I've glanced at Pablo's videos, but when I saw him using a knife (cuchillo?) I didn't look further. I do like his rosettes very much---very tasteful!

By the time I get a neck blank to the carving stage I have a fair amount of time and money invested in it. As I mentioned, I get more and more careful as I approach completion, and end up spending way too much time.

I use California cypress for necks---got lots of it---on my flamenca blancas, and I think I should just carve a bunch of them as speedily as I can manage to see if I can develop some confidence.

Cheers,

Brian




NorCalluthier -> RE: Neck carving---hand vs CNC (Mar. 23 2019 23:54:24)

Hello All,

One thing I've found very useful in working on necks is a carving vise that holds the neck and allows it to be oriented in any position. I have a page in .pdf format that I can send you as an attachment if you email me at:

Brian@BrianBurnsGuitars.com

Cheers,

Brian




Andy Culpepper -> RE: Neck carving---hand vs CNC (Mar. 24 2019 1:36:01)

quote:

One consideration that I haven't mentioned is that I'm 79


I certainly wouldn't fault you for wanting to automate things a bit - more power to you.




constructordeguitarras -> RE: Neck carving---hand vs CNC (Mar. 24 2019 2:37:50)

quote:

I would be grateful for any guidance that anyone can give me, though I suspect that the real answer is "carve necks, in fact, carve a lot of them".


I have found that after carving a lot of them and developing a procedure, as Andy says, that carving necks has become pretty easy and only takes an hour or two.

I don't carve the heel before assembling the guitar. After gluing on the fingerboard, putting on the frets, and beveling the fret ends, with the neck in a vise I trim the neck flush with the long edges of the fingerboard using a drawknife and chisel. Then I carve the curves of the heel that lie against the guitar sides, from the back to the fingerboard, with a #1 gouge. Then I use a chisel to carve the "hyloid" curves on the head to the nut area. Then I lay the guitar on a mat on my workbench and use a small convex plane to reduce the neck thickness in back of the first fret and tapering to the splice joint at the head. Then I use a small block plane to taper the neck from the back of the first fret to where the joint with the heel stack lies. I get this straight and when I do the rest of the shaping I avoid touching the center line. Now I shape roughly with a small sharp drawknife. (For some reason, I have an aversion to spokeshaves.) Next I shape the heel with a knife and the #1 gouge. (A Hock instrumentmaking knife blade fitted with a long wooden handle works well.) Then I shape the transition to the head with a (Swiss carving) knife. Then I use those hand-set rasps from France. They really do cut faster and better than the ones commonly found in the US. I start with the 9 and then go to an 11. Now I use 80 grit sandpaper. For sanding some parts of the heel and the hyloid curves, I have a 1"-diameter piece of dowel that I have coated with cork to use as a sanding block. Then 120, 150, and 220 grits. Done.




TANúñez -> RE: Neck carving---hand vs CNC (Mar. 27 2019 0:18:53)

I vote for hand carving. It’s almost therapeutic for me. Shaping with your hands is better than a machine in my opinion but if CNC makes things easier for you then why not? I too follow a Ketogenic diet [:)]




NorCalluthier -> RE: Neck carving---hand vs CNC (Mar. 27 2019 15:06:26)

Hello Tom,

As I mentioned before, I really enjoyed carving necks. I'm inclined to give it the old school try once again. It's been fun researching the methods that builders use, and the variety of tools for the purpose that are now available. I'm an edge tool guy, so I'm thinking that I'll see how much I can do with spokeshaves. Only the really courageous would try a drawknife!

One thing that I have learned in 50+ years of woodworking is that as you get better at sharpening, edge tools become more versatile---and that includes scrapers.

I developed a sharpening system back in the 1970's---it used to be sold by LMI---and I can send a .pdf of my sharpening booklet to anyone that's interested. It's now a DIY system, with plans for making your own honing guide. If I had ever come across a better system I would have switched in a New York minute! Email me and I'll attach a .pdf copy:

Brian@BrianBurnsGuitars.com

My daughter, at age 54, started believing me about the keto diet. She is frustrated that she can't get people to listen to her about its benefits. I just laugh, and point out that it took me 15 years to get her to pay attention!

Cheers,

Brian




TANúñez -> RE: Neck carving---hand vs CNC (Mar. 27 2019 22:25:54)

Mr. Burns! I know who you are. Didn’t know you were that Mr. Burns. I remember seeing your sharpening method a few years ago online. In fact, about 15/16 years ago, the Luthier who taught me how to build was using your method. That’s where I first saw it done. I’ve never applied it myself though but I’ll definitely email you.

I get asked quite a bit about my diet/lifestyle. I’m also a personal trainer so my clients see the results first hand. Many have now adopted it as well.




El Burdo -> RE: Neck carving---hand vs CNC (Mar. 28 2019 16:21:23)

Speaking as a consumer rather than a producer, the use of hand tools as opposed to machine tools is a major incentive to visit a private luthier in the first place and a major reason why I pay the elevated prices asked for for a 'hand made' instrument.
Makers who use CNC machines, side benders, thicknessing sanders are not hand making a guitar to me (though I completely get their use in contouring soleras and set up jigs etc). They are moving in the direction of 'hand crafting', maybe even to lovingly 'hand strung'. That way, double speak lies and genuine hand made is its Nemesis.
Maybe as a large part of what is seen as the important end of making is still done by hand it's difficult to be sure of where the division should come down; and of course, a tool is a tool is a tool. Even a big whirring tool. But it's not a question of degree to me, unless we're counting how many machine tools were used in the making of this guitar...
I understand the ageing aspect - I can't run as fast as I used to (by a looong way..) but I don't use a skateboard. I just run slower. (Really enjoy your posts by the way).




NorCalluthier -> RE: Neck carving---hand vs CNC (Mar. 28 2019 17:34:13)

Hello El Burdo,

I think that the key element in having the "hand-made guitar" be worth the money, is how much the builder cares about its quality, rather than what mix of power and hand tool methods are used.

My Dad used to say "Son, you're going to have to make a living with your brains, because you sure as hell aren't going to do it with your hands". Of course I've spent the last sixty years trying to prove him wrong!

So, I rely a lot on power tools and jigs and fixtures to make up for how long it takes me to learn how to do something with hand tools. That I care about the quality of my guitars is for others to say. Here is a link to a review of one of my flamencas:

http://brianburnsguitars.com/owner-reviews

Scroll down to the last one.

Cheers,

Brian




El Burdo -> RE: Neck carving---hand vs CNC (Mar. 28 2019 17:44:06)

Pretty good reference!




constructordeguitarras -> RE: Neck carving---hand vs CNC (Mar. 28 2019 18:08:23)

quote:

My Dad used to say "Son, you're going to have to make a living with your brains, because you sure as hell aren't going to do it with your hands".


That's interesting. When I told my grandmother that I was leaving chemistry to go into woodworking, she said, "That's all hand work; you don't want to do that."




NorCalluthier -> RE: Neck carving---hand vs CNC (Mar. 28 2019 18:12:24)

Further answers for El Burdo,

"By the way - I asked you - on the foro - to continue with your analysis of soundboards using signal analysis, but you didn’t."

I'm sorry I dropped the ball on that. If you go to the "My Process" section of my website, I have several videos showing what I do:

http://brianburnsguitars.com/my-process

For further details there are links with each video heading to .pdf's that have more information---OOPS! I just checked the links to the .pdf's and they aren't working! I'll get them fixed and report back.

The videos and .pdf's are about as much "pro bono" work as I can afford to do. A large part of the way I support my guitar making "habit" is through teaching. I now do that online as well as here in my shop in Fort Bragg, CA.

"After you’ve done that, I’d like you to address bridge saddle size….:-)! As the bridge saddle is THE focus of all sound transmission at the soundboard end I just don’t understand (admittedly as only a hobbyist luthier) how more work has not been done on this overlooked area."

I use a traditional thin---3/32" thick---bone bridge saddle. Some classical makers use a thicker one that allows them to compensate individual strings.

Of much more importance is the weight and acoustic properties of the bridge. I use Brazilian rosewood that has been sawn to almost perfectly "quarter sawn" grain (aka vertical grain). A little bit off quarter, and the acoustic quality deteriorates. My flamenco bridges are as small as I dare make them, and come in at around 18 grams.

Cheers,

Brian




NorCalluthier -> RE: Neck carving---hand vs CNC (Mar. 28 2019 18:18:33)

Hello Ethan,

Yeah, I was a physics major, and I took "the vows of poverty" when I decided to be a guitar maker (;->)...

Cheers,

Brian




NorCalluthier -> RE: Neck carving---hand vs CNC (Mar. 29 2019 15:27:45)

Hello All,

It turns out that the links to .pdf's in the "My Process" section were working all along. The quirk is that when I click on the link a little box appears in the lower left corner of my screen asking me if I'm sure that I want to open that .pdf. It's some sort of security measure I suppose. So I click on the little box, and the .pdf opens with a bunch more detail on that process.

http://brianburnsguitars.com/my-process

Cheers,

Brian




Richard Jernigan -> RE: Neck carving---hand vs CNC (Mar. 29 2019 17:23:43)

quote:

ORIGINAL: constructordeguitarras
When I told my grandmother that I was leaving chemistry to go into woodworking, she said, "That's all hand work; you don't want to do that."


Larry King, who wrote "The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas," was appointed a professor of English at an Ivy League school. He said, "My Mama was real proud of me. It was indoor work, and no heavy lifting."

RNJ




JasonM -> RE: Neck carving---hand vs CNC (Mar. 29 2019 17:56:24)

quote:

Makers who use CNC machines, side benders, thicknessing sanders are not hand making a guitar to me


The proof is in the pudding which is in the playing




El Burdo -> RE: Neck carving---hand vs CNC (Mar. 29 2019 18:07:55)

quote:

To me , If a guitar plays well and sounds amazing then it’s going to used and that’s the most important part. The end result


Don't disagree with that at all. Insofar as the only value for a hand built guitar is that it is adjusted and 'tuned' - I hesitate to use the term - finely, with an intuitive feeling for its response, the degree of hand building is surely significant?




NorCalluthier -> RE: Neck carving---hand vs CNC (Mar. 29 2019 18:24:20)

I'm off on what Ervin Somogyi calls the "techno-weenie" end of the spectrum with my wood testing and voicing using audio analysis software. But my guitars have to thrill me when I play them---that's the point of the whole process. How I go about making a thrilling guitar is quite incidental.

Cheers,

Brian




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