STōK Garage Electric Guitar DIY

Episode 2, Neck Shaping & Truss Rod Slot

by Rodney Bowman

STōK is here for your next great idea, and we’re here to help you along the way. The Electric Guitar DIY series is designed to teach you the basics of building an electric guitar. Starting with body design, we will cover wood selection and body shape, moving on to pickups, neck shaping, fretting, wiring, finishing and finally, sound setup.

Let’s shape the neck. Sip a STōK and lets jam.

Electric DIY - Episode 2, Neck Shaping & Truss Rod Slot

What you need to complete Episode 2

If you don’t have some of the items, feel free to get creative with what you do have or can easily obtain. Experiment and have fun. See complete Tool, Part and Material List

General Tools

– router and router table with appropriate bits
– band saw or jigsaw
– sandpaper, spindle sander or hand sander
– tape measure
– screw drivers
– double side tape


Let’s Get Started

I went ahead and did a little neck prep work before the start of the video. Like in the first episode, I used a template to get the shape of our neck. I first rough-cut the neck on the band saw. After, I stuck the template to the neck with double-sided tape and cleaned it up on the router. I then sanded it smooth.

Since my template had the location for the tuner holes already, and I had the diameter of the tuner posts I purchased online, I decided to drill the holes using brad point bits and my drill press. Alternatively, you can use a standard drill with guides. Now we are all caught up with the beginning of our video.

Our first step is to cut the slot for the truss rod. There are different types and lengths. Spoke wheel truss rods are usually accessed at the bottom of the fretboard and don’t require neck removal to adjust. Truss rods that are accessible at the heel of the neck require you to remove the neck to adjust. The one we used is an Allen wrench truss rod that is accessible through an access hole at the top of the neck (we will discuss this more in a future episode).

The truss rod is 18″ long, so we need to route a groove 18″ long as well. The depth and width will be determined by your truss rod type and brand, but you do want it to fit snug in the slot.

I made a jig from MDF to help route the groove. It is the same width of my router with a stepped side so that the router can only move in a straight line. This way I can cut out the neck first and route the groove second. You can route the groove before you cut the neck using a straight edge on your wood and a fence on your router. The reason I don’t like routing before is because there is a lot of wasted wood that will need to be cut away and more precision is required when cutting out your neck.

I start the groove about 3/4″ to 1″ from the bottom of the neck (maybe closer to 3/4″). Sometimes the adjustment nut at the top of the truss rod is wider than the rod itself, so it helps to route this small area a bit wider. This helps with the fit and makes it easier to access.

The next step is drilling the access hole in the headstock. I found that a pocket jig works well for this. My pocket jig came with a drill bit that had a collar. A collar controls the depth of your hole. Place the jig on the side of the neck so it’s half on and half off and fit the bit into the jig. This way you can see the depth of the bit and adjust the collar accordingly. Also, this helps you see the angle so you can find the perfect spot to clamp it. Once you set the location, clamp it. Before you drill your hole, give it a run on a piece of scrap wood. It always helps to test and avoid time-consuming redos. Ready? Drill your access hole.

Now that you have drilled your access hole, sand it and move on to the next step. In Episode 3, we’ll install the truss rod and glue up the fretboard.

What you need to complete the entire Electric DIY series

Don’t have some of the items on the list, experiment with alternatives and have fun.

General Tools

– clamps (lots o’ clamps)
– router and router table with appropriate bits
– drill press and/or electric drill with guide
– band saw or jigsaw
– hammer
– sandpaper, spindle sander or hand sander
– files and rasps
– tape measure
– soldering iron
– screwdrivers

Specialty Tools

– fretting tools (hammer, fret press, fret lever, fret files)
– radius cauls
– polishing wheel
– string gauge
– radius gauge
– fret rocker

Parts & Materials List

– wood for body (ash)
– wood for neck (walnut)
– pre-radius end fretboard (12-degree radius)
– truss rod
– double humbucker pickups
– volume and tone potentiometers
– 3-way switch
– input jack
– fret wire
– top-loading bridge
– TUSQ nut
– neck plate
– tuning machines (aka tuners)
– string trees
– control cavity cover
– strap buttons
– electronic wire
– guitar strings


About Rodney Bowman

Born south of Chicago, Rodney Bowman of Bowman Built Guitars was introduced to woodworking by his father straight out of the cradle. At his father’s side, he discovered his passion for wood — the grain, the smells, the colors and textures. Having a passionate desire to create, Rodney naturally decided to pair it with his love for guitars and music, where his creativity will sing long after he’s gone.