STōK Garage Electric Guitar DIY

Episode 3, Insert Truss Rod, Glue-Up Fretboard

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 insert the truss rod and glue-up the fretboard. Put on ye ole lederhosen, sip a STōK, lets roll.

Electric DIY - Episode 3, Insert Truss Rod, Glue-Up Fretboard

What you need to complete Episode 3

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

– clamps — lots o’ clamps
– drill press and/or electric drill with guide
– hammer
– sandpaper, spindle sander or hand sander
– tape measure
– radius cauls


Let’s Get Started

In our last episode, we routed the groove for the truss rod and made an access hole. In this episode, we’ll insert the truss rod and glue up the fretboard.

Let’s start by tacking small nails into the neck at the top and bottom, where the fretboard will go. Once in place, snip off the top of the nails so they are a bit higher than flush with the neck. We’ll use these nails to make indentations that will help position the fretboard and keep it in place during glue-up.

Mark a center line on the back of the board, making sure it’s perpendicular with the fret slots, and bring that line up around the sides to make it easier to see. Line up the fretboard and press it down onto the nails.

Next we’ll install the truss rod. We used everyday common silicone to secure the truss rod and keep it from rattling. Put a dollop on the nuts located on top and bottom. It’s OK to put a small amount in the center, but not too much. The truss rod needs to be able to move freely. Use silicone, never glue. Once in place, it’s time to glue on the fretboard.

We decided to use a pre-slotted, pre-radiused fretboard for simplicity. If you have a favorite guitar, find out what fret scale it uses so you can duplicate it. Not all guitars are the same. We used a fretboard with a 25.5 scale and a radius of 12 degrees. The radius can range from 7.5 all the way to 20 and even flat.

Place a piece of painter’s tape over the truss rod so that you don’t get glue in the slot. Then spread the glue, remove the tape and place on the fretboard using the nails as locating pins.

Clamp the fretboard tight to the neck and make sure it didn’t move on you. Use radius cauls or scrap wood to help distribute pressure evenly and avoid damaging the fretboard. Make sure you clamp it for the recommended amount of dry time prescribed by the wood glue manufacturer. I like to leave the clamps on overnight.

In the next episode, we’ll jump back to the body and work on the control cavities while the neck glue dries.

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.