STōK Garage Electric Guitar DIY

Episode 4, Neck Pocket & Control Cavities

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.

Electric DIY - Episode 4, Neck Pocket & Control Cavities

What you need to complete Episode 4

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 table
– drill press
– forstner bit
– rasp or grinder
– sandpaper


Let’s Get Started

In this episode we will be routing out the neck pocket, pick-up cavities, and the control cavity. In the case of bolt on neck guitars, the neck pocket is where the heal of the neck rests to be secured in place. There are all types of templates on-line including neck pocket templates. Check out some of the luthier websites for plans, templates, tools, and instructional books to help you out.

Secure your neck pocket template with thin, double-sided carpet tape. That works best for me. The neck pocket should be 5/8th of an inch deep. It is important to get as close to this depth as possible. I started with a 1/4 long flush cut router bit with the bearing closest to the shaft. Once I have some depth, I switched to a longer bit. Make sure to go slow and take several passes.

Lets move on to the pick-up cavities. For this guitar we are using double humbucker pick-ups. You might want to use a different type of pickup. If so, make sure you use the complementary template. For our double humbuckers, we are going to route 3/4 of an inch deep. To make it easier you can use a forstner bit to remove or hog out most of the material.

The placement of the pickup changes the sound. Closer to the neck sounds different than closer to the bridge. If you are feeling really experimental, you can use an old cheap guitar, and remove all of the material from the middle of the guitar and attach the pickup in different places to test the sound.

The last cavity we need to make is the control cavity. The control cavity is where all of the electronic components get placed. Once again you can purchase some templates to help. This cavity is the deepest of all the cavities. You need to route deep enough so that the remaining material is thin enough to allow the threads from the switches and potentiometers to go all the way through, but thick enough to be stable. For our guitar we are leaving about 3/16ths to 1/4 of an inch. Its wise to hog out the bulk of material with a forstner bit.

Once the cavity is routed we need to route an additional lip for the control cavity cover to fit in place. The depth of this route depends on the thickness of the cover material. You want the cover to be flush with the body. The cover can be any shape as long as it covers the cavity.

The final step for this episode is to rasp a belly contour. With the body flipped over I make a crescent moon shaped line on the side that rests on your belly. I then make a contrasting crescent on the side and rasp until I match the lines. This step is simply for comfort, so test out the fit until you like it. Once it’s comfortable for you, sand it smooth.

In the next episode we’ll bust out the rasp again. It’s time to shape the neck.

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.