STōK Garage Electric Guitar DIY

Episode 5, Neck Shaping & Clean-up

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 5, Neck Shaping & Clean-up

What you need to complete Episode 5

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
– flush cut bit
– drill press
– drill
– spindle sander
– rasp or grinder
– digital caliper
– straight edge
– card scraper
– sandpaper


Let’s Get Started

In the last episode we routed out the cavities for the body. In this episode we are going to continue work on the neck.

When we last saw our neck, we were clamping the fretboard to the neck. I waited overnight before coming back to the neck so the glue would be nice and cured.

Our first step is to remove the overhanging fretboard material. To do this we will use the router table and flush cut bit. You can cut or sand a bulk of this material before routing to lessen tear out.

Next we need to thickness the headstock. Using a drill press thickness planer is the easiest way to go. I miss placed mine so we used my router table. The headstock should be a little thicker than the final thickness of 1/2inch.

Slowly remove the extra wood from the front of the headstock and keep checking the thickness. You don’t want to take off too much. When you’re done you’ll have steps from the fret board to the headstock. I used my spindle sander to blend these steps into a smooth slope.

Time to shape the neck. Necks come in a variety of shapes and styles. It’s easiest to find one you like and use a contour gauge to make a template. You can also purchase templates that resemble your favorite guitar.

The heal of the neck should be 1 inch thick in the center and long enough to stick out of your neck pocket. I follow the outside edges of the headstock to the center of the neck to determine the beginning and shape of the headstock.

The part of the neck between the headstock and the heal needs to be thinned a bit. I use a digital caliper for accuracy. This is the way I like my necks. On both sides of the 12th fret I make a mark .92 of an inch from the fretboard side. I make another mark on both sides at the 1st fret. This time it is .85. I connect the dots with a straight edge on both sides. The neck then needs to be thinned to those lines. You can use a file, rasp, grinder, or whatever you want, but don’t remove too much. Once it’s the correct thickness we’re going to start rounding it over.

To round it over, start by drawing some guide lines. My guidelines are about 1/2 inch on both sides of the neck and about 1/16 from where the fretboard starts. These lines help you remove material equally on both sides of the neck.

Rasp a 45 degree angle between the two lines to start. Make sure to continually check your curve with your template as you continue. Once a 45 angle is rasped you will have some distinct edges. Slowly rasp away the edges continuing to check with your template. I switch to a smaller round rasp when I get closer to the headstock and heal to allow for more precision.

When you get close to your final shape, switch to a finer file to smooth rasp marks. After the file you can use a card scraper, and or sand paper to smooth it out. I like to sand to 320. Once the neck shape feels right in your hands, let your arms rest a bit and enjoy some STōK Cold Brew Coffee.

In the next episode we’ll add some custom fret markers and press and shape the frets.

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.