Gourd Banjo III

Making the Neck Round

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Today I made the neck round. Last time I left it, the neck was still square, as you can see in this photo.


My task today was to take the corners off and bring the shape of the neck to its final form. The ideal tool to do that is my spokeshave. With the blade sharp it makes pretty quick work of the maple. I clamped the neck down to my Workmate® and started on the straight side of the neck.


Up by the handstop the space is too tight to use the spokeshave, so I used the shoe rasp. I also rounded off the handstop and contoured it smoothly into the neck.


Because I am putting a heel on this neck I needed to use the shoe rasp at that end of the neck as well.


Once I had made some progress on the straight side of the neck I turned it around and started on the side with the ogee. The spokeshave works especially well on that side because it skips over all the decorations and carves the neck down to an even taper.


While I was carving, I ran into this:


That is one of the little pins I used when gluing the neck blank together. It is right there at the end of my thumb. I keep running into those things. This one will be gone by the time I get the side of the neck carved to shape.

I just kept carving the wood until it was in the shape that I want it. I needed to take enough wood off to get rid of all the vestiges of the squareness of the original blank, such as this glue line.

Glue line

The work went smoothly and the maple sliced away like cheese with my newly sharpened blade. I stopped every 5 minutes or so to sharpen the edge. That may sound like a PIA (Pain In the Neck) but it really isn't that bad. With the double bevel edge it literally takes about a dozen swipes on the fine stone to put the edge back on it. Then a few swipes to lap the back of the blade flat and it is ready to go. It takes 15 or 20 seconds to sharpen the tool.

Sometimes I will be cutting away and it will just stop cutting. I will move the plane over the wood, but it does not bite into the wood at all. At that point I have to stop and figure out what is wrong. Here is a list of the most likely problems when that happens, the most likely being the first.

Here is a photo of a shaving stuck on the bottom of the plane.


When that happens I just get rid of it with whatever is at hand. I have a small screwdriver that I sometimes use to pry them out if they are really jammed into the throat.

A dull blade can also cause the tool to stop cutting. Sometimes the edge of the plane iron curls over as it gets used, and it no longer cuts into the wood because it has receded into the plane body. In that case, you can advance the iron to get it to cut again, but that does little good because the blade is dull. It is best to take the blade out and sharpen it.

The last suggestion rarely happens, and that is when the blade has not been properly secured in the plane body and it has slipped into the plane from the force of cutting. In that case, you can adjust the blade to get it to cut again.

The neck is now mostly rounded and shaped as it will be when done. Here is a photo.


There is still some work to do such as carving the concave part of the handstop up by the peghead. I also need to clean up some more rough places on it, but the big part of removing the wood is done.

I spent an hour warming up by sharpening my tools. Then I spent 3 1/2 hours cutting the wood. So that is 4 1/2 hours today.

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Original post date June 1, 2009

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Last updated July 8, 2009