Be sure to visit the Hand Tool Headlines section - scores of my favorite woodworking blogs in one place.  Also, take note of Norse Woodsmith's latest feature, an Online Store, which contains only products I personally recommend.  It is secure and safe, and is powered by Amazon.


Truss Rods

The neck is shaped, but I didn't get to thinning the headstock - I guess I should have included it in the last entry - but it was getting a bit long, I thought.  Well, this one is longer, and now I have to put it here, just before the truss rods.  I need to, as I will need to drill into it there...

To thin down the headstock, first it's a trip through the bandsaw to remove the majority of the waste:

Once each was thinned, I made a quick and dirty thicknessing jig for the router:

That cleaned up the headstock considerably, so now they are ready for the remainder of the truss rod work and installation.

As you remember in the last entry I routed a 1/4" channel for the truss rod into the back of the neck.   The channel is curved to counteract the action of the strings...  For the Tele-style guitar, I'm using a "traditional" truss rod (more on that in a bit) that will require now to drill holes from both the headstock and the heel of the neck so the holes intersect with the channel I previously did.  Here's that Tele neck profile again:

You can see the curve on each end of the truss rod doesn't come out parallel to the neck - it's at a slight angle at each end, about 3 degrees or so.  It's a pretty deep hole also...  There's no good way to do that by hand, but a simple jig makes it a lot easier.  I simply ripped a small block of wood at 3 degrees, placed that face on the drill press table, and marked out the location of the hole's entry on the other side.  Then just mount that block to a flat surface and  Voilà!  A drilling jig is born.

The first hole is a 1/4" diameter and goes all the way from the heel to the bottom of the truss rod channel:

A second jig is built and hole drilled for the truss rod nut at the heel.  This second hole is 3/8" in diameter and is only as deep as the truss rod nut is long, so that the face of the truss rod nut is just about flush (not protruding at all) from the heel of the neck:


 The nut used is styled after a Fender Original Truss Rod Nut of the type pictured at left.  I used a cheaper alternative available both at at Stew Mac and Warmoth

Once  the heel is drilled, it's time to turn my attention to the hole at the headstock.  This is much the same process as the hole at the heel, but because of the location right at the point where the headstock transitions to the fingerboard, it is imperative you use a jig - and with that, you will need a very long drill bit.

I thought the best drill bit for such a purpose would be a long brad point bit - that way the brad point would make it easier to start the hole correctly.  I bought this 12-Inch Extra Long Brad Point Drill Bit Set, from Amazon to do the job, and I can only recommend you stay as far away from them as possible!  They can't drill through Jell-O.  I'll have to see if I can sharpen them, but the way the are they are useless.

I ended up getting a standard long length drill bit (also from Amazon) that I'm very happy with - these are very well made bits and are very sharp - they gave me no grief at all when drilling the headstock hole(s):

The Tele's - like I mentioned - are getting a "vintage" style truss rod - that basically means it's a 3/16" steel rod with the adjusting nut (shown above) at the head, and at the top (headstock end) is this nasty looking thing:

It's basically a shaped nut permanently attached to the end of the rod.  The "teeth" keep the truss rod from turning by biting into the wood.  After the truss rod is installed, the hole in the headstock is plugged (usually with walnut), and a piece of wood (again, usually walnut) is used to cap the slot routed in the the last edition of this tale, and the truss rod becomes a permanent part of the neck.

The Strat style guitar is getting a slightly different version of a truss rod.  One of the issues with the vintage truss rods like those above is the location of the adjusting nut.  Now, its not every day that you need to adjust a truss rod, and it should only be done by somebody who understands how it works -  so it's not like it's a huge, huge thing... But the vintage rod often requires you either provide a slot in or remove entirely the pick guard to adjust the neck.

To address this, one of Fender's ideas was to place the adjusting nut (and to subsequently provide access to it) at the headstock.  The basic design is similar, the path follows the same curve, but at the heel end of the neck there is a short rod that the heel end of the truss rod is threaded into.  Here again is the basic Strat style truss rod pattern I'll be following:

Fender Bullet Truss Rod Nut

There isn't a retailer that sells a full version this version of truss rod I know of, so I will have to build it from scratch.  You can get the Fender Bullet Truss Rod Nut, which the nut Fender uses for this style of truss rod pictured at left).  The link is to an original Fender version of this nut, there are cheaper copies of if available through Stew Mac.   The rest of the rod is completely scratch built.  For the rod, I used 3/16" drill rod (which I happened to have on hand, but you can use a standard 3/16" cold rolled steel rod available from your local hardware store.

The drilling of the neck at the headstock is the same procedure as it was for the Tele truss rod, but to anchor the Strat rod, there is a chunk of rod placed perpendicularly to the neck that the rod is threaded into.   So, I drilled it to the factory specs shown on the blueprint:

I looked around and didn't have any steel rod of the right size to make the anchor from - but I did have some 5/8" brass rod left over from making my own split nuts for hand saws.  I cut off a chunk with a hacksaw to the prescribed length and tested it in the hole:

Looks like a good fit.  Now, in order to be able to thread the rod into the anchor, I drilled a 5/32" hole just off of the one side and centered in the anchor, then tapped it with a 10/32" tap:

Since this end is literally the anchor, I don't want the truss rod to turn in the anchor.  To stop it, I simply munge up the end of the threads of the rod with a punch.  This makes the end of the threads malformed and locks the truss rod in place.  Note, I'm just starting in this picture, so the it's still pretty pristine:

When I get that where I want it, I slide the whole assembly into place and mark out the headstock end so I can cut and thread it to the proper length:

Once the rod is cut and threaded, there's one last step.  To dampen vibration and to keep glue from sticking to the rod, I take some electrical heat-shrink tubing and shrink it over the rod.  I bought a whole roll of it - enough for a dozen or two truss rods - at the local Harbor Freight, so don't pay too much for it.  I tried a couple other things, such as air-tubing - but nothing fit quite right - the heat shrink was definitely the trick.  If you buy a premade truss rod, it will already have tubing on it, so no worries there.

Here's the whole home-made affair ready for installation:

From here it's just a matter of slipping it into place and tightening it to the point of just taking up the slack.  It will get adjusted when I set up the guitar, after it's together.

In the next action-packed entry, I'll place the "skunk stripe" in place in the back of the neck to cap the rod, and plug the holes at the headstock.


A Note To Readers

Some (not all) of the links in this article are paid affiliate links to this web site's sponsors (some are just plain links).  I don't make a great deal of money off of any of these - my only goals in using the links is both for the readers reference and at the same time to hopefully get this web site to pay for itself.  I won't link to anything that I don't personally use or fully endorse, which was true well before I began using sponsored links.