Well, as it turned out, my anxiety over setting the neck and locating the bridge was mostly a lot of sound and fury over nothing. Well, not nothing, but it was easier than I thought it would be and it has brought me to a more familiar land – dressing frets and setting up the guitar to play.
I’m sure I’ll be tweaking this guitar for the foreseeable future, but the three main steps that stand between me and that first strummed G chord are:
- level and dress the frets
- shape and intonate the saddle
- cut and shape the nut
I have experience in all three, but only as repair work. This will be my first time from the fret-wire up. There are readily available tutorials on all of this work. The following is not a tutorial.
I began by taping off the fretboard and leveling the frets. I will generally use a file to level frets, but to get a baseline I went back to the aluminum radius bar I used to shape the fretboard and lined it with 220 grit sandpaper. With very light pressure I worked the bar along the length of the neck several times until each fret had been touched and the high spots brought low. If you’re used to sharpening your own handsaws this is no different from sharpening to joint. I’m currently working on crowning and polishing the frets, but I expect to be done with that soon.
I also began work on the saddle and nut. After shaping the saddle to slip into the bridge slot I marked it at 5/23″ in the middle and at each end. I then used the radius beam to trace the same 12″ radius that the frets would have and worked down to that line with a file. There is more work to do here, but this is very much a place where considered and incremental progress is important.
The nut was marked off with a half-pencil to indicate the level of the frets and on the sides to give me something to work to when grinding it down.
It’s hot and humid in the shop right now so work is slow, but I hope to have this strung up in short order to get some idea of what tweaks still need to be done to make it play as good as it looks.