Cavaquinho Neck Shaping

August 1, 2011

The last big step before putting the finish on the instrument is to carve the neck.  I have found that a final thickness of about 0.625″ under the first fret and 0.75″ under the 9th fret works very well on cavaquinhos.  The neck has to be thick enough that it can withstand the tension of the strings without bowing forward, yet thin enough that it is comfortable for the player.  There is no truss rod strengthening the neck of the cavaquinho, but the dimensions I listed achieve the goal.

Initial wood removal is done with a spokeshave.  A spokeshave has an angled cutting blade like a plane, but it has handles on either side of the blade, rather than a long plane body.  Whereas planes are ideal for making long, flat surfaces, spokeshaves are a perfect tool for shaping curved surfaces like an instrument neck (or a wooden wheel spoke!)

After I get the neck shaved down to roughly the shape I want, I use rasps to remove the final bits of wood and to smooth and refine the shape.

Next, the ebony heel cap is glued to the bottom of the heel.  After the glue dries I scrape the ebony flush with the heel.

The last construction detail is to inlay a my logo into the peghead.  On instruments with bigger heads I put my entire last name, but in this small space, an abalone “Z” on an ebony background looks better.

Now the entire instrument will be scraped and then sanded up to 220 grit in preparation for the application of the nitrocellulose lacquer finish.  Before I spray the finish I will mask off the fretboard and the area of the soundboard where the bridge will be glued.  I will also cover the sound hole to keep lacquer from getting inside of the body.

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