Dragen – Acoustic F20


The Dragen F20 started with a chance find on Ebay

Luthier David Potter
offered a Guild F20 size and shape body that he had rejected after being dissatisfied with a new binding tecnique that he was trying. I bought the body. By email David gave advice AND included in the delivery wood for a suitable neck.

IMG_0034After much research through various web sites and You Tube videos I felt confident to proceed. I wanted the neck to be very slim so I searched for a thin two way Truss Rod. After running the blank of mahogany through a (friends) industrial sander to ensure parallel edges,  I cut blocks to double and treble the thickness for the headstock and the heel. Firmly clamped I routed IMG_0028and chiseled in a pocket for the truss rod.

The method that the body was designed to use for connection of the neck was a bolt on system. David Potter had guided me to the Taylor web site and
The technique uses aluminum threaded inserts IMG_0069which cut their own thread into the heel  and need to be recessed. The two faces remaining need to be carefully shaped to ensure that the heel fits snugly to the body with two bolts joining the body to the neck (the overhanging fretboard is glued to the soundboard of the body in the final assembly). After trial testing the inserts in scrap wood, I took a long time on this  and trying the neck on the body to ensure it follows the center line.

For IMG_0037my first neck I purchased a rosewood 25.5″ scale blank fretboard with fret slots already cut (knowing the intonation problems I could cause without the experience or tools and the price difference for uncut was just a few pounds).

To protect the fretboard IMG_0041overhang I made a temporary support that bolted on to the same inserts.

Now the fretboard was ready to glue on with many clamps. I used Titebond hide (it goes off in the bottle SO fast once opened). I made a silly mistake. I did not notice that I had let the 12th fret slide to the IMG_0038position on the neck that the 14th fret should be. Too late it was well fixed at this point (not knowing that I could have heated it to melt the glue) I ferociously chiseled off the fretboard and £18 later started again with another fretboard. At IMG_0060IMG_0071this point the fret board was parallel.

For the next stage I bought a band saw I am guessing that I am going to be using that for many more of these projects.

With the band saw  I cut the width of the fretboard, heel and the headstock shape. (note: I had faced the headstock with Ash).

Saving the off cut from the width reduction, I used it so I could still hold the assembly in my parallel bench vice.

I next chalked the face and started sanding using a  12″ radiused sanding block.

note: I realised after probably too much sanding that I may have reduced the height of the slot too much but stopped in time. A little piece of paper with the height of the fret ‘tang’ marked on it run through each slot set my mind at rest. Before I finished radiusing IMG_0075I drilled in holes for the 6mm 4mm and 2mm abalone fret markers (next time I will use my new Dremel as the drill wanders too easily). The abalone was stuck in with cyanoacrylate adhesive. A little rosewood dust was rubbed in round the dots to fill any gaps.

At this point the back of the neck was still flat so I made a jig to support it for fretting.

I bought 2mtrs of gold Jescar EVO fret wire 0.9mm high and 2.2mm wide. It came from Tone Tech coiled in a sturdy box. The radius was about 10″ so a fraction high in the middle (just right) so I simply cut each fret to length.

I took good care to really clean out those fret slots finding a dribble of cyanoacrylate had nearly messed up one slot.

Then with a special fretting hammer (that I had purchased for the job) I tapped one end of the fret then the other end of into the fret slot with the black hard plastic end and then with light taps with the yellow end I set each fret down tight.

After getting 3 frets in I started checking with my long straight edge and my fret rocker gauge. I took a small, very old pair of pincers (that had belonged to my Grandad) and ground them to make a flat face. They did a good job of snipping off the overhang of each fret.

Next I used a device that I found on Ebay and was sent from Greece. The first 90deg file made a simple job of the overhang and the second 45deg file evenly beveled off all thIMG_0073e fret ends. I did a tiny bit of fret leveling using my familiar technique: masked fretboard, felt tipped frets, and my leveling beam made from a nice solid metal spirit level with emery cloth stuck with double sided tape. A little crowning and polishing IMG_0080and lots of checking with straight edge and fret IMG_0081rocker. I had never fretted before but I had leveled and crowned 4 or 5 times.

The next stage needed this simple support which I made from 4″x 2″. I simply G clamped it top and bottom with scrap of wood to protect the work piece.

I had considered many methods to shape the neck including a router in a pantograph. Finally I decided on this meIMG_0082.1thod.

I simply used a spoke shave and a scraper along with a half round rough cut file. I cleared the file regularly with a wire brush. I was amazed at how easily and quickly it  shaped up. I used a profile tracing comb on my favorite neck to make 5 cardboard templates marked with their fret numbers. Finally sanding with progressively finer papers using blocks of various sizes to keep everything flat and where it needs to curve I used a piece of 15mm and a piece of 22mm copper pipe to support my paper.

I found the process very therapeutic and satisfying.

The final reward is to trial bolt the neck to the body.

More to follow …




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