Carving the heel of the neck.

At this stage, the heel needs to be carved to a near-finish level. I have no power tools or jigs to assist with this process so I use very sharp Crown chisels, cabinetmaker rasps, and sandpaper. The heel contour is another luthier signature and I have built many different types. For Dan’s guitar, I believe that the short 12-fret neck would look best with a modest heel, similar to a Martin but more rounded and slightly less mass.

Beginning the carving process with a 5/8" Crown chisel with a 30 degree bevel.

Beginning the carving process with a 5/8″ Crown chisel with a 30 degree bevel.

I use facets to carve the heel. I draw parallel lines and carve to the lines. To avoid the chisel from digging into the wood on the tight curves, I turn the chisel over and use an upstroke.

Reversing the chisel on the upstroke to cut to the contour of the heel.

Reversing the chisel on the upstroke to cut to the contour of the heel.

I really enjoy this process because it is satisfying to create a beautiful shape from a block of Mahogany. The carving takes over an hour and I switch from my right hand to my left hand to avoid fatigue.

I have a short story about this process. When I was studying with George Morris in Vermont, we worked from 8:00 am to 11:00 pm. After a full week of this, I could barely move my right arm – it was spent due to the constant activity. When I informed George that I could not move my right arm, he looked at me rather suspiciously and said: “then use your left arm.” And use my left arm I did for the next several days.  I have been using my left and right arms equally ever since and I thank George for that “encouragement!”

With the neck clamped firmly in my bench vise, I carefully chisel to the facet lines.

With the neck clamped firmly in my bench vise, I carefully chisel to the facet lines.

After the chiseling has removed the bulk, I move to a cabinetmakers rasp to complete the rough shape. A cabinetmakers rasp is used because it has random teeth patterns for quick and even removal of wood.

The basic heel shape after rasping.

The basic heel shape after rasping.

The completed heel.

The completed heel.

I finish the heel using 100 grit and moving to 150 grit sandpaper.

MDR-

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