Neck Grafts

Posted by Michael Doran on Monday, March 30th, 2009

Neck Graft Clamping

It is interesting to blend the world of new making and the world of restoration. One common repair on old instruments is a neck graft. This is the process of sawing off the neck at the scroll and fitting a new neck to the scroll and re-setting the new neck into the body. This is done in such a way as to preserve the originality of the scroll while adding a new functional neck. Nearly all classic instruments have neck grafts, because the necks were set into the body differently when they were made, and because the demands of modern players are different. It is also necessary if the neck has been carved too thin or has suffered damage in some way.

When I make an antiqued instrument, I like to put a neck graft on it for several reasons. One of those reasons is that it looks right. Traditionally, plainer and easier-to-carve wood was used for the scrolls, but I like to use a very hard, highly-flamed piece of maple for my necks. Instead of sawing off the old neck, as I would on a classic instrument, I carve the scroll without a neck. On a cello, this makes the carving more convenient because there is not a neck in the way.

Neck Graft Unglued

The picture above is of the neck and scroll clamped together for gluing. The blocks of wood on either side are clamping cauls that protect the surface of the pegbox and help to evenly distribute the clamping force. I shine my bench lamps on it to keep it warm while the hide glue dries.

In this picture you can see the next neck graft lying on the bench. You can see the mortise carved out already in the scroll. I will fit that while the glue dries on the first graft.

After this I will make the fingerboards out of ebony, a very dense, naturally-black wood, and glue them onto the necks.