Making the heel block and heel

The heel block and neck on a classical guitar are often one piece. The sides are fitted into slots sawn into the side of the neck/block. Steel stringed acoustic guitar necks are usually attached to a separate heel block (with a dovetail or mortise/tenon joint). I read somewhere that this came about when guitar makers first started putting steel strings on guitars. Higher string tension meant higher risk of necks becoming warped, leading to a greater need to reset necks. Removing a neck that has been joined to the heel with a glued joint is much easier than one that is physically part of the heel block. I don’t see any reason not to construct a classical guitar neck this way but I chose to use the traditional method as this has been tried and tested. I hadn’t done it before so this would be a good experience.

I made the heel block by stacking four layers of the Spanish cedar that I used for the neck and headstock. Each surface had to be perfectly smooth and flat before glueing. This takes a bit of practice and patience. It’s best to persist and get each piece perfectly flat, rather than relying on clamps to force the wood together and squeeze out uneven areas. The glue will pull small gaps together when it dries, but a glued smooth surface will be stronger and neater. I think the trick here is to use a very fine setting on the plane and only remove what you really have to. I glued the four pieces in two stages, making sure that the end grain (at the back of the heel) aligned properly each time. This saves a lot of work later on when you’re smoothing the end of the block. I used a bandsaw to cut the curve of the heel and the slots for the sides:
Classical guitar heel block and neck

Classical guitar heel block and neck

The heel block arch

The heel block arch

While I was at it, I also used the bandsaw to cut the neck width down to size:
The neck, sawn to size

The neck, sawn to size

Next step: shaping the neck! More on that to follow soon…

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