Nipping at your heels, part 1

Work on the Anarchist’s Tool Chest is on hold for the moment while I wait for my new 16″ tenon saw to arrive from Bad Axe Tool Works. This meant that today was the first time I’ve had a chance to do some lutherie since May (June having been taken up with dovetail practice in advance of July’s course), and I took the opportunity to start carving the heel for the parlour guitar.


Firstly I cleaned up any remaining junk out of the bottom of the slipper heel slots using a small router plane, before planing a rebate in the neck just in front of the heel using a large shoulder plane. The rebate takes a small section of the neck (just the width of the plane blade) down to final thickness, and represents the boundary of where the heel transition will be carved. The neck the other side of this rebate will be carved once the guitar has been fully assembled and the frets installed.


The shape of the heel was then marked out on the end of the heel block first in pencil using a ply template showing just one side of the heel, and then with a marking knife to get a clear line. The use of the template ensures that the heel will be symmetrical when it is first roughed it out.


Having marked out the heel shape, the waste from the two outside corners was hogged out using a coping saw. Most of the work in roughing out the heel was done using two chisels – a 1″ chisel for coarse work and a 1/2″ for more precise paring. Some luthiers also use carving knives for this work, and although I’ve not used that method yet, it is something I would be interested in trying on a future build.  The lefthand side was roughed out first, so as to establish a target shape on which to base the righthand side. 


The chisels were initially used with the flat of the blade against the heel for coarse stock removal, and then bevel side down to carve the curved transition into the neck. 


Next time around I will write about achieving the final (symmetrical) heel shape using rasps and raking light.

1 thought on “Nipping at your heels, part 1

  1. Pingback: Nipping at your heels, part 2 | Over the Wireless

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