Guitar Making Tip No. 662 is from my book, and it deals with the neck of the guitar. The heel cap is an area where you can add some flash without worrying about the build, and you can do far more than a single piece of wood. Here is how.
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A Heel Cap Is Standard Practice in the Guitar
Most guitar makers use a single piece of contrasting wood on the end of the heel to dress up the area. This piece typically matches the binding, and is glued on and shaped with the heel of the instrument.
You can glue on the heel cap before the majority of the shaping or afterwards. Most guitar makers will get the bulk of the rough shape completed first, and then add the cap.
Also, most caps are lighter in color, and they are a single thin piece that sits over the heel.
Since you are going to be gluing something to the heel anyway, you might as well have a little fun in the process. This is an area where you can get away with more, and add a little custom flair. If you really want to make the heel of the guitar look nice then I recommend you do this…
Make a Laminated Heel Cap
Instead of gluing one piece of wood to the heel, make up a lamination. Some of the best looking laminations use wood from the body and binding color. For example, if your body is mahogany, and your binding is maple, create a Maple, Mahogany, Maple lamination.
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The thickness of the block is up to you. I don’t recommend going as thin as veneer. I also don’t recommend making an inch thick block. What works the best in most cases is using pieces about as thick as binding strips or guitar sides.
If you are going to use a laminated heel cap, then this next tip will help you make the installation process a little easier.
Plan Your Heel Cap
Square up one edge perfectly before gluing on the cap, and square it to the heel before you glue it in place. The part of the neck that rests against the shoulders of the guitar needs to be a perfect fit. If not, it can look odd.
Square up the edge of the heel cap that will sit against the guitar first. Then, glue it to the heel with that face aligned to the part of the neck that rests against the guitar. This way, you will reduce your work later in the process.
Once the glue has dried, you will now only have three areas to worry about. The section that rests against the guitar should be great, because it was glued on evenly. The two sides and the back are now the only areas that need to be blended into the shape of the heel.
Be sure to do a little more than just a single species heel cap. It’s something easy, and it only takes a short time to make it yours.
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