to DeskProto home page
looking glass icon
to DeskProto Facebook page
to DeskProto Youtube page
to DeskProto Instagram page

How to CNC machine a guitar neck and body

GuitarMill uses 2D CNC and 3D CNC for guitar manufacturing

Nashville Tennessee is the home of many a great guitar player, so it is no surprise that guitar manufacturing company Guitar Mill can be found in the area. GuitarMill builds guitars mainly for working musicians and small to medium luthier shops, and offers a wide range of services, including custom guitar building, partial or full assembly of bodies, aging/relicing and general guitar maintenance work.

CAD screenshot, 3D part
DeskProto screenshot, 3D part
A guitar neck in 3D CAD and in DeskProto.

Guitar bodies and necks are sculpted from solid Maple wood (we are talking about electrical guitars here), and sculpting from a block of wood by hand is not easy: costs a lot of time and effort, and the result is not always perfect.
So shop owner Mario Martin decided to use computer technology in order to improve both the working conditions and the quality of the product. Amazingly this was possible while at the same time lowering the cost per product !

CAD screenshot, 2D part
DeskProto screenshot, 2D part
Additional 2D toolpaths in CAD and in DeskProto.

The cost could be kept low by using an intelligent combination of 2D and 3D CAD. 3D is used only when absolutely needed (curved surfaces): most of the work can be done by cutting 2D contour lines. For both the 2D and the 3D work the wellknown Autocad software by Autodesk is used.

The milling machine in action 1
The milling machine in action 2
The CNC machine is milling a series of necks

Both the 3D surfaces and the 2D contour lines are exported from Autocad as DXF files. In order to convert these files to toolpaths GuitarMill uses DeskProto, as a CAM program was needed that is both lowcost and easy to use.
The picture above shows the GuitarMill milling machine creating a series of four necks in Maple wood.

Unfinished result
Finished result, detail
Details of the neck, after machining.

After milling, each neck is 'fretted': the frets are the metal strips that are placed in the wood. The next production steps are sanding , finishing with nitrocellulose based varnish , and finally fitting them onto a guitar body.

Resulting complete guitar, 1
Resulting complete guitar, 2
Two of resulting guitars by GuitarMill.

In order to complete an instrument of course more work is needed: apply the correct color-scheme, the strings, the tuning mechanism, all electronics stuff.

The guitar being played upon
Nashville player Gavin Box is very happy with his new instrument by Guitar Mill.

GuitarMills products are being successfully used by many players: from hobby players to top level professionals.