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Thread: Scarf joint

  1. #1

    Default Scarf joint

    Hello. I've made two mandolins and three guitars with scarf joints. I've always cut these with a bandsaw (as recommended by most YouTube luthiers). Is there any reason I can't cut the 15 degree line with my miter saw? It seems like this would be a cleaner cut and easier. Am I missing something? Why don't luthiers use miter saws for these scarf joints?

    Thank you!

    I will give it a try on scrap wood next time I can get into the shop.

  2. #2
    Adrian Minarovic
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    Default Re: Scarf joint

    Whatever tool you use, all you need is fitting smooth clean surfaces of wood to be glued perfectly. Most folks use bandsaw because that's all they have that is capable of that high cut and of course you need to clean up the rough cut with plane or other way. Fewer folks have tablesaws or mitersaws large enough to cut the scarf.
    Adrian

  3. #3
    Registered User John Kelly's Avatar
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    Default Re: Scarf joint

    As Hogo says, I think it is a question of having the tools with sufficient capacity to deal with the width of cut. My bandsaw gives me the best and cleanest cut. I have tried my Japanese hand saw which is a great tool and cuts on the pull rather than the push, but I find the bandsaw better. I too use a No 5 hand plane to finish off the faces of the cuts.
    I'm playing all the right notes, but not necessarily in the right order. - Eric Morecambe

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  4. #4
    Moderator MikeEdgerton's Avatar
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    Default Re: Scarf joint

    Stradivarius didn't have a powered miter saw so he never used one. I'm pretty sure he didn't have a band saw either. Tools are there to be used. If you have the saw and it works for you then you should at least try using it.
    "It's comparable to playing a cheese slicer."
    --M. Stillion

    "Bargain instruments are no bargains if you can't play them"
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  6. #5
    Registered User bpatrick's Avatar
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    Default Re: Scarf joint

    If you go with the miter saw, be careful. I ruined a neck once using an expensive Makita sliding miter saw. The neck blank had been rough cut on the bandsaw. I wasn't cutting a scarf joint, just trimming ~5 degree angle on the heel. The blank became caught by the blade, and I didn't have it secure as it should have been. The saw ripped into the blank and snapped it. So, lesson learned. I always use the saw hold downs and/or extra clamps as needed when using the miter saw.

    I use a plywood scarf cutting jig on my table saw for cutting guitar necks.
    Bryan Patrick

  7. #6
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    Default Re: Scarf joint

    There are few tools that put me more on edge than a power miter saw, a "chop saw", sliding or not. It's like a radial arm saw and cutting on either type, more "with the grain" than across it, is really dangerous. The blades most people use are quite aggressive and configured to cross cut, not rip. The blade wants to run at you. And I've been doing woodworking as a living since 1974. Be careful.

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  9. #7
    Registered User Charles E.'s Avatar
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    Default Re: Scarf joint

    Amen brother. Use a bandsaw and fit with hand planes.
    Charley

    A bunch of stuff with four strings

  10. #8
    Mandolin & Mandola maker
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    Default Re: Scarf joint

    I have a miter saw and two bandsaws. While the miter saw is big enough, I use the large bandsaw to cut guitar neck scarf joints. To use the miter saw is just way too dangerous. I have had one argument with the miter saw which ended with a trip to hospital and no mandolin playing for weeks. I don't want another one.
    Peter Coombe - mandolins, mandolas and guitars
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  11. #9
    harvester of clams Bill McCall's Avatar
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    Default Re: Scarf joint

    You could also make a sled for you bandsaw if you have enough throat capacity. You could clamp the piece securely and stay out of harm's way.

    It's difficult to safely use a relatively small radial saw on such a deep cut, relative to the heft of the machine. It was even more dangerous on the old, big ones (14-16" blades). Cut a truck load of 6x6 for picnic tables and you'll understand that.
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  13. #10

    Default Re: Scarf joint

    Although a bandsaw can also give one a surprise; cutting dowels without clamping- or thinking, is one mistake I’ve made a few times, it’s a world away from saws that have built-in capacity for attack by blade or kickback. The usual woodworker’s line is that it’s the choice if you’re on a desert island with one power tool, plus, I suppose, a generator. That said, I’ve got two radial arm malevolent beasts here that, despite great versatility, are only used for crosscuts on long lumber or with a dado head for joints.
    Once the useful table top chop saw evolved into the sliding version, it inherited some of the evil of the radial arm, although I don’t know if it has approached the ER statistics accumulated by radial and table saws over the years.

  14. #11
    Moderator MikeEdgerton's Avatar
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    Default Re: Scarf joint

    I've been around wood working tools most of my life. My step-father was a cabinet maker among other things. He actually started out building caskets. Any power tool can bite you bad if you don't treat it with respect. I knew guys that lost fingers to band saws and had a friend that lost an arm to a radial arm saw. Being a little afraid of a piece of equipment is healthy in my mind and there's nothing worse than getting careless and not paying attention. The truth bites and stings. With that said, I'm more comfortable with my miter saw than I ever will be with my table saw. The band saw and I are pretty good friends. The last time I wounded myself on a saw blade I was trying to sort out a handful of old 10-inch blades and I had five in my hand when I tried to set them down. They weren't even attached to the machine. I got careless.
    "It's comparable to playing a cheese slicer."
    --M. Stillion

    "Bargain instruments are no bargains if you can't play them"
    --J. Garber

  15. #12
    Teacher, repair person
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    Default Re: Scarf joint

    There's always the old fashioned miter box and handsaw.
    Good back saws can still be had.
    As has been said before, Strad didn't have no bandsaw.

  16. #13

    Default Re: Scarf joint

    I always used one piece maple necks on my builds. It's cheap enough and with the "wings" on the sides of the peghead and a hardwood veneer faceplate, they turned out plenty strong enough. I have cut the 15 peghead angle on a bandsaw and trued it up on a stationary belt sander. It's a bit tricky to keep the face perpendicular and not let the line of intersection with the fretboard plane creep.

    I transitioned to cutting that joint on a 10" Makita sliding mitre saw. I always ran a sacrificial wood fence along the aluminum one and a big plywood right angle square to get and hold the neck blank into a 90 position. Of, course the neck blank was clamped down very securely. A sharp blade and a gentle cutting speed produce a nearly flawless joint right off the saw. It is a VERY dangerous tool but can be used safely with extra precaution.

  17. #14
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    Default Re: Scarf joint

    Those of us who have had a mangled finger saved by a surgeon tend to recognize and avoid dangerous techniques with power tools.

    I'll spare the details, except to say that recovery was very slow and difficult.

  18. #15
    Mandolin & Mandola maker
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    Default Re: Scarf joint

    Those of us who have had a mangled finger saved by a surgeon tend to recognize and avoid dangerous techniques with power tools.

    I'll spare the details, except to say that recovery was very slow and difficult.
    Yep.
    Peter Coombe - mandolins, mandolas and guitars
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  19. #16
    Registered User Mike Conner's Avatar
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    Default Re: Scarf joint

    For me, the safest solution has been a plywood sled jig for the tablesaw. A spline rides in the miter slot, and the plywood "table" is cut off on the saw making it very easy to sight the cut. Screws, clamps, etc all to firmly hold the blank.

    Click image for larger version. 

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    This method has made for more reliable and true cuts compared to my attempts on the bandsaw and power miter saw. A little cleanup with a hand plane or sanding station and my scarf joints are nearly seamless.

  20. #17
    Registered User bpatrick's Avatar
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    Default Re: Scarf joint

    I cut one piece mandolin necks on my bandsaw. I true the peghead faces with a block plane, shoulder plane, and flat sanding surface. For guitars, I use this plywood table saw scarf joint sled. I make sure that the work is held securely in the sled with clamps that are well away from the blade. I also take extra care to keep my appendages far away from the blade. The photo shows just a spring clamp. I typically will use a couple of wooden handscrew clamps. Quick clean up with a block plane and a flat sanding surface will produce nice scarf joints.

    Click image for larger version. 

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    Bryan Patrick

  21. #18
    Jo Dusepo, luthier Dusepo's Avatar
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    Default Re: Scarf joint

    Absolutely no reason to not do it by hand with a mitre saw. I have previously done it this way. Nowadays I do it by hand but instead with a Japanese dozuki saw. Either way, gives a better result with less cleanup required than a bandsaw.
    I am a luthier specialising in historical and world stringed instruments. You can see more info at my website.

  22. #19
    Registered User PT66's Avatar
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    Default Re: Scarf joint

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    Maybe this isn’t appropriate to post on this thread but I have never done a scarf joint. I have built my necks in layers for many years. This method makes a very strong and stable neck.
    Dave Schneider

  23. #20
    Registered User Tavy's Avatar
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    Default Re: Scarf joint

    +1 on the multi-piece necks, they're strong and they look pretty, but aren't as quick to do as one piece necks... for the latter I get the local machine shop to band-saw out the general shape, when I need a neck I just pull one off the shelf, tidy up the top surface of the headstock (by hand, on a sanding block), then use a spindle sander with a fence to thickness the headstock to whatever I need for that build. I admit it helps that I'm using mahogany which abrades more easily than maple (cheaper too).

    IMO save the scarf joints for all those broken headerstocks...

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