Building a Balalaika Pt. 3 – Neck & Fingerboard

Balalaika tuning machines are typically mounted in a cavity and covered with a decorative plate. Here the headstock is ready to glue on to the neck.

The angle of the headstock is achieved by making a 15 deg. scarf cut in the neck.  I like to do this on the band saw with plenty of help holding it in place.

Before gluing it on, I very carefully calculated exactly where it should be located and checked all my measurements three times. And it still didn’t come out quite like I wanted.  But I can make it work.

Gluing the headstock to the neck. The stop on the right prevents it from sliding off the tapered end of the neck.

Out of the clamps and ready to trim off the excess.

I really like this Komelon 265/10 1/2″ pull saw.  The perfect tool for this kind of a cut.

I added some veneer and a maple plate to the headstock partially for looks but also to give some depth for a nut slot.

Cutting a slot for the nut with all the apparatus necessary to hold it square and level. Again, some might eyeball it and cut it with a handsaw but that’s not my style.

One of the cool tools I inherited from my dad is this 24″ height gauge. It has a carbide tip so I can scribe lines in an aluminum stick at precise locations and make my own fret scale rules.  This instrument is a 440mm scale length.

Here the fret scale ruler is taped to the fingerboard blank and a fret slot will be cut on each mark. The saw blade cuts a .023″ kerf which fits my fret wire.

Voila! A slotted finger board.


Holes were drilled for the “dots” which were super glued in place. Then the thickness sander levels everything and cleans up the glue


The finger board, which is still oversized and square, is cut to its final dimensions with this taper jig.

Finger board is glued on with wood glue.


And plenty of clamps, of course.

Looking more like a real instrument all the time. Now it is time to shape the neck.

I begin by cutting the neck back close to the edges of the finger board on the band saw and then finish the ends with a hand saw.

A flush cutting router bit brings the neck down to the same width as the finger board.


Rounding the back of the neck is done with a spokeshave, microplanes, and lots of sanding with strips of Mirka Net.

More sawing on the heel

And the basic shaping of the heel is done.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s