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WAK Guitars

Cutting Out A Body With A Router?

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WAK Guitars    0

I want to cut out my first custom shape for a guitar but I don't have a bandsaw. Could I use a router and just make a few passes. My idea was I could freehand the outline and then use a template bit to get deeper. Is this unsafe or will it work?

Thanks

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killemall8    391

i have done it to some extent. on my explorer the wood was so hard my 14" bandsaw couldnt handle it. so i had like 6-7 inches of wood left around the outline, and did it with a router. it took about 3 times as long, but it worked. but it seems you are much more prone to tearout with that much wood coming off.

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Supernova9    0

CAN it be done? Yes. SHOULD it be done? Not really. Use the proper tool for the job. That's either a jigsaw, bandsaw or hand saw. You'll be working a router bit very hard to cut an outline the way you're suggesting. Honestly, cheap jig saws aren't that much, and handsaws are even cheaper.

Killemall, why the hell you didn't use a handsaw on an explorer shape (mostly straight lines) I'll never know. Nothing wrong with a bit of hard graft.

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Woodenspoke    2
CAN it be done? Yes. SHOULD it be done? Not really. Use the proper tool for the job. That's either a jigsaw, bandsaw or hand saw. You'll be working a router bit very hard to cut an outline the way you're suggesting. Honestly, cheap jig saws aren't that much, and handsaws are even cheaper.

Killemall, why the hell you didn't use a handsaw on an explorer shape (mostly straight lines) I'll never know. Nothing wrong with a bit of hard graft.

It is perfectly acceptable to use a router to cut out the shape. It's done with CNC routers all the time. The big difference is cutting out the rough body blank before hand makes it very easy to remove the remainder of the wood quickly with a router. It' easier to remove thin strips rather than make 1/2 or 3/4 inch full width cuts.

All you have to do is take many shallow passes. The depth would depend on how hard your wood is, how powerful your router and how good your blade. I suggest starting with 1/8 in deep cuts and go from there. Even with the best of equipment you should not cut more than you can easily remove in a single pass. Like a 1/2" deep cut would be a no no unless you are using a wood such as poplar.

You would need a bit short enough to start your cut on the pattern and long enough to finish the cut when your bearing passes through the point where its no longer riding on the template but using the body as its guide. A 2" template bit would need a very tall pattern. I am thinking a 1 1/4 inch bit and the bearing will ride on the very top of the pattern for the first cut with the center halfway over the pattern. You should measure the distance between the center of the bearing and the bottom of the bit to be sure, my figure is only a rough guess.

A cheapo jig saw would be much better than a hand saw. Just expect to leave more wood because a jig saw blade will wander. A bandsaw will cut out a body blank in the least amount of time and allow the fewest passes when template routing. As for using a hand saw forget it. It would need to be a coping saw with enough depth to make the cut and by the time you did cut the body out you could have done 5 guitars using just the router alone.

The only thing to consider is if you are using a template bit which has been resharpened several times. This would mean the bearing is bigger than the cutting width of the blade and you would need to enlarge the hole as the bit goes down to accommodate the slightly larger bearing.

Merry X-mas

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fryovanni    0

Use a Jigsaw to get the body ruffly cut (you can buy them at garage sales for next to nothing). Then make a very good pattern and use your router for the last bit. I wouldn't cut a body from a blank with only a router unless you have one with plenty of power and take several passes(not worth it otherwise).

Peace,Rich

Killemall8- You have a 14" bandsaw that couldn't cut a body blank? I have resawn 8"+ Ebony with my 14". I think you need a tune up and or a good blade, you can get a LOT more use out of your saw. Seriously.

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killemall8    391
Use a Jigsaw to get the body ruffly cut (you can buy them at garage sales for next to nothing). Then make a very good pattern and use your router for the last bit. I wouldn't cut a body from a blank with only a router unless you have one with plenty of power and take several passes(not worth it otherwise).

Peace,Rich

Killemall8- You have a 14" bandsaw that couldn't cut a body blank? I have resawn 8"+ Ebony with my 14". I think you need a tune up and or a good blade, you can get a LOT more use out of your saw. Seriously.

that bandsaw is crap. no matter how much you tune it, it will never cut straight, or retain power. even with a 1/2" blade, its all over the place. and i have had no problems tuning others. but i did mess up in the other post, its acutally a 12". i dont know why i was thinking 14. but the wood on my explorer was super hard, you wouldnt be able to get a hand saw more than 1/2" in before binding. i can guarantee it couldnt be done with that wood.

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fryovanni    0
Use a Jigsaw to get the body ruffly cut (you can buy them at garage sales for next to nothing). Then make a very good pattern and use your router for the last bit. I wouldn't cut a body from a blank with only a router unless you have one with plenty of power and take several passes(not worth it otherwise).

Peace,Rich

Killemall8- You have a 14" bandsaw that couldn't cut a body blank? I have resawn 8"+ Ebony with my 14". I think you need a tune up and or a good blade, you can get a LOT more use out of your saw. Seriously.

that bandsaw is crap. no matter how much you tune it, it will never cut straight, or retain power. even with a 1/2" blade, its all over the place. and i have had no problems tuning others. but i did mess up in the other post, its acutally a 12". i dont know why i was thinking 14. but the wood on my explorer was super hard, you wouldnt be able to get a hand saw more than 1/2" in before binding. i can guarantee it couldnt be done with that wood.

Fair enough, Have a merry Christmas! and a Super New Years.

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Mattia    1

Merry Christmas folks!

Freehanding a body shape with a router sounds like a great way to make mistakes and wear out your router bit. CNC bits are relatively pricey, solid carbide, and they used pretty big bits to carve out the guitars. A handheld router isn't a CNC mahine, and it's likely to sort of go all over the place.

If you're really having trouble with the saw, drill a series of holes around the outline of the guitar body, and connect the dots with a saw.

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WAK Guitars    0

Well my template bit is brand new from Lee Valley so i don't think that would be a problem. One thing that might come into play is that my router has 2hp. Is that enough for this kind of job?

Merry Christmas Everybody!

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orgmorg    13

If your router can use template bushings, you can cut the outline 1/16" oversize by taking many shallow passes with a regular straight cut bit. Time consuming, but about the only way I would want to do it if I could use only a router. Then you can finish up with the bearing bit on the same template.

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Woodenspoke    2
Well my template bit is brand new from Lee Valley so i don't think that would be a problem. One thing that might come into play is that my router has 2hp. Is that enough for this kind of job?

Merry Christmas Everybody!

2 HP is just fine as would a 1 1/2 hp router. Start by creating a starter opening (hole/pocket) where you can start the router get the bit into the wood and the base flushon the top of the template) and then move the bit to the template; especially if it is not a plunge style. Even if it is a plunge style you want to start cuts off the template then bring the bit and bearing up to the template. Remember you will be moving counter clock wise if your router is not mounted in a table. If your having to force the cut or it is burning the wood your cut is too deep. When you get closer to the bottom you may have to slide the bit further out of the routers collet to make those final deep cuts at the very bottom. Take what I am saying with a grain of salt because you may or may not have to adjust the bits shaft in the collet.

If you have a bit that is too tall you can shim up the template with some long wood shims using double sided tape in both sides of the shim. Never reposition a template once you start your cut. You can however remove the template once you have cut deep enough and then use the cut portion of the body as your guide.

The only draw back to cutting out a body this way is you will have many small lines in the side from all the cuts you will make so you will have to spend a little more time sanding. Not really a big deal but I figured I'd mention it.

If you have some scrap make a few test cuts to see how deep you can cut comfortably on each pass. you can also do this on the scrap portion of the body. You can use a straight piece of wood as a guide or freehand it (no guide) dosent matter, just make sure you are taking a full width cut.

I think that pretty much covers it.

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fryovanni    0
Well my template bit is brand new from Lee Valley so i don't think that would be a problem. One thing that might come into play is that my router has 2hp. Is that enough for this kind of job?

Merry Christmas Everybody!

2 HP is just fine as would a 1 1/2 hp router. Start by creating a starter opening (hole/pocket) where you can start the router get the bit into the wood and the base flushon the top of the template) and then move the bit to the template; especially if it is not a plunge style. Even if it is a plunge style you want to start cuts off the template then bring the bit and bearing up to the template. Remember you will be moving counter clock wise if your router is not mounted in a table. If your having to force the cut or it is burning the wood your cut is too deep. When you get closer to the bottom you may have to slide the bit further out of the routers collet to make those final deep cuts at the very bottom. Take what I am saying with a grain of salt because you may or may not have to adjust the bits shaft in the collet.

If you have a bit that is too tall you can shim up the template with some long wood shims using double sided tape in both sides of the shim. Never reposition a template once you start your cut. You can however remove the template once you have cut deep enough and then use the cut portion of the body as your guide.

The only draw back to cutting out a body this way is you will have many small lines in the side from all the cuts you will make so you will have to spend a little more time sanding. Not really a big deal but I figured I'd mention it.

If you have some scrap make a few test cuts to see how deep you can cut comfortably on each pass. you can also do this on the scrap portion of the body. You can use a straight piece of wood as a guide or freehand it (no guide) dosent matter, just make sure you are taking a full width cut.

I think that pretty much covers it.

I think what Woodenspoke is saying is pretty much on the money. Try to make the cuts shallow enough to keep the speed your cutting at reasonable to avoid overheating. Your bit is going to have trouble clearing material out of the route(especially if it is a straight flute), vaccume the slot after each pass. Make as many small passes as it takes, don't try pushing your router too hard.

As suggested above, it would be a good idea to use a pattern guide to offset your first cut. Then go back and clean it up with your pattern bit. You can take fewer passes with the clean up, and it will require less sanding as well as clear off any burning that may occur from the first cuts.

Peace,Rich

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Mattia    1

I'll repeat, though: don't you have a jigsaw, or know someone with a jigsaw you could borrow?

You'll have to template route anyway, but it'll be less wear on your router bit.

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zyonsdream    7

I just hate to see wood wasted like that. In most cases I can use the scraps for other projects or for color matching future projects. I have a whole room with scrap wood which has been a super valuable resource for me in the past. Routing the wood away is very time consuming and once you get to the point where you can use your template to route the final edge you’ll be doing it with a dull bit which will cause more tear out and grabbing.

I’m not a big fan of using a hand saw due to the damage they can cause on the face but for $20.00 is a good resort because it’s cheaper than buying a new router bit.

If you have a small band saw you could relief cut out the excess. The idea about drilling holes is also a good one too because it would help to minimize waste.

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Woodenspoke    2
I just hate to see wood wasted like that. In most cases I can use the scraps for other projects or for color matching future projects. I have a whole room with scrap wood which has been a super valuable resource for me in the past. Routing the wood away is very time consuming and once you get to the point where you can use your template to route the final edge you'll be doing it with a dull bit which will cause more tear out and grabbing.

I'm not a big fan of using a hand saw due to the damage they can cause on the face but for $20.00 is a good resort because it's cheaper than buying a new router bit.

If you have a small band saw you could relief cut out the excess. The idea about drilling holes is also a good one too because it would help to minimize waste.

Your argument about wasting wood and trashing the bit is nonsense. A 1/2" bit would remove less than 1" of additional wood total and less than 1/2 inch on each side. Drilling holes is just more needless work and in fact would make the use of the router less smooth as you hit empty pockets and find your router more likely to jump when you have the change in operational force. This may add to the possibility of making the operation harder not easier.

Secondly there is no way to use a standard hand saw to cut out the body unless it is a square body , you might as well ask him to buy a chisel and chop it out. A deep coping saw is the only hand saw which can do that sort of work or a very expensive bow saw.

Besides the question was can he use just a router and I think all the additional nonsensical responses about buying and using other tools didn't address the question. CNC machines do the same thing using a router day in and day out commercially,the only difference is they don't need a guide bearing or template. In order to hold the body on a CNC router table you cannot precut the entire body, and why would you because there would be no place to clamp it up inside of the body outline. Think about how many holes go all the way through a guitar body?

Bah Humbug

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Mattia    1

Spoke, sorry, but what you're saying about CNC is complete and utter nonsense. You CAN precut a body blank and then finish routing on the CNC machine. In terms of blade and bit wear, it probably makes sense. Ever heard of vacuum clamping? Perhaps the most commonly used parts holding solution in CNC machining? Bolts and screws slow you down.

Can you do it? Yes. No doubt. Nobody said you can't. But just because someone doesn't know to ask the better question (should you do it) doesn't mean it shouldn't get answered. Router bits are more expensive than a decent jigsaw blade, and finding a jigsaw to borrow is not going to be difficult; odds are ringing your neighbor's bell will do, and it will make the entire process much, much easier. And use does wear bits out, eventually. Will doing one or two bodies like this do the trick? Probably not. But it's about 4 times as much wear as only template routing an outline flush after sawing it out (at least that much more wood removed).

Oh, and for the record, the trick with the holes and the drilling is intended for helping saw out the shape if your jigsaw or handsaw isn't up to the task, not for routing, for precisely the reasons you mention.

Fact: fastest, smoothest way of doing this is cutting out the body on a saw and template routing it. Even money it can be done just as fast by hand, with a template, as with a CNC machine. Probably faster given you need to set up the CNC, and you just need to slap the template on the body blank (2 minutes), cut out the body shape (5 minutes with a jig saw, 2 minutes with a bandsaw), and template route (another 5 minutes, maybe). Going around the entire body, thinking up ways to align the jig while elevating it enough to still use the bearing, and cutting no more than 1/8" to 1/4" depth a a time is going to take a long time. I know. I've done it. I'm not doing it again.

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Note about borrowing a jigsaw.

When cutting the blade tends to 'wobble' when cutting thick and hard wood.

(thats what bandsaws cure...)

so if your taking that route leave about 1/2cm outsite the the body shape an finish up with a template and a router.

Yes its going to take more time but the last body I made I just cut directly with a jigsaw and then spent hours with files and spoke shaves evening up the edges.

A template and router would have been faster, more accurate and alot less frustrating.

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orgmorg    13
Going around the entire body, thinking up ways to align the jig while elevating it enough to still use the bearing, and cutting no more than 1/8" to 1/4" depth a a time is going to take a long time. I know. I've done it. I'm not doing it again.

This is why I suggest the guide bushings. With a guide bushing and a plain straight cut bit ( no bearing ) you can use the same template, and lower the bit in whatever increments you need. The bushing is on the router baseplate, and the bit goes through it. After that, you are left with 1/16" of material to trim off with your ( still nicely sharp ) pattern bearing bit, with the same template in the same position,.

Yes, it still takes a long time, if you only have a router, or only want to use one, that would be the best way, as I see it, and actually I would prefer that to a jig saw. As the consort mentions, they can wander quite badly in curves in thick stock. If his neighbor happens to have a real nice Bosch with the proper swiss fleam milled blades, then he could do it ok, if he left it at least 1/4" oversize. But then he has to trim that 1/4" with the pattern bit, increasing the chance of tearout.

Personally, I don't use a router at all for this. I use my template to draw the outline on the wood, cut it about 1/16+" oversize on the bandsaw, and sand to the line with a spindle sander.

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zyonsdream    7
I just hate to see wood wasted like that. In most cases I can use the scraps for other projects or for color matching future projects. I have a whole room with scrap wood which has been a super valuable resource for me in the past. Routing the wood away is very time consuming and once you get to the point where you can use your template to route the final edge you'll be doing it with a dull bit which will cause more tear out and grabbing.

I'm not a big fan of using a hand saw due to the damage they can cause on the face but for $20.00 is a good resort because it's cheaper than buying a new router bit.

If you have a small band saw you could relief cut out the excess. The idea about drilling holes is also a good one too because it would help to minimize waste.

Your argument about wasting wood and trashing the bit is nonsense. A 1/2" bit would remove less than 1" of additional wood total and less than 1/2 inch on each side. Drilling holes is just more needless work and in fact would make the use of the router less smooth as you hit empty pockets and find your router more likely to jump when you have the change in operational force. This may add to the possibility of making the operation harder not easier.

Secondly there is no way to use a standard hand saw to cut out the body unless it is a square body , you might as well ask him to buy a chisel and chop it out. A deep coping saw is the only hand saw which can do that sort of work or a very expensive bow saw.

Besides the question was can he use just a router and I think all the additional nonsensical responses about buying and using other tools didn't address the question. CNC machines do the same thing using a router day in and day out commercially,the only difference is they don't need a guide bearing or template. In order to hold the body on a CNC router table you cannot precut the entire body, and why would you because there would be no place to clamp it up inside of the body outline. Think about how many holes go all the way through a guitar body?

Bah Humbug

For one I made no argument and second I wasn’t comparing the process of routing a line around the template and drilling out the body shape. I was stating that I hate to see people waste wood by routing it ALL away! Both the drill method and the routing method can be affective ways to route the body out of the blank with minimal waste. As for the router bit being wasted, if you cut an entire blank down (like the poster was suggesting) then you would wear your bit down quickly and by the time you got to do the final template cut, the bit would be dull.

It interesting on how many times you used nonsense in your statement to me! The fact that you think it’s lutherie to put a body blank into a CNC machine and then download or write a cad program and let a machine cut out a guitar shape is nonsense to me. A CNC has its place in the industry but to me its place is at Fender, Gibson and Aria Pro, not in a Luthier’s shop!

I spent 7 years working a CNC and manual vertical knee mill and I would never even consider using them for guitar building. I also understand using a motion controlled CNC causes less wear on a bit than free handing on a router. A controlled cut will always improve tool wear.

So I’m not sure why you attacked me but seriously, I really don’t care how you cut out the body. I guess that’s why I went out and bought a $900.00 band saw; so I don’t have to worry about it.

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