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I am reaching the final stages of my guitar body and everything was looking pretty good. My neck pocket is so comfortable that it almost squeaks - it holds the weight of the neck on its own. Unfortunately, I have just discovered that it is about 3mm too shallow and given the shape of the body, there isn't much of a platform to rest the router on. I kept the offcuts to hold the body on my Workmate when I did the pickup routing but I routed the neck pocket when the body was just a short plank of wood. Actually, I wouldn't mind any neck pocket routing tips because this is the single greatest anxiety I have had about guitar making as it is so critical to get it right; particularly the flat neck contact.
My question is sort of a complex one: It requires a couple of other questions to answer. A little insight into my build will also aid in determining the answer. I want to hear what other builders/luthiers have to say about how to go about designing and executing an angled bolt on neck for my electric solid body builds. I'm sure there are mixed answers to this, as I have already read a great deal of online resources on the subject, as well as on ProjectGuitar.com That being said, I really do not want to go the route of using angled shims. I am a luthier/shop owner, and want a permanent solution that does not reduce the neck-to-body contact, while maintaining the direction of building bolt on necks. Since this post is kind of lengthy, I will organize it into categories. The first of which, introduces my build and brings about my first question. The build: I am building an electric solid body, "explorer" style. I am building a bolt on neck. Since I am using a tune-o-matic bridge, I will need to angle the neck in relation to the body for proper action. A very important note, is to point out that my body is made of one hunk of Yellowheart hardwood, 2 inches thick and 10 inches wide. I cross-cut the slab and will be gluing the halves together, side by side, to get get the width I need for an "explorer" style body; the "wings" protrude rather long outward. This wood is so dense it almost does not float in water! Please do not question my reasons, I am doing this for tone, which is subjective. Anyway, the reason I am pointing this out, is that the wood is very heavy and I want to reduce the weight. I would like to go with the standard body thickness (1-3/4") but that will be too heavy. So I would like to reduce some of the weight by going with 1-1/2" thickness. Of course considering my cavities and their depths. 3/4" for one humbucker cavity, my electrical cavity not any deeper, and my neck pocket cavity, hopefully at 5/8". This brings me to my first questions: What to do about the dimensions of my neck pocket? Do I reduce the thickness of my neck's heel, or do I reduce the thickness of the neck joint where the bolts mount? I would like to have a neck pocket depth of 5/8". My thinking is that the Yellowheart will be strong enough to allow for a neck joint that is only 7/8" thick. What do you guys think? This also ties into my entire post about an angled neck, which brings me to the next category... Angled neck: I have seen guys like the pros at StewMac suggest angled shims for bolt on necks, but I do not like that solution. My thinking is to angle the neck pocket. However, one idea I had is to angle the neck heel itself. Right away I can see the con in that. An angled neck heel will be tough to replace. An angled neck pocket means the owner can replace the neck with a standard square heel. What do you guys think? This also leads to another concern: With an angle in the pocket, the neck heel will now approach the bolts at an angle. Should I not square the heel? Rather my thinking is to offset the squareness so that the neck heel fits the pocket at all sides and gives enough room for my bolt holes. I would hate to have a gap at the end of the joint. How to create an angled joint: How to go about building an angled neck pocket? Or how to go about some other method? One idea I had was, to support my neck pocket routing template with an angled shim, so that my router approaches the pocket at the desired angle. What comes to mind though is: Do I route from 7/8" on up so that my minimum pocket thickness is 7/8", or do I route so that my maximum pocket thickness is 7/8"? Again pondering if the Yellowheart will be strong enough. I think it will. Of course the height in which the neck rises beyond the body face is most important to string action. This leads me to think that 7/8" should be the maximum thickness for the neck joint. What do you guys think? Thank you all ahead of time for any suggestions. I rarely seek help and am usually solving problems on my own. Seeing as how this slab of Yellowheart cost me around 120 bones, I really do not want to do anything I will regret. So you guys are saving me a lot of headache on the matter. Sometimes a second opinion can be necessary. Thank you!
Prostheta posted a tutorial in Instrument BuildingCommercially-made routing templates for humbuckers are easy to find from virtually all good luthiery supply outlets these days. They're a fantastic turnkey solution for carrying out this common task. Beyond the "standard" sizes, templates for larger pickups are thin on the ground meaning that we end up making them ourselves. Standard or not, the process of making a template for any humbucker-style pickup is the same and it's not a huge leap to tweak the dimension to fit a variety of pickup sizes such as mini humbuckers, etc. Pickups fitted into pickguards or under a pickup ring don't need tailored routs; we don't see them on the finished instrument. This isn't to say that we can butcher them in, just that we only need to concentrate on their functionality and fitness for purpose over their cosmetic value. A more complex tutorial for pickup routs tailor-made to the exact dimensions and corner radii for a "showy" exposed rout and direct mounting will come later in this series. That is not to say these routs can't be executed with precision and beauty of course, but that's up to you! ----==---- Overview and Objectives This tutorial will take you through the creation of an easy but effective pickup routing template. Although the underlying method of constructing the template has been in use for decades, I expanded on it for use with a variety of modern pickup sizes and to incorporate the recessing to make it a single job rather than two. The system described is universal in that it will create routs to accept any "body with legs" style pickup with simple corner radiusing and provision for recesses for the legs/screws. Since the outline of the rout will be hidden under the pickup ring, it just needs to be functional and do the job its intended for. First we'll look at how to make the template using a standard humbucker, and finally look at how to take measurements from any pickup/pickup ring and translate them through to your own custom template system. To keep the work simple and straightforward, we'll only be using a standard 1/2" diameter bearing-guided template cutter (12mm if you're Metric!). The template uses basic materials and techniques. The ideas and approaches discussed are designed to help you take onboard transferable skills that assist you in creating custom templates for anything, even beyond pickups. Definitely a good exercise towards becoming a next level template-making ninja! A cavity straight off the router with light sanding to remove the fuzzies - perfect ----==---- What We Need Pencil Ruler/Calipers Wood glue A router and a bearing-guided template cutter (1/2" diameter, 1/2"-3/4" length or shorter) Sheet stock suitable for templating (plywood, MDF, etc) cut into strips Double-sided tape Drill bits (optional) Wooden dowels (optional) Nothing that shouldn't already be on hand in your workshop! ----==---- How The Template Works The template consists of two identical halves which can either be glued together to make a permanent single-size template or pinned together to create a variety of different widths. Each half is designed to rout both the main cavity and with the inclusion of a specifically-sized insert, the deeper leg recesses also. Mockup showing the main template assembled The template exploded, showing both halves and the dowel locating system Template with auxiliary insert for leg recessing ----==---- A Quick Look At Humbucker Routs There's no real secret or magic going on behind the pickup ring. Enough wood needs to be missing in the middle that the pickup drops right in and either side so that the pickup height adjustment screws fit. Wood needs to be left at each corner for the pickup ring mounting screws. We could simply rout the entire thing to one depth, however that's just crude and we hold ourselves to a higher standard, right? We shouldn't need to remove more wood than we have to, and this template system makes it simple so there's no reason to go medieval. The pickup cavity (dark red) is hidden by the pickup ring, but leaves plenty of wood to fix the ring to the body ----==---- Template Construction The template system we'll be making is for a standard humbucker, made using simple stacked strips of wood or sheet stock. The only tool/skill we need is to be able to rip stock into strips of specific widths and cut the ends a neat 90° (another use for a fret slotting mitre box!). How you choose to make the strips of material is up to yourself; many options are available from cutting them on a table saw to sizing them using a thickness planer/sander or even using a router thicknessing jig! The only requirement is that the cut edges are clean and glue-able, and that you can manage making them to a reasonable level of precision. The template in this tutorial was made from 15mm thick Birch plywood, ripped into long 40mm, 20mm and 10mm strips on a table saw. These were them cut down to specific smaller lengths using a fret slotting mitre box. We'll discuss how those widths were arrived at later, and it'll be more meaningful if we look at the process first.... The stock we need is: 40mm (1,58") 2x 200mm or longer (7,87") 20mm (0,79") 2x 56,5mm (2,22") 1x 64,5mm (2,54") 10mm (0,39") 4x 64,0mm (2,52") 2x 72,0mm (2,84") In actuality, the only parts which need to be of a very very specific lengths are the three components for the auxiliary recessing template (10 x 64,5mm and 20 x 72mm) since the outline of the template isn't that important; only the internal components and edges where the router bearing will be running. Template stock cutdowns The strips were cut into the various calculated lengths and cleaned up. Laying them out over a printed paper template helps check for fit and alignment, plus we know we have everything and where it is! Download Printable Paper Template here! standard humbucker template layout.pdf Laying out using a printed drawing The auxiliary template for the pickup tab recesses is the part that the rest of the template should be physically built around, so assemble and glue this up first. The paper printout helps check that everything is sized and aligned, however double-checking the ends for squareness with scrap or a ruler ensures we're not building in any inaccuracies. Apply glue to the inner part's mating surfaces and adjust/assemble everything to that by hand. Put the assembly onto a flat surface, and push everything into correct alignment and let it sit for a minute or two so the glue starts to set up. Next, apply light clamping pressure whilst it dries. The small amount of setting up time helps stop parts shifting around under clamping pressure. You did check for alignment, right? Once this is dry, clean up the part from any squeezeout. A few tiny beads as pictured is about perfect for this work. Next, snug up the main parts of the template around the auxiliary template. Repeat the same process of gluing up all four parts of each template half, using the auxiliary template for reference to avoid any gaps or misalignments. Glueup can be done one part at a time or all at once. Masking tape applied to the top/bottom helps keep the parts from sliding around! Again, check check and check again at every stage. Looking good! Once we have the two outer halves assembled and cleaned up, we can either glue them both together to form a permanent one-size template or we can add a method of fitting the halves together temporarily. The simplest method is using simple wooden dowels which have enough retention strength to hold the template together, but can easily be released to alter the jig's size by placing them in holes corresponding to different set sizes. Clamping the workpiece down and drilling a hole through from one to another gives us an exact method of setting the jig up. One clamp holds the first half down, whilst the second holds both halves together. Drilling for the 8mm locating dowel - yes, I only have three fingers because I'm a Parktown Prawn.... After the first hole is drilled, a dowel is tapped in to secure both halves. The assembly is then flipped with the dowel in place, and a second hole/dowel added to the other side. Note that I added two alignment arrows indicating the size this "setting" is designed for. This was purely to counter my own future stupidity. Your own mileage may vary. Tapping in the locating dowel The finished adjustable template system should look something like this when complete. The dowels are removable for when different size settings need adding in. All that's left is to test fit a humbucker and pickup ring! The pickup has a little room to move in the cavity, allowing for angled pickup rings, finish, etc. The pickup ring completely covers the gap and the mounting screwholes have plenty of wood under them ----==---- The Template System In Use The main template can either be mounted using double-stick tape (about an inch square in each corner) or clamped either side. Positioning holes drilled through from the rear help position the template on the centre and cross lines. If the template is adjustable, each position will need its own specific centreline positioning hole....remember to mark them up meaningfully! The first step is to rout the leg/tab recesses to depth either side by fitting the auxiliary template. It should be snug in the centre; if not, use a piece of double-stick tape underneath or a piece of masking tape over the top to secure it. Bridge position humbucker rout on my Lancaster superstrat design The cutter used has a length of 15mm (around 5/8") which is perfect for this size template. Anything longer than the template is thick, and you soon find that the initial cut is going to be tough and unpredictable. You don't want the cutter trying to jump around before the bearing is even in the template, as that results in a dead template..... A 1/2" length 1/2" long cutter is perfect for this work. Mine is 12mm diameter, however that only means that the corner radii will be slightly tighter. Absolutely no problem since this is a hidden rout. After the initial cut, the radiused corners left by the cutter become apparent. After the recess has been taken to the full depth, the auxiliary template can be removed and flipped to do the other side. Perfect. That was about a minute's worth of work! We can now remove the auxiliary template and start work on routing the main cavity. Two passes and the target depth was achieved. Time to remove the template.... Aside from a little scorching and minor fuzzies, the rout is more or less good to go with no more work other than the cable drilling. A test fit is a good idea. Perfect. The actual pickup ring will be taller than this one so we have more than enough breathing room with the depths selected. ----==---- Calculating Your Own Dimensions Taking the basic idea of how this system works, we can extend it out to any width humbucker or even pickups of completely different sizes. ....For A 7-String Pickup For an adjustable style template, we don't even need to make a new auxiliary insert for wider pickups such as a 7-string. We simply make an appropriately-sized shim to open out the template a bit more. Typically 7-string rings tend to be 10mm wider than their 6-string equivalents - give or take 0,5mm - which means we only need to make a 10mm wide shim. Cutting a shim from a stick of 10mm template stock in a fret slotting mitre box.... It's worth checking your pickup ring for its total width; this setup with a 10mm shim would expand the internal pickup cavity from 72mm to 82mm and the recesses from 87mm to 97mm. The 7-string pickup ring I have on hand is 99mm wide, so it would work with that one but you should confirm from your own measurements before committing to the wood! ....For The Entire Template Fundamentally, the sizes of the routs and your template should be designed from the pickup ring backwards. This is the only part that physically mounts to the body and covers the rout itself, so as long as the ring can be mounted, hides the rout and the pickup fits then it does the job. In theory the rout could be as large as you want it to be but ideally we should work the maximum sizes down to something more suited to the pickup itself. Removing only as much wood as is needed instead of as much as we can. We'd prefer to keep as much wood as possible, right? So let's look at a typical pickup ring and we'll see how I arrived at the dimensions of the basic template: Yep. Typical humbucker ring dimensions. Working backwards from this, we have about this much area that we can rout before we run into issues with the pickup mounting ring screws: Absolute maximum cavity area It's a pretty big chunk of wood to be dialling out of your guitar, especially when you compare it to a typical pickup: More than enough room to swing a humbucker If you want to alter your own template sizes to make a cavity that big, that's fine, overkill or not. The recesses either side should be narrow enough that the wood where the pickup ring mounting screws sit have enough strength left. The pickup ring measures 36,8mm/1,45" screw to screw. Bringing in the recesses at least 5mm from the centre of each screw location point is what I'd call a good minimum. This would make the recesses 26,8mm wide. For simplicity's sake, you'd round that down to 1" or 25mm. Simpler sizes makes cutting stock easier to manage. The same applies to the screws either side; their spacing is 81mm/3,19" giving us a reasonable maximum of 71mm/2,8"....calling that 70mm or 2-3/4" makes sense. The width of the pickup ring at 44,5mm rounds down nicely to 40mm or 1-5/8". Humbuckers are usually anything from 36-38mm in width. Unless you're working with a pickup with HUGE tabs (I've see some), the side recesses really don't have to be an inch wide. I mean, you could still stick with this value if you want, but most tabs are half inch at the most. 20mm allows for the corner radius of the cutter and means that the outer parts can be 10mm wide. Very very nice easy numbers! A recess width of 15mm centred on the main cavity's sides satisfies my internal need for symmetry, and brings the total width of the cavity up to 72 + 7,5 + 7,5 = 87mm. Fine for an 88,7mm wide ring. Drawing this out - a 72mm x 40mm central cavity and two 20mm x 15mm recesses (with 1/4" radii from the cutter) works out neatly. A wider/longer main body rout allows pickups with sharper corners to fit There's no substitute for taking a ruler and a pair of calipers to your pickup ring and pickup, then drawing it out after calculating your values in the same way. ....And Applying Them Let's use this to develop a template for a hypothetical mini humbucker: Now this should be relatively straightforward, however the radius of our cutters might mean the recesses have to be a little wider to allow for the tab corners. Let's have a look at the ring.... The pickup ring mounting screw locations are spaced 85mm x 25mm, so we can safely make the recesses 15mm wide to allow 5mm either side of the screws. Similarly, the maximum width of the main cavity can be 75mm. We'll be generous with the pickup cavity width, and let's call that a round 30mm. We'll call the tab recesses 15mm x 15mm. Let's see how those figures stacks up. Okay, that would definitely work as-is. Like the example with the humbucker, it might be able to be made smaller. Let's add in the cutter radius and see what happens.... Okay. The smaller size of this mini humbucker means that we need to cut a bit oversize because of the cutter's radius, otherwise things like the pickup corners and the tabs would clash with the rout. You could even make the case that the tab recesses could be drilled with a Forstner bit instead of being routed....! So this is how we could plan this out as a template set; pretty simple once you think it through! ----==---- Conclusion Making templates is about working ideas and methods into your personal trick bag. An extensible template that can be used in more than one situation is a powerful and productive thing to invent, otherwise we'd be making a new template for every last thing every single time. Routs that end up being hidden give us a bit more flexibility to bend dimensions in our favour to make the template simpler, or to streamline the rout itself. A system like this turns a humbucker rout into a three-minute job, sweat-free, making it worth its weight in gold to the busy luthier. ----==---- www.patreon.com/ProjectGuitar If you enjoyed and benefited from this article. become a Patron of ProjectGuitar.com and help us actively continue bring you even more articles, tutorials and product reviews like this, week-in week-out. We appreciate your feedback in the comments section, and we hope you enjoyed this tutorial as much as we did compiling it! This tutorial was made possible by ProjectGuitar.com's Patrons sirspens a2k Chris G KnightroExpress Stavromulabeta Andyjr1515 sdshirtman djobson101 ScottR Buter curtisa Prostheta 10pizza verhoevenc VanKirk rhoads56 Chip
Soapbar pickup routs seem simple in comparison to say, a humbucker or maybe a Tele bridge pickup rout. In actuality, they can be pretty difficult to nail. A soapbar cavity's outline is generally in full view instead of being hidden under a pickup ring, pickguard or the bridge; they need to be 100% perfect as any errors will be on show in the finished instrument. A basic soapbar rout consists of a simple rectangle conforming to the pickup with a small gap around the outline and radiused corners that follow those of the pickup case. This is bread and butter templating work for a router, however first we need to make a template, do so accurately and then look at how best to use it. Clean and neat; a Seymour Duncan MM-style pickup in a perfectly routed cavity. ----==---- Overview and Objectives This article will describe the fastest route from A to B using simple equipment and materials. Although not the most perfect or any kind of "gold standard", they are the easiest paths to the result and use techniques that can be built upon for more complex work. Expectations of accuracy rely only on your ability to check measure your work, practice and test on scrap before committing to a real workpiece. Anybody that can handle measuring tools, a drill and a router with reasonable confidence will get excellent results. We'll look at places where errors can creep in and how to spot problems before they bake themselves into your templates and your final work. Producing a basic rectangular routing template is easy, however the specifically-radiused corners smaller than our bearing-guided router cutters can manage makes this a little more involved. The approach we'll look at is to do this as two step process; use a drill to establish the corners, then rout the rest of the cavity with the template. A light pass with a chisel/file/sandpaper straightens up the difference between the routed and the drilled parts. Importantly, this relies on us having a template with square internal corners.... Two-stage approach - the red areas show the maximum reach of the router cutter, the green shows drilled corners. The minor discrepancy between the two can be seen in the flyout and is easily cleaned up. We will look at a slightly more complex single-pass method using guide bushings in a separate article in the Router Basics series to keep this tutorial on point. However, most of what we use here is transferable to that approach also and helps build your general working knowledge for templating of all kinds. What We Need Pencil A router with a small bearing-guided template cutter Lip and spur drill bits A sharp chisel Sheet stock suitable for templating (plywood, MDF, etc) cut into strips Double-sided tape Masking tape Wood glue Screws Credit Card (we're going to cut it up so you can't blow thousands on StewMac's overpriced tools ) Nothing that shouldn't already be on hand in your workshop! ----==---- The Template The primary method we'll describe deals with constructing a basic "fenced" template. This represents the rectangular negative space around the pickup, but most importantly it has square internal corners which we'll need later on. We'll be making a thicker template rather than something thin and flimsy, so dig around your scrap bins! What We Need The template needs four pieces of sheet stock good for templating (MDF, plywood, Masonite, dimensioned hard/softwood, etc). In this example, I'll be using 16mm MDF since it is easy to find thick scraps. Each piece needs to have two clean flat sides at 90° to each other. If you are wanting to make a permanent template, the pieces should be narrow enough that they can be drilled/screwed together. A good width for these strips is 1-1/2" to 2" wide (I used 40mm) then cut down into shorter lengths with a mitre saw, table saw, etc. Two long (roughly 8"/20cm) and two shorter pieces (4"/10cm) work for almost any size pickup. Larger pieces can be stuck directly to the workpiece to make a temporary template using double-stick tape and disassembled after use, however you won't get a test run! Ideal sizes for making a fenced template Using scrap pieces works fine also, as long as each one has two straight edges with 90° corners The thickness of the template stock depends on the length of your router cutter. If your cutter is too long and/or your template too thin the initial routing pass will be extremely heavy, which can produce poor cut quality and isn't safe. For handheld work, a good guideline is that the template should be just equal to or a little thicker than your cutter is long. My smallest template cutter has a cutting depth of 15mm, making 16mm MDF a satisfactory match. My go-to cutters - 19mm⌀ x 25mm and 12mm⌀ x 15mm What Is A Fenced Template? I'm glad you asked that. The concept of a fenced outline is simple; it is an arrangement of clean-edged template stock around the part being templated. A rectangle is extremely simple to fence since the four parts can be moved around to fit snugly against the pickup and against each other: Basic fence arrangement It becomes immediately obvious how important it is that the fence parts have those two straight edges at 90° to each other! If your fence joins do not close up cleanly, or straightening one part throws another out of alignment, check your pieces (and perhaps the pickup) with a set square for straightness and perpendicularity (that spellchecks, so hey). Any gaps caused by poorly-fitting parts will be apparent in the end result. When correctly made, this fence will represent a razor-tight copy of the part's outline. Note: most soapbar pickup cases will have a draft angle on the side walls; these are a design byproduct of the moulding process which allows the part to de-mould easier. The fence parts need to be aligned with the lower edge to make a correctly-sized template! click to enlarge Easing The Outline A tight copy of the pickup outline sounds good in theory, however it will not leave breathing room for any sort of basic fit or any finish. A pickup cavity created from template like this will just be too tight in practice. The fence arrangement described above needs easing by shimming out the pickup slightly so that the final fit is more appropriate for the end use. 2 layers of masking tape applied to all four edges adds a hair of width: enough for a simple non-building oil/wax finish, or in fact no finish at all. This is the minimum that should be considered for any cavity made from a fence, and equates to a border (in the case of 3M blue Scotch tape) of around 11mil/0,3mm or a sum easing of 22mil/0,6mm on the length and width. 3-4 layers is about the maximum before tape becomes less consistent in how much size it adds. This is enough to allow for a thin layer of conductive paint or a thin non-built layer of Tru-Oil (or similar) within the cavity. Thicker built finishes need more easing than tape can reliably provide. 3 layers of blue Scotch tape increased the size from 89,3 x 38,5mm to 89,8 x 39mm Note: the casing did not measure out as 3,5" x 1,5" (88,9mm x 38,1mm) as per the datasheet! Heavier easing can be achieved through the use of veneer scraps, pieces of a chopped up credit card (thickness is exactly 0,03" or 0,76mm) or other strong thin material of known thickness. Simply cut two pieces; one slightly shorter than the width of the pickup and one shorter than the length. Stick them to the inside face of your fence with a glue stick or something else you can remove later on. If you want a lot of easing, it's just as simple to shim both sides or double up the material. If you've ever shopped at StewMac, you should have plenty of these maxed out, ready to cut up If you have access to tooling accurate enough to produce a stand-in part for the pickup, this is an excellent option. This can be cut to a specific size to add an exact amount of easing that you want. The surrogate part was cut to allow a specific amount on the length and width A fenced template using a surrogate part If you dimensioned all of your template stock to the same width as the pickup surrogate part, this arrangement is also possible! click to enlarge Making The Template If you are making a temporary template direct to your workpiece, you can simply stick the parts straight to it using double-sided tape and skip this section. However, most people will want to make a template they can re-use and that can be tested on scrap. After lining up your fence parts around the pickup and easing as you think most appropriate, mark out where the mating faces are located. These visually help us to put glue only where it's needed, saving work cleaning the template later. Better than trying to remember which bit goes where with glue running around! Apply a little glue to the mating faces on all four joints and reassemble. Only clamp parts finger tight or use a little masking tape over the joints to keep them secure; we're not expecting a strong bond here (especially with MDF); just enough that the parts stay in place for the next stage. Check that the parts are still snug to the pickup. Glue works as a lubricant when wet, and any pressure clamping this up can cause parts to skate around. Again, finger tight and check carefully because errors here will come out in every cavity this template cuts. Looking good! Once the template is stable, gently remove any clamps and the pickup. Drill pilot holes to full depth for four screws. MDF is extremely weak and splits when you force screws into it. I chose to use a 4,0mm pilot to compensate for the 5,0mm threading. Countersinking is a nice touch but only necessary if you want to locate the screw heads below the surface. Clamping the MDF between two pieces of wood during screwing also helps prevent splitting. Whichever material you use, pilot holes are essential. click to enlarge Result - a quick, easy and accurate router copy template ready to be cleaned up. click to enlarge Using stock in this method to create fenced templates is quick and economical with no mess. Keeping a bunch of thin dimensioned strips on hand specifically for template making means you can quickly fabricate them to whatever size you require before you can say, "Titebond setting up time". ----==---- Making A Cavity Using The Template As discussed earlier, we will be carrying this out in two main stages. Firstly, we place the template and use the internal corners to establish the corner radius through drilling. Secondly, we use our router to cut the rest of the cavity. Lastly, the difference between the drilled corners and the routed cavity are cleaned up. I guess that sounds like three, but it's not really. Can we agree on two? Great. What We Need Attaching the template to the workpiece (preferably a test piece first!) requires that it is either clamped down or attached with double-stick tape. We also need a little masking tape. For drilling the holes, a lip and spur bit (with a sharp well-centred point) plus either a pillar drill or hand drill. For routing, a short bearing guided template cutter either in a hand router. Four pieces of double-stick tape attached to the underside of the template is plenty Briefly clamping down a template causes the double-stick tape to adhere very strongly! A little goes a long way. Drilling The Corners Most soapbars have corner radii which are smaller than our typical bearing-guided router bits, so instead we need to let our drills do the work for us. Choosing the size bears a second of thought. In the example used for this tutorial - an EMG-35 pickup - the corner radius is about 1/8" (3,175mm). We can either copy this by using a 1/4" diameter drill bit, or we can increase it in relation to how much we eased the outline earlier. EMG-35 size specifications The plastic card I used to shim the pickup on all four sides was exactly 0,03" (0,76mm) thick. Adding this to the corner radius and doubling that produces the "ideal" size of drill I should be using; 0,31" of which the closest Imperial size is 5/16". The closest common Metric size is 8,0mm. Ideally we should try to round down rather than round up; a larger drill bit diameter brings the corners closer in to the pickup. Alternatively, you can just use the same corner radius as the pickup itself. I'll demonstrate a number of sizes so we can see how they compare visually in the finished example. Firstly, we need to protect the template from the drill. A small piece of masking tape does this well. click to enlarge Next, place the drill bit square into the corner. This is far easier with thicker templates. click to enlarge Tapping the drill bit with a small hammer or similar creates a strong location mark for the drilling itself. click to enlarge The finished hole. Clean and located perfectly. Over time this process can damage the template however, leading to less accurate corner location. Still, a small price to pay and making new templates once in a while is simple. click to enlarge Routing The Cavity The router was fitted with a 12mm diameter 15mm deep cutter to make an initial pass a few mm deep. The setup was checked to ensure that the bearing was contacting the template. click to enlarge After the first pass, we can immediately see the discrepancy between the drilled corners and the routed area. click to enlarge A second pass brought this test cavity to a reasonable depth. Now is a good time to shave those small corner discrepancies away using a chisel held flat against the template..... click to enlarge Removing the template shows the differences in corner radii. click to enlarge Let's have a closer look at those. 5/16" - the size calculated to match that of the pickup corner radius plus the offset from shimming. It might look overly large to some, but it clearly conforms to the radius when you inspect it in person. click to enlarge 7,0mm - the nearest Metric size up from the pickup corner radius. This looks fine too. It's difficult to capture a good shot of these thanks to that draft angle making things look confusing from different viewpoints.... click to enlarge 1/4" - identical size to the 1/8" corner radius. That also looks perfect in spite of there being no size compensation! click to enlarge Improving The Templates As it stands, the template is extremely usable and repeatable in spite of its simple construction. Thicker sheet stock definitely improves accuracy during the corner drilling procedure however. I found that 16mm (5/8") stock is about the minimum before drill alignment becomes tricky. A useful addition to the templates is alignment marking. These can be done either as simple pencil lines or location holes drilled through to provide highly-accurate visual alignment reference. Firstly, flip your template over so that the underside is on top, then mark out the centrelines accurately. Check and double-check these from both sides using as many methods as you can! Centre lines marked out on the underside of the template Place the template on a piece of scrap, centrepunch and then drill all holes through cleanly. Drilling from the underside ensures that if the drill wanders away from the centre during the cut (I used a cordless drill) then the underside is guaranteed to be correct, and this is what matters. Note: Ensure that any screws driven into the template don't lay in the path of your drill! If necessary, withdraw them, clip them shy and re-insert them.... Holes drilled through the template Next, flip the template right-side up. Using a countersink, ream out the holes until the tip of the countersink touches the scrap board underneath. Countersinks tend to "drive" suddenly, and then stop advancing. Clean out the cutter and then give it another try to advance deeper. This took me two passes each. This is what the finished template alignment marks should look like, and how it works. ----==---- www.patreon.com/ProjectGuitar If you enjoyed and benefited from this article. become a Patron of ProjectGuitar.com and help us actively continue bring you even more articles, tutorials and product reviews like this, week-in week-out. We appreciate your feedback in the comments section, and we hope you enjoyed this tutorial! Thanks to ProjectGuitar.com's Patrons sirspens a2k Chris G KnightroExpress Stavromulabeta Andyjr1515 sdshirtman djobson101 ScottR Buter curtisa Prostheta 10pizza verhoevenc VanKirk rhoads56 Chip
It is difficult to construct an electric guitar without reaching for the router. Control and pickup cavities, neck pockets and tremolo recesses are all operations that require the use of this versatile tool, and all of these examples are made much easier and safer by the use of a template and an inverted pattern bit to guide the router around the intended cut. One routing pattern that can be difficult to execute accurately is for a Floyd Rose Original tremolo, particularly the recessed version whereby the arm can be raised or lowered above and below its equilibrium point. The following article describes a system that lends itself well to performing this difficult routing operation by the use of a master indexing plate on to which a number of different templates can be attached to create the complex routing pattern. The system can be adapted for other patterns as well such as pickup cavities or other tremolo systems. The System Referring to the PDF plans attached to the bottom of this post, the Floyd Rose routing templates are based around a master indexing plate (Sheet 1). The centre of the plate has a 120mm x 100mm window which can accept a matching template insert. Near the perimeter of the plate are mounting holes for installing further templates which may be overlaid on top of the indexer to provide extra tool height for shallow cutting operations which would otherwise cause the router bearing to ride higher than the template. The templates used in this example have been created from clear Perspex, but MDF can also be used. Perspex however has the advantage that it is possible to see through the template to help position it against reference guidelines drawn on the body to ensure perfect alignment. Sheet 2 shows the insert that is installed within the window of the indexer and contains the guides for drilling the tremolo post holes and the penetration for the trem sustain block. Sheet 3 details the overlay template that is attached on top of the indexer for routing the cavity for the bridge plate of the Floyd Rose. With the end stop shown on Sheet 4 fitted to the overlay template, the extra depth required for the fine tuners at the rear of the bridge can also be routed. Sheet 5 describes the template for routing the rear of the body for installing the springs. Constructing the templates Begin with the indexer. After cutting the perimeter of the plate mark the centreline and intonation reference lines as shown on the diagram as squarely as possible. If using Perspex scribe these lines on the underside of the template. Having these lines under the template assists with lining up the location of the template on the guitar body. The window cut-out in the index plate can be created using a coping saw to rough out the cut, followed by a router guided by temporary fences to ensure straight, square edges. Note that the indexer can be as large as you like, so long as it remains easy to attach to your guitar. Cut and shape the outline of the insert plate and check the fit in the indexer window. The insert plate needs to be a snug fit with no slop while remaining easily removable. With the insert fitted to the indexer mark the cut-outs and drill locations detailed on sheet 2. Performing the marking of the insert while fitted to the indexer ensures the locations of the cut-outs remain square and true relative to the centreline scribed on the indexer. Remove the insert and complete the cut-outs as carefully as possible. Move on to the overlay template. Again, use the centreline on the indexer as a reference to aid in aligning the two when marking the locations of the cut-outs in the overlay template. With the templates constructed as shown in the plans the front edge of the overlay needs to be on the same alignment as the front edge of the indexer. If you chose to make the indexer wider ensure that you maintain the same horizontal positioning of the overlay template so that the resultant rout is at the correct location. The four 4mm holes should be drilled while the two pates are clamped together so that they remain in perfect alignment. These holes are used to lock the two plates together while routing. Removable pins or screws should be installed to align together them when routing provided that they do not protrude, and either damage the surface of the guitar body or hinder the movement of the router. The removable end stop can be constructed using two strips of material laminated together to make the required step profile. Two screw holes should be bored through the overlay template into the end stop to allow the two components to be secured together when performing the routing operation. The final template, the spring cavity rout can be created separately to the indexer. Mark or scribe the dashed line shown on the drawing as perpendicular as possible to the centreline. Tools required for using the templates Plunge router with adjustable depth stop Drill press with adjustable depth stop 1/2" diameter inverted pattern router bit with bearing, length 19mm 1/2" diameter inverted pattern router bit with bearing, length 32mm 3/8" diameter inverted pattern router bit with bearing, length 19mm 10mm brad point drill bit Optional - Forstner bits for removing excess timber prior to routing Clamps Using the templates 1. At this stage you should have a guitar body ready to be routed to accept the Floyd Rose bridge. A centreline should be marked on the body along with an intonation reference line drawn at right angles across the full width of the body at your chosen scale length. In the following example a scrap piece of pine has been used to rout the bridge cavity. No intonation line has been marked, but your actual build will require this to ensure the Floyd Rose is installed at the correct distance from the nut. 2. Align the index plate with the centreline and intonation reference line drawn on the body and clamp it securely. Test-manoeuvre your router around the indexer to ensure your clamps do not interfere at the extremities of the window in the plate and adjust if required. Alternatively you can use double-sided stick tape provided it is of good quality and doesn't allow too much lateral movement of the templates once adhered. Fit the insert plate into the window and using the two 10mm template holes as a guide bore the trem post holes using a 10mm brad point bit to a depth of 10mm or so. The exact depth at this stage isn't critical. Were just establishing the location of the post holes to start with. 3. A Forstner bit can be used to remove some of the waste within the 24mm x 76mm cut-out of the insert template to a depth of approx. 25mm to minimise wear on the router bit. Using the 1/2 diameter, 32mm long inverted pattern bit rout this template to a depth of 29mm. 4. The insert plate can now be removed from the indexer and the overlay plate installed over the top. Again, use the Forstner bit to remove some of the waste to a depth of 5mm. Use the 3/8 diameter, 19mm long inverted pattern bit and rout the whole area to a depth of 6mm. 5. Creating the rear well that allows the bridge to be pulled backwards when raising the trem arm requires routing a secondary depth at the back of the cavity of an additional 6mm. This is achieved by fitting the small stop bar to the overlay template that reduces the router lateral travel by 16mm. Run the router within the template to a depth of 12mm below the face of the guitar body. 6. The indexer and templates can now be removed from the body. Using a drill press bore all the way through the body down through the bottom of the sustain block rout. The exact location and size of this hole isn't critical, just as long as it is as close to the front edge of the rout as possible. Where the drill exits the body at the rear, mark a line perpendicular to the centre of the body that touches the tangent of this drill hole. This line should now align with the front edge of the sustain block rout and is used for locating the final template for routing the spring cavity. 7. Fit and clamp the fourth template, aligning it with the centre and sustain bock reference lines on the back of the body. Assuming your body is a typical Strat thickness (45mm or so), rout this template to a depth of 16mm using the 1/2 diameter 19mm long inverted pattern bit. If your body is a different thickness this will change how deep this rout must be. The rout needs to be deep enough to allow clearance for the springs and sustain block, but not so deep that you risk punching through the underside of the pickup routs. Ideally this depth should be [thickness of body] - 29mm. 8. An additional depth to the rear edge of the spring cavity is required to allow clearance for the sustain block to swing backwards when the trem arm is depressed. This depth is again dependent on the thickness of your body but should be [thickness of body] - 15mm. For a typical Strat this will result in a cutting depth of 30mm. The resultant rout will leave a small 3mm ledge of timber that is visible when viewing back through the sustain block cavity. Use the 1/2 diameter, 32mm long inverted pattern bit to complete this cut. Take care not to run the bit into the forward edge of the sustain block rout. A temporary fence may be clamped to the work piece to prevent the router being accidentally moved into the front wall of the sustain block rout. 9. The last step is to bore the final depth of the trem bushing holes. Remove the last template and flip the body over. Measure the length of your trem bushings and set your drill press depth stop to this value. Using a 10mm brad point bit on the drill press bore down the two 10mm holes that were established in step 2. Once the holes have been drilled the bushings can be pressed into the guitar. They should go in with firm hand pressure. An alternate method is to use a drill press with a short piece of dowel in the chuck to press the bushings in. Be careful when applying pressure however, as the small amount of supporting wood behind the bushing holes is fragile and can be easily split if the bushings require excessive force to be pressed in. 10. Test fit the bridge and check to see if there is sufficient clearance to allow the bridge to swing up and down without binding on any of the routs. Adapting the system Because the routing templates can be removed from the master indexer the user has the ability to create other template inserts and overlays for different routing tasks. Any shape that can fit within the dimensions of the 120mm x 100mm window has the potential to be made into a template for repetitive or complex routing operations. Pickup cavities, battery box cavities, Kahler and Wilkinson tremolos are some examples. ------ DOWNLOADABLE TEMPLATE SHEET FILES FR Routing Templates.pdf
I've been inspired by the work of Chris Verhoven and David Myka, especially in the semi hollowbody realm. My current build is a chambered ash body and a 1/4 in maple cap. I've been trying to cut the f holes in the maple, but the sharp corners are proving to be extremely difficult. How have others done something like this in the past to achieve uniform, smooth, and sharp looking results? This was extremely hard and I'm not very proud of it. https://lh6.googleus...-p-k/2013-02-12
This text is the literary accompaniment to this YouTube instructional video: The first thing to keep in mind when building a template is to ensure that you have a full-scale drawing/blueprint of the guitar you wish to make templates for. There’s nothing worse than making a template only to find out it won’t work for you… or even worse, building the guitar from that template! So check, and recheck all your measurements and drawings to make sure you’ve got it all right. To build a quality template you’re going to need a couple of tools and a short list of materials. For the actual templates you’re going to need 1/8” thick hardboard, and ¾” (1/2” also works, but I prefer the thicker variety) MDF. Both of these materials are relatively cheap at the home depot or Lowes. As for the tools, you’ll of course need a pencil, ruler, marker, oscillating spindle sander or drum sander chucked into your drill press, some sort of saw; be it a jigsaw, coping saw, or the best, a scroll or bandsaw, a palm sander (square pad will work better for this than an RO sander), and lastly a router preferably with a table. The first step is to get the sharp of your body from your drawings onto the 1/8” hardboard. This is easily done by cutting the shape out from your blueprints (always make sure you have a non-cut up copy! You can copy things this large at a FedEx Kinkos) and then trace it onto the hardboard with your pencil, centering it along the center line you have already drawn with your ruler (center lines are KEY to guitar building!). Since the hardboard is a relatively dark material the pencil may be hard to see well enough to follow, so now go over this line with your thin tipped marker in a nice easy to see black line. You may now roughly cut out the shape using the saw device of your choice. Try and keep as close to the black line as you can without going into it (leaving about 1/16” off the line should be close enough for this step), because you can always later remove material you failed to cut away, but you can never add back material that you took off inside the line. You should now have a rough shape for your body, but that obviously still needs a little work. The next step will be to perfect the shape with sanders. Start the sanding process by using the OS Sander or chucked drum sander to work at creating a continuous, perfectly flowing curve on all of the concave sections of the template. It’s generally a good idea to keep the template moving along the curve instead of sitting and sanding it in one place, which will cause a depression. The only time you should sand an area without moving is if you have a large lump that needs some serious bringing down to level with the curve. This constant motion while sanding will help to perfect the curve and make it smooth and continuous. The best way to find out if you’ve accomplished this is by holding the template up to, and covering the sun, or a light, so that the light comes in around the template and gives you a starkly contrasted profile which allows you to see the state that the edges of the template are in much better than simply looking at them normally. Keep in mind, even the slightest imperfections on your 1/8” template will come out to be large noticeable ones when they are compounded by the 1.5”-1.75” thickness of the guitar’s body the template will make. Once you are done and happy with the concave sections of the template, it’s now time to focus on the convex sections. For this we will use the palm sander. The reason for this is because it has a flat bottom surface, meaning it will sand off all high spots, but since it’s flat and the surface is convex, it won’t further sand lower and of the low spots, ie: you’ll end up with some nice uniformity. Using the same process of checking your progress with light profiles, sand the convex sections until they too flow perfectly and you are happy with them. Now take your 1/8” hardboard template and trace that onto a piece of ¾” MDF with a centerline. Then once again roughly saw out the outline, this time you don’t have to be nearly as accurate. Then, using double sided tape, nails, whatever you have around, secure the 1/8” template onto the rough cut ¾” MDF one. We will now use a bearing guided bit with your router table to copy the exact shape of the 1/8” template to the ¾” one. Keep in mind this may take several passes because ¾” is quite a bit of material, even though MDF cuts like butter on a router. Now you might ask, “Why did I got through the whole process of hand creating a template in the 1/8” material, just to end up using it only to create a ¾” one!?” The answer is simple. 1/8” thick material is much easier to shape by hand and with simple tools. Also, since the material is thin, even if you sand the edge at an angle, or some other mistake, since the bearing on the router is thicker than the material, it will follow only the high parts, in essence, negating these angled sides/mistakes. Whereas, if you had made the same mistake on a hand done ¾” template, since it’s thicker, and mistake over its thickness will have a greater impact than that of the 1/8” material. This is easily explained with right triangles. Lets say you accidentally sand the edge at a 3-degree angle. 3 degrees over 1/8” is really a negligible difference on the side of the triangle opposite the angle. However, the same mistake done over a triangle of base length ¾” will result in a much larger error, one that could easily be large enough, when transferred to your guitar body, to make a flat spot, or an imperfect curve, or any number of visual unpleasant features. As for the reason for needing a ¾” template at all and not just using the 1/8” one to route the body; since the body will be some 1.5”-1.75” thick you’ll have to route in several passes and thus the bearing will go up in height each pass, and therefore you’ll need a thicker template to accommodate for this so that the bearing will always have a surface of the template to follow. Follow the same above steps to create your template for the headstock shape. The final template that you’ll need to create is the template for your neck and fretboard. The good thing about this template is that if you build the template for the neck, you can also use it for the fretboard. Simply find the width of the neck at the nut and at any point further down the neck, say something like the 12th or the 24th fret for convenience, and then take a perfectly straight piece of wood (often the edges of the MDF when you buy it are straight enough, so cut off a strip or two) and using strong double sided tape, tape this straight piece along one edge of the taper you’ve drawn out between the nut and the point you chose further down the neck. Use this straight piece and a template bearing guided router bit to route along it, then repeat for the other side of the fretboard taper. Now you should have the perfect taper for your neck and fretboard. It’s now time to cut off the extra wood where the nut will be, and also down where the end of your neck tenon will be. If you want to route your neck pocket with a router, you should round off the ends of you template down where the tenon end is at the same radius as the bit you plan to route the neck pocket with for a nice tight fit. You can use this whole template to route the entire neck (in conjunction with the headstock template you’ve made) or to route just the fretboard by positioning the fretboard wood at the nut and centered. Keep in mind, the straight wood/bearing bit method can be used for a great number of things such as routing the perfect control cavity, or even more complicated routes like a neck pocket, which can be done by clamping the neck where you want it, and then taping straight pieces on either side and at the end of the tenon. Courtesy of Chris Verhoeven, edited for forum use by @Desopolis