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Building A Guitar Sans Router

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I've been considering building a guitar for a while and recently I came up with a design that would be feasible with the tools I have. Unfortunately for me I don't have a router and I don't really want to spend the money to buy a tool that I'll only ever use once. :D

The majority of the guitar I could do without a router, except for the truss-rod channel. This is a problem. I came up with an idea involving sticking two blocks of wood down side by side to make a channel. This unfortuanately will probably make the neck weak. :D

Any ideas on how to make a truss rod channel or substitutes for a router?


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Ha ha ha...I'm sure if you look through my posts from back around the time I stumbled into this place, you'll find me asking pretty much the same question.

And the answer is, don't kid yourself, you can't build just ONE guitar :D

And you won't use the router just once, you'll be using it all over the guitar --just consider it as part of the cost of the guitar.

Look, right now they have routers on sale here (France) for 18 euros --I had one of those cheapos, got plenty of service from it before the motor finally died (most from my abuse while I learned how to use it). I've now replaced it with slightly higher quality. But that first router got me through a lot of wood in the meantime. And it's probably just a loose wire from all the jostling, it's just not worth bothering with.

But I really can't imagine building a guitar without one, unless you have the patience of a saint and the meticulousness of a brain surgeon.

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It can be done, yes, I did my first one without a router (I've still never painted it though so it lies ALMOST done lol). But it's a pain. I find if you've got no router though, give up on the set or bolt on neck idea... do a neck through cause you really need a router for the neck pocket...

But yeah, you'll need ALOT more tools to do it without a router though. As for the trussachnnel, use a table saw to dado it out. Or the old fashioned way with a hammer and chisel...


PS: A dremel is a VERY handy tool.... so if you have one of those, it might be JSUT powerful enough to router that channel...

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Some home improvement stores allow you to rent tools. I rented a thickness planner from a tool rental place down the street from my house. 25 bucks for a weekend, and I did it on a 3 day weekend just in case

I neded more time, and the guy showed me how to use it properly. They needed a credit card for a deposit if you decide to walk away with it, but it was pretty straight forward. +1 to Mick Do you really think you will only build one guitar?!?

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Thanks for the advice guys B) . In response to what many of you are saying, I do intend to build only one guitar, It's possible I'll be proved wrong. Only time will tell. :D

Where did you manage to get an 18 euro router from? All I seem to find is in the 100 pounds+ range. A dremel seems more in my price range and it does look like a very useful tool, except for hammering... :D

I went on the dremel website and they gave me loads of facts and figures, all quite bemusing. Can anyone reccomend which model would be good for this sort of application?

Tool renting... never thought of that. I'll see if their is a shop in my area. By the way, do you think a timber merchant would do a job like that if I had the res ot the neck pre-prepared?


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Trust me. Guitars are like potato chips. You can't just do one. hehe. I haven't fully finished my first build and I'm already in the process of refinishing one of my other ones and planning my next build.

As far as using the dremel to route the pockets. I'm sure it can be done but it's definitely pushing the machine up to or past its limits so you would have to be careful you don't burn the machine out. I only used the dremel for the inlay I did on my fretboard.

For what model to use..... If you are going to attempt making the pockets, etc with the dremel, I would stay away from the cordless models. Seems like you would spend more time charging it because that's a lot of use for the machine.

Renting tools is definitely an alternative. It's always better to use the correct tool for the job (router vs dremel in this case) The job will go a lot easier with it.

Good luck on your build!!

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Ah you're in the UK, land of high prices...well, at least you get...wait a second, maybe that's why the Brits are buying up all the old houses here in France! :D

But yeah, these days you can get tons of cheap Chinese built tools for not much --routers cost 18 euros, I paid 15 for my mini-drill/dremel type setup (but it's a pretty good one --you can get 'em for 8 euros too). Next time you come to France, just hit up pretty much any hypermarket.

I almost bought a drill press for 40 euros, but decided to hold out and pay a little more to get a model with a laser sight.

I'm not quite willing to lay out the big bucks for high end tools because I'm not that serious about all this --I only plan a couple more builds in the near future --I'm sure I'll make more in the longer term, but in the meantime, the tools will pretty much rest while I move on to something else...I still have the idea of building my own tube amp.

Another thing about building guitars is that your first attempt might not turn out as well as you like --I trashed my first try --so that's part of the reason why we're telling you you can't build just one.

But the main reason is that once you discover that you really can build pretty much any guitar you fancy having, with a little time and patience and the proper tools, you'll be like the rest of us, busy planning your second and third build before you've even finished your first.

Besides, the more guitars you build with the tools, the less the tools cost per-guitar...we call that Mickeynomics around here... :D

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hey man,

i cant imagine building a guitar without a router, its kinda like eating without a plate :D

go on the bay, and have a look about, as mick said get a cheapo so you can burn it out (or not burn it out) while you learn the techniques and whatnot of routing. i have seen routers from as low as 40 AUD, which is bout 15 or so pound. go down to mitre 10 or bunnings warehouse, or other hardware store, and talk to some of the guys there, they should steer you in the right direction.


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Even if you plan to build only one guitar, you should get a router IMO. Cheap routers are probably not of a high quality but they are more than good enough for what you need. I got mine for like 30€ and it came with 12 router bits. I've used it to rout out two guitar bodies, neck pockets, pickup cavities and for a lot of other things and it still works great. Like someone already said, you will be using it all over the guitar, not just for the truss rod channel and pickup cavities. I can't really imagine building a guitar without it.

Edited by Rista
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Mince down to your local B&Q type place - they often have their chinese cheapies under £30. Check Ebay, as someone has already mentioned or failing that use a SHARP chisel to do the channel - i did for my first neck and it's fine to the point of being gigged about a dozen or so times so far and it's solid.

Jem :D

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If you do use a chisel on a pickup/neck/control cavity you need to drill it out as much as possible before. mark a bit to depth with masking tape and drill out as much as you can first. Them use a sharp chisel BY HAND not mallet as much as you can. You can do alot with a sharp chisel and NO mallet. Just whittle it.

Using a mallet can put stress on a wing joint that 50 years of playing never could. The wing could literaly "fly" away.

Please dont ask how I know this :D

Try to get a router :D


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