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Cutting A Rear Access Panel In A Hollow Body


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All of the access panels I have seen, including the one on my resent build, need a support frame that has to be in place before the body is assembled.

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I'm working on a "thin archtop" style guitar and instead of stuffing the electronics through the pick-up holes & f-holes I was considering making an access panel on the back of the guitar and using the same wood I'm cutting out as a lid (cover) so that the existing carve, grain and pattern on the figured maple match perfectly.

My first concern was wether or not it would have an impact on the acoustics of the guitar. My guess was that if I make it small ( less than 2.5in by 2.5in say) it would probably have an impact on the resonance of the back of the guitar, but probably not enough that my ears could tell. If it needed to be sealed I could probably use some insulation material but that seemed like overkill since I am cutting holes in the front face (f holes, pickup holes) so its certainly not airtight!

My next worry was how to do it so that it looks nice in the end.

First I'd need a lip to keep the wood from falling through. No problem I could glue in a couple of scrap pieces to serve as a lip and as a place to screw the lid onto. or as a friend suggested, I could glue in dowels on the opposite side that keep the lid in the right place and I can screw into.

Next how to cut it out so that the edge is clean and I can use the center cutout. That means I cant drill pilot holes and I should probably not try to have any square corners. Large radii all around! So, no pilot holes kinda rules out a scroll saw, jig saw, etc. I thought of using a template router technique. Making a female template (a hole in a piece of wood or lexan) with the proper shape and slightly oversize. Using a bushing to follow the template I plan on taking shallow cuts with a 1/16 or smaller diameter bit. The trouble with smaller is they get progressively more fragile. Wider leaves a larger cutline which in my case is a larger gap between the two pieces of wood. Any suggestions here as far as a bit diameter (I'm using a 1/4" shank router, but I can switch to a 1/2" or a Dremel tool-1/8").

But I digress, you go around and around making progressively deeper cuts until you poke through the wood. In my case its only about 1/4" of guitar body that I have to go through. I have no idea about a Ibanez Artcore. You also probably want to take all of the internal components out before you do any of this otherwise the router will pretty much take care of all of your wiring!

Also, you may want to rethink this panel unless you want to refinish your instrument. I'm sure the router will make some scratches and dings in the finish. Anyway, give it some thougt, you already have a beautiful instrument, if you want to tinker with electronics why not pick up a cheap korean made guitar. Usually what sucks in them is the pickups, so it will be a great place to tinker.

As for me, does anyone have any words of wisdom for me before I carry the above out on my nicely carved and beautifully figured maple back? I'm plannning on taking a similar approach to the f-holes in the front, but in that case I dont have to reuse the cetral wood, so its a bit less stressful for me, and I can use a normal inlay bit (1/8" cutter).

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Bind the access panel with a binding the same thickness as the router bit. That way it will also be possible to do a square access panel. Mitre the bindings likely at the corners. It will give you an elegant look and the router bit has better odds to last.

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  • 4 weeks later...

Bind the access panel with a binding the same thickness as the router bit. That way it will also be possible to do a square access panel. Mitre the bindings likely at the corners. It will give you an elegant look and the router bit has better odds to last.

Ha, that's a great idea! Actually I did this because I glued the body wings together and forgot to cut the access first. Now it's my standard method.

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