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Carving a Top

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Well since I know your CNC is down :D I would either go with a spoke shaven or probably a belt sander to take off the meat and a palm sander to do the final shaping and smoothing out.

I know it would be best to mark a line all away around the outside edge of the body where you want the top to end, using it as a guide while doing the process and of course the cavitys wouldn't be routed in till your finished shaping it.

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A router and templates might help here too. You could at least take some of the excess amterial out of your way by using a router, and a couple of different sized templates. Use a template that covers the part of the top that will be say less than 3/8 below the top of the wood, and rout with 3/8 depth. then use a smaller template around the middle part of top, and rout out your next contour with a 1/4 inch depth. Make a couple three templates, and you're in. They don't need to be terribly accurate, as you are just roughing it here. Make sure you error to the side of leaving too much wood behind! (Don't ask me why I emphasize this...) (Wood filler just doesn't look right on Flamed Maple)

When you are done, you should have a top that looks like it has two, three or four steps going around it. then start removing the peaks, and working the whole thing down smooth. Much easier than doing it totally by hand. If you don't have wide enough bits to remove that much wood, just remove a channel at each depth. It still leaves sort of a road map to follow, as you trim down your surface.

One thing we did for half hull models at a buddy's boat shop, was to take a contour drawing, and place it on the block of wood. Then we would drill a bunch of holes, to the depth of the contours. We laid out a grid of these holes, all over the block. Then we just started attacking the wood with gouges, planes, chisels and the like, until we started getting to the bottoms of our holes. We were still about 1/8" off of our final dimensions, but it saved us a lot of time and measuring as we went, and it was virtually foolproof.

A lot of hull models, and a lot of guitar tops have been wrecked by a slight loss of patience early in the shaping game, or by overlooking one measurement, and going too deep. I like to have some kind of a guide or roadmap to follow when I am doing these types of things.

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