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Routers And Jigsaw Blades...


Logical Frank
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So I figure I'm going to use a jigsaw to cut out my bodies and then a router to do the cavities. I have a Skil Scrolling/Orbital jigsaw which takes U-type blades. What kind of blades is going to be best for cutting out bodies? I understand that this is the very last place you want to skimp.

And what kind of router will I be using for this sort of thing? Do I want plunge or fixed base. Also, some suggestions on bits would be appreciated here as well. There's some reconed Hitachi kits on eBay right now that come w/ a template set that looks like it might suit my needs. What do you all think of those? Here. Is it more than I need, too little or not enough?

I'm trying to keep my toolset pretty minimal here since space and money are both issues (space, especially). I only figure on building maybe one guitar a year so I'm not too worried about saving time or getting stuff that will stand up to daily abuse.

Sorry for the n00b questions. Tanks in advance!

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I'm not much help on jigsaw blades, but as far as a router, I'd buy the best you can afford. I haven't found a lot of difference between the fixed base and plunge types, but others with more experience may have better opinions. For a router, I have found that ones with half and quarter inch capacity are handy. Some of the big bits with half inch shafts are very useful. Good bits are a very good investment - they stay sharp and last longer.

Good luck.

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There are parts of guitar building where it is REALLY handy to have a plunge router - for example doing the pickup and control cavity routes. There are other parts where you can do just fine with a fixed router - like the neck pocket and body outline/roundovers. It's good to have both bases handy, but not wholly necessary. If I HAD to pick one, I'd get a plunge router, but my router is a kit with both bases.

I'm not a big fan of the space alien aesthetic of that Hitachi router, but it has been getting pretty good reviews from most of the woodworking magazines that have tried it since it came out a year or two ago.

I just took a look at the Taunton's 2007 Tool Guide (Fine Woodworking mag and Fine Homebuilding mag) and they have it rated pretty well. Another option is the Skil 1825, which they give the best value award to - it's not rated as well for ease of base changes or router table suitability, but it rates as well on plunge-base score and actually even better on the fixed base score. They show the Hitachi with a street price of $180 and the Skil with a street price of $100. Both are 2 1/4HP routers.

I really like Bosch jigsaw blades. Bosch recommends their U101AO Clean for Wood blades for curved cuts, but the blade length isn't really long enough to cut a 1 3/4 in body blank. I might try the U101DF Clean for Hardwood blades, they're long enough to cut a thick blank.

I normally use the Precision for Wood blades, but those are only available for T-shank blades, not U-shank blades.

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I have one of those Hitachi's. It has performed very well for me. It has variable speed(this is nice), 1/4" or 1/2" bits are cool, soft start is nice, adjustments are smooth and accurate, template guides work well with the based and alignment tool, 2-1/4 HP suits my building needs, the plunge base also works well(although I don't use it much it is a nice feature). The price is good at $119 for a reconditioned unit(I take no issue with reconditioned units).

Peace,Rich

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I was thinking on buying a Jigsaw as well...i go to a wood shop to cut my bodies, necks, etc, and the guy who helps me on all of this told me " dude, why don't you just buy a jigsaw?" I only had one experience cutting a an sg body with a jigsaw and the sides are far away from 90º... Anyways the guy told me to buy a good jigsaw, and the guy i learnt luthierie from told to get a good jigsaw as well, so i dunno...

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Thanks for the help, everyone. If the jigsaws don't necessarily cut straight, what does everyone use to cut out their bodies, band saws? I wish I had the space for a band saw... Probably gonna have a go at mine this weekend if the weather clears up.

Edited by Logical Frank
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Jigsaw's are very useful, I didn't mean to put you off, I just wanted to point out that they're not great for cutting thick bodies. They're very useful for making jigs & templates & for rough cutting but don't expect to cut out a perfect guitar body with just the jigsaw

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Well--it sounds like I will be using the jigsaw to do the rough cut and then finishing it off w/ the router then. Am I gonna die if I don't use a template for the body or can I just carefully free hand it? I'm not gonna be sure on how much I like this body shape until I make it and kind of don't want to go through the trouble if I don't have to.

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you won't be able to freehand it...well you might but you'll have a lot of cleaning up to do afterwards & it's very unlikely that you'll get the shape you want. If you can't be bothered to take the time to make a template, give up now. It's much cheaper to make a template with some decent ply or MDF & then scrap it than to make several trial runs on some decent wood.

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Well--it sounds like I will be making a template then. Bear in mind that I don't have a car so getting a big piece of plywood or MDF to my house is a gigantical hassle that's going to involve both bribery and witchcraft so that is more why I wanted to get down to it and just start building than anything.

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HUH?! Big piece of plywood? All you need is a piece of material about 20" X 14" for a body template. Best not to use plywood because perfect edges (curves etc.) are difficult to cut on that stuff. Parts of the laminate can tear out and its not a smooth surface for a router bit bearing. Any solid wood 1/4" to 1/2" thick will do. Or see if a wood supply might have some MDF scraps.

I suggest you do a bit more research on the matter. Do some searches with subject "guitar templates" and you will have a get a better idea on what is required and how its done.

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I was actually planning on using masonite since that's what those fellows at the Guitar Building Templates used. (I was, of course, exaggerating the inconvenience. You'd be surprised how relative the size of a piece of wood--well, material--is walking down a windy street w/ it vs. carrying it in your car. :D) I figure I will cut it out w/ a scroll blade and finish the edges w/ sandpaper. That much I know I can handle.

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A quarter sheet of MDF or Ply is doable, and more than enough for several different guitar designs. I start out with 8mm MDF (easy to form, shape, etc.), transfer onto a thicker template later (copy route), either 3/4" MDF, or 1/2" to 3/4" ply. Don't have masonite here, although there's trespa, which is synthetic stuff used for signmaking that looks like it could be nice and durable and impervious to any surprise humidity swings.

But given how cheap MDF is....well, y'know.

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I really like Bosch jigsaw blades. Bosch recommends their U101AO Clean for Wood blades for curved cuts, but the blade length isn't really long enough to cut a 1 3/4 in body blank. I might try the U101DF Clean for Hardwood blades, they're long enough to cut a thick blank.

I ended up going w/ the U101DF. Worked great! It turns out that although my jigsaw came w/ a couple U-shank blades I can use the T-shank too so that gives me some more options. Looking forward to trying the U101A for when I cut out my template.

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Oh, for templates - if you make a Masonite template, use that as a "master template" to make a thicker 1/2" to 3/4" template which you will actually use. This makes it a lot easier to take off a few mm at a time from the body (don't go hell for leather and take 1" at time unless you want to injure yourself or your work!) plus you can pop on a second bearing to the router bit just in case it binds up and tries to eat your template and workpiece :-D

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Wow. Good choice. Don't let your friends rip the pee out of you for buying a space alien router though! I can't stress enough how much making thicker templates from thin templates is a good move in the long run. Those masonite template gouge reeeeeal easy once a bit of dust or heat causes your bearing to bind up, and that pretty wood is difficult to put back!

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