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  1. Hot off the press from G&W in Portugal is this compact solution to rough-radiusing fingerboards quickly using your router. Machined from CNC-cut aluminium with a black anodised finish, this jig is designed to be tough and precise like a good shop tool should be. The jig consists of two parts; the sliding router base and a lower sled. The base rides over the top of the sled, indexed off the radiused guides whilst the sled is designed to move back and forth over the fingerboard. The complete jig is available in the most common radii (7.25", 9.5", 10", 12" and 16") with additional radius side plates as an option. Bases are compatible with the Makita RT070xC, DeWalt D26200 and Bosch GKF600/Colt, however any other compact router should be easy to fit with a little modification. The jig can accommodate a 71mm wide fingerboard, allowing the radiusing of 7-string and bass fingerboards in addition to standard guitar sizes. Everything arrived neatly packaged as always. The torn foam was my fault! All parts individually wrapped Beautifully finished. Two minutes, easy to assemble. All of the screws and tools required were included. The fixed base of my Makita RT0701C fits perfectly. Price as of writing is €129,90 from Guitars and Woods. Keep your eyes peeled for our in-depth review of the jig in use.
  2. Laser cutting takes what we engineer at the desktop and brings it out into the real world. For a luthier, this enables creating our most common working tools - router templates - to be made simply yet precisely. A real game changer! Translating creative or technical design work into router templates opens up a world of design options. Anything from an accurate outline of your body/headstock, pickup and electronics cavities, through to complete modular templating systems for recessed tremolos, etc. Powerful desktop design tools and laser cutting takes your building to the next creative and technical level. "Having it laser cut" sounds like a magic bullet of sorts; draw something up and having it drop out of the other side with little to no real effort. That's not actually too far from the truth; the technology is definitely more usable and accessible than it ever had been. The key to winning lies in mastering a number of simple fundamentals and managing a few basic expectations. Once you've moved beyond these, laser cutting becomes a very workable part of your armoury and one that you'll always find new ideas and challenges for....and like any tool, it is only as good as what you make of it! ----==---- ARTICLE SCOPE - The focus of this article will be on how to locate and choose the right laser-cutting service, illustrate the desktop work necessary to produce drawing files that are pretty much good to cut and finally show a couple of real-world working examples. We are making a few assumptions here. First is that you know basic vector work (AutoCAD or other CAD packages, Illustrator, Inkscape, CorelDRAW, etc). Secondly, that you are more or less familiar with manipulating vectors, managing object types, inspecting and changing their attributes, etc. with your chosen vector drawing package. Beyond this, laser cutting is a pushover! ----==---- CONTENTS - 1. Finding Your Laser 2. Starting Out - Communication Is Key 3. Design-Time Considerations 4. File Exchange - Break It Down To Basics 5. Example 1 - Simple Bench Hold-Down Templates 6. Example 2 - Electronics Cavity Routing Template Set ----==---- 1. Finding Your Laser Okay, well we have two options for getting our templates made. First - getting your hands dirty at a Makerspace, Hacklab, community college/educational facility or wherever else offers public/membership access to a suitable laser cutter. By far, this is the best way of extending your skill set; your time can be spent fine-tuning (or replacing!) your templates hands-on. You have end to end control. This might be a bit more costly in the short term; mandatory safe usage courses and basic fees are a necessary price to pay. You'll probably burn through a lot of material (joke not intended, but apt) in your first attempts too. It's definitely a swift and easy complete control solution once you've ticked those boxes, and the cheapest route for the habitual user. The scope of this article is not intended to take any precedence over the advice you're given during laser cutter induction. Every location will have its own set of house rules, so rely on their expertise and recommendations. Every laser is different, every facility is different. The tutors who do this are your gurus, so drop preconceptions and let them guide you. The other option is reliance on third-party services. These can vary from brick-and-mortar shop/bureaus like Mostly Out Of Cardboard, turnkey online services such as Ponoko or specialist guitar supply companies with in-house custom laser cutting such as Guitars and Woods. Third party services are not necessarily an inferior choice or even an expensive one, however you do need to shop around for a service which understands your requirements and preferably does this work all of the time. Your local trophy maker "who happens to have a laser" might charge you well over the odds for the inconvenience of reconfiguring their machine for a one-off sheet job, however simple. It might simply not pay as much money on the hour as their normal line of work, or be an alien process to them. Even a shop signage maker who cuts sheet day-in day-out might not offer an attractive price on small one-off jobs. Third-party services have the advantage of experienced operators, and you should use that. Ask if they've cut templates for luthiers or woodworkers before. Familiarity - or at least an understanding - of what you're wanting to achieve is 90% of the battle won. If they've done anything similar before, they might be able to suggest improvements on your basic design for future work or simply snag any errors in your work submissions. If they haven't, gauge whether they're open to the idea of what you're wanting and understand its purpose. Companies that are genuinely interested in your product and having you as a satisfied customer are worth fostering a relationship with....as long as that isn't simply a way of sleazing deeper into your wallet! A lot of creative and inspirational people work in laser cutting services, Makerspaces and community colleges. Often the opportunity to collaborate on something new and exciting (as exciting as router templates get?) is more important to them than a bit of time or turning a quick buck. Some operators are genuinely excited just to see new things come off the laser and might be happy just for the cost of materials. "Head towards the people that have that creative spark and not the jaded old farts who might just see you as an inconvenient interruption to their non-stop conveyor belt of boring paint-by-numbers imported Chinese component school sport's day trophies given out just for participating rather than representing real achievement." - Benjamin Franklin ----==---- 2. Starting Out - Communication Is Key The people you need to be on friendly speaking terms with from day one are the keyturners or regular users, whether they're engineers on the other end of the phone, colleagues, Makerspace tutors or fellow denizens; whoever. Laser cutting is a fairly simple process with a few hidden tricks and obstacles you need know before you encounter them. Communicating your needs and existing knowledge will produce a smoother process from your desktop to the finished item. Design Protocols There are basic conventions within drawings which denote how the laser driver will interpret the job. We'll look at these later, however you should ask your service what their own in-house conventions are, or check with the other people in your Makerspace, etc. how to set up the drawing appropriately to work with the default laser configuration (this should be covered during safe usage courses). Firstly this saves time fixing things in the mix, or worse, trashing good material. Most importantly it may ease third-party setup charges if your drawing is good to go straight to the laser. It definitely gives you room to negotiate that cost. It has to be borne in mind that services will likely operate an hour rate on setup. These charges are superfluous when a drawing is poorly designed or doesn't conform to house protocols and needs the attention of an engineer or operator! We have a dedicated thread on laser cutting over on the Forums. If you're wanting to send jobs out to cut, but are unsure on whether your design is completely appropriate for that purpose, join the conversation and we can fix most things up! Material Selection Not all Makerspaces or third-party services have a full selection of materials on-hand. Prices may also vary due to wastage, availability and basic markup. Plywood designed specifically for laser work tends to be more expensive as it has to be free of knots and voids, plus needs to use glues safe for laser cutting. Acrylic will be (well, should be) tempered cell cast due to problems with cracking and poor finish quality with the extruded variety. The right materials cost a little more, but produce infinitely better and more durable results. Thicker materials can come with unexpected side effects, such as larger kerf (width of cut left by the laser) sizes or cut edges which are not perpendicular to the face. Thinner stock is a more accurate choice for closer-fitting parts. This is a good subject to discuss with the users/owners of the laser; if theirs has the right optics and power to cut 1/2" acrylic perfectly then go for it! Ask for advice on choice and comparative costings with stock materials; you might even get a great deal on a job if something can be pulled from the offcut bin. Asking the question costs nothing and can save you a significant amount of money. Exchange File Format More than likely you'll do your design work away from the site where the laser is located, and probably using different software also. Modern laser cutter drivers are far more forgiving of input formats than they were a few years ago, however that isn't to say that every bug has been rattled out. Choosing the most appropriate format for file exchange from your machine to that of the laser is vital. If you're going third-party, as what their preferred file format is and perhaps what software they are using; if you both happen to be using CorelDRAW you can cut out unnecessary conversion steps and swap native file formats directly. I prefer DXF (Wikipedia) simply because it is the most common and interoperable file format for vector information. The same rationale applies to other packages (Inkscape, Illustrator, etc) where exporting to a widely-supported basic file type removes most common errors from translating across formats. "What-You-Get" If you're using a third-party service, ensure they are aware which cut pieces you're actually needing from the job. A negative space router template (such as a pickup cavity) may not be immediately obvious, leading to problems where you receive a "Tele pickup shaped piece of Masonite" in the mail instead of the surrounding template for cutting the cavity! Explicitly stating, "This is for a 200mm x 150mm rectangle of Masonite with that shape cut out" makes all the difference. For more complex jobs where you are needing both the negative and positive components from the cut, again, state this from the outset. It saves a lot of time and hassle. Not all laser services will know what a router template is or its end use. Obviously this is less of a problem when you're cutting work under your own steam. One issue that might crop up is when cutting out fine components. Air assist which prevents flareups will happily blow your valuable but newly-loose parts around the bed, or worse, into an exhaust port! A little double-sided tape under the material in the right places and the use of a spoil board underneath helps. Whilst this isn't a communication issue, double-checking with a third-party service that they use the same kind of approach is. ----==---- 3. Design-Time Considerations Keeping a design as simple and to the point as possible wins the day. Only add as much information as the templates really need. The true test of a template is in the quality of the workpiece it produces; not how tricked out the template is with text, logos and irrelevant detail. This is especially important if the service charges by time or in the case of Ponoko, a function of total laser work movement length! Going through your design from top to bottom pays off. Common problems that are not immediately apparent can be revealed by developing your own methodical approach to validating your designs. Alignment Marks - Transparent Materials Acrylic offers us a great opportunity to add engraved markings that can be seen through the template itself. The problem is that lasers cut from the top down. This just requires that the finalised design is mirrored prior to sending out for cut so engraved text will appear correctly when viewed through the template, plus alignment marks lay directly next to the workpiece. click to enlarge Alignment Marks - Opaque Materials Opaque materials such as Masonite or MDF may be difficult to reconcile with alignment marks such as a centreline; after all, engraved marks will be placed onto the top surface of the template and we can't see through the material like we can with transparent acrylic. For most cases, this is not too problematic; we can add additional auxiliary cutouts within a template to assist with alignment where it might not otherwise be possible. In the example above, diamond-shaped auxiliary alignment cutouts allow the template to be placed accurately on a marked centreline using internal corners rather than approximating from a top-engraved marking at an oblique angle to the edge. This is also invaluable for alignment on angled headstocks, where the centreline falls away past the nut area. Work Layers Use of separable layers improves workflow. Placing all engraving work onto a separate layer to cutting makes it a simple task to confirm that paths are not duplicated, incorrectly set and properly aligned, etc. Colour within the drawing is used as the primary guide for different laser settings. Most laser driver software can be configured so that many different colours to represent various combinations of speeds, powers and duty cycle frequencies. The accepted basic standard is that red (RGB 255,0,0 - #FF0000) represents a cut and blue (RGB 0,0,255 - #0000FF) represents an engraved line. If using a third party, confirm their house rules and conventions on colours and whether line weight is a consideration. My personal arrangement is to use black (RGB 0,0,0 - #00000) to denote the rectangular working outline for larger negative templates. Some houses may interpret this as an engraved mark unless it is explicitly stated that black represents a cut. Ensure that your drawing objects are explicitly set to the correct colours, not simply "By Layer". If your software has the ability to "select all items by colour", this helps with confirmation. Another check is altering layer colours to something unused, such as bright green.....if any objects are set to follow colour by layer, they'll stand out clearly. Kerfs Laser cutting produces small but still significant kerfs, or the "width of cut". Several factors such as material type and thickness affects the final size of kerf, however it is usually in the region of 0,15mm for thinner materials. Confirm with the laser operators what the expected kerf size of the material you are working with is, or make test cuts and physically measure it yourself. A typical kerf is in the region of 0,2mm and equates to an offset of around 0,1mm from the expected drawn outline. Kerfs are hardly worth concerning yourself with for headstock and body templates, and in fact it works in your favour for bolt-on neck/heels. Other precision joinery Items that require a tight conforming fit - such as set neck joint templates - will need test cuts to be made and the templates proofed for suitability. Offsetting the mortise half the kerf size smaller and the tenon half larger is a good start, however the proof is in how well the joints routed using the templates mate together. Adding in a larger offset than is necessary is also an option. It's better to fine tune the wood with some sandpaper than it is to have it loose straight off the router! ----==---- 5. File Exchange - Break It Down To Basics Many of the design tools in various CAD packages produce complex objects that are often handled in a manner specific to that package. For example, different types of curves, mathematically-generated contours or even text objects. Unless you are working in the exact same software that outputs jobs to the laser, the two different packages can have radically-different opinions on what how your work is supposed to render, resulting in incomplete or incorrect cuts by the laser. We can work through this by taking complex items and devolving them down into basic objects (called Primitives) that are unambiguous and are rendered equally by all software packages. A common error is font usage. They'll happily render within the package they were created within, however there is no guarantee that this will translate through to the finished product. Take the following example in TurboCAD: click to enlarge It might not seem immediately obvious that any kind of problem might exist here other than the font being solid rather than an outline. Times New Roman is a vector font, which might seem pretty universal to most systems. However, once this work is saved out to the common DXF format and re-opened in the software used for the laser (in this instance CorelDRAW for an Epilog platform) we see that the font has been substituted to a completely different one, and is no longer mirrored as in TurboCAD. How to we prevent file format exchange errors such as these? click to enlarge Complex to Simple (or "Simple > Complex") CAD packages have all kind of tools for producing high-level objects. Underneath it all, these objects are still built from a basic set of Primitives, such as lines and circles. Instructing your software to take each high-level object and strip away the complexity varies from package to package, however is usually called Explode. In the example above, taking the text object in TurboCAD and Exploding it down into Primitives should allow any other package to interpret it correctly. Often this will need to be performed more than once depending on the object being Exploded. For TurboCAD, this needs to be carried out twice in order to devolve the Text object to a single Group of objects, then down to individual Primitives (normally Polylines). However your own software works, inspect the objects to figure out whether they need Exploding further. Some objects such as characters within Text may Explode down into two individual parts; the fill and the outline. Deleting any fill prevents duplication of the same object, since we only need text character outlines. click to enlarge - a letter "O" Exploded down into internal and external polyline shapes. It is also worthwhile considering Exploding curves; whilst simple curves normally render correctly between different software packages, they usually cause the laser head to move slower than with sets of lines as the driver interprets the curve mathematically. Exploding a curve down into discrete Polyline objects is recommended to reduce job complexity and increase speed. Before committing, compare how granular a Polyline is in comparison to the original curve. Most software allows you to define how finely a curve is broken down into a Polyline. For most jobs, a cut made using Polylines is indistinguishable from one made with curves. Once you have a better understanding of which objects translate well via your chosen file exchange format, you can Explode only the ones that don't. Ultimately, if the end product cuts quickly and efficiently, breaking your drawing down to its absolute basics prevents unexpected bugs from creeping into your designs. ----==---- 6. Example 1 - Simple Bench Hold-Down Templates A few months ago, I sent out a quick turnaround job to Henri at Mostly Out Of Cardboard (MOoCB) for some acrylic pin routing templates. The files were supplied as individual DXFs. Each holddown consists of an outline plus several holes used for aligning and stacking pieces together. Henri simply imported the DXF files into CorelDRAW, set each outline for the appropriate cutting settings in the laser job driver. Being extremely simple, Henri was happy to accept the DXF files as-is straight from my CAD package and set colours for cutting, etc. at his end. ----==---- DEMO FILES - 125mm offset holddown.DXF - 175mm offset holddown.DXF - 200mm offset holddown.DXF preview of 125mm offset holddown.DXF ----==---- On my doorstep the next day I had these (love the packaging): This was an extremely simple job, which required very little back-and-forth communication. Henri is experienced at cutting a great number of different materials, so three small acrylic components was a walk in the park. In fact, I asked for "whatever light acrylic stock" they have on hand which resulted in these 4mm. A job such as this is mostly material cost with minimal setup time; even the packaging is only a minute job on top of the parts themselves. Like any job, there will be a degree of setup on some level, whether it be a complete treatment and check of the vector file sent (some bureaus insist on this, and make the charge mandatory...) copy grouping parts for efficient batch cutting or laser configuration (origin locating, focusing, etc) prior to running the job. The templates worked fantastically. 8mm-thick Oak blanks were pre-drilled and bolted down to the sled and shaped using an overhead pin router. The templates seat underneath and the pin rides against them. A very simple and neat use of laser-cut templates! ----==---- 7. Example 2 - Electronics Cavity Routing Template Set Anybody that knows me enough will be aware that I think far too much about the classic basses that came out of the Matsumoku factory in Japan from the late 70s to the late 80s. The most known of those is the Aria Pro II SB-1000 with its tank-like dual-mode 18v electronics and recognisable signature sound. A slow-burning project of mine has been to make a more or less authentic replica of the SB-1000, but with altered specifications....and a fifth string. The electronics cavity is something I'd like to replicate rather than make "similar to", so I recorded the measurements from a real SB-1000 and drew the cavity up in CAD with a few basic improvements and some cleanup. An original SB-1000 electronics cavity, bereft of life. Whilst not the most elegant or precise of electronics cavities, the space for the preamp module and batteries, plus the recesses produce a nicely-organised electronics cavity that isn't thin and weak like most "swimming pool" cavities. I figured that a set of four templates would be perfect. The first being the main outline of the cavity cover recess and cover plates (the plate is split into two pieces), a template for the main "body" of the rout down from the outer cover plus the narrower part of the battery/preamp niche, an auxiliary template to produce the wider ledge either side plus a template for the recesses. Since these templates are all related to each other, I decided that it would be useful to have engraved alignment markings on the lower face along with some basic information to remind me what to do (or not to do). As mentioned previously, lasers only cut from the top down, so engraving on the lower face means these will all need to be cut in mirror image. A vector line font was used for the text for both clarity and simplicity. Screwhole locations were marked with 2,5mm diameter circles with Point objects (crosses) engraved in their centre. The Points were Exploded down into Line pairs. A potential issue would be duplicating the cavity cover split Line. Since I drew the whole outline and added the split later, this was no problem. A look at the layer manager ("design director") shows that I defined several layers for this project. Each one contains references and guidelines, text labels or the work for the laser. This helped me create a template set from one master drawing, with the organisation allowing me to work on all of the templates as a group or individually. Turning on all of the layers shows how everything was designed. A bit of a nightmare when you look at it like this, but it works! Diary of a CADman (ergh.....) TurboCAD allows me to electively export specific objects to DXF files, so I selected the objects relevant to each template and sent them out to four individual DXF files. As you would expect, all Text, Arc, Point, etc. objects were Exploded to Lines and Polylines. I contacted Guitars and Woods to produce my template set in 5mm acrylic along with a few different designs. G&W sell templates for many common guitar designs (Strat, Tele, Flying V, etc.) and do all of their cutting in-house. Since they know the product and a luthier's needs, it seemed perfect to use them for these templates. After an email exchange with G&W on their convention on cutting and engraving colours, material availability, pricing, that DXF was an appropriate exchange format, that the outline was denoted by the outer black rectangle, etc. I sent the four DXFs to cut. Just over a week down the line we received this tidy little package.... click to enlarge So here's that first template described earlier. The alignment crosses and text appear the right way around and are engraved on the underside. Each screw/threaded insert location has the small hole for punching and the alignment marks. I used the kerf of the laser (~0,15mm) to my advantage; the cavity cover plates will drop in perfectly. click to enlarge The cavity cover recess will of course require a thicker (and wider) template to be made up since it is only meant for a 2mm cut depth. I don't think router cutters are even available that shallow! Nonetheless, marking out the location internally is important and a transparent template is excellent for alignment purposes.... click to enlarge ....due to how the other templates were designed. The outline of the cavity cover recess is replicated here as an engraved reference on the underside. By aligning this with an outline drawn using the first template (or marking off the outline since the templates are all cut from 250mm x 120mm pieces!) we have an accurate placement for each subsequent template. click to enlarge The auxiliary template is shaped similarly, but is only used for the battery ledge. click to enlarge Finally, the control recesses. click to enlarge I labelled the templates 1 through 4 and added pertinent routing information to each one. In most instances, these templates would be retained as "master templates" and copied across to a thicker sacrificial material such as Masonite, plywood or MDF. ----==---- In Closing Access to and use of laser cutting services is far easier than you might expect. Maker culture has gone a long way towards normalising this sort of technology almost into everyday life; taking advantage of that as a luthier is a simple and economical step in taking your work forward in huge bounds. Over on the ProjectGuitar.com forums we've opened up a Laser Cutting Discussion And Advice Thread. We hope this article has inspired you with new ideas and methods of producing your instruments; ask anything you want about laser cutters, designing templates or components, CAD-related issues or even service recommendations. http://www.projectguitar.com/forums/topic/48625-laser-cutting-discussion-and-advice-thread/ ----==---- www.patreon.com/ProjectGuitar This article was made possible by the generous donation our our Patreon supporters, plus invaluable input and assistance from Henri at Mostly Of Of Cardboard and Carlos of the Guitars and Woods web store. Cheers guys! If you enjoyed and benefitted from this article. become a Patron of ProjectGuitar.com and help us bring you even more articles, tutorials and product reviews like this, week-in week-out! Thanks to ProjectGuitar.com's Patrons sirspens a2k Chris G KnightroExpress Stavromulabeta Andyjr1515 sdshirtman djobson101 ScottR Buter curtisa Prostheta 10pizza verhoevenc VanKirk rhoads56 Chip
  3. 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
  4. Routing binding channels around a flat surface is a basic operation where a router cutter is guided around the target surface with an offset equal to the depth of the channel required. Either the cutter itself has a specifically-undersized guide bearing or the routing fixture holds the workpiece a set distance from the cutter. This operation can be carried out either using a hand router or a router table. Several common supply outlets sell router cutters along with bearing sets for a number of common offset sizes: StewMac Binding Router Bit Set (US)http://www.stewmac.com/shop/Tools/Special_tools_for_Routing/Binding_Router_Bit_Set.htmlLMII Binding Cutter & Bearings (US)http://www.lmii.com/products/tools-services/binding-tools/binding-cutter-bearingsRall Guitars Adjustable Downshear Binding Cutter (Germany)http://shop.rall-online.net/epages/61511639.sf/en_GB/?ObjectPath=/Shops/61511639/Products/19110002Binding channels around a surface which is not flat presents a number of difficulties. I have used the router sitting on top of the body. I have used a router table set up with a ”doughnut” riser which rides under the body against the non-flat top with spacers at odd positions and with odd workholding attachments along the perimeter such as this: However, it is not a simple or convenient job to get the spacers to hold a non-flat body very well and generally never been completely satisfied with the results. Since I had three acoustic builds on the to-do list, I decided I really needed to find a better mousetrap so I had a look at two systems: The $252 TrueChannel Binding Router Jig from Stewmac: http://www.stewmac.com/shop/Tools/Special_tools_for_Binding/TrueChannel_Binding_Router_Jig.html ...and the $216 Professional Binding Machine from LMI... http://www.lmii.com/products/tools-services/binding-tools/lmi-professional-binding-machine Both systems have two major components. The router is held in a vertical caddy attached to a table. The caddy allows the router to float up and down over the workpiece using a guide bushing/collar situated around the exposed area of the cutter. This collar rides against the top of the workpiece to provide constant height of cut whilst the bearing on the router cutter is set for the required depth. A carrier holds the workpiece over the table top. This orients the body to keep the sides vertical; perpendicular to the cutter. In theory this allows rising/falling binding channels to be cut over forearm contours, into cutaways, around carved tops or any other shape without re-setting up any part of the system. The LMI version is significantly more expensive due to its higher level of flexibility and robust construction. The biggest differences are found in the way each system's workpiece carriers are constructed: The Stewmac system requires a simple plywood body shape (either Stewmac's own or of your own design). Four aluminium and plastic L-brackets with a non-locking height adjuster and semi-permanently fixed to this base. Additional brackets are available if alternatively shaped carrier configurations are required.The LMI version is re-configurable and fully adjustable (at least, to some extent; more later) with longer travel in the adjustment system; in general it is a smarter solution.I decided on the LMI system for its sturdier build quality and its apparent ability to handle different (ie. with/without cutaways) or more radical body shapes and ordered it. (Subsequent to writing, Stewmac have upgraded their router carrier to be more robust) UNPACKING AND FIRST IMPRESSIONS Out of the box, the system needs minor assembly work. The router caddy itself comes fully assembled, leaving the carrier to be screwed together. Assembling the carrier is a pretty quick job, done in a few minutes. During assembly it was noticed that a few things could have been done in a better way. The square-nuts-in-square-holes could be upgraded with threaded bushings to make it a stronger and more foolproof system. When mounting a guitar into the carrier, I accidentally loosened one screw a tad too much and lost one of the nuts. Being an Imperial thread (Metric in Sweden) it was not a simple case of getting a new nut - I spent almost 20 minutes searching for the lost nut on my dusty workshop floor....so you have been warned! (I'm not sure if this is a comment on Metric/Imperial or dusty floors!!) I decided to secure the nuts in placed with a drop of superglue.The Neoprene rubber protective sleeves fitted to the upright posts on the travellers are a bit loose, thus it is possible for them to be misplaced also. These were also secured with a drop of superglue in the upper position. Maybe not the most elegant solution, but it works.I'm perhaps rushing ahead....back to first impressions! The fit of the parts is very tight, almost too tight; you have to push the screws through the holes. In my book that is not a bad thing. It just means that you will have a precision fit for a long time before the plywood wears and loosens. The assembly and user instruction videos on the LMI website are excellent. Only thing of note was neglected to be mentioned; the spring that pushes the thumb lock against the notched rub collar is not permanently attached which could possibly result in the spring getting lost. Other than that my wholehearted recommendation is to have a look at Brendan O'Briens videos explaining both the assembly and the use of the machine. PRODUCT DESCRIPTION My test object is a very small bodied alto-guitar, measuring 14” or 353mm across the lower bout and 18” or 457mm in length. That seems to be more or less the smallest body that can be used in the carrier. My test body worked, however smaller mandolin or ukulele-sized instruments will present a problem due to the minimum workpiece size the carrier can reliably hold. The LMI instructions recommend fitting routers or laminate trimmers with small sub-bases such as the Bosch Colt. My slightly over-sized DeWalt D26200 laminate trimmer had to be taken to the belt sander to remove a small portion of the base, plus new holes needed drilling into the router carrier. No problem and a quick fix: I noted that someone must have had a small (but significant) brain fart when designing/producing the components for the caddy. The base of the caddy has two long keyhole-type attachment slots with recesses for the bolt heads which allows semi-permanent attachment to a bench. The recesses in my caddy were on the wrong side, meaning that I could not screw bolts down into the keyways. If you plan on having the machine as a permanent fixture, it is worthwhile drilling additional mounting holes further back as it makes the most sense from a balance point of view and improves rigidity. Using two clamps to hold it in place had no problems at all.... The binding caddy was clamped to the router table and the carrier assembled. Positioning the body steadily in the carrier, adjusting the router bit with the correct bearing and cutting depth was a very simple and quick job. In use it is probably the fastest binding job I have done so far on a non-flat guitar top; both sides were completed in less than five minutes. Comparing this to the old "doughnut and spacers" I used previously - cutting a small part of the binding channel and then repositioning the spacers several times - this is a breeze to use. Sharp ledges routed, perpendicular to the sides of the body and no mishaps or difficulties whatsoever. The micro-adjustable rotating rub collar is really great to fine-tune the depth of the cut; I cannot stretch that part enough. With a .003” or 0.76mm adjustment for every notch in the rub collar I was given precision control of the cutting depth unlike anything I have used before. The only other system that can achieve this level of adjustability is a precision router lift in a router table; and they can only cut in one dimension! It is definitely a better idea than adjusting the cutting depth relying on the router itself. The carrier glides smoothly over most surfaces. It is worthwhile ensuring that your chosen surface is clean. Whilst I used the surface of my router table, a sheet of laminated plywood or particle board would also provide an excellent working area. The router lift mechanism smoothly moves up and down in the caddy to follow the slightest arch in the workpiece. Most importantly it keeps the cut of the router bit perfectly parallel to the sides. THE RESULTS Clean sharp binding channels: WHAT COULD BE IMPROVED...? What I would like to see is an adjustable counter weight system to really tailor the movement/pressure against the top from the router. With my big DeWalt, the pressure against the top is just about acceptable; any more and I would be concerned about the rub collar might compress the surface fibres and leave a mark in softer woods - such as spruce - when it passes overhead. Two small things were noted in use. The bungee cord used to tighten the carrier assembly feels a little cheap. It works, however a slightly stronger and possibly more durable "long-term usage proof" solution would be excellent. Also - perhaps as optional parts or a kit - a smaller carrier base and/or shorter arms to allow smaller instruments to be processed would be very welcome. All in all - despite the inconsequential tiny quirks - it is in the end a solidly built tool that does exactly what it is supposed to do. It does so quickly and easily and is indeed a real time saver. In a busy shop or one where time is of high importance, that time saved directly translates through to money which more than offsets the initial investment. To the amateur or enthusiast, it transforms an otherwise complicated, slow and unpredictable task into a simple one with professional results - at a cost. THE VERDICT One word: Expensive! However, if you are serious about your building quality and plan to make more than just one or two guitars, it's worth it. Perhaps not targeted at the newbie or the occasional hobbyist. There are much more affordable (primarily DIY) system out there for those who will do this job every second year or so. If you are a regular builder with high standards (or a hobbyist with deep pockets who doesn't settle for second best) then this is the tool for you without a doubt. IN SHORT + Highly accurate precise work + Smooth action + Sturdy and (seemingly) very durable + Does what it is supposed to do simply, quickly and efficiently - Expensive - Would benefit from an adjustable counter weight system to account for different router's weight - Components (square nuts, thumb lock spring, rubber sleeves) can fall off during setups - Base plate/arms cannot accommodate small instruments
  5. I thought I'd post this little warning here since it's the most visited section of the forum.. First a short back story. I've been pretty vacant from this forum lately due the the fact that Ive been working two new jobs. On top of running my core business and doing my own builds I've been doing repairs with a well known guy down here in So Cal . The other gig has been consulting, designing, and sudo-ghost building instuments for a new line of guitars for the same guy Right now the new guitar start up has sold 20 new builds on pre orders and committed to delivering them by Dec 21st. It's a tall order seeing that we were given six weeks to do them and it's me and one other guy doing all of the work and they are all due by Dec 21st. I've been putting in 12-14 hr days trying to meet this deadline. Anyways, fast forward to 10 PM last night I was routing a bunch of control cavities with the hand held plunge router. I was working at a fast pace and between guitars and was putting the router upside down on the table just to my left side between each piece. (I was in a sitting position while routing on a workmate in front of me), I got to a pace where I would put the router on the table to my left while it was still spinning down. One of those times it started to fall off the table while still spinning down and in that split second I instinctively reached my left hand out to catch it and we'll, you can imagine what happened next. I got finished with stitches at the ER this morning around 5 AM. I got extreamly lucky and my "bite" was isolated to the fleshy part of my palm and missed all my fingers. The thought of how much worse it could have gone makes me cringe every time I run it back in my head. Needless to say my injury could have been easily avoided and I learned a valuable lesson the hard way. Be careful out there, slow down and don't get complacent with you power tools. It's not fun when they bite back. JW
  6. Commercially-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
  7. Hola! I originally introduced the idea of a compound scarfing jig waaaay back in something like 2007-2008. A few people around ProjectGuitar.com have successfully used the idea, and a few people around the interwebs have taken it on also....some clearly took it directly (including images and zero credit) however convergent evolution means it would surface of itself at some point anyway. It's all cool. Rising tides floating all boats and that. The idea was based off the established idea of a router scarfing jig, but improved to allow for twisted headstocks and even string pull for multiscales that do not have a nut perpendicular to the centreline. Normally the treble side of a multiscale is pulled backwards, causing the headstock to "twist" clockwise as you sight towards it down the fingerboard. The higher the difference between the two outer scales, the larger the twist. This creates problems for necks with tilted headstocks as the scarf needs to incorporate a new compound tiltback angle. Thankfully, there is a simple solution to this which isn't much more difficult than the standard router scarfing jig. Firstly, let's look at the standard router scarfing jig: At their most basic, they consist of a box bounded by two guiding rails. On top of this rides a router with a wide sled which ensures it maintains contact over both rails. The neck and usually the piece being scarfed are cut at the same time. Depending on the final orientation of the scarf, one piece has the glue joint surface cut whilst the other has a facing surface finished: Pretty standard fare so far. To make a compound angle, the sleds are simply offset from each other. Rather than riding on the faces of the sidewalls the sled now runs on the edges; the inner wall on the furthest forward and the outer wall of the furthest back. The correct offset corresponds to a line drawn from each contact point on a flat plane: When glued up, both halves produce the expected compound scarf.
  8. ----==---- Part 1 - Product Rundown Part 2 - Technical Teardown Part 3 - The Router In Use Part 4 - Modifications/Upgrades Part 5 - Review Discussion ----==---- AK: Alright, now that Carl has gone and shown the guts of this little beast, I'll do a little real-world demo. As I said in part one, my main usage of this router is within jigs and templates that I've designed around the use of a guide bushing. For this demonstration, I'll use the wee Makita with a pair of templates: one for a truss rod rout, another for a pair of channels for carbon fiber reinforcements. What better test than real life? CM: Totally. It all looks good on paper and under the hood, but putting the rubber to the road is a world of difference. AK: Before we get going, let's take a look at some of the exterior features. Here, you can see the power switch, variable speed potentiometer, brush replacement port, and height adjustment for the fixed base. AK: On the underside, a removable plastic (Bakelite) plate. The recess that accepts standard Porter-Cable template guides is clearly visible. CM: I'm going to have to get some of those myself....I think they're only available in Imperial sizes though.... AK: The height adjustment mechanism is a nicely made rack-and-pinion setup. It's reasonably precise and very easy to use, but lacks a truly helpful depth marking system. More on that later. CM: I'd go as far as to calling it a useless adjustment system myself. Then again, anything more complex than this would make it heavier and less compact. At least it's simple to adjust like you say. It just takes a bit of patience to dial it in perfectly. AK: With the base removed so we can install a bit, the manual spindle lock is visible. I wouldn't trust it to ensure proper tightness for operation, but I do use it to get the bit initially secured in place before reaching for the wrenches for final tightening. CM: The larger 8mm Metric collet cones don't seem to want to retain the bit at finger tightness off the spindle lock. I also had to grind my 13mm (~1/2") spanner to fit the narrow shaft recess. The spindle lock cannot and should not be relied upon for final tightening. Even with a spanner on the collet nut. Whether that's because of the larger collet cone, I'm not sure. Still, two spanners is the only way to be sure. AK: Now that the short tour is over, let's get to work! For this demo, I'll use the Makita with a 3/8"OD template bit, paired with a 1/4" downspiral and 1/8" straight bit. AK: First, inserting the 1/8" bit. As I mentioned above, the manual lock is used only to get the bit held in place, then I do the real tightening with the wrenches. CM: As a safety note, this method of "squeezing" two spanners for tightening or loosening is the safest method. If Andrew weren't holding the camera for the photo, his other hand would be on the router body itself. Needless to say, ensuring that it isn't plugged in during bit changes is vital. AK: Now that the router is ready to go, it's time to break out the wood and templates. I'm using Yucatan rosewood for this neck. As a true rosewood, it's fairly hard and will be a good representative of the typical woods you'd expect this router to cut through. AK: For the first set of channels, I need to get to a total depth of 0.325". Since I'm using a very small bit, this needs to be done in 4 passes to minimize the chance of bit breakage. At this stage, we come to a significant downside of the Makita: lack of a useful depth indication system. Honestly, they may as well have not even etched any markings for all the good they do. To combat this, I've had to make a simple setup block. I have marked the depths of each pass I need to make and attached an unused template of the same thickness as the one I'm using at this time. Before each pass, I simply set the bit to match the appropriate line on the block. Maybe a bit crude, but it works well in this case. CM: Same problem here too. I have a Trend Depth Gauge to check bit depths on hand and table routers. Totally worth it! AK: And now for the first set of passes. Each channel gets 4 passes, ending up at a depth of 0.325". As you can see, the router has no trouble with this task, leaving clean and accurate channels. AK: Now for the truss rod channel. Templates are swapped and the 1/4" downspiral is fitted. AK: Again, we end up with a clean, accurate channel with no undue strain on the router's part. AK: If I were asked to name any complaints, I only have two. The depth adjustment markings are pretty well useless due to the lack of a definitive reference point. The scale itself is easy to read, but without another line or arrow or something on the base to measure changes with, it's not very useful. Additionally, the tiny footprint of this tool leads to a definite 'tippy' feel. This issue is just the nature of this type of router and is something Carl and I will address later on. CM: It totally is unbalanced on the edges of cuts. For things like this it's perfect though. A really nice workhorse, so the Porter-Cable bushing set is definitely in my near future, Imperial-sized or not. Even though the depth adjustment is useless (to the point of questioning why it was included in the first place), I think that few (if any) compact units have a usable system. The plunge base accessory is a different game though. We'll look at that in Part 4. AK: Overall, the Makita excels at small tasks like this. It cuts well and never feels out of its depth (no pun intended) as long as you understand that it's not meant for heavy material removal. ----==---- Go to Part 4 - Modifications/Upgrades
  9. ----==---- Part 1 - Product Rundown Part 2 - Technical Teardown Part 3 - The Router In Use Part 4 - Modifications/Upgrades Part 5 - Review Discussion ----==---- CM: Okay, let's do this. A bit of a teardown. Right off the bat you can see on the motor that Makita haven't tried to cut every corner possible, unlike some manufacturers where this is now commonplace. Material codes are visible on a lot of the parts which makes the assessment of suitability easier. The flyout is invaluable reference material.... (click to embiggen) The two halves of the top shell (1, 13) are a reinforced polymer; polyamide/nylon 6 with 30% glass fibre (PA6-GF30); a tough high quality temp resistant composite which takes a beating. This is a good "standard choice". I've seen routers where the plastics gets cheaped out on, which is a big mistake since they house the top spindle bearing. They could have gone one better with PA66 or something really crazy and overspecified, but we just wouldn't see the difference in anything but the ticket price. By the temps that PA6 starts to turn to spaghetti, you've got bigger problems than spindle runout from a wobbly bearing. This all checks out. Inside the casing, there's a setup very typical of simple modern electronically-controlled routers. All of the components are compactly seated in an intricately-designed enclosure where everything has its place. An unexpected observation is that the cable strain relief (5) is also PA6-GF30! The "black box" contains the electronic brain of the router potted into a small plastic box. This manages the soft start, speed control and houses the spindle speed sensor also. The white box is a line noise suppression capacitor to prevent the harshness of a brush commutated motor pushing electromagnetic dirt back up into your local mains supply. Absolutely nothing unexpected here. Everything was assembled well until I ran in, screwdrivers blazing.... The power switch is a little cheesy, however it's not expected to be a heavy duty cycle trigger switch or anything like that. Interestingly, the contact rating is being run pretty much on the mark if the tool amperage rating (3.1A@240VAC) is anything to go by. I don't think this is a specific symptom of cutting any corners, but it seems run pretty close to its rating. Not a concern in real terms, especially since these can be swapped out on the dollar. That and the maximum consumption of a tool this size will only ever be at startup or stall. The electronic management will no doubt prevent the tool from getting too greedy on the amps at any one point. This IS interesting! The end of the router spindle hiding under that blue nub in the centre is probably keyed and fitted with a magnet. As that spins (up to 30,000RPM!) that magnet will induce a current in the small copper coil. These "variable reluctance sensors" aren't a million miles from how a guitar pickup does its thing. The electronics will be monitoring the frequency of this signal in order to know how fast the spindle is moving at any given time. Primarily this will be for the "constant speed electronics"; if the spindle bogs down mid-cut and isn't spinning as fast as the router is set to run, the electronics will push the spindle harder until it reaches the required speed. The electronics can then back off on the juice. Variable reluctance sensors are an interesting alternative to Hall effect sensors, however they do the same thing. Just one for the electronics geeks. Easing up the sleeve from the main housing reveals the rotor. All of the commutator bars and field windings are epoxied up, plus that magnet at the top of the spindle is revealed. The work that goes into the details of a rotor are usually very telling as to how well the machine will last over time. Cheap out here and everything else sucks also. The main bearings top and bottom are NSK rubber-sealed bearings. Very standard components with known performance in applications such as this. The armature is ground both fore and aft, similar to how weights are added to car wheels for balance to eliminate vibration at high speeds. Clean good-looking work. The spindle-mounted fan pulls air through the body of the router. Given the large open porting in the base however, I can see this not preventing debris from entering the motor. Definitely a good reason not to use this router inverted, and let's face it....that would be a bit of a high expectation for a palm router! The bearings are easily replaceable should they get a bit worn and noisy from the constant side-load that routers subject them to. Most Makita spares dealers carry these items, however being standard NSK bearings, any good bearing dealer will have them or direct equivalents such as SKF, etc. If the motor gets a bit noisy, this is good place to look and often the culprit; the nature of ball bearings rather than a product issue. The area were you really need to be seeing quality is in the rotor and its mounts. These seem adequate enough for a router at this price point, and the router runs smoothly in testament. It sounds fantastic....saying that sounds weird, but it does. The aluminium casing is cast from high quality Chinesium which seems to be moulded a sintered powder alloy. The castings are machined nicely at the point where components mate (motor housing to the inside of bases, for example). I wouldn't expect any casting to survive heavy abuse (being thrown onto concrete?) and certainly this seems a better quality of casting than most. The metal parts only seem to have been made down to a price where its appropriate, rather than to make them as cheap as feasible. That's definitely the theme around this router. ----==---- The overall impression one gets from the teardown is that this is not overbuilt, but certainly hasn't had corners cut here and there simply to provide better return for the shareholders. Everything seems to be as good as it needs to be in order to provide reliable performance, but nothing more. This wasn't a throwaway product designed by committee to bang into a product lineup niche. The fit and finish is precise, and is what you would expect from a tool representing the good side of the Makita brand. In good hands with occasional maintenance, this should go a good distance. The only significant negatives I could support are that airflow through the well-packed upper housing into the motor casing may be a little restrictive. Heat may be an issue with constant use, and like most tools heat is the killer. The other being the light-duty power switch and speed control. Time will tell as to whether those crap out or simply do the job as expected. ----==---- Go to Part 3 - The Router In Use
  10. The Makita RT0700C (recently updated to RT701C) occupies a nice position in the router market alongside its most visible competitors from Bosch and DeWalt. Originally, compact routers such as these were exclusively designed for trimming and shaping the borders of laminates such as kitchen worktops. More recently, the accessories and design of these tools have made them viable alternatives to larger-format hand routers, plus they are a common feature as the spindle in homebrew CNC routers. For guitar work, compact routers are light and nimble enough to work around headstocks and powerful enough to do all but the heaviest shaping around a solidbody. ----==---- Part 1 - Product Rundown Part 2 - Technical Teardown Part 3 - The Router In Use Part 4 - Modifications/Upgrades Part 5 - Review Discussion ----==---- The motor is available in a number of different packages. The smallest comes with the motor, a fixed base, light edge guide and edge trimmer guide. The fuller kit forms consist of a variety of bases, accessories and storage solutions. Many of these have parts that can be interchanged to suit the task at hand resulting in a smart and flexible package. Purchasers can either pick up a very complete kit at a good price, or buy the minimal kit and supplement it only with the parts they need potentially making a small saving. Underneath the hood, the Makita has soft start to reduce torque spin when powering up the router and constant speed electronics to maintain cutter speed even when labouring in heavier cuts. Speed adjustment from 10k-30k allows cutters to be run only as fast as the jobs requires them to. Capacity-wise, the Makita can be supplemented with a range of collets from 1/4" and 3/8" Imperial, or 6mm and 8mm Metric. The motor is rated as 710W giving it a fair amount of go in a very compact unit compared to the Bosch Colt at 600W but falling a little short of the heavier DeWalt at 900W. On paper the Makita hits the target points that some routers miss by a mile. How much rubber does the Makita really put to the road and how far can we take it? Example of a RT070xCX3 kit ----==---- Gear Rundown CM: I opted for a barebones RT0700C motor body which came supplied with a 1/4" collet cone, the fixed base and trimming edge guide. I added the plunge base, dust collection connectors and an 8mm collet cone to suit my personal needs. Short of the guide bushings this seems like the best combination for me. I guess you snagged a full kit, Andrew? AK: Actually, my kit was pretty barebones as well. In my box was the motor with 1/4" collet, fixed base, and a straight edge guide. I wish mine had come with the edge trimming attachment, that looks like a genuinely nice piece to have. For my own usage habits, I haven't felt the need to pick up any additional bases. I will end up buying the dust collection accessories at some point later, likely when I can set up my own dedicated work space with good collection. CM: Oh right....well to be fair a lot of the things are a bit pointless for our needs really so that makes sense. I'd see if you can pick up that edge trimming guide if you can....you'll see why when I reveal the mod I did to it! You've had a lot more hands-on time with this router that I have, whereas I went for it because of the modification potential. I think I spend more time making/modifying tools and jigs than I do making guitars....then again, that's the name of the game.... AK: I agree, this router definitely has great potential for modification and use in various jigs and fixtures. Actually, one of the main reasons I picked this model was the compatibility with standard Porter-Cable style guide bushings. This is a huge boon for me personally, as I like to use guide bushings for a variety of tasks. CM: I decided not to pull the trigger on the standard Makita bushings too. I know a bunch of people like yourself use third-party bushings, so I definitely think a good set of them is in my future. I guess that being Porter-Cable style, then the Whiteside router inlay bushing set would be compatible too....definitely useful for things like flush-fit control plates. Okay, well let's get this on the road....firstly, I'll void my warranty for the greater good! ----==---- Go to Part 2 - Technical Teardown
  11. The router is one of the most versatile tools in a luthier's arsenal. It can also represent a decent chunk of your tool budget, so making a good choice is critical. Having sampled a few different routers over the last several years, I've gotten a fair idea of what works well and what doesn't. From the Festool OF1400EQ (unibody with perpendicular handle - amazing quality, ridiculously expensive) to the Bosch 1617EVSPK (removable motor with fixed and plunge bases - middling quality and price, miserable plunge depth stop), there is no shortage of candidates out there. While researching possible purchases, I settled on three criteria that I deemed absolutely essential: Precise depth adjustment with no slop Ease of adjustments Enough power to tackle typical lutherie tasks After much deliberation, I selected the Triton MOF001. The Triton is a unibody plunge router, so the motor is affixed to the plunge base with no option for swapping bases. This might seem like a disadvantage for those who want the ability to remove the motor for table use, but the Triton is in fact designed to act as its own router lift, complete with above-table adjustment capability. Another feature that intrigued me was the rack-and-pinion depth adjustment system. I've always felt that simply sliding a plunge mechanism lacked a certain air of precision, so I was happy to find a router that will let me dial in exactly what I want with minimal fuss. Finally, at 2HP, the Triton definitely has enough power to spin any bit I'm likely to use. On paper, it handily meets everything on my checklist. How does it stack up in real life? Let's find out! It comes in a box with words in many languages, for your international reading pleasure. So what's in the box? The router, a multifunctional fence attachment, above-table height adjuster, 1/4" collet, collet wrench, standard 1/2" straight bit, and the all-important manual. Let's take a look at the router itself, then I'll go over each feature individually. Note that the clear guards cover a large portion of both sides. First up: the power switch. It's easily accessible from the left hand grip and covered by a little spring-loaded door to prevent unintentional switchery. The right hand grip offers two different methods of depth adjustment. With this button engaged, the router will freely plunge like any other plunge router. The action is smooth and has a nice level of resistance. If you're like me and want something better than a standard plunge router, it's time to step up to rack-and-pinion depth adjustment. At your fingertips is a collar that can be pulled. While holding the collar, the grip rotates and adjusts the bit height in a smooth and precise manner. This knob on top turns for extra fine adjustment. Plunge lock, in easy thumb range. The plunge spring is removable to allow for easier height adjustment when table-mounted. Variable speed. The depth stop system is a spring-loaded tube and a turret with a solid reference and two adjustable stops, each with a scale. If you lower the router until the bit touches the surface to be routed, the tube sits solidly on the turret reference. Now you can lock the tube and set the stops directly in reference to that first point. It's simple and works well. When it's time to change bits, simply flip the router over and lower the base as far as it'll go. This automatically locks the collet, allowing for a single-wrench bit change. In this position, the little sliding power switch cover is also locked so you can't accidentally blend your hand. While we're upside down, let me point out the above-table height adjustment knob. As long as you drill the appropriate hole in your table or router plate, you can use the tool for fine height adjustments without fiddling around under the table. Alright, time for a little demo. I'll use the included bit to rout a channel in a block of padauk, which is a good representative of the typical sort of hardwoods we'd encounter in this line of work (or play!) Note that the power switch lights up when the router is plugged in. This router has a soft-start feature to prevent sudden torque-induced loss of grip. And yes indeed, I was very easily able to cut a channel in my big block of scrap. I went straight for a 1/4" deep rout and the Triton showed zero hesitation or signs of struggle. The bit maintained a smooth constant velocity thanks to the integrated electronic speed control system. I will say that I'd prefer a wider base to offset the slightly high grip position. I didn't feel as though the router is excessively top-heavy or tippy, but extra stability is never a bad thing! This is easily remedied by sourcing an aftermarket base, just like any other router out there. As a side note, Triton does offer a burly 3.25HP router that offers all of these same features in a slightly bigger chassis. Given that I'm not likely to spin anything bigger than a 1/2" roundover bit, I feel that the reduced weight and cost of the 2HP model more than makes up for the apparent power deficit. So with all that being said, should you buy a Triton? If you already have a router that you like and are comfortable with, you'd probably be better off spending this money elsewhere. However, if you're in need of a router and ready to buy, I'd heartily recommend this one. PROS - Great height adjustment system with no unwanted play, easy to use, many safety and convenience features. CONS - Power switch cover is a little fiddly to use, but will likely improve with a bit of practice. VERDICT - A solid choice at a great price.
  12. I couldn't help but share this one. @KnightroExpress and myself are doing twos-up on a review of the Makita RT0700C/0701C compact router, and I made this to show a bit of modifiability.
  13. Hey guys, I was thinking of ways to experiment with using a router to carve a top. Basically, what I was thinking would be a cool way to attempt to do this would be to set up guide rails on the base of my router, similar to a straight guide but instead of a straight edge, somehow manage to incorporate a bearing as the "guide" for the router to follow the shape of the body. I would probably start with the deepest cut/closest to the edges of the body, and then slowly increase the distance between the bit and the guide, each pass moving more inward to the center of the body while before each pass, raising the cut depth a little bit so the graduations follow the body perimeter shape. I have done a little searching and I'm not really sure what exactly I'm looking for, so I was wondering if anyone could point me in the right direction or suggest a similar method to what I'm trying to do. The router I have is a Makita RP1800. Thanks in advance for any info. And also Merry Christmas!
  14. The objective of this How-To is to simplify the purchase of your first hand router as a luthier building up their base of tools. Whether you've never used a router before, never had to consider buying one or just want to go into your next purchase with a more informed choice, the next ten minutes will assist you to make an informed straight line choice. What is a hand router? A router is a compact universal motor that spins a rotary cutting tool at high speed, typically 5000RPM - 30'000RPM. In a hand router, the motor is fitted into a portable base to guide the cutter around the workpiece. Routers are available with a selection of bases with differing end uses, whilst some are permanently built into a more universal type of base. Routers are commonly classified by their horsepower rating from around 1/2HP (~375W) through to 4HP (~3000W) or more. The most common hand routers useful to a luthier are less than 2HP; larger motors become physically cumbersome to manoeuvre around small workpieces and routing operations are rarely as extensive as larger machines are intended to cope with. For further information on the uses of a router, we'll be publishing a Router 101 in the near future. The Router Motor The vast majority of router motors consist of a universal commutating brushed motor. These are inexpensive, compact, have high starting torque and are capable of high rotational speeds. The downside is that they are generally not built to run for extended periods of time and the brushes can physically wear out. If you're interested in how universal motors work, Wikipedia is a good place to start. In general however, it is not required knowledge for judging router A from router B but it does provide useful insight into the secret life of electric motors! Underneath the hood, routers are pretty simple machines The Collet Similar in purpose to a drill chuck, the collet is a locking mechanism for holding a rotating cutter. Unlike a drill chuck, collets are usually swappable between specific cutter shaft diameters. A router that not designed for alternative size collets can be somewhat limited. What size(s) does the router support (commonly 1/4", 3/8", 1/2", 6mm, 8mm, 12mm) and does it come with them, or are they an add-on purchase? Smaller tools such as palm routers are often only capable of handling smaller shaft diameter cutters (1/4", 6mm). Larger routers on the other hand should have a wider range of tool holding capacities. Compact palm routers are adequate for the majority of guitar work, however larger cutters are commonly available with larger shanks only. 99% of the cutters used around guitars are easily found in the smaller diameters so this is rarely an issue for your first purchase. The collet should always rank highly in the things to tick off a potential router purchase. Often, anything but the most basic aspects of the collet are overlooked despite it being something to get right off the bat. Is the collet awkward to access and does it require specific tools to lock/unlock? A collet tightened by a simple spanner can be less frustrating than one that requires a specifically-designed tool that only comes with the router. Can you buy spares or alternative sizes? Collets can wear through use and abuse; not being able to replace the collet can lead to the entire router becoming next to useless. Collet unscrewed from motor mounting. Red button locks the spindle, for tightening or loosening the collet with a wrench or spanner. Top view of collet showing hexagonal outer sleeve and inner split pressure collar Internal view showing inner bearing surface of the collar and sleeve thread Router Bases The two most common types of base that come with routers are fixed and plunge. A router motor mounted to a fixed base allows the rotary cutting tool to protrude through the baseplate by a specific amount and is locked in use. Altering the cutting depth requires that the tool be powered down (and preferably isolated from the mains) before the cutting depth can be adjusted. A plunge base allows the tool's cut depth to be unlocked, altered and re-locked during working operations; the cutter can also be "plunged" into the work. Depth of cut in plunge bases is usually assisted by an incremental depth stop. Better plunge bases also have fine tuners for more accurate settings. Routers with a unibody design are generally dedicated plunge routers. Fixed bases are far more compact and stable than their plunge counterparts. The handles to guide the machine are lower, providing better control through routing operations. Plunge bases have the ability to withdraw the cutter above the baseplate, making them safer when starting up the motor. A fixed base must either have a starting hole ("cutting air") or be advanced into the workpiece from an edge. Plunge base allows operations needing several passes to be carried out with relative ease of adjustment whilst a fixed base is able to carry out more precise, delicate work with the confidence from control. This large Ridgid router has a separate motor with both a fixed and plunge base. ...as does this smaller palm router by DeWalt. The fixed base is intended for single-handed use. Speed control and soft start At the bare minimum, speed control is a huge bonus. Some harder woods are easy to burn (Maple, Cherry, Oak, etc.) and benefit from lowering the cutter speed instead of trying to move the router around the workpiece faster. This reduces final sanding work and allows the routing operations to leave the workpiece closer to a semi-finished state. Larger diameter router cutters also benefit from lower speeds. Doubling the diameter of a cutter doubles the speed at which the outside edge of the cutter travels. Slow speeds are also a bonus should you need to use your router for cutting plastics for pickguards, templates, etc. Heat is also a huge problem for router bits; getting too hot changes the properties of the cutter material, causing premature dullness. Dull cutters also generate more heat.... More advanced speed controlled routers have the ability to electronically monitor spindle speed and compensate for slowdown when performing tougher tasks by applying more power to the motor. This helps safety and quality of work; ensuring that waste material is consistently removed and that there are no sudden speed changes during operations. The name for this feature varies by manufacturer, each one having their own pet name usually along the lines of "constant velocity" or "constant speed". Larger motors often feature "soft start". The nature of the universal commutated motors in routers is their ability to spin up to very high speeds in a fraction of a second. The downside is Newton's third law, "For every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction". A spinning motor suddenly accelerating will cause the body of the router to twist or jump in the opposite direction from the torque. Soft start electronically ramps up the motor speed over a longer period of time, vastly reducing kickback on first powering the motor up. Power Switch Location A consequence of motors having separate interchangeable bases is the location of the on/off switch. Typically, unibody routers have a trigger-type power switch mounted on a handle. Since the handles are separate to the motor itself on swappable bases, most have the power switch located elsewhere on the body itself. Some manufacturers such as Bosch and Porter Cable have worked around this. Generally smaller routers are switched only on the body; whilst not a dealbreaker it is consideration for safe use. Power button location on this Ryobi router's motor Porter Cable's simple workaround on this D-grip fixed router base Modification Potential The beauty of a router is that they can (and should!) be repurposed in all manner of inventive and powerful ways. One example of this is a floating binding jig; commonly ideas like these involve fabricating customised motor holding jigs. Examine the base(s) that come with your router. They usually comprise a metal body with a plastic/composite base which rides on the workpiece itself. Is the base removable by screws, etc. or is it permanently affixed? If so, this enables the router to be used in hundreds of additional applications without large amounts of modification work. The simplest of these is an "offset base". Instead of a round base, a teardrop-shaped plate replaces the existing one with a handle fitted to the narrow end to allow greater stability during edge shaping. Hand router re-purposed for use in a floating binding jig (image courtesy P. Naglitsch) A router that comes with bases enabling flexible modification are instantly a better choice over those that do not. A skilled luthier creates dozens of custom jigs for using their routers in new ways. Unibody routers are less flexible in this regard than routers whose motor is a separable unit. Materials and build quality Contrary to what one might think, plastic is not an automatic signifier of "cheap". Unfortunately, there is little indication of when cheap plastics are being used or high-temp performance plastics. Metal bodies are a good sign of solid build, however the incorporation of performance plastic significantly alters final weight. When used in combination, metal and plastics improve weight distribution and stability. Weight distribution affects how the tool feels in use. Edge-shaping around the horns on a body becomes dangerous with tall routers with a high centre of gravity. The same operation using a router with a lower centre of gravity (fixed base, for example) is an order of magnitude safer and more confident. In short; take the router out of the box at the store, lock the plunge to depth and balance it on an edge. Does it feel tippy and handle like clown shoes on Usain Bolt? With the router still locked, twist it around in both hands. Abuse it! Is there play in the plunge mechanism? Do the handles feel grippy? Are the adjusters cheap plastic that might break off after minor use? Find reasons why you wouldn't buy it and use those reasons to compare against other models on hand. Drives past/around/over corners like '71 Pinto IN BRIEF Your first router should to be nimble enough to handle smaller detail jobs common to all guitar projects. Bigger routers have their place however are usually too cumbersome for bread and butter work. Some tasks - such as copy shaping the outline of a solidbody - are performed better using these larger routers, but smaller motors can carry these out adequately given a patient planned approach. The ideal first router would be something around the 3/4HP - 1-1/2HP range. These tend to be small enough to rout a headstock outline, shape the outline of a body, sink pickup routs and cut electronics cavities; the big work around an instrument. Compact palm routers are affordable, and when bought as a kit have more than enough flexibility to produce accurate and clean results for less than a couple hundred bucks/euros. OUR RECOMMENDED BUYS As of writing, kits such as the Bosch Colt PR20EVSPK, DeWalt DWP611PK or Porter Cable 450PK offer fixed and plunge bases. All have soft start, constant speed control and are the workhorses of many small luthier's workshops; many luthiers end up with several small routers such as these, often dedicated to specific tasks such as in binding jigs or inlay routing pantographs. For a first purchase, routers in this class can manage virtually all jobs you would want them to and continue being useful even when you buy your second (or sixth) router. DeWalt DWP611 kit - no nonsense and easy to work with Bosch Colt/PR20 kit - cheap and eminently reliable Makita RT0700 kit - upmarket from a stable of thoroughbreds
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