How to use the templates for electric guitar bodies
Never worked with a router before? Please check these safety instructions and general things you need to know about using routers first !
For the templates you can use the following router bits
1. upper bearing router bit (also known as Pattern routing bits)
2. lower bearing router bit (also know as flush trim router bit)
For all these bits, the diameter for the cutting part of the bit must be exactly the same diameter as the bearing!
Most templates set come with a variety of templates : usually at least 2 body templates, a neck template, and (if applicable) a pickguard template/control cavity covers templates/fretboard templates.
Some parts of the templates are for the back of the guitar (like control cavities), others are for pickup routing, or neck pocket, or other things.
The combination of templates are used to route the body and/or neck. The templates will not help you for routing the carved back of the neck, see my “jigs” for help on that matter.
Routing the outline of the body
Usually the body is thicker than the length of your router bit. So you can’t route the full thickness in 1 run. Here is one way to do it (although there are different ways).
- Put the template on the wood of the body. This is the template that will give you the outline shape of the body (so not the template that can be used for the neck pocket!).
- Align the centerline from the template with the glue joint of the wood (only if you have a 2 piece body).
- Use a pencil to mark the template onto your wood
- Remove the template and use a jig saw or bandsaw to cut the body out : be sure to stay away at least 1mm from the pencil mark. Be very aware that the blade of a jig saw will not cut at a 90 degree angle through the wood! So be extra carefull to keep some distance from the pencil mark
- Stick your template to the body with a few pieces of double sided tape. Remember to align the centerline of template and wood. Don’t use to much tape, otherwise you will have a hard time to remove the template later! Usually 3 small pieces will be enough.
- Unplug your router and insert the router bit with the upper bearing ( #1). Set the depth of the router to the point where the bearing will follow the template and the cutting part of the bit will cut your wood. Be sure to tighten both the router bit AND the depth-lock of your router.
- Now we are ready to start routing. Do this very gently, don’t use force, let the machine do the work. There is no need to remove all the material in 1 round! Take as many as you like until you can hear that the body is the same size as the template and no wood is left to remove. Attention : the length of the bit will probably NOT be long enough to route the whole thickness of the body! No problem.
- Remove the template. If you have a hard time to remove it, don’t pull it, but try to turn/push the template sideways from the body until it loosens.
- The upper part of the body is now exactly the same as your template! You don’t need that template for now. Put it aside.
- Turn the body upside down. Unplug your router(!). Put the flush trim bit in your router (#2) and set the depth so the bearing will reach the freshly router part of the body (your body will be your template now !).
- Now you can do step number 7 again : after that, your body outline is the same as the template
Routing control-cavities, pickup-cavities, neck pocket, …
- For this, you can only use router bit #1 of course (the bearing of bit #2 would be in the way when you want to plunge the bit into the body). So unplug your router, insert bit #2 and set the depth so that the bearing will follow your template.
- Take the template for the cavity you want to make, use double sided tape as described above and don’t forget to align everything very carefully.
- Most of our templates have extra support for the router base for the neck pocket (so it won’t tilt as easily when routing the neck pocket). See picture below
- Set the depth stop so the bearing will follow the template when the bit is at its deepest point. Don’t lock the depth-lock yet.
- Now we have to make a beginning with routing the cavity. You can do this by drilling (carefully, not too deep!) a hole, wide enough so it can safely fit your router bit. Or you can do this all with the router bit. If you decide for the latter, here is how to do it : put the machine above the place where you want to make your cavity. Don’t go near the template-edges! Turn the machine on. Now slowly lower the depth until the bit is lowered maybe 2 or 3 mm into the wood. Carefully remove wood but don’t go near the edges of the template, since the bearing is not deep enough yet to prevent you from routing a hole in your template!!
- continu with making this hole wide and deep enough until you are at the desired depth : this is the safe depth, the bearing will be aligned with the template so you can’t rout too far. So this is the moment to lock the depth lock!!
- Now very slowly rout in circles, 1mm max at each pass, until you touch the template with the bearing. Continue until you have done the whole cavity or neck pocket.
- What to do if your router bit is too long, so your (for instance) neck pocket would become too deep? The solution is to use a piece of wood (mdf, plywood, …) and use your template to COPY the neck pocket into your piece. Choose the thickness of that piece so it will compensate enough for your to long router bit. You now have a (partially) copied template. When put on top of eachother, you should have the desired thickness and your bit won’t go too deep.
- If your bit is too short, DON’T insert your bit less deep into your router, it can be very dangerous. When a bit loosens it will probably destroy your neck pocket and (worse!), will seriously harm anyone when it is flying through the workshop! Just use step 8 to copy your template on a less thick piece of scrap plate.
- Important : when turning off your machine when you are finished routing the pockets, keep your router steady and wait until the bit is not turning anymore before lifting the router and removing the bit out of the cavity you just made! This is very important, you can destroy a lot of labor and a nice piece of wood when removing it to quickly while the bit is still spinning.
All comments are very welcom, this is the first concept of this tutorial. I should add more pictures, but there is usually nobody around to make action pictures when I am building guitars 🙂