Tuesday, November 9, 2010

building templates 1

When building a solidbody guitar with a router, it's common practice to first create a set of templates out of something sturdy (and easily machinable) like MDF. The purpose here is to create a reusable guide to use when carving the body with a flush trim router bit. A flush trim router bit has a bearing on it, that allows you to rest the bearing on a template and follow that template, cutting the wood in the exact shape of that template.

So, step 1, I got my hands on a blueprint. For my first build, I decided on a Telecaster style body - they're simple, they're flat-top, they don't have forearm and belly contours, and I just happen to like Telecasters.

Lucky for me, our good friend Terry Downs over on TDPRI has created an extremely detailed Telecaster blueprint, that he shares with the home-guitar-building community freely.

Now is as good a time as any to mention that basically all of my preliminary knowledge of home guitar building came from the good folks over at TDPRI. I would like to extend a special thanks to Jack Wells, Colt W. Knight, Scatter Lee, and jkingma, and motor_city_tele. The build threads posted, and the feedback on other peoples' build threads offered by these gentleman has been absolutely imperative to me getting started, and I am very grateful.

So, I printed the blueprint up, pieced it together (most folks just run to Kinko's and get it printed up on one big sheet of paper), and glued it to a piece of MDF.

After I glued it down, I rough-cut the section of my MDF plank to the dimension of the blueprint, first with a circular saw, then with a jigsaw.

I  cut as close to the outline as possible, leaving a little room to finish the edges with the spindle sander, since the jigsaw has a bit of "blade walk," where the bottom of the blade will swing to the outside of the top of the blade while cutting, and the spindle sander gives a perfectly square edge.

After the rough body shape is cut by the jigsaw, I take it to the spindle sander. To be more specific, it's an oscillating belt / spindle sander. Oscillating = the spindle (also referred to as the drum) moves up towards heaven, then down towards hell at about 30 cycles per minute. This action serves to keep the sandpaper clear, and also keeps the sandpaper from heating up in one spot and burning the work. The unit I have, by Ridgid (pictured above, and also in that video link) is convertible, so it can act as both an oscillating belt sander and an oscillating spindle sander. Converting the machine from belt to spindle or spindle to belt is a very simple, no-tool process that takes about 30 seconds.

A Manhattan on the rocks is a great way to celebrate a job well done, but should never be enjoyed while working by men who like having ten fingers. 

On the spindle sander, I sand the template to the outline on the blueprint. This yields a perfectly square, smooth edge, and now we're looking at a template that has been machined down to exactly the shape of a Telecaster.

There you have it - the first steps of creating a reusable body template. In the next steps, we will modify this template to include the pickup and control cavity routs.


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