Monday, January 31, 2011

routing the body 1

This past weekend, I routed the shape of my template into the mahogany body blank.

As mentioned in building templates 1, this process involves a pattern bit for the router, whose bearing rides along the template without doing any cutting, while the bit spins and cuts the wood - in the exact shape of the template.

I had very good luck with a Whiteside pattern bit, part number 3004. It cut through the mahogany so well, I could barely believe it at first. I can attribute some of the effortlessness to my router, a very stout Porter-Cable 690 series variable speed unit, but I definitely have to give a tip of the hat to this Whiteside bit. It felt like I was cutting styrofoam - hardly any resistance, and total control. Now I know how having the right tools for the job can truly make your work enjoyable. I chucked the bit into the router, then mounted the router into my router table, and off I went.

It's important to note that routing wood like this creates a lot of shavings / sawdust. It seems like a cubic inch of wood, routed, makes a cubic foot of shavings. If you have the means to hook up a vacuum hood to your router table or workspace, do it. I was continually using a brush and dustpan to collect shavings so I could see my work, and I thought "all this extra hand movement near the spinning bit is not a good thing." I will rig up a dust collection hood next time I rout.

I secured the .75" MDF template to my body blank with two #10, 1.75" wood screws. Some folks use double-stick tape and say that it's sufficient for holding the template in the exact same spot throughout the routing, but I know that with wood screws, the template is definitely not going to shift on the body blank. If you go the woodscrew route like I did, there are two important actions:

  1. Countersink the screw heads on the template. I have a countersink drill bit set that I use all the time, and it's exceptionally important to use them here - because the template, affixed to the body blank, will be against the router table surface, so the surface of the template must be perfectly flat and smooth
  2. Locate the two attachment points somewhere where they won't be visible on the finished guitar. I located one where it will be beneath the bridge of the guitar when finished, and the other where it will be beneath the pickguard when the guitar is finished
 As advised by more experienced builders, I took "small bites with the router bit, only routing .25" to .50" at a time, as illustrated here:

In that photo, the template has been removed, and two passes have been performed already. After the depth of the edge rout is roughly equivalent to the cutting depth of your router bit, obviously, your router bit won't be able to extend far enough to cut any more wood. So what I did was remove the template, then let the already-routed portion of the body serve as the template. It worked perfectly. I did probably 4 passes on this body, each about .50" in depth. The picture above shows the approximate halfway point of my routing.

After I was there, there was nothin' to it but to do it, and I finished up. Here are a few pictures I took along the way:

The next step from here is creating templates for the neck, pickup and control cavity routs. Since this is an original design, I may actually have to use my brain, some pencil and paper, and possibly even a calculator to get it laid out, so watch out!

All in all, this weekend's work was very fulfilling. It taught me that spending a few extra bucks for the right tool can really increase your ease of work, enjoyment of the work, and most of all, the safety of the work. I've said it a million times, and I'll say it again - there's no better feeling than the peace of mind that comes from trusting your gear.

Until next time,

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