Making a pickup routing template is a quick way to ensure a well routed pickup cavity. Make the template from MDF, and it can be used over and over. All you need to make the template is the measurements for the cavity, which can be found on the manufacturers website, or online for free. Most pickups are similar in size for their style. That makes any template fairly versatile from brand to brand.
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Making a Pickup Routing Template from MDF
Draw out the shape of the cavity needed on a piece of 1/4″ thick MDF. Cut out the opening on the pickup routing template, and smooth the edges. The router will use this as a guide for cutting, so spend a little time making them smooth.
The best way to get the process started is to drill several holes inside the area to be cut out. Then, use a scroll saw or coping saw to cut along the lines. Next, sand the edges to remove saw marks and tool marks. Finally examine the piece. Address any tool marks or rough areas, because the router will end up copying these to the guitar when used to route out a pickup cavity. A little time invested here will pay off several times.
Using the Template
Clamp the template to the top of the guitar, placing the pickup location where it needs to be. A good way to do this is to mark the location first, then place the template on top of it. A couple strong clamps will hold it in place during routing.
When routing the cavity, start with the bit at a shallow depth, and focus on getting rid of the material in the middle. Come close to the edges, but do not contact them. In most cases the router bit guide bearing will not contact the template until the cavity gets a little deeper. Take out the middle area in a series of shallow passes until the bit is deep enough that the bearing contacts the template. Then, start riding along the template when making passes and removing material.
A pickup routing template is easy to make, and the time invested will save you hours in the future. Make it once, and you never have to do it again.
Check the guidelines for the pickup you are using, and continue making shallow passes until the cavity is at the proper depth. Then, check the cavity. If there are any issues, address them before removing the template.
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Once satisfied, remove the pickup routing template and continue on with the rest of the build. Save the template, because it can be used again and again on future builds. If you make several of these for different pickups, save each of them together so they can be ready for use when needed. A set of good templates makes woodworking more accurate and repeatable.
I wrote another article on the importance of templates, called Woodworking Templates, and it discusses more about repetition and accuracy. These can be used for far more than pickup cavities, and once you have them, they never wear out.
If you are interested in making a guitar, my Top 5 Acoustic Guitar Making Books can get you started on the right track. These books are all great. They have made many woodworkers into excellent guitar makers.
What’s your favorite time saving template? Leave a comment and let us know.
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