Woodworking templates are a very easy way to make operations repeatable and uniform. Almost any time that the same measurement, marking, or cut needs to be made, a woodworking template can help lower the time it takes to complete the step.
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Most projects can have templates made for them, and the process is very easy.
The key to making good woodworking templates is to take the time to make the template as perfect as possible. For most templates, they will be used to measure and mark out layouts that need to be cut or shaped. Making the woodworking template as accurate as possible will mean that everything made from the template will also have a high level of accuracy.
For most templates, 1/4″ MDF or similar will be perfect, as it will be durable yet light, and easy to work with.
Also, this thickness is just enough to use a flush cutting router bit for duplicating items with the router table. Use thinner material for templates that will only be used to mark layouts, like the headstock templates in the picture.
Use 3/4″ MDF for times that router bearings will require the template to be taller to get the proper depth of cut. A wooden sign with a decorative border like an Ogee is an example.
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It cannot be said enough times, make your woodworking templates as accurately as possible. The time you invest here will be returned several times over by the time you will save in the future.
I had to make a dozen faux guitar necks for a client that was making metal guitars as art projects. I needed to crank out the pieces quickly for him, so I made templates. One was for the headstock and the other for the fretboard.
I screwed them one at a time to some blanks I created, then passed them around the router. It took the time involvement down to a very manageable amount, and every single neck was exactly the same. I then joined the pieces together and my necks were complete.
Woodworking templates are great for many tasks, and for guitar makers they can be very helpful. I have templates for my bridge shape, headstock shapes, bracing layouts, and arching.
These greatly reduce the time it takes me to transfer those measurements to the individual pieces, and allow me to be more productive in the shop.
Finally, add some useful measurements to the templates when drawing them out, as these will save time as well. Write down the size of the blank needed to use the template, and you will always have the needed information right on it.
My article on the Bridge Pin Drilling Guide shows another time where a template can be useful. This is more of a jig or guide than a template, but the principles are the same. It’s about making something that saves time in the long run and increases accuracy in woodworking.
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