Guitar Building Blog

Chapter 4: Templates

For this post and the following, I want to keep the text short. Much of the previous blogging was all about my thought process.

Now that we have plans we need to build templates. I build master templates from 1/4 MDF board. I use this because it is a stable material that is super cheap. I spent less than $20 to build my master templates and the MDF is readily available at home depot. Let’s get building, and start with the body.

The first step is to trace the design onto some tracing paper. I use a transparent velum with red sharpie as its easy to see, and the marker doesn’t bleed through. You want to be as accurate as possible, so you have to take your time.

The first step is to trace the design onto some tracing paper. I use a transparent velum with red sharpie as its easy to see, and the marker doesn’t bleed through. You want to be as accurate as possible, so you have to take your time.

The next step is to glue the traced design onto your MDF (I use 3M super45 adhesive) and rough cut it out on the band saw.

The next step is to glue the traced design onto your MDF (I use 3M super45 adhesive) and rough cut it out on the band saw.

The rough cut template

The rough cut template

Now we begin the sanding and shaping. I use the belt on my sanding station for all flat and convex curves, and the spindles for concave curves and transitions.

Now we begin the sanding and shaping. I use the belt on my sanding station for all flat and convex curves, and the spindles for concave curves and transitions.

Next is one of the more time consuming processes: Hand sanding. You want to run your fingers along the edge of the template to find any high or low spots and remove them. The template should feel smooth and even. To do this I use a 1/2 diameter dowel with a piece of 80 grit sandpaper. This process took me about 2 hours.

Next is one of the more time consuming processes: Hand sanding. You want to run your fingers along the edge of the template to find any high or low spots and remove them. The template should feel smooth and even. To do this I use a 1/2 diameter dowel with a piece of 80 grit sandpaper. This process took me about 2 hours.

The final body template.

The final body template.

The neck follows a similar process with one exception: For straight edges, I attach a flat, straight reference face and use a flush trim router bit to ensure I get a perfect straight edge along my reference lines that I traced. The full process is laid out in the gallery below:

There are a few more minor templates that need to be constructed, but the process is the same. In the next installment, we will talk about wood selection and my thoughts on my finish. This will dictate a lot of the decisions I make coming up.

Antonio MerolaComment