Making a Body Template
Here is a tutorial on how I make a body template. There are other wasy to do it, but this one works well for me. I made this template in about two hours, from start to finish. Click on the pics for a bigger view.
First, you need to draw out or trace the body shape you want on some fairly heavy paper. If you canít find any paper big enough, you can use two 11x17 sheets of paper, turned sideways. Since I redraw my bodies in Illustrator and then print them, that is how I do it. If you donít turn the paper sideways, you have to use four sheets of paper, and then tape them together, so you are just wasting time. Next, cut the body shape out with scissors, and do it as perfect as possible. Simple enough, right?
Now, take your paper body shape and tape it down on your template material. You can use different things for templates, but I am using Masonite. If you go to a store like Loweís or Home Depot and ask for masonite, they will probably look at you like you just stepped off of the boat, because people donít call it that anymore. I think it was a trade name at one time. Now, just ask for the stuff pegboard is made of, without the holes. Thatís masonite. When you tape it down, make sure it is good and flat. That should be obvious, but if you get in a hurry, more than likely it will not lay quite flat, and thus will not trace properly. Use a very fine tipped marker to trace the shape onto the template material. If you are using masonite, you want the TOP of your template to be the slick side. It just works better that way. Donít try to use a pencil or a pen on masonite, because most pens wonít write on it very well, and pencils (even 2B pencils) are not dark enough to show up well.
Here is what it looks l after you take off the paper tracing.
The first step that I do when preparing to cut out the shape, is to drill the inside of the cutaways out with a forstner bit just big enough to fit inside. With all of the waste wood out of the way, it also makes it easier to cut with the bandsaw. The forstner bit should be very close to the cutaway lines, but you donít have to have it perfect. On bodies other than this, especially if it has sharp curves for the waist of the guitar, I will also drill out the smallest part of the waist area for the same reason. It was not needed for this body.
Next, I take the template to the bandsaw, and rough out the shape. I like to do a rough cut to get most of the wood out of the way, and then come back in and do my final cuts in sections. Here is what the body looks like after the rough cut.
When I start doing the finer cuts, I usually start on the right side of the body, or the bottom of the body if you are playing it standing up. It just seems to be the natural place for me to start on it. It also gives me a chance to get a feel for the bandsaw again before tackling the hardest part of cutting out the shape, the cutaways. Oh, by the way, I would recommend using an aggressive blade on your bandsaw. A hook blade is good. I think mine has 6 or 8 tpi (teeth per inch). You donít need a smooth finish on this, it will be smooth enough because the blade is spinning. Besides, youíre going to smooth the edges with sandpaper. The hook blade makes it a lot simpler and doesnít slow down or bind. Iíve tried some of the smooth cutting fine tooth blades, and for what I do on the bandsaw, they are a waste of my time, and I end up breaking them, because they were not designed for what I want them to do. So then, I generally start on the right hand side of the body, and just going around the body in a clockwise direction. You can do it any way you want, but that generally suits me best. As far as cutting along the line, I try to stay on the outside edge of the line. If I screw up cutting, most of the time I can catch it before I go all the way through the line, thereby making it easier to sand out any waves in the flowing curves of the body. Now, just remember, even if Iím using a extra fine tipped marker and Iím staying on the outside of the line, chances are my body will be just a slight bit bigger than the original. Now personally, I donít give a flying flip about that, because Iím not out there hawking bodies, claiming them to be perfect replicas of any certain body. Most people wonít know the difference, and everybody but the fanboys wonít care. Itís called ďclose enough for rock & rollĒ. Donít take this stuff too seriously, dudes.
[Side note: Just so you know, I could fiddle with it and get these things absolutely perfect, but Iím not that anal, and I canít be bothered now. I did that with the les paul, and it just got tedious and boring, so screw it. If it looks good, and works like it is supposed to, it is good.]
Here is what the body looks like with the closer, finished cuts.
Now, take some sandpaper, and run it over the back corners to remove the fuzz, so you can get a better look at your work, and look over it very well. What you are looking for are any obvious humps, dips or non flowing curves. Those are the things will need to be fixed. I didnít mention this before, but the more perfect your template is, the less sanding you will have to do on the body. It will really pay off if you decide to make multiple bodies of the same shape. Once you think you have sanded everything smooth and it looks good to the eye, it is time to trace your template. I use tracing paper, but you can do this on any paper big enough for the template to lay on. The reason for tracing the template, is to show you what you will see when you use the template. The bearing on the router will accurately follow the shape of the body, so make sure it is right!
In this picture, you can see there are marks at certain places on the body. I have marked those places to show where I need to sand and work out any imperfections.
What I did, was I traced the body on the paper, lifted up the template, and made marks on the paper where the problem areas were. Then, I put the template back down on the tracing and made the same marks on the template. When making the marks, I always put them a little further out than the area I need to work on, so I can sand and blend everything in nice and smooth. Once you have sanded again, trace the body again, and see if the tracing looks good. Keep doing this until the tracing looks good. I had to do it twice on this body. Once your tracing looks good, your template is ready to use, once you find the centerline, and make the mounting holes.
A little blurry, I know.
Ok, at this stage, I need to mark the centerline, especially on this one, since the body is angled at the back. (I don't have any pictures for this part)
So, what I do is grab a spare neck (all of my necks are the basic Fendre spec, 25 1/2" scale. 2 3/16" width at the heel, and the pocket length is 3"). With this spec, the end of the neck pocket lines up with the 16th fret. So, I grab the neck, and line it up with the end of the template on the 16th fret. I eyeball it to get it straight with the body and then trace the neck pocket outine onto the body. I take a measurement from the end of the neck pocket (towards the rest of the neck) and find the center. Then, I go to the other end of the neck pocket tracing and find the center there as well. Once you line up those two, you now have the centerline of the neck pocket, and you can draw that line all the way across the template (with a good straight edge, of course) and that is your centerline. If it looks off, erase everything and start over. The centerline is the most important part of the template, because you will use it to line up your components and sometimes take measurements from that. I will try to get some pictures of what I have just described a little later, maybe tonight.
There you have it, that's the way I make my body templates.