Best routing template material?

Discussion in 'Luthier's Corner' started by davepack, Apr 8, 2005.

  1. davepack

    davepack Supporting Member

    Jun 16, 2004
    Denver, CO
    Just wondering what you guys use to make routing templates with? Also where to get the material, and your methods for actually making the templates?
  2. teej


    Aug 19, 2004
    Sheffield, AL 35660

    I've got body templates with "built-in" pickup templates, neck templates, etc. all made from MDF. Acryllic works, too, but MDF is just so much easier to use, and unlike acryllic, MDF doesn't bend when you're trying tp trace an outline.
  3. M_A_T_T


    Mar 4, 2004
    Same here. :cool:

    I use 1/4" MDF myself.

    To answer the other questions, you could probably find the MDF at Low's or Home Depot. I make mine, depending on what it is, lets say a pickup rout, by measuring the PU's lenght & width, then adding 1/4" to each measurement. This is because I use brass template guides that are 1/8" larger than my bit at either edge. For a PU rout I'd drill a starting hole, then use a coping saw or jigsaw to cut it out rough, then I use an old half-round file to clean up the edges, then I obviously test the template on scrap to check it out.
  4. Also, with MDF you can use non ball bearing router bits to follow a template and it will not melt (it will stink though, so make sure you lubricate the bit prior to that). I say this because, pickup templates for example, need to have a 1/8" corner radius and I have not been able to find 1/4" diameter bits with top bearings.
  5. M_A_T_T


    Mar 4, 2004
    This is why I go the brass template guide way. I use a 1/2" bit & a 3/4" brass guide to clear out the cavity, then switch to a 1/4" bit & 1/2" brass guide to sharpen the corners. No hard to find top-bearing bit required. :cool:
  6. davepack

    davepack Supporting Member

    Jun 16, 2004
    Denver, CO
    Great! Thanks for the tips everyone!
  7. Suburban


    Jan 15, 2001
    lower mid Sweden
    MDF is good, but has drawbacks, e.g. it's soft and if it hits someting, a piece may be lost or indented. This void will then be copied to the masterpiece, which is not too nice. Or it may burn locally, when you use the shank as guide.

    The ultimate template is made of some "self-lubricating" metal, which is watercut to exact dimensions. Hard to make, expensive and plain marvellous!

    Me? Metal? No. Plywood and MDF... :oops:
  8. Bassic83


    Jul 26, 2004
    Texas, USSA
    Stainless steel, waterjet-cut. Never wears out, accurate as all hell. Oh, you mean what do I use? MDF...
  9. MDF can be made practically impervious to everything except the cutter blades themselves by simply painting them with Minwax Wood Hardener. I've done this to all of my templates and it works like no bodies business. The liquid soaks in and you can do several coats until that process stops. If there are some rough areas, they can be smoothed with a little 220 grit and you're good to go.

    This edge will stand up to use as a guide with a raw bit shaft spinning against it at 20,000 rpm. Of course, you could stop in a spot and adjust your jock for a few seconds and you'll probably get a blemish on your template but if you go ahead and move along as you should, the treated edge will hold up indefinitely. If it wears, you can recoat it and continue on.

    BTW, the solution for nicked, dinged, or otherwise accidently abused MDF patterns is Bondo. I keep some of the red putty in a tube on hand as a quick fix for the occasional goober. It fills quickly, dries quickly and sands smooth. It will also take the wood hardener as a coating.
  10. mikeyswood

    mikeyswood Banned

    Jul 22, 2007
    Cincinnati OH
    Luthier of Michael Wayne Instruments
    *cough* *cough* *wheeze*

    Pardon the dust fellas, but as I was searching for some template info I came across this and I really appreciate Hambone's Minwax hardener tip. I will be grabbing some on the way to the shop tomorrow.
  11. tjclem

    tjclem Supporting Member Commercial User

    Jun 6, 2004
    Central Florida
    Owner and builder Clementbass
    Excellent! Thanks :hyper:
  12. Musiclogic

    Musiclogic Commercial User

    Aug 6, 2005
    Southwest Michigan
    Owner/Builder: HJC Customs USA, The Cool Lute, C G O
    Outstanding, I use helmsman floor poly, am going to try this on my next batch of templates. Thanks HB.
  13. Zombbg4


    Jul 15, 2008
    Yes, excellent thread, glad it was bumped back if only hambone would pop back up again! :(