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Pickup Routing

Discussion in 'Luthier's Corner' started by AGuyWithAName, May 24, 2020.

  1. AGuyWithAName


    Sep 8, 2019
    First post, yay! Anyways, after a long break I am finally getting back to working on the prototype of my first bass. Last time I worked on it I ran into a bit of a snag with figuring out how to make the pickup cavities. In my research, I cannot seem to find how the depth is determined, as well as the easiest or cleanest way to make the cavities for the pickups. Any and all help is appreciated! The pickups I am using are a set of Delano JSBC5 HE 5 String Skinny Soapbars with split coils.
    jamro217 likes this.
  2. Doner Designs

    Doner Designs Steve Doner Gold Supporting Member

    Jun 2, 2012
    Metro Chicago Area
    Doner Designs is an alias for Steve Doner
    Where are you starting from? Are you a skilled woodworker? Did you make the body itself or buy one that you need to do some steps on?

    Routing templates are available from Best Bass Gear and other places for the outline. For the depth the pickup maker can probably tell you the depth needed or you can go at it with the router in steps. If you go too deep you can always use extra foam underneath.
  3. AGuyWithAName


    Sep 8, 2019
    The body was made by me. I am by no means an expert at woodworking, but I am always learning something new. I'm not sure if Delano has a recommended depth, but I'll take a look. The template for my pickups is currently out of stock on BBG.
  4. Beej


    Feb 10, 2007
    Vancouver Island
    Cavity depth can be determined by the depth of the pickups you're using, plus clearance space for wiring coming off the pickups. You also need to factor how thick the body is to ensure you're not going too deep. Also, consider the length of the screws you'll be using to mount the pickups. Part of the consideration of the cavity depth is how high the pickups will sit proud of the body in order to bring the magnetic fields in contact with the strings.

    For some examples of how to rout the pickup cavities, check out some of the Special Edition Build Off threads linked in the sticky at the top of the forum. There are a few ways demonstrated there to choose from - IME, people in this forum will also be happy to help or guide with specific questions. :thumbsup:

    For a simple shape like a soapbar, you can make a rectangle from four squared pieces of wood screwed down to a piece of MDF, then make the template off that. Depending on the radius in the corner of the pickup, your router bit may make exact radius anyway.
    Gilmourisgod and ctmullins like this.
  5. AGuyWithAName


    Sep 8, 2019
    Thanks! I'll take a look.
  6. Zoolion


    Oct 31, 2014
    Use a router and a template. Templates are easy to make if you have access to a 3D printer. Measure to figure out the depth.
  7. HaMMerHeD


    May 20, 2005
    The proper depth for a pickup route varies with the depth of the pickup, and how high the strings will be off the deck. It needs to be deep enough that it will still be usable even if all the saddles are bottomed out in the bridge. But it needs to be shallow enough that you can raise it up enough if the saddles are raised much higher.

    So generally, it'll be somewhere between 1/2" (~12mm) and 7/8" (~22mm).

    I almost always shoot for 5/8" (~16mm), which has worked with every pickup and bridge I've ever used. Note, however, that I've never built a bass with an angled neck. If your bass neck is angled, chances are you'll need a slightly shallower route.
  8. AGuyWithAName


    Sep 8, 2019
    I won't have an angled neck, thanks for the numbers! I'll also take a look at mounting the bridge so everything works properly.
  9. Stewmac
    GravyGoodness likes this.
  10. ctmullins

    ctmullins fueled by beer and coconut Gold Supporting Member

    Apr 18, 2008
    MS Gulf Coast
    I'm highly opinionated and extremely self-assured
    @Beej nailed it. The correct answer depends on your instrument’s geometry and the depth of the pickup itself. If in doubt make it shallow; it can easily be deepened if needed.
    Gilmourisgod likes this.
  11. If you have a router you can do the job without a template. Mark everything out and clamp a straight edge the precise distance away from the desired line that is the distance from the edge of the router base to the edge of the cutter. This bridge was sunk into the body using this technique. You start with bit of a safety margin and tap the straightedge till you reach your desired line.
    You’ll have to clean up the corners with a chisel.
  12. If you don’t have a router, there’s also the hammer and chisel technique.
  13. A 3D printer?? You can make templates out of paper.... I get it - a 3D printer IS better but how many people can access one for not business related use?
  14. Ric5

    Ric5 Supporting Member

    Jan 29, 2008
    you need to go deep enough to also put a foam pad under the pickup
  15. ctmullins

    ctmullins fueled by beer and coconut Gold Supporting Member

    Apr 18, 2008
    MS Gulf Coast
    I'm highly opinionated and extremely self-assured
    Please don’t use paper router templates.
  16. joeeg33

    joeeg33 Supporting Member

    Sep 11, 2002
    Central New Jersey
    This is as clean as it gets, router with template. They have small bearing router bits available at stew Mac.

    Attached Files:

    AudioTaper, Roxbororob and Scoops like this.
  17. Pfft. If you can't transfer paper to wood and do a good job then you don't need to be doing this kind of work yourself. I mean really.
  18. BassUrges


    Mar 14, 2016
    Many, many local libraries have things like 3D printers, laser cutters, and even mini mills or CNC routers available to the public.
    N4860 and Max Bogosity like this.
  19. Dark Horse

    Dark Horse Supporting Member

    Jul 31, 2008
    Austin, TX

    Well, you’re currently attempting to tell the original poster , a guy with ZERO experience in routing pickups and clearly limited experience with a router, That he should make a paper template and wing it...

    IMO that’s reckless, foolish, and a clear way to mess up his project AND insure that he probably won’t want to continue his woodworking journey.

    I’m not sure what makes you think it’s ok to give such irresponsible advice.... let alone what you’re woodworking experience is.... but as RESPONSIBLE luthiers, we like to work safely and accurately so we get the desired results. In fact, you’ll find that the finest woodworkers in the world use templates for their work. If you’re curious, look up guys like Jory Brigham, who’s furniture sells out fast and ranges from about $3k to well over $30k per piece...... he uses templates.... LOTS of them. He dues this to save time and to make sure the quality is as good as it possibly can be.
    Last edited: May 24, 2020
    AudioTaper, Cutter8, robert43 and 7 others like this.
  20. Hopkins

    Hopkins Supporting Member Commercial User

    Nov 17, 2010
    Houston Tx
    Owner/Builder @Hopkins Guitars
    I'm a pro bass builder and would never consider free hand routing a pickup cavith.
    AudioTaper, Cutter8, robert43 and 5 others like this.
  21. Primary

    Primary TB Assistant

    Here are some related products that TB members are talking about. Clicking on a product will take you to TB’s partner, Primary, where you can find links to TB discussions about these products.

    Nov 29, 2020

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