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rout/drill before or after finishing?

Discussion in 'Luthier's Corner' started by Bob_Ross, Feb 13, 2014.

  1. Bob_Ross

    Bob_Ross Supporting Member

    Dec 29, 2012
    (I posted an identical query over on the Unofficial Warmoth site, but figured I'd pick your brains here as well.)

    So, in part due to a lot of feedback I received here in a previous thread (http://www.talkbass.com/forum/f57/padouk-body-tru-oil-finish-1045344/) I'm moving forward with my Warmoth build, albeit now using an Alder body with a Quilted Maple top. Decided I didn't want to have to deal with grain-fill, or potential discoloration from mismatched sawdust.

    Still hoping to do a DIY Tru-Oil finish (unless someone can suggest an easier product? I'm looking for something that requires the least investment in infrastructure, would love something that just requires wipe on/wipe off/sand/repeat).

    I want to install the neck & bridge before deciding on the final pickup locations; gonna play around with an over-the-strings pickup mounting jig to decide on the best location for a single pickup. My question is this:

    Should I wait until the pickup location is decided on and routed out before applying the oil finish? Or is it okay to finish the body and then do drilling & routing?

  2. hdracer


    Feb 15, 2009
    Elk River, MN.
    I would always do all work first before applying the finish,
    unless you want to do the finishing twice.
  3. cv115505


    Sep 14, 2012
    Oklahoma City
    I'm not an experienced luthier or anything so take my theory at face value. I think it's ok either way... People rout for pickups on finished guitars all the time, and I've never heard of anyone having issues after the fact. Also, for the record, when you're doing your pickup placement experiment, try to place it just behind where a normal P pickup would be located... I tried that once and got some really cool, growly tones. Kind of like a P mixed with a Musicman.
  4. poit57


    Apr 30, 2010
    Oklahoma City, OK
    I'm curious about what the experts would say. I have rerouted a finished bass for different pickups with no issue, but I would think the preferred method would be to do the routing and drilling prior to applying finish when possible.
  5. SamanthaCay


    Nov 16, 2008
    Denver, CO.
    Of course you can do any drilling/routing post finish but why risk mucking it up if you don’t have to.
  6. I side with hdracer on this. My only caveat would be using painter's tape over the top if you really want to do it after. The finish has to be *completely* cured before you do it though. You get the added bonus of penciling in the outline to follow as you go.

    I'd still do all your routing first though. Just my 2p
  7. Bob E

    Bob E

    Nov 18, 2012
    They call it finishing because you are supposed to do it last...
  8. Hopkins

    Hopkins Supporting Member Commercial User

    Nov 17, 2010
    Houston Tx
    Owner/Builder @Hopkins Guitars
    I would rout pickup cavities before finishing because I prefer that the wood in the cavity be sealed. Screw holes are different. They can and will swell, when wet sanding causing problems when finishing. So I prefer to mount the bridge and pick guards after final finishing.
  9. Lonnybass

    Lonnybass Supporting Member

    Jul 19, 2000
    Minneapolis by way of Chicago
    Endorsing Artist: Pedulla Basses
    I agree with Hopkins. I would add that you want to drill out as much as you can before finishing so as not to risk a spiderweb or crack appearing in the finish of the surrounding wood. Additionally, I believe it's always best to handle instruments that have finish on them as little as possible on the workbench! Too much potential for an errant screw or bump on the table scuffing up something you'd worked hard to make perfect.

  10. Bob_Ross

    Bob_Ross Supporting Member

    Dec 29, 2012
    LOL! Point taken!
  11. Rocky McD

    Rocky McD

    Jun 28, 2005
    San Antonio, Texas
    I machine every rout, drill every hole and test assemble completely before finishing. It's too easy to scratch or dent accidentally. Good finishing takes too much time to do it twice.