What material do you prefer for templates?

Discussion in 'Luthier's Corner' started by tjclem, Nov 27, 2005.

  1. tjclem

    tjclem Commercial User

    Jun 6, 2004
    Central Florida
    Owner and builder Clementbass
    Body routing templates. MDF?
  2. Cerb


    Sep 27, 2004
    Mine are all mdf.
  3. What's the dif between plain plywood and MDF for this purpose? If I remember correctly MDF creates a LOT of very tiny wood dust particles that get in your mouth, nose, etc... Plus, isn't more expensive?
  4. Cerb


    Sep 27, 2004
    I like MDF because it's voidless (so is voidless plywood though...) and it is consistent in its workability. I hate plywood because it's so hard to get curves correct thanks to the inconsistencies in the different wood chips.
  5. but not impossible eh?

    good point though. Damn, now I gotta go buy some MDF! :rollno:
  6. tjclem

    tjclem Commercial User

    Jun 6, 2004
    Central Florida
    Owner and builder Clementbass
    Just went and got a sheet. Thanks. Now I am set for a while.....t
  7. Hookus


    Oct 2, 2005
    Austin, TX
    MDF is very easy to work when compared to plywood, does smell like cardboard though...
  8. Ed R

    Ed R

    Oct 25, 2005
    Differnet manufacturers of MDF use different levels of formaldehyde in their manufacturing process, so bear that in mind. You do NOT want to breathe anything with formaldehyde in it!!
    I've used MDF, and it's great for the above-stated reasons, plus it's very unlikely to warp or move due to weather, and it's entirely sealeble ( spray lacquer on it! ) and it can last forever.It's easy to shape and smooth, leaves a clean line, and is overall a great template choice.

    My one issue with it is that often I have to use it thicker than I want to. Quarter-inch isn't wide enough to really run a bearing on, and half-inch is hard to find. 3/4 is great but it's heavy and my bits often don't have enough cutting length to do the job in one pass if I use that thick a template.

    So for some templates I use half-inch corian, or 3/8 arcrylic. Others I use plywood, often not even void-free.

    For FIXTURES as opposed to templates, I use any old thing lying around- I have one radiussing fixture that's part MDF, part plywood, part iron pipe and part arcrylic;)
  9. mgood


    Sep 29, 2001
    Levelland, Texas
    On a related note:
    How do you make the templates? How do you cut them?
    I guess the idea is that I can screw up several templates in the process of getting it right and then use it so that I don't screw up on the actual instrument being built.

    I've seen the plexiglass (I guess that's what they are) templates at stew-mac's website. But I hadn't given much thought to how to make them for things they dont' have.
  10. I make templates from MDF, Masonite (they're different - look it up), and acrylic of different thicknesses. The MDF templates get sealed eventually though that isn't necessary for their first use if you've done a good job making them. You've sort of got to make them with with tools they are going to guide in the end work. I seal the MDF with any hard sealing stuff I've got extra on hand - Poly clear coat, epoxy, fiberglass resin, super glue. You name it and I've use it. It doesn't make must differnece as long as it's hard and smoothable.

    Don't worry about making inside shapes with either MDF or acrylic. I've found that if you've got a band saw, you can just make a straight cut into the center of the pattern and do your business befroe exiting the pattern through that same cut. To seal it up, just use a piece of veneer and some super glue to fill the void and hold it together. It works great. For an acrylic pattern - even a 1" thick one, Just make a little shaved chip for insertion into the slot after the interior pattern is cut. The super glue will fill the gaps nicely.

    For fine tuning and correcting your patterns, get a set of files. You can sharpen edges, round rough curves and corners, define inside corners, and even alter patterns without getting out the router.
  11. DavidRavenMoon

    DavidRavenMoon Inactive

    Oct 20, 2004
    I use both plywood and MDF... plus acrylic plastic for small templates.

    My body templates are all plywood, because that's what I had handy at the time.

    I rough cut them on a band saw, and used files for the final shaping. My pickup and cavity routing templates are also plywood, and fit on top of the particular body (they have sides so they register in the right location... like putting a top on a box).

    I made templates for everything! My headstock shapes, my fingerboard taper (plus the swoosh at the end), guides for the truss rod and graphite channels...

    I like consistency! Plus you do all the work once and there you have it.
  12. Scott French

    Scott French Dude

    May 12, 2004
    Grass Valley, CA
    I don't actually use the template to route out the shape, but for all my body templates I used clear acrylic so I can see what placement looks best for whatever piece of wood I'm using. I just draw the outline where I like it and shape it by hand with the bandsaw and sanders.
  13. One of the regulars over on the MIMF stated that he takes the first 2 months of the year to make only jigs and templates and then builds the other 10 months.
  14. DavidRavenMoon

    DavidRavenMoon Inactive

    Oct 20, 2004
    I'm not sure how long it took to make the jigs and such, but I figured I got it down to about 40 hours to make a bass, using templates and fixtures... that didn't include finishing.
  15. Rodent

    Rodent A Killer Pickup Line™ Commercial User

    Dec 20, 2004
    Upper Left Corner (Seattle)
    Player-Builder-Founder: Honey Badger Pickups & Regenerate Guitar Works
    I have been utilizing MDF for all of my templates, but after a mishap a few weeks back (arrgh! I dropped it) I am making a few of my newer ones from voidless plywood in hopes the corners will be somewhat more durable.

    If you want to go big $$$ there are numerous companies who will lasser/CNC out your templates in plexi from customer supplied CAD models. Seems like this would be great for accuracy and consistency if you were making specific parts that will be used repeatedly.

    This is probably overkill for almost all of us here, but an available option none the less.

    All the best,

  16. callmeMrThumbs

    callmeMrThumbs Guest

    Oct 6, 2005
    Omaha, NE
    Just curious what MDF stands for....sorry if that's a stupid question... :bag: ...I'm really starting to get interested in bass building, but I'm having a difficult time finding any time to get started on my first bass. Thanks for your help.
  17. pilotjones


    Nov 8, 2001
    MDF = medium density fiberboard, available at any home/lumber store.
  18. Suburban


    Jan 15, 2001
    lower mid Sweden
    I use what I find!
    Which thus far includes 6mm pine plywood, 19mm spruce plywood, MDF and a spruce plank!

    What I would like to try is polyacrylic, but it is hard to find big enough pieces around here. I like the idea of 'see-thru', and I also believe taht it wll be less prone to crushing corners. Sorry, Rodent, but ply isn't that much better than MDF, in that respect...
  19. arcobigj


    Sep 14, 2004
    Easley, SC
    What do you use for templates for the templates?
  20. tjclem

    tjclem Commercial User

    Jun 6, 2004
    Central Florida
    Owner and builder Clementbass

    pencil lead :D