What'd people use before routers existed?

Discussion in 'Luthier's Corner' started by phatcactus, Feb 3, 2005.

  1. phatcactus


    Apr 2, 2004
    Chicago, IL
    I got a couple weeks home from school, so I started working on the neck I'm planning on building. I'm practicing on pine, so I don't destroy the maple I got from StewMac.

    The main trouble I'm having is routing channels for the truss rod and graphite sticks. I don't have a real router, so I'm using a Dremel in a router base, but it absolutely refuses to cut straight passes. I'm not even sure what it gets upset about, but if I keep going this way, my channel will be way too wide. And zig-zaggy. Ew.

    I'd rather not spring for a new router, if only because I don't think I'll be doing this all that often. But do I really have any alternatives? How'd they cut channels like this in the days before power tools?

    Much thanks.
  2. Phil Mastro

    Phil Mastro

    Nov 18, 2004
    well, another you can do it (although not void of any power tool usage) involves getting a dado head (sp?) for your table saw (supposing you have one). It lets you cut grooves of varying widths. That's mainly what I've used to make my trussrod channels.
    hope this helps, and good luck
  3. tkarter


    Jan 1, 2003
    Good eyes and steady hands will get you where things were before routers. That and patience.

  4. Scott French

    Scott French Dude Supporting Member

    May 12, 2004
    Grass Valley, CA
    Lots of guitars that pre-date power tools don't even have trussrods.
  5. Look up router plane. To get a straight cut w/your dremel or any other router, you need to clamp a straight edged board onto the workpiece for the router to ride against.
  6. phatcactus


    Apr 2, 2004
    Chicago, IL
    Table saw dado: tried it. Worked pretty great. But if I use that, I can only make channels that run the entire length of the wood. Which would be fine if I were doing a tilted head, but I'd like to keep it as Fender-ish as possible.

    No truss rod: Who am I Wishnevsky? :D I tease. He's the one who actually inspired me to make use of my dad's shop in the first place. My thinking is that if I can make a neck okay, I'll make a whole guitar later on. The neck isn't going so well so far...

    Router plane: right now I've got the Dremel riding against the neck blank itself, with some straight-line-parallel-to-the-edge-of-the-board attachment. My board is straight, so it really should be moving around. I'll look into a router plane, or maybe I'll try using some long steel bars as a template.

    Thanks all for the quick responses. I really appreciate it.
  7. Router planes are what they used(I believe) before power tools- ancient stuff. I wasn't suggesting using one for a truss rod channel, I just meant to answer your question.
    Honestly, I'll be surprised if you can route a decent channel w/a dremel. IMO, it's just not up to the job. I strongly suggest a quality router(a book on them wouldn't hurt)- Porter-Cable's my brand, but Hitachi, Milwaukee Tools, & DeWalt are also good. Stew-Mac has lots of free info on their site; I've used it myself on the same procedure.
  8. Scott French

    Scott French Dude Supporting Member

    May 12, 2004
    Grass Valley, CA
    Can you even get a bit big enough for a trussrod to work in a dremel? Make sure the direction you're routing is pulling the dremel into the fence and not away from it. Also take many very very shallow passes. I wouldn't recommend using a dremel for this task from the start but those are some tips if you don't have any other choice.
  9. JSPguitars


    Jan 12, 2004
    Grass Valley
    Let dad know how much your into this stuff and maybe he'll spring for a router!! Either that or bug him every 5 seconds till he springs for half!
    Also..........look for used tools. There's a used tool shop here in town that I've bought a few hand tools at.
    just some thoughts.
  10. 73jbass


    Apr 17, 2004
    I would think that that kind of thing was done on milling machines if a router wasn't available. Slower, but a lot more precise.
  11. Suburban


    Jan 15, 2001
    lower mid Sweden
    Before routers existed, they used knifes and chisels to make channels. They drew the outlines with the knife, and then cupped chisels would do the channel. If straightness wasn't too important, they might use a drill to take away the bulk, and fix it up with chisels.

    Well, that is one (1) old method, anyway.
  12. paintandsk8

    paintandsk8 Pushin' my soul through the wire...

    May 12, 2003
    West Lafayette, IN
    I was wondering if anyone was going to mention chisels. I really enjoy using chisels, I've never used them for a truss rod, but I have made a decent control cavity w/them. They can be a pain, but doing something like that by hand is really rewarding. At least I think so.
  13. pilotjones

    pilotjones Supporting Member

    Nov 8, 2001
    If you manage to get the Dremel to work on your test board, remember the maple will still be more difficult.
  14. FBB Custom

    FBB Custom TalkBass Pro Commercial User

    Jan 26, 2002
    Owner: FBB Bass Works
    Lose the Dremel for this job unless you want to go insane.

    I router is really, really the way to go. Do you not have a friend of a friend of a friend with one? Otherwise you could do most of it with the table saw, stop short, and finish off with the chisels as Suburban suggests. That is what people did before the age of power tools. Unfortunately, a decent set of chisels can be quite expensive themselves. I can heartily recommend Japan Woodworker's bench chisels if you think that you might find more uses for chisels than a router down the line.
  15. I recently made a neck and my router order was taking forever, so I used my dremel to cut the truss rod and carbon fiber channels (impatient as I am). It was hard rock maple and it took forever. Came out kind of chippy, but straight. They sell 1/4" and 1/8" router bits which matched my LMII truss rod and 1/8" cf sticks.

    Just take light passes ~1/16". I used the dremel plunge router attachment and edge guide.

    NOTE: I will never do that again, just takes too much time and now I have my great quiet powerfull new hitachi router.
  16. pgurns


    Dec 26, 2003
    Northern, IL
    Profile say's you live in Chicago, right? Well I live about 45 minutes northwest of Chicago, by routes 12 and 120. I have pretty much any power tool you need including at least 2 maybe 3 routers. PM me if interested and you are welcome to use any of my tools as long as I am home. I am just now starting to build my first neck so I will be using the shop a lot in the next few weeks.

    Lemme know
  17. phatcactus


    Apr 2, 2004
    Chicago, IL
    Actually, I just tried again, this time taking about 1/16th off per pass, as opposed to 1/8th. Seems to have done the trick. I also changed the direction I'm going, as per Scott's suggestion, but I don't really see how that can make a difference cutting a channel like this; if you look at the work from the other side it's doing the same thing it was before.

    And thanks for the offer, Paul, but for now I'm going to try to do it using tools that I've already got or can afford to buy.

    Thanks all!
  18. FBB Custom

    FBB Custom TalkBass Pro Commercial User

    Jan 26, 2002
    Owner: FBB Bass Works
    It's very important that you understand how moving right-to-left against an edge guide will keep the tool against the guide as opposed moving in the other direction. Any time you use a router or rotary tool with a template or guide this will be crucial to getting good results. Think about how the cutterhead rotates and reacts as it hits the wood.
  19. phatcactus


    Apr 2, 2004
    Chicago, IL
    *massive lightbulb*

    Ah haaah! Thank you!