HELP! ROUTING NECK AND PICKUP CAVITIES - Amateur Hour

RobStark

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Hi Everyone,

I recentlty joined the forums, although I've been lurking on here for quite a while. Well, I always try and research my questions throroughly before posting. I am not looking for a short cut; I put time and effort into my research but sometimes after days of trying to find a very specfic peice of information, only then will I resort to asking the professionals and non-professionals who have more experience than me.

Anyway, on to my question:

So, I am having a hard time understanding in what order and WHY (in regards to the steps taken when building a les paul style guitar) do you route the pickup cavities and neck pocket? Now hang on a sec... It isn't just a simple question like that, let me explain: I am asking because I have gotten such conflicting answers when watching and reading about other peoples builds, regardless if they are professional luthiers or amatuers such as myself doing their first build. Also, the angle of each has a lot to do with the order of things in my mind because it would seem to ME to make the most sense to just route everything out in the begining while the board is still square (prior to cutting the body out but after tracing it from template) and also it seems easier while the board is still flat (not carved/arched yet). But this logic must be flawed because I see people cutting out the body first, carving it, and THEN routing out the cavities.

But also have also seen so many different builds do a mixture of those steps in all different orders (some route out wire channel, then cut out body, then cut neck pocket, then carve, then route pickup cavities, etc...). Pretty much, mix those steps up randomely in every order possible and I've seen a video or read a build in that order.

So this is so confusing to me, but I seem to be the only one bothered/confused by this so what am I missing? I realize I still lack some of the basic woodworking fundamentals/theory and maybe if i had a better understanding I would already know the answer but I am on a quest for information and this is one obstacle in my way.

Can someone...ANYONE.. shed some light on WHY they do their particular process and also why I see so many different ways?

Also, i once read someone on here saying "if installing humbuckers in your build, you don't need to worry about routing an angle in the bottom of the cavity since humbuckera are attached by the pickup rings and they attach to the body itself (the plane I believe they call it?) And so only the " plane" needs to be angled. Is that true,?

OK thank you and sorry for the long post. Any info or direction to a source would be much appreciated.
 

LtDave32

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Hi Everyone,

I recentlty joined the forums, although I've been lurking on here for quite a while. Well, I always try and research my questions throroughly before posting. I am not looking for a short cut; I put time and effort into my research but sometimes after days of trying to find a very specfic peice of information, only then will I resort to asking the professionals and non-professionals who have more experience than me.

Anyway, on to my question:

So, I am having a hard time understanding in what order and WHY (in regards to the steps taken when building a les paul style guitar) do you route the pickup cavities and neck pocket? Now hang on a sec... It isn't just a simple question like that, let me explain: I am asking because I have gotten such conflicting answers when watching and reading about other peoples builds, regardless if they are professional luthiers or amatuers such as myself doing their first build. Also, the angle of each has a lot to do with the order of things in my mind because it would seem to ME to make the most sense to just route everything out in the begining while the board is still square (prior to cutting the body out but after tracing it from template) and also it seems easier while the board is still flat (not carved/arched yet). But this logic must be flawed because I see people cutting out the body first, carving it, and THEN routing out the cavities.

But also have also seen so many different builds do a mixture of those steps in all different orders (some route out wire channel, then cut out body, then cut neck pocket, then carve, then route pickup cavities, etc...). Pretty much, mix those steps up randomely in every order possible and I've seen a video or read a build in that order.

So this is so confusing to me, but I seem to be the only one bothered/confused by this so what am I missing? I realize I still lack some of the basic woodworking fundamentals/theory and maybe if i had a better understanding I would already know the answer but I am on a quest for information and this is one obstacle in my way.

Can someone...ANYONE.. shed some light on WHY they do their particular process and also why I see so many different ways?

Also, i once read someone on here saying "if installing humbuckers in your build, you don't need to worry about routing an angle in the bottom of the cavity since humbuckera are attached by the pickup rings and they attach to the body itself (the plane I believe they call it?) And so only the " plane" needs to be angled. Is that true,?

OK thank you and sorry for the long post. Any info or direction to a source would be much appreciated.

Hiya Rob, and welcome to the forum.

You'll get more responses by posting this in the Luthier's Corner, so I'll re-direct it there..
 

Bill Hicklin

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Well, there is no "right way." There are some procedures where you have to, or at least it's easier to, do A before B, but in general it's a question of what you and your shop setup find convenient.

In more common practice, LP's are routed after the top is carved because the angle of the upper face of the body provides the base for the template for the routs, which are thus done perpendicular to the the plane of the fingerboard. You don't have to do it this way, and there's no law that says that the routs can't be perpendicular to the back (although then you have to undercut your tenon to create your neck angle).

In general it's easier (or at least saves a step) to rout the pup cavities after the neck is installed, because the neck cavity cuts through the end of the tenon. This also ensures that your pups are aligned with the neck even if the axis is a little off the body centerline. But, again, there's no law that says you can't rout first and cut away the neck tenon later, or even separately.

Humbucker: functionally, it doesn't matter if the routs are angled or not. Explorers and Vees aren't. Most people though think it looks better, at least on a Lester, for the cover tops to be parallel to the strings, and that is determined by the sides of the routs (which constrain the pup covers).

It does go without saying that the wiring channel has to be routed before you glue the cap on!
 

NateM

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Welcome to the forum!

A huge part of what order a particular builder decides to do the operations on depends on what tools they have available. In addition, certain features of the guitar may be used as a reference point for the remainder of the build.

Tom Bartlett uses (or at the least used) the hard corner at the neck joint and cutaway to index his guitars whereas others use the centerline and front edge. In the 50's Gibson used the neck tenon rout to reference the tailpiece locations.

A few considerations when planning the order are that the pickups are routed on the same plane as the neck and so it makes sense to do the neck plane prior so things match up. In order to get them to the proper depth you may want to have the pickup plane such that the bit will naturally travel less deep when doing the bridge pickup so it could make sense to do the pickup plane as well.

Regardless of whether you route one or both planes now you are in a situation where you have at least one if not two angled planes on the top of your guitar. So it is near impossible to attach any templates for the top carve to the top unless you shape them with the angles already there which would be difficult. So it actually makes the most sense to carve the top, route the neck plane and possibly the pickup plane and go from there. If you had a pin router this wouldn't matter so much since you would attach the top carve templates to the back.

This is certainly not the only way to do this but it does give a better chance that everything will be positioned correctly relative to each other. It would definitely be possible to route the pickup channel, glue the body together and then route the cavities but it would require longer bits and some additional jig work.

Posting your build here is a great way to get feedback on your process and suggestions to fixing problems. Besides, we love build threads around here!

Edit: Bill beat me to it!
 

D'tar

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Rob,

I feel your pain. Many different ways to achieve the same results! I concur with the two previous posts in regards to doing these steps according to your tools and setup. It is also logical to route the neck pocket and perfect the fitment before moving forward. placement of pickup routes can then be set according to the alignment of the neck and not just the alignment of a template that you are hoping is in the correct spot. This includes bridge and tail alignment. Hope this helps you. I'm sure someone else who types faster has already mentioned all of this. Best of luck

Brett
 

bruce bennett

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Everyone else has given you the answer you wanted.
So I'll only add that in my build thread, I clearly screwed up by getting "out of sequence" with these routs. Forcing me to make a VERY BAD decision about how to remedy the issue. which resulted in a nearly destroyed guitar. it's a lot of work and material ruined..

the les paul for many years was not something the home builder could ever attemp to make. only in the last few years has solid building info become publicly available as well as the tools that can do the job properly.

So lesson learned and now I have Pin router that totally solves the problem.

Best of luck with your build. do take you time and plan everything out, and
measure thrice and cut once.
 

ARandall

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I am quite novice at building, but have made a few in the last couple of years so can give a perspective from the 'backyard shed' type builder.

I bought premade templates so the routs would be clean and all in the right place. These are based on the Bartlett plans for making a 59 les paul clone, so anything I'm making is as close to a clone of a 59 as I can make it. The top is carved like the original, and the neck angle mimics the top angle. It is very easy then just to bolt the template to the top, which then makes your rout perfectly angled to match. Much better than trying to cut/sand the bottom of the neck.....not the least that you actually can't see how flush the contact is in the bottom of the tenon.

Pickups are done with another template, once again when making mine I have copied the way a 59 was made.....including the angled pickup routs. There is no need to do this apart from authenticity, but as I have always been making a 59 clone I do it that way. Also the pickup template has the same bolt hole placement as the neck rout template. This not only means its just a bolt/unbolt scenario, but it also is great for alignment from one to the other.

Other routs are better done with the top square. The electrics cavity and switch hole certainly work better before the top is even glued on, the wire channel of course can't be done any other way. I would make sure the body has been cut out for these for the simple reason that its very easy to align all these templates 100% flush on a 3D object, rather than just a tracing - no tracing I have ever done actually is perfect. The line is always a little out from the edge.

There is also the 'secondary rout' for the wiring cavity. As this follows the top carve (to make a constant depth for the pot holes), this obviously can only take place once the carve has been at least 90-95% done.
 

Pete M

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It's pretty easy -

Some of us are hung up on by trying to emulate exactly how they were built in the 50's. Some of us couldn't give a rat's arse.

If you don't care about historical accuracy then do it any way that gets the desired results.

If you want historical accuracy then there are only really measurements from completed guitars to work from. Depths and angles, etc measured from the already carved top. The pickup legs are usually done with the mortice. Then the pickup routes (as there are two distinct steps) take off the end of the neck tenon as mentioned above. All these little rules that people try and stick to.
 

RobStark

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Wow thanks so much. This is why I love this forum, I can't believe I didn't join sooner. I understand some things now I I was confused about prior to these responses but I still have a few things not clear but I'm working now and will respond later I can't hash those details out myself.

Bruce, do you have a link to your build? I might be able learn something from the mistakes you said you made? Or did you not document that build?

Thanks

P.s. that Barnaby guy is a BEAST, building from all hand tools!?! I think that is amazing and my love for traditional ways and history has me aspiring to do that someday.
 

Bill Hicklin

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"only in the last few years has solid building info become publicly available as well as the tools that can do the job properly."

Well, tools which make it easy to do the job properly. Any handbuilder of acoustic archtops wouldn't find a Les Paul especially difficult. Remember, there's nothing a router can do that drill & chisel can't, it just does it faster.
 

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