Building the body – Day 4 of 4

by Chris Bewick

Today was my fourth and final day with access to the workshop so I was determined to get far enough so that I could continue working on the guitar when I was back at home. This essentially boiled down to getting the pickup cavities routed.

The first job for the day was making templates. I laid my paper plans over a piece of 6mm MDF and used a pin to prick through each of the shape’s corners and the centre line. I then measured 3.5mm outside of this to enlarge the template by the appropriate amount for the collar guide on my router. For a more detailed explanation of this refer to Day 2 of 4.

Marking up the bridge pickup template

Once I had cut out the template with a fret saw I tried it out on a scrap of wood. I had two success criteria. Firstly the hole needed to be big enough to hold the pickup and secondly it had to be small enough to be entirely covered by the bridge base plate.

Test bridge pickup route on scrap wood

Thankfully the test cavity ticked both boxes. The pickup being used in the TeleCastle is a Fender Custom Shop ’51 Nocaster pickup.

Telecaster bridge and pickup

Next I followed a similar process to make the neck pickup template. To generate this template I used the pickup ring itself. This would ensure that the resulting hole (3.5mm smaller) would be easily covered by the ring. I slightly modified the ends of the shape by drawing around a washer, this ensured that there was enough material left at the side to screw the pickup ring into.

Marking up a telecaster neck pickup router template

I cut the template out and once again did a test cut on some scrap wood. As with the previous test the resulting hole was big enough to contain the pickup (Fender Custom Shop ’51 Nocaster’ neck pickup).

Test neck pickup route on scrap wood

And small enough to be fully concealed by the pickup ring.

Telecaster neck pickup and pickup ring

Feeling quite satisfied with both my templates I was ready to do the real thing. I positioned the neck template centre line on the join in the maple top and measured the correct distance from the neck. As always, I fixed the template into place using double-sided tape.

Positioning the neck pickup template with double-sided tape

I routed gradually down to a depth of 20mm making 5 or 6 passes. Whilst routing I also clamped the template to the body as an insurance policy for the double-sided tape. One slip now and I could ruin the whole body.

Routing the neck pickup cavity

The hole worked out great, there was a tiny bit of router burn on the top right corner as shown below but this will be completely concealed within the finished guitar.

The finished neck pickup cavity

Next up was the bridge pickup. I initially positioned the bridge as shown on the plans but when I checked the scale length with the neck in the neck pocket it seemed to be too far back on the body. Even with the bridge saddles fully extended I would be nowhere near the 25.5 inch scale length that I was aiming for.

Test assembly of guitar to calculate bridge position

I decided to take matters into my own hands and grabbed the metal ruler. I set the 25.5 inch marker against the position of fret 0 (the as yet uncut nut slot).

Measuring 25.5 inches from the guitar nut

I could then position the bridge so that 0 on the ruler (25.5 inches from the nut) fell comfortably within the limits of the bridge saddle adjustment.

Measuring the correct bridge position

I then drew the final bridge pickup location onto the body and used this to determine the positioning of the template. Once again the template was held in place with double-sided tape and clamps.

Positioning the bridge pickup template with double-sided tape

Apart from some more minor router burn things went very well.

The finished bridge pickup cavity

Job done! Over the course of the last 4 days I had successfully turned a block of swamp ash and two thin sheets of flamed maple into a fairly stunning telecaster body complete with a neck pocket, two pickup cavities, a control cavity and a jack plate hole.

There are a number of small jobs still left to do on the body but they can all be managed back at home in my humble shed. Soon it will be time to start thinking about the finish, can’t wait!

The almost finished guitar body and neck