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The Spacklehoss Don't Do It Yourself Squire '51 Pickguard - Page 2

Making The Template

To make the template I started with a chunk of birch hardwood ply. The wood just has to be flat (with in reason) and hard enough to withstand shaping. I used a standard 1/2 birch ply found in most specialty woodworking stores like Rockler (that's where I got the #4 screws too).

On my first template, I thought it would need to be thicker for strength and more space for router bearing so I glued two layers together. However, I found after making my second template for my first Blackie that one 1/2" layer is enough.

So I cut a piece just larger than my original pick guard. I don't skimp with the excess wood around the pickguard. This always comes in handy, giving me more area to hold the template as I drill and cut.

Tape the original pickgaurd firmly down on the template with that cool, light blue masking tape from 3M (that stuff rocks, and no, I don't own any 3M stock). Go crazy if you want, put a ton of tape on it, but just don't cover the mounting holes. We just want to make sure it does not move while we make the hole markings for the template.

That's right, hole markings. Do not, I repeat, do not trace the outside of the template at this point. Take a 0.5mm or 0.7mm mechanical pencil and trace around the inside of the mounting screw holes in the pickguard. This will leave you little round circles about 1/8" in diameter on the template board. You can draw a rough positioning line about an inch around the outside of the pickgaurd for orientation purposes but for right now we are focusing on the mounting screw holes.

Once you have all of the holes outlined, you can peel up the 34 pieces of tape and the pickguard. Push guide holes into your template with an awl. To get the guide holes in the center of the circles, lay the awl parallel to the template and find center. Then lift the awl perpendicular to the template and push.

Fairly accurate...

After you have awl'd all of your guide holes you can check for accuracy by replacing the pickguard over the holes again. You want to make sure that your guide holes, more or less, are dead center in relation to the holes on your pickguard.

After your guide holes are done find one of your #4 wood screws and select a drill bit that is just slightly smaller than the screw's threaded shaft at its thickest diameter. For me this was a 1/16" bit.

Using your guide holes and your PROPERLY SQUARED drill press, drill pilot holes ALL THE WAY THROUGH THE TEMPLATE. This is important. The holes must go all the way through. Go slow and hold down the board tightly. Once the drill passes through the board it will want to ride up the drill bit and come up with bit as you lift the lever. You may feel more comfortable clamping the template board for each hole.

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Next, and depending on how obsessive you want to be with this, screw the stock pickgaurd to your template piece using your #4 wood screws into the pilot holes. I would use minimum of five of six strategically placed screws, but, again if you are the OCD type, use all 11.

The #4 screws should sit down in the holes and not stick up past the top of the pickguard. This is really important. The #4 screws should never sit above the pickguard or pickguard blank surface, this will hang up your router and cause you great distress. If they do stick up, get smaller screws, or figure something out, again they cannot stick up above the pick-guard material.

Once the stock pickgaurd is now fastened to the template block with accurate mounting holes, you can use the 0.5" or 0.7" mechanical pencil accurately trace the outside of the template. Remember, trace the neck pick up hole too if you need one.

Remove the stock pickguard from the template block. Yeah, I know, no neck pick up.

Use your scroll saw to cut the template contour. Be sure to "leave the line". In other words, do not cut directly on the template tracing line. Leave your self about a 1/32nd of an inch outside the line.

At this point, if you are going cut the neck pickup hole, drill a 1/4" hole INSIDE the neck pickup hole tracing. Detach your jig saw blade and fish it through the hole and cut the neck pickup hole out of the template. Cut on the inside of the line! Just like you would do with the outside contour. Detach the blade and get the template back out.

On a side note for those who do not have a jigsaw, I got mine for about $60 at Harbor Freight. It's not the best quality tool but, it does the job in this instance.

Next, sand the daylights out of the template bringing the outside contour of the template to just past the line that you traced. In other words, we are trying to make an identical copy of the original pickguard. Only we are making it 1/2" thick versus .090".

I used 1/2" and 2" drum sanding bits in my drill press, a 12" disk sander, sandpaper, and files to sand the template to an accurate copy of the stock pickguard. ALWAYS try to keep the edge of the template square! Always sand at 90 degree angles to the template surface. Wrap your sand paper around square and flat blocks of wood or dowling to keep your edges straight. Any imperfection or rounded corner will wind up as a dip or ding in your finished pickguard. If you can find a drum sanding bit smaller than 1/2" you will have an easier time getting all of the contours sanded accurately. Since I have only the 1/2" bit I had to do a lot of hand sanding. It is important to note at this point that it is easy to mess up the template by over sanding. Check it for accuracy against the original frequently and GO SLOW.

The critical parts of the template are the control plate notch and the neck pocket. Compare your template to the original pickgaurd frequently for accuracy. If remove your neck pickup and strings you can check the template against the gutiar body.

My template is not as accurate as it could be in the little circular notches. Like I said, I need a smaller drum sanding bit. However, I don't think that it is that noticeable when all is said and done.

Next: Drilling and Cutting of the Pickguard Blank