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Routing for a pickup in a finished body

Routing a finished body for a pickup isn't hard. Here's how I do it:

First thing I do is tape over the area to be routed with masking tape. Then using a straight edge along the sides of the fretboard transfer the edge taper (extended) and the end of the fretboard to the tape. Then using the strings as a guide transfer the 2 E strings to the tape. And finally transfer the outline of the pickup, in this case a humbucker so the mounting ring was used. It will now look like this:

Now I trace the outline of my router template to the tape to verify alignment (in red here)

note that the router template lines extend beyond the inner ring marks. I have already used this template previously (made from 1/2" hardboard) so I know it works. If unsure draw the outline of the mounting ring as well. I now take an x-acto knife and cut thru the finish along the cavity outline, this helps minimize any chance of the finish chipping along the edges.

The next step is to remove most of the material using a forstner bit. I did it freehand using a hand drill. Leave 1/8-3/16" of depth to be removed by the router later... It now looks like this.


Next the template is attached w/ double stick carpet tape and the cavity cleaned up. I use a rotozip which I made a router base for because it runs at 30,000rpm for clean cuts, and it is easy to maneuver. A laminate trimmer type router would also work well. This is the routed cavity... note that for some pickups it may be necessary to drill slightly deeper pockets at the ends of the cavity with a forstner bit to allow for the dropped feet of the pickup baseplate.

The next step is to drill for the pickup wires. I use a 12" long by 3/16" diameter drill for this, I also have one which is 1/4" for bigger bundles (I have a local supplier where these bits can be bought reasonably priced) The hole is started flush w/ the bottom of the neck pocket and drilled until it meets the bridge pickup cavity as shown below:

It's a good idea to brush on a coat of laquer or other sealer at this point, but not critical. And this is the final result after the pickup is installed: