Guitar Templates – How To Make Templates


If you ordered the Guitar Template Set portion of the plans, bring the PDF to the printer and get at least one set of the plans. You may want to order 2 sets just in case you mess up the first sheet.

GLS Tip #1: There may be expansion in the paper between when your printer prints and and you get to your shop. Let the paper acclimate in your shop for a few days before proceeding. Then check the dimensions by measuring the plan to see that it is within acceptable tolerances.

Cut your guitar templates apart from the guitar template sheet. No need to be very accurate in your cutting. Just cut about 1/2″ outside the lines.

Choosing The Guitar Template Materials:

There are a couple of choices that I would recommend for templates.

1. 1/8″ Plexiglas: I have used this materials and I really like its cutting properties, the crystal clear see-through properties and the stability of the product. The one thing that I dislike about Plexiglas is that if you drop it and an edge or corner hits a hard floor, it can very easily crack and you may loose your hard work.

2. 1/16″ Lexan: This is my template material of choice. Lexan is known for it’s unbreakable nature. (Note that it is used in applications were bullet-proof glass is required). It is a bit stubborn to work with though. The consistency of the product is that it exists in a semi-liquid state. You can tell this when you cut it as the blade melts it. Just cut through the material very slowly. The other negative feature of Lexan is that it scratches very easily. It is very clear and have very good see-through properties.

3. Illustration Board: I have used this, but you will not have a permanent template. It is rather hard to cut accurately and I would not recommend it at all.

Preparing to Cut The Templates:

The Lexan or Plexiglas will come with protection paper adhered to both sides. Leave this in place for now. Buy a can of 3M spray adhesive and spray the backside of the paper template and let stand for a few moments for it to attain it’s maximum tack.

Now carefully position the template with the upper left corner and stick it to the Template Material. Be careful so not let any other portion of the paper touch or you will be redoing your paper template. While holding the opposite end of the paper up, carefully start to seal the template down with your other hand until you reach the opposite corner.

Cutting the Template:

Next take the template to the bandsaw, set the cutting depth to about 3/4″ and carefully cut the outline of the template out. Slow and easy are the instructions here. This is free-hand cutting so carefully cut so the blade just misses the outline (on the outside of it). You should see just a sliver of white between the cut and the template outline. Keep this sliver of white exact as you cut!

Sand the Template Edge:

Next we need to sand the roughness of the saw cut off the edges. This can be either by hand sanding, a drum sander or a stationary belt sander with a fence attached. Sand right up to the outside of the template line all the way around the template and keep the edge square with the face of the template.

If this is a top plate template, you can mark the brace ends now. Use a scratch awl and carefully and forcefully place an impression right in the center of each brace end, near the perimeter of the template. Also mark the center of the soundhole and the global centerline of the guitar.

Drill the Registration Holes:

Next take the template over to a drill press and drill the brace registration holes. I like to keep these very small and fit to a particular marking instrument, such as a mechanical pencil, the scratch awl or Sharpie used to mark the braces. Mine are 1/32″ hole that allow the tip of a Pentel type pencil access.

Final Preparations:

Now tear the protection paper off both sides.

Let’s take the scratch awl and mark the centerlines of all the braces right on the template. Just connect the dots. This will give you clear visual cues when positioning the template. Also, mark the global centerline on the template. Be sure to mark this ‘right on the money’. Also if you like you can mark other significant pieces such as bridge locations, bridge plates, soundhole diameters or other helpful information, do that. You may wish to drill the registration holes for these elements as well.

Finally, cut a 3/8″ hanging hole on the template and your are finished.

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