Making The Klein Electric Guitar Template

As noted in Time for a New Guitar Template, there were some concerns with my first attempt at an electric guitar template. It was a good first attempt but time combined with an improved understanding of woodworking (I’m new to this), has given me a more critical eye. I’m glad I made this second attempt. This guitar template is much closer to the original plan, its sanded edges more square and the curves more fair. Unfortunately, the image doesn’t do it justice.

Klein Electric Guitar Build Template Closeup

When I undertook this guitar project earlier this year, one of the things I spent a great deal of time on was tracking down how to make a template. It took a combination of searching and asking questions on the Project Guitar forum to get a sense of where to start. Given that, I thought it would be helpful to other newcomers to document a bit of the process. Hopefully, it will prove useful to someone.

The first thing, of course, was obtaining some sort of guitar plan. With some of the more popular guitars (such as the Les Paul and the Stratocaster), plans in AutoCAD format (DWG and DXF files) are commonly available. Guitar plans are sometimes available in other formats as well such as Adobe Acrobat (PDF files). You may even be able to purchase templates from an outfit like GuitarBuildingTemplates.com. Others exist as well.

In cases where none exist, some have taken an image, determined a known distance on the guitar such as a neck width, scale length, or bridge dimension and used that to scale up the image to the appropriate size.

In my case, I was fortunate enough to find that Steve Klein, the designer of the Klein Electric Guitar, had published a plan available from The Guild of American Luthiers so I started there.

A more recent alternative is provided by Eric Olds who drew up Klein based guitar plans and made them publicly available through BTEG. See Eric Olds Klein Electric Guitar Project – Part 1 and Eric Olds Klein Electric Guitar Project – Part 2 for the plans.

The second thing I had to determine was a means of transferring the plan drawing onto the template material. I came across a number of ideas including tracing the image onto the drawing. This particular idea called for scribbling all over the back of the drawing in ink and using that to transfer an impression onto the template material by tracing over the lines of the drawing. That seemed unnecessarily sloppy and introduced the first opportunity to deviate from the actual plan – hand tracing the pattern. Instead, the idea that seemed most straightforward was to simply glue the plan to the template material so that’s what I did. I obtained a container of spray adhesive, sprayed it all over the template material and carefully laid down the plan onto it working slowly from one edge to the other to avoid wrinkles.

Third, I had to determine what sort of template material to use. Templates are made from a variety of materials including plywood, acrylic and MDF. After reading about them, I chose MDF because I felt it was the easiest for the inexperienced. Here are some of its advantages:

MDF is completely uniform with no grain to worry about and no knots in the material to throw you.
MDF cuts easily. A jigsaw run at low speeds makes clean cuts and is easy to control.
MDF files and sands easily resulting in a smooth edge with a relatively small effort.

The next steps involved actually cutting out and shaping the guitar template.

First, I clamped down the template at the edge of a table using Irwin Quick Clamps which I HIGHLY recommend. These are easily removed and put back in a new position in just a few seconds. How you clamp, is also important. Don’t let too much of the template overhang the table otherwise the flexible material will move up and down as you try to work with it. Expose only a portion of the template at a time and rotate it often to give yourself the best angle at working a particular edge.

Second, I used a jigsaw to rough cut the template. Jigsaws have two modes of operation – an orbital action (sort of the “default”) and a straight up and down action. You WANT the straight up and down action. The orbital motion will cut a wider path, so to speak, and you are trying to do careful work. Turn it off. Next keep in mind that the jigsaw blade is VERY flexible. You want to focus on keeping the jigsaw perpendicular to the surface of the work in hand so that you keep the edge relatively square to the top of the template. When cutting curves, it’s important to take it slowly so that you don’t bend the blade. It’s better to make several shorter cuts than to try to follow a curve from beginning to end. The likelihood is that you will either throw your cut completely off square or you will gouge out a chunk and have to start again. All that said I came to about 1/8″ of the lines on the plan. Those who are better skilled can certainly strive for closer which makes the subsequent filing and sanding easier.

Third, I used a 4-in-1 file to remove material and approach the lines on the drawing. I started with its rougher surfaces to take off more material and switched to its finer surfaces as I got closer to the lines of the drawing. I used relatively short strokes to avoid gouging the MDF and to help me keep the tool parallel to the surface of the template for a square edge.

Fourth, I used 80 grit sandpaper to finish once I had gotten very close to the lines on the plan – say about 1/16″.

All the while, it’s important to never lose sight of the lines on the drawing which means two things. First, you have to keep getting rid of the sanding dust. Second, I used a sanding block with high grit paper to keep the drawing’s edges clean. As I filed and sanded the edges, the paper would become a bit furry which would make it difficult to see the lines. I stopped periodically to clean up the lines with a few light flicks of the sanding block being careful just to clean up the edge and not take off the lines.

One other thing I found useful in determining the fairness of the template’s curves was simply turning it over and inspecting it from the back. This let my eye focus on the fairness of the curves rather than the drawing which I felt might give me a false impression. In my case, it turned out to be useful in cleaning up a surface or two.

In the end, it took me approximately 2.5 hours to complete the second template vs. the 1 hour it took me for the first attempt. I am so much happier with the overall results that I’m glad I spent the time on it.

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23 Responses to “Making The Klein Electric Guitar Template”

  1. the template is the beginning of it all; it sounds like your efforts were well thought out and executed. great post to share with other luthiers, designers, and guitarists in general! great job!
    earl

    1. Thanks for the encouragement! It’s been an interesting process so far and its just really getting underway.

      I also wanted to say how much I enjoy reading your blog – Guitar Guitar Guitar. I love the variety of guitar related posts. Its definitely on my list of regularly visited sites…

  2. thanks, i really appreciate that; your site is great!

  3. Thanks Robert… for the great information.

    Can you tell me what is the physical difference between the main body of the Harp guitar (Guild of American Luthiers Klein harp plan) and the Klein guitar. It seems the top arm rest area is large… but by how much?

    I’d love to see how much one would need to take off the top to replicate the Klein.

    Cheers
    Steve

    1. Steven – Check your inbox. I’m forwarding you pictures that illustrate the difference from one of our readers.

      Hope these help and thanks for the comment!

  4. THANK YOU so much!!!

    These graphics are perfect.

    I’ve sent an email off for the harp guitar plans… I would love to start this project in the summer.

    Cheers
    Steve

    1. No problem at all, Steven! We have reader Mats to thank for them – I’m merely a conduit. :)

  5. Dear Robert,

    If you ‘d be so kind as to forward those pix also, as I have the same question…

    Im coming down to the basic proportion of your own take on the Klein, Robert, as it seems a little larger than a regular Klein, Henry Olsen’s acoustic MaSh, or the Legg piece. How to translate this into a 12/6 doubleneck will be interesting. Im not sure i want to quite go the harp guitar route, but probably close.

    am learning a lot here! very inspiring.

    1. Pictures are on the way!

      And I’m glad to hear that the site is helping!

  6. Robert,

    if possible, could you also send me those images.

    thanks for all the great info. this is such a huge help.

    thanks again,
    Michael

    1. More than just possible, Michael – the images are on the way. :)

  7. I still wonder why someone, like Warmoth, can’t offer body blanks of a Klein. It seems they have a following anyway, since there are lots of DIY builders out there using Klein body shape as a background and start off point. They have all these different woods too.

    I don’t think they will infringe on any copyright or design trademarks in anyway, since the Klein is derived from Ovation Breadwinner/Deacon anyway, and nothing happened. I don’t think anyone will have enough deep pockets to take the plunge into a full scale lawsuit against someone like Warmoth.

    It’s like if Steinberger should be suing someone just because they had a headless neck on their guitar. You can’t patent that.

    Then, people could experiment with headstock neck on a Klein body as much as they like, from Warmoth or elsewhere. Or anyway, Warmoth should offer something in the “ergonomic vein”.

    On another note, I think the patent for 20 years has run out on all headless designs hardware anyway, like bridges and so on. If I started to produce a TransTrem bridge on my own and manufacture it to sell it, I doubt that Steinberger would have the guts, time, patience, money to go to court with it.

    At least in Scandinavian or european countries since they’re not represented here at all. Online orders only in the US.

    1. Hi Mats:

      Take a look at Stefan’s comments as well as this recent article – Canton Klein Guitar Body Upgrade on eBay.

      I think Rick may be pursuing just that.

  8. Keep an eye out on E-Bay — Rick Canton, whose work is shown here and there on these pages , recently sold a Klein body on EBay and in talking to him, I got the impression he’ll be doing this on a semi-regular basis, but interested folk should email him – or perhaps he’ll post a response.

    I’m surprised as well that Warmoth or other body suppliers dont offer something like a Klein. Just proves its a very in-the-box industry, by and large.

  9. Hey BTEG,
    I will be making a few more Klein bodies and some complete Klein models from current orders as well as my variation of the Klein model. This will then stop.
    Why?
    I have recently been talking with Steve Klein.
    Steve and I were talking about working together, I was going to be making the Klein bodies with my CNC machine but the distance between us was too much of a hassle factor with the cost of shipping wood back and forth etc., and he has found a more local approach.
    What does this mean?
    All I should really say, because I do not want to talk for Steve, is that Steve is 100% definitely actively planning on starting up again, most likely within 6-9 months from now. His new shop is being organized right now. I should not say much more than that but he is alive and well, a great guy, and is set on jumping in again.
    I`m looking forward to seeing what Steve has up his sleeves.
    Regards,
    Rick

    1. Incredible news for all of us! Thanks Ric!

      I can’t wait to see what Steve Klein might come up with now that’s there’s some distance from the original design and additional ideas in the market place.

      Of course, many of us would still love to see the original Klein return. I’m particularly excited since it was the Klein that inspired my starting BTEG.

  10. I hope they will be affordable… for mere mortals.

    1. A Klein guitar (electric or especially acoustic) has never seemed affordable at the time of release. Then they just get more expensive as time passes.

      I’m really looking forward to see what happens with all of this. I spoke with someone who was talking to Steve at NAMM and he said basically the same thing that Rick is saying. He said that Steve was in great health and seemed inspired to begin again.

      -Al

  11. That’s great news! Really, I hope that Steve Klein is healthy and well and pepped up to start again. I mean, even folks in Scandinavia knows about his issues.

    And, they won’t come any cheaper. That’s for sure.

    I have the suspicion, still, of the hardware hassles and troubles in getting headless hardware right and of great quality. Ed Roman seemed to have monopoly on them, asking extortionate prices. I don’t know if this is this plug that has been – finally – pulled.

    I do hope Lorenzo German is alive and kicking as well. Regardless of him doing business with Steve or not. I’ve heard that they have had a falling out as well. But that was quite a while ago. It’s funny, we’re talking about them as we know them personally, but only “know them” through their magnificient guitars.

  12. In “The Electric Guitar” by Nick Freeth and Charles Alexander, Courage Books, div of Running Press, 1999 (available in many public libraries) there are some excellent Klein pics with a very flat aspect on page 116-117, and an excellent pic of the Klein harp guitar with a very flat aspect on page 148-149. Newbie Brad

    1. Great tip, Newbie Brad! Thanks!

  13. Anyone have tips and tricks for making the body comfort contours on a stratocaster project build?Thanks..

    1. Sure – here was my general approach – Guitar Belly Contour and Forearm Cut Complete. It’s not specific to the Strat but should give you some idea.