Routing Guitar Bodies For Pickup Installations

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Routing Guitar Bodies For Pickup Installations

routing the pocket
Routing A Telecaster Pickup Cavity

Electric guitar pickups are available in a variety of different shapes and architectures. Changes to a pickup’s magnets and winding specs can have a profound impact on its tone. However, being that the structure determines the size/style of magnet and the number of coil windings that can be fit on a pickup bobbin, the profile of the pickup itself is a major tone defining factor that cannot be overlooked.

Sometimes an instrument’s body is not built to accept the client’s preferred pickup configuration.  In these situations, routing may be necessary before the body will be ready to accept the new components.

Deepening A Pickup Cavity For Noiseless Pickups

The installed pickup before routing

This instrument came to us after the client had already performed a pickup replacement. Unfortunately, when installed, the new pickup is not capable of being set low enough to avoid interfering with the strings as they are fretted in the upper register. We have to fix this issue before a proper setup can be performed.

Using a ruler to measure the depth of the pickup cavity

After removing the pickup, we measure that the cavity is approximately 23/32″ deep. This  was plenty deep enough for the instrument’s original single coil style pickup.

A Fender Noiseless Telecaster Pickup

The Fender pickup model pictured is a “noiseless” model. Technically a type of humbucking pickup, it is made from two coils stacked on top of one another. As such, it is nearly twice as tall as a traditional single coil telecaster neck pickup.

Unfortunately, the body is simply not cut deep enough to properly accept this type of pickup.

Using a router to deepen the existing pickup cavity

Using a router, we carefully remove wood from the bottom of the pickup cavity only. The added depth will allow the guitar body to accept the client’s preferred pickup type. 

Using a router to deepen the existing pickup cavity

After routing, the pickup cavity is now 7/8″ deep. We believe that this will now accommodate full adjustment of the pickup to meet any desired spec.

Using a router to deepen the existing pickup cavity

With the pickup reinstalled, we are now able to set the height exactly where we wanted to keep the instrument sounding good everywhere on the fretboard and there is a range of adjustment available should it ever be needed.  


Widening A Pickup Cavity For Humbucking Pickups

Enlarged Body Rout To Fit A Humbucking Pickup

Oftentimes pickup types are categorized by the instrument model from which they originated. For example, a “Stratocaster pickup” brings to mind a pickup much like those shown in the top left corner of the photo (1). 

In search of the perfect feel and tone, many players like to mix and match elements from different styles of instruments. Accommodating these requests sometimes requires adapting the instrument to fit new components of different specs. 

The top right corner of the photo (2) shows that this instruments body had been cut to accommodate single coil  “Stratocaster style” pickups. At the bottom left (3) we see that wood has been removed from the body in order to house the larger size of the humbucking pickup the client requested installed in the bridge position (4). Routing away the wood from the control cavity allowed the clients desired replacement pickups and pickguard to fit onto the instrument.

A PSA From The Author: Safety First!

About Guitar Repair Long Island

Guitar Repair Long Island is the area’s premier destination for fretted musical instrument care and maintenance. Led by owner/head technician Erik Salomon, the shop is dedicated to providing quick, honest, and reliable service. Our vast experience in all aspects of instrument repair ensures that we can help with whatever your needs are. Contact us with any questions or book your appointment today.

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