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A permanent record
Mark Blanchard's Contour Template
© Frank Ford, 1/4/02; Photos by Mark Blanchard

If you know Mark Blanchard, you know a creative and inventive luthier. He tells me he often asked to duplicate the contour of a neck for one of his custom guitars, so he's come up with this clever method of creating a series of permanent, accurate templates. Thanks for the clear photos, Mark!

He starts out by protecting the neck he's about to copy, and by drawing marks at standard locations:

In this case, he's using the first and ninth fret positions. The cling wrap has so little thickness it doesn't affect the outcome significantly.

The template itself will reside in a 1/8" piece of Masonite, which he's cut a bit oversize to fit over the neck:

Hey, Mark, that's no city boy luthier's knife!

Here, he's cutting off a bit of that two part plumber's epoxy putty.

After kneading it a while, he forms the epoxy into a pair of little worms about as big around as a pencil:

Just like my bag of plaster, the putty worm drapes nicely over the neck, and conforms perfectly to the contour:

Now, for the good part. He just sticks his oversize template onto the putty:

and waits for it to set up hard:

Unlike my plaster, if the epoxy curls under the fingerboard, it doesn't prevent easy removal of the template:

Same procedure for the second position:

Nothing like a bit of cyanoacrylate for adhesion insurance:

The low viscosity glue runs right in to help bond the epoxy worm.

And, introducing the worm to Mr. Disk Sander, he's glad he remembered to use that Hot Stuff:

Couldn't be simpler. Here it is, a perfect fit and a permanent record of a specific neck contour:

Of course, if it was so simple, why didn't I think of it. . .

Mark records pertinent data on his template, and he can use it in the future. He says he's already found these templates useful when a customer orders another guitar, and says, "Make it with the same neck."

Just a quick reminder - both methods work well to trace other contours, including arched tops, body profile sections, etc.




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