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DIY: How to Install a MIDI Pad in Your Guitar


Marking Your MIDIpad’s Territory
Now that your bench is clean, your templates are made, and your plans are painstakingly laid, it’s time to make the first, irreversible mark on your axe. Follow these steps to properly mark your guitar for routing. (Note: These steps are for the typical approach of positioning the MIDIpad’s screen along the horizontal centerline of the guitar’s body.)

1. Use a ruler to measure the screen surround’s centerline, and then either scratch it into the underside of the surround or mark the line with masking tape.

2. Align the surround’s centerline with your guitar’s centerline. For both cosmetic and structural reasons, it’s probably safest to make sure that the amount of space between the surround and the bridge equals the amount between the surround and the rear of the guitar.

3. Using a sharp bradawl or a drafting compass’ spike—and making sure you hold the template perfectly still for accuracy—mark the center of each of the four holes on the guitar’s surface.

Warnings and Disclaimers

Whenever you’re using power tools and sharp implements, there are multiple hazards to be aware of. If you are not experienced with any of the tools here, or if you are unsure of your ability to successfully and safely complete this project, we recommend taking this step-by-step guide to a qualified guitar tech.
Remember: When drilling and routing, always wear eye and hearing protection—proper safety goggles and either earplugs or protective headphones
The AmpTone Lab kits include breakable glass—watch out for razor-sharp edges!
A clean workbench with a non-slip mat is critical to safe routing and drilling

4. Pre-drill each hole with a 2.5 mm drill bit so that the holes are a little smaller than the screws that secure the surround. (Remember, you’ll need to find 30mm long screws of the same width as the ones supplied with the kit in order to secure the templates before routing the new screen cavity.)

5. Screw the surround onto the surface of the guitar.

6. Mark the internal rectangle of the surround onto your guitar using a bradawl or sharp knife (pen or pencil lines will wipe off too easily).

7. With the surround still in place, you can more easily envision the ideal position for the rotary encoder pot, button, and power switch. Use your bradawl or compass spike to mark the center of the holes for each.

8. Remove the surround and screw the template with the larger hole to the guitar. If the screw holes line up properly, your template should be perfectly centered around the rectangle traced from the inner edge of the screen’s plastic surround in step 6. If this is the case, trace the inside of the larger template onto the guitar’s top.

9. Remove the larger template and screw on the smaller template. Scribe its internal lines into the middle of the other two rectangles. When the template is taken off again, you should end up with three concentric rectangular marks perfectly nested inside one another.

10. If you have decided to expand an existing guitar-control cavity (or add a new one), mark out the areas that need routing.

Let the Dust Fly: Pre-Drilling and Initial Routing
Now that we’ve marked up the top of the guitar, it’s time to take some serious chunks out of it. You’ll want to drill starter holes before routing. This pre-drilling serves several purposes: First, it makes the job of routing much easier—both on you and the router cutter. Second, it saves time. Routing a cavity that’s 20 mm deep in hardwood without pre-drilling will take quite a long time and blunt the tool much faster.

Pre-drilling can be done by hand with a standard power drill and a Forstner bit (the bigger the better), but a drill press is the safer, simpler method. You can use standard large drill bits, but they’ll take much longer—and there’s also a greater likelihood that you could accidentally drill too deep and go right through the guitar. Whichever approach you choose, be certain to set the drill press’ depth stop (or put tape around the standard drill bit) so you don’t go too deep. You want to drill to within 2 mm of your intended depth. After that, we’ll move on to routing.

Drill out as much wood as you can from the middle rectangle. Mark my words, the middle one! Your goal is to leave about a 10 mm ledge for the glass screen to sit on. (If you’ve decided to enlarge or add a control cavity, pre-drill those spots now as well.)

1. Screw the smaller template down securely onto the guitar’s top, and then use your router to carve out the deeper central cavity. We do this one first so that the bearing on the bit is in contact with the walls of the cavity all the way down. Route it to a depth of at least 18 mm.

2. Use a set of calipers to measure the thickness of your glass screen (they tend to differ slightly from kit to kit). Ours measured about 1.7 mm. You want the top of the screen to end up perfectly flush with the top of the guitar so that the plastic surround holds it down tightly but without too much pressure on the glass. If you don’t have access to calipers, you can proceed to step 4 and route in very small increments, pausing periodically to test the depth with the screen itself. Just be careful—it’s very delicate. (We do sell individual replacement screens if the worst happens!)

3. Remove the smaller template and securely fasten the larger template (the one that matches the glass screen’s dimensions) to the guitar. Then route the shallow screen recess area. (Note: It’s preferable to have a router with ultra-fine depth adjustment, such as those from Triton Tools.)

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