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Basic Hand Tool Kit for Guitar Making, Part 1?

My grandfather himself used to say that if a guitar maker did not die in a social welfare hospital, it was because he did not have the means to get there.

Jose Ramirez III, Things about the Guitar, 1994


Rain again today, flood warning until 11 am, thought I would go out to the shop and tidy it up a little. This gave me the idea of what a basic tool kit would be for guitar making, because when I made my first guitar I didn't have much. People back then would ask me if I would show them how to make a guitar (they still do) and would they need a shop full of power tools? As soon as I told them that they could build a guitar with hand tools, their faces would go blank, they'd take a step back and mumble something about going home to see if they left the iron on.

I revised and updated this list December 12, 2013. Please click here to see that post. Thanks!

This is not a definitive list, just a place to start (please note that all of these tools are in the above photo on the work bench):

No. 3 plane
No. 7 plane (this is the only one you need, but get several blades)

Lee Valley Spokeshaves, flat and round
Wooden Spokeshave, made from the Lee Valley kit (this is my favorite shave)

8 inch drawknife

1/8 inch chisel
1/4 inch chisel
1/2 inch chisel
3/4 inch chisel
(the most used chisel in my shop)

Marking gauge (handmade)
Cutting gauge (handmade)

Sloyd knife, 2 inch blade (a must have!)(Mora of Sweden #120)
Sloyd knife, 3 1/4 inch blade (Mora of Sweden #106)

Card Scrapers (Bahco Brand)

Gramil, buy from LMI and get 2 of them

Japanese pull saws, a nice one for cutting slots in heel and other for frets

Classic tuner drill jig, again LMI

Handmade Rosette and Sound hole cutter

Razor saws with hand turned handles (make your own handles on a lathe!)

Miller Falls #2 hand drill (or some other hand drill)

Cobbler's hammer for fret installation (or buy a nice one from Stew-Mac!)

Side cutters for cutting frets

Nut slotting files

Bending iron, made from a piece of four inch copper pipe heated by a propane torch

WORKBENCH! the most important tool you can have! I made mine after a folding workbench that is in Roy Underhill's, The Woodwright's Apprentice. It has served me well for fifteen years.

Guitar Making, by Cumpiano and Natelson
Making Master Guitars, by Courtnall

I should have included a bow saw and a 13/32 drill bit for the tuner machines. I make no mention of clamps, that is another posting!

Buy these tools used at a local flea market or antique store, make your own, buy new if you can afford it or as a last resort. When you buy vintage tools you get to hold history in your hand and have the chance to put your own life into it, just like the previous owners. Find, buy or steal a copy of Dunbar's book on restoring hand tools and learn how to soup up, or as they say at the North Bennett Street School in Boston, "keen" your vintage tools. Don't be afraid to make your own tools, however, don't lose yourself in toolmaking, you want to build a guitar!


Comments

  1. Hi Wilson,

    I would love to see a part 2! I've been a player for almost 20 years and I've always wanted to learn how to build one.

    I hope you don't mind, I wrote a little piece on this post on my blog and linked back to it.

    Looks like you build some beautiful instruments, would love to play one sometime!

    Cheers,

    Rob Reid
    ClassicalGuitarTraining.com

    ReplyDelete
  2. Part 2 - yes please!

    ReplyDelete

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