A Basic Tool Kit for Making a Classical Guitar - Another Look
I was looking at a blog post of mine from eight years ago, Basic Hand Tool Kit for Making a Classical Guitar, Revised and saw that I have made a few changes in my tool kit. Here are some of the changes and my current recommendations for someone who wants to make their first guitar.
I still recommend purchasing or borrowing one of the following books on guitar construction, but choose only one! Pick one book and make a guitar using that book and that book only! Using more that one book at a time will do nothing but confuse you! I speak from experience! Once you complete your first three guitars then, and only then should you purchase the other book.
Guitar Making: Tradition and Technology, by William Cumpiano and Jonathan Natelson
Making Master Guitars, by Roy Courtnall
Better yet, skip buying a book and find a guitar making course here in the United States or aboard. There are many such courses available today that weren't available when I started this journey thirty years ago.
These books by Roy Underhill are still recommended reading:
The Woodwright's Shop
The Woodwright's Companion
The Woodwright's Workbench
The Woodwright's Apprentice
Why these books by Mr. Underhill? You will learn valuable wood working techniques if you make any of his projects. The dovetail joints used to join a drawer together are far more complicated than any joint you will use in making a guitar.
A modern classical guitar is made up of butt joints and one scarf joint. Yes, there is the "V" joint to join headstock to neck shaft which requires much more patience and experience. You will do some inlay with the rosette and rout out a few rabbets for the purfling and binding, but there are no complicated joints, unless you join the neck to the body with a sliding dovetail or make a "V" joint to join headstock to neck shaft.
I think it is easier to build a guitar than to build a Federal highboy.
The very first thing to do is BUILD YOURSELF A DECENT WORK BENCH! Build something basic and sturdy with a flat top!
There is a plethora of information on the Internet about how to build a work bench, so much so it's a little mind boggling! It seems that many wood workers would rather make work benches than anything else.
I recommend making a work bench similar to the one in Underhill's, The Woodwright's Apprentice. It is simple, goes together quickly and I have been using that same bench for the last twenty years! If you want to, build yourself a Roubo bench, or a Nicholson English bench, which I think is the best bench ever designed; or make a Shaker style bench. Whatever bench you chose, just make it!
In my previous post on a basic tool kit, I suggested looking for vintage tools at local tool swaps, flea markets and antique stores. I don't say that anymore, unless you are willing to spend the time and effort to restore these tools and if you don't want to do all that work, I suggest buying new tools, especially hand planes.
The hand planes that are made and sold by Lie-Nielsen and Lee Valley are exceptional tools that are ready to use right out of the box. Yes, they are expensive, but they will save you hours of frustration of trying to restore and set up a vintage hand plane, and if you buy a Lie-Nielsen plane and you don't like it, you can sell it on eBay for as much as you originally paid for it!
If you do want to restore vintage tools, there are several books available on how to restore and keen vintage tools, not to mention the articles available on the Internet.
Here is a basic list of tools that I use to build a classic guitar. And this is not a definitive list, just a place to start. By the best you can afford!
No. 62 low angle plane (highly recommended!)
No. 5 plane
No. 7 plane
Low Angle block plane
Lee Valley Spokeshaves, flat and round
8 inch drawknife
1/8 inch chisel
1/4 inch chisel
1/2 inch chisel
3/4 inch chisel
Marking gauge, shop made or purchased
Cutting gauge, shop made or purchased
Sloyd knife, 3 1/4 inch blade (Mora of Sweden #106)
Classic guitar tuner drill jig, with 13/32 inch drill. This is a must! Get the one from Stew-Mac. There are several other jig available.
Rosette and Sound hole cutter, available from from LMII or purchase an attachment for a Dremel router from StewMac
Dremel router, variable speed
Fine tooth crosscut dovetail saw
12-14 inch crosscut back saw
20 inch rip panel saw
20 inch crosscut panel
Fret saw, buy the best and get the Luthier Saw from BadAxe Tool Works! I don't recommend any other fret saw, most aren't properly sharpened and you will have a hard time cutting slots in an ebony fret board!
Bow, or Turning Saw, available from Tools For Working Wood, or make your own. TFWW has parts to make one.
Dial Caliper, buy or make your own
Hand held electric drill, don't buy an impact drill!
Dead Blow Fret Hammer, from Stew-Mac
Diamond fret crowning file, from Stew-Mac
Side cutters for cutting frets, from Stew-Mac or LMI
Nut slotting files
Bending iron, buy an electric iron and spot thermometer from Stew-Mac
A Shop Fox vise, available from Grizzly, Stew-Mac and Garret Wade
Clamps-cam clamps (which you can make yourself), bridge clamp, C-clamps, long reach C-clamps, spring clamps, clamps, clamps, clamps. I use a vacuum pump and vacuum clamp to glue bridges onto guitar tops now.
I know I have missed some tools, but look at the tool lists in the book your purchase.
Don't forget to join the Guild of American Luthiers. You can learn much from their publication, American Lutherie. You can learn so much from them that your head will swim and you will get confused!
Try not, do or do not! There is no try.
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