Help out an aspiring luthier!

Discussion in 'Luthier's Guitar & Bass Technical Discussion' started by Jack Cline, Nov 8, 2018.

  1. Jack Cline

    Jack Cline Member

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    Hey guys,

    I've been playing for years and am looking to tap into luthiery! I'm looking for some starter gear: kits, tools, etc. to get me on the right track! My budget for the time being is around $1k. Any other advice is mucho appreciated as well

    Thanks
     
  2. mabinogeon

    mabinogeon Silver Supporting Member

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  3. Sweetfinger

    Sweetfinger Supporting Member

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    ^^Most of what you see there is laser sights for hammers. There is a short list of must-haves and a giant pile of things you don't need.

    Need:
    Fret crowning files
    nut slotting files
    Aluminum leveling beam
    fret end dressing files

    Are you building?
    Band Saw
    Drill press
    Table router
    plunge router
    Soldering iron

    ....Clamps!
    [​IMG]
     
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  4. kidmandude

    kidmandude Supporting Member

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  5. PB+J

    PB+J Silver Supporting Member

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    There's no end to the useful tools. I've built a couple dozen guitars from scratch. You COULD do it all with hand tools, you really could. What I find useful, not ranked in order

    Power tools

    Table saw--just really useful for roughing out, and you can use it for other things, like cutting nut slots or even fret slots, if you buy other expensive tools. A cheap table saw is of no real value compared to a bandsaw for luthiery
    Band saw. Useful in many many many ways. Could replace the table saw if you were pressed, but hard to get it to cut as square
    Drill press. Absolutely, you need a drill press. It can also double as a planer and a spindle sander. A bad planer and spindle sander, but it works
    Router. I hate the router. Loud, dangerous, produces tons of dust. But it's extremely versatile and can do a ton of stuff including smoothing, planing, shaping, routing out, truss rod slots. You could get by without one, but you'd need to be good with chisels. Router are usually like an hour of setup for five minutes of use.
    Thickness planer. Once I finally got one, and old Montgomery ward from the fifties found on Craigslist, I was very surprised how often I used it. All the time. Planing bodies, making fretboard blanks, thinning parts, making veneer
    Combination sander. Belt/disk type. Lots of people love the Home Depot "ross," but I found a disk/belt sander at a yard sale for twenty bucks so done. Use it all the time
    Spindle sander. These are cheap and very effective, Great for sanding smooth, square curves

    A joiner might be nice, but I don't have one.


    Hand tools

    Fret saw. Yes, you need a fine kerf saw. Useful for cutting fret slots and for other occasional tasks. I have the StewMac Japanese fret saw
    Nut files. Expensive, over specialized, but yes you need these to do decent nut work. You can avoid this by getting pre-cut nuts, but then you need to make sure the match the radius of your board and you need to work up some system for filing a very narrow slot
    Fret crowning file. Yes this is handy and fast. i use a stewmac file for medium and narrow frets
    Shinto rasp. Great for carving necks. Love this thing. I've done entire necks with one of those hardware store combination flat/curved/rasp/file tools, but it wasn't much fun
    Cabinet Scrapers. Great tools useful for neck carving especially
    Combination square. Get a good one, you will use it constantly
    Radius block. You need a way to radius the fretboard. You can build a jig to do it with a router. I do it with a 12 inch wooden bock, working carefully and checking with a straightedge for dips and high spots


    You need some kind of way to cut fret slots. I've done it entirely by hand, with pencil marks on the board and a combination square and a saw. It's doable. Eventually I broke down and bought the StewMac fret slotting mitre box, a metal template, and the japanese saw. Expensive. But it does give you relatively quick and consistent results. I often wish I'd gone for the fancy table saw blade deal they offer. I've always tapped the frets in but more and more I'm thinking about pressing them in, but then I've got to buy a bunch of stuff... You could get a fret leveling beam. I just glue 300 grit sandpaper to the edge of a level, or lately a piece of marble threshold

    There are a bunch of other useful tools. Punches to start drill holes; forstner bits, felt blocks for sandpaper. If you want to make acoustic guitars you'll need some kind of rig to bend sides. I made one out of a fence pipe and a charcoal starter. A fret wire bender is useful, although you can do it carefully by hand. Then there's finishing...

    I really enjoy it and building your own completely demystifies the whole business. Also you get exactly what you want. Good luck!
     
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  6. mmn

    mmn Member

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    If you've got the time and money I highly recommend a school. It's expensive but in a few weeks you get an enormous amount of exposure to tools and techniques.
     
  7. XSSIVE

    XSSIVE D'Avanzo Guitars Vendor

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    To better answer your question, what guitar work are you looking to do? That will determine what tools you need.
     
  8. Terry McInturff

    Terry McInturff 40th Anniversary of guitar building! Gold Supporting Member

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    Best thing to do is to work with an established pro, and I mean a good, real experienced one. No better way to learn!
     
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  9. 9fingers

    9fingers Supporting Member

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    True, don't try to invent the wheel all by your self. Take advantage of someone who has already figured out a lot of what does not work the hard way so you dan't have to go through all that!
     
  10. PB+J

    PB+J Silver Supporting Member

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    This sort of thing is easy advice to give but professional luthiers I know are quite busy and not all that jacked up about working while also instructing. If the goal is to be a pro then yes get a paid gig as a worker in the shop.

    Another way to learn is watch video and learn by doing. Get some cheap pine and make some bodies. The worst thing that can typically happen is you get some firewood or scrap for your next project.
     
  11. 9fingers

    9fingers Supporting Member

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    Or pay to take classes with great pros. That is actually what I meant above. That is what I have done & worth every penny.
     
  12. Khromo

    Khromo Supporting Member

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    These books are wicked. Don't listen to complaints about the price, they make time spent on the internoogie much more worthwhile.

    https://www.stewmac.com/How-To/Books/Guitar_Player_Repair_Guide.html

    https://www.stewmac.com/How-To/Books/Fret_Work_Step-By-Step.html

    https://www.stewmac.com/How-To/Books/Guitar_Finishing_Step-By-Step.html

    A steep price, but try getting a pro to spend about four hours teaching you how to do this. And then being on call to remind you about this or that. I's not the only way, but it is a great foundation.

    https://www.stewmac.com/How-To/DVD/Dan_Erlewines_Fretting_Series.html
     
  13. Guitarworks

    Guitarworks Member

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    OP - It depends on how serious you want to get, and what type of builds you want to do. I graduated Galloup School of Lutherie, so I happen to be into it big time and I'm heavily invested.

    If you plan to harvest your own lumber you'll need to know your own sawyer who owns a wood mizer (portable sawmill). My sawyer has a couple different wood mizers and also happens to own 30 acres of very old, heavily deciduous wooded property. So he's a good guy for me to know. If you go this route, you will need a thickness planer to plane down your slabs, and drum sander to bring your body blanks down squared to 2" or less for solidbodies. You'll need a plunge router and stationary router, but also having a CNC mill with programming education will help you a lot. If necessary, you can rely on routers with bearing bits and jigs you made from MDF (medium density fiberboard - countertop material - you can get scrap pieces big enough for body jigs and neck jigs at Menards & Home Depot).

    You will need all the machine shop 'knee' tools - drill press, bandsaw, jointer, table saw, belt sander, disc sander, routing table, pin router, etc. It's not a bad idea to start out small on these, but if you have the budget and space for the next bigger size up, get that one - it never hurts to have more 'table' on your table saw. You'll need lots and lots of clamps - screw types, C clamps and trigger style clamps. And a palm sander with sandpaper of varying grits - you'll be doing lots of sanding. You'll need nut files & fret files. You'll need a Dremel tool and routing apparatus for it to do inlay work. You'll need a handheld grinder. You'll need a bench grinder. You'll need a big air compressor, a gravity fed HVLP paint gun, a pedestal buffer, and some understanding of chemicals to spray and buff beautiful glasslike finishes. You'll need a good soldering iron and understanding of electronics and circuits.

    If you want to spin your own pickups, you'll need a winder (I built my own) and an electric vat for wax potting (I just use an old crock pot - works great). You'll need lots and lots of small hand tools - look in the StewMac catalog to get an idea. Also - if you know a metalworker, you'll need them to make small custom hand tools that you can't get from a hardware store or woodworking supplier, and to fab small custom parts you can't find at AllParts or StewMac.

    If you want to build acoustics or semihollows, you'll need lots of wraps for binding and a go-bar clamping table. You'll have to make a lot of what you need to do the work - jigs, paint sticks, a hands-free holding tool out of pipe and fittings that will hold and reposition bodies and necks as you need them to for finishing. I swear half my time at first was spent making jigs, jigs, jigs! I would recommend you start by assembling finished parts into a guitar first. Learn about setups & wiring. Then move on to fretwork. As your skills and ambition develops, you'll gradually accumulate all the stuff I mentioned previously.
     
  14. John Coloccia

    John Coloccia Cold Supporting Member

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    Where do you live? Anywhere near New England? You could do a lot worse than to take Cumpiano's course. Cumpiano and Becker are both gentleman, straight shooters and will get you started on the right track. It'll cost you more than $1000.

    If you want to do it on a shoestring, you CAN. You need to get very good at hand tool work, and that means getting really good at selecting, adjusting and sharpening your hand tools as well. This is a very difficult path, but it absolutely can be done IF you want it. You can build a world class guitar for $1000, including tools and wood, if you're willing to put in the time and work. If you're starting from scratch, it will take you a couple of years at least, but you'll come out with a good nuts & bolts appreciation for the finer aspects of woodworking.

    My one real suggestion would be to avoid the vast majority of "luthier" tools. There are some that are really convenient. Nut files come to mind. You really will need a fret saw unless you plan on modifying something else to get just the right kerf. You don't need dials, gauges, nut layout rulers, fret bending contraptions, etc. Some are somewhat convenient, some are very gimmicky, and a lot of them are actually inferior to just doing it by eye/feel.

    Whatever you do, if you decide to move forward, FINISH that first guitar. Absolutely don't give up on it, start over, whatever. Get through all of the steps, because guitar building is an exercise in doing the right things in the right order. Once you get to the end, you'll understand the whole process a lot better. If you don't get to the end, you'll either give it up for good, or you'll kick yourself for making more mistakes on #2. Get #1 to the point that it's got strings on it, even if you know it's a complete turd ready for the fireplace. FINISH THE FIRST ONE no matter what.

    But yeah, $1000 will build you a good guitar if you're willing to go the hand tool route, and it's very very satisfying. Building an acoustic with hand tools is really not that big of a deal. It's been done like that for a long time.
     
  15. FrankHendrix

    FrankHendrix Telephile Gold Supporting Member

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    Come on, John, I bought those Stew-Mac humbucker loader things because of you. And wouldn't you know it; the very first humbuckers I had to install went into a Tele Deluxe pickguard and ... they went right back into the drawer.
     
  16. John Coloccia

    John Coloccia Cold Supporting Member

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    LOL...I've got one of those drawers too.



    edit: it really is a pretty cool tool actually, but I honestly just never had a problem just doing it the "hard" way. I bought them on a whim one day.
     
  17. FrankHendrix

    FrankHendrix Telephile Gold Supporting Member

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    I like it. I just find I hardly use it either.
     

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