Tools for luthiery

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There are some specialist tools required but of course general conventional woodworking tools are required. Here are a few but it is by no means an extensive list.

Conventional tools

  • A decent bench - it doesn't have to be massive but a quite modest one will suffice
  • Clamps - you cannot survive without clamps
  • Vise - there are some specialist pattern makers vices that are ideal for guitar making but a normal woodworking vise will suffice
  • Bench planes - a #4, #5 and #7 are useful
  • Block plane - if you have a low angle block plane is will get a lot of use
  • Shoulder plane - use this tool with its nose removed when planing the back of a head-stock to thickness
  • Chisels - I prefer bevel edged chisels and a range from 1/8", 3/16", 1/4", 3/8", 1/2", 3/4" and the one I use the most 1"
  • Gouges - not essential but useful when carving neck volutes and truss-rod access in head-stocks
  • Knives - a marking knife is indispensable as are X-acto knifes or scalpels.
  • Cabinet scrapers - an incredibly useful tool and is used a lot in lutherie. There are several types and the swan necked one is very useful on the back of necks. Don't forget a burnisher to apply a hook.
  • Rasps - I like the Auriou and Liogier hand-stitched rasps - expensive but will last a lifetime
  • Files - engineering files are useful
  • Coping saw - great for cutting curved edges in thin materials 
  • Straight edges and rules - a 24" straight edge is an essential piece of equipment - a selection of steel engineering rules are prerequisites for accurate measurement
  • Square and sliding bevel - woodworking or engineering squares, a combination square and a sliding bevel are great tools to have
  • Sharpening stones and honing guides - whatever type you use make sure you keep all tool edges sharp
  • Selection of good screwdrivers
  • Set of nut spinners or 1/4" square drive socket set

Machine Tools

A workshop of general woodworking machinery is not essential but helps if you convert rough sawn lumber into square edged boards.

  • Tablesaw
  • Planer/Thicknesser
  • Jointer
  • Drill press
  • Router - both handheld and in a table
  • Oscillating spindle sander
  • Disk sander
  • Drum sander - not essential but good to have - wish I had one!
  • and one of the most used tools - a bandsaw for cutting all those curves

Other hand held power tools

  • Battery drill and drill bits (bradpoints, long series drills and regular twist drills)
  • Random orbit sander

Specialist Tools

  • Gents saw also known as a fret slot cutting saw (not a fret saw bizarrely) - used to cut fret slots 
  • Dial gauge or digital calipers - used to measure thicknesses of flat stock
  • Hygrometer - used to keep tab on the humidity levels in the workshop
  • Circle cutting tools - consists of a blade that rotates in a compass - used to cut the trench for rosette inlaying
  • Bending iron - a solid metal former heated internally by an electrical element. Used to bend guitar or violin sides
  • Fretting hammer or fret press - used to press frets into their slots
  • Fret snippers - used to cut off excess metal from the ends of the fret once installed
  • Fret stone - a coarse and fine sided sharpening tool used to dress frets
  • Fretting files - there are a few used to clean up frets; a triangular miniature file, a curved file and also a set of files used to cut nut slots
  • Reamer - several tapered hand reamers used to make taper holes in guitar bridge for bridge pins and in violin family instruments for tapered tuning pegs.
  • Fret slot mitre box - not strictly used for cutting mitres but for accurately guiding the saw when cutting fret slots in a finger board
  • Soldering iron
  • Piercing saw or jewellers saw - used to cut mother of pearl 
  • Diamond files - used to clean up the edges of mother of pearl
  • Digital multimeter - used to test your wiring - you may already have one of these in your household tools.
  • Bridge clamp - used to clamp a bridge in place through the soundhole. These can be expensive and have a deep throat but are fairly shallow in height
  • Shop amplifier - any old guitar amp will do. I use a solid state cheapo amp
  • Electronic tuner - musical instrument tuners are very cheap these days - you can even use an app on your smarphone

Tools you can make in the shop

  • Wooden cam clamp - many plans are available on the internet
  • Calipers - bought lutherie calipers can be expensive so you can actually make your own
  • Sanding sticks - a small piece of wood with an abrasive glued on - make several with different grits

Tools you don't need

A Festool Domino - I have never seen one used in luthiery but if you can demonstrate one being used them post below :)

As you see there are many tools you probably already have. If you want to get into luthiery whether repairing a buddies guitar or making full blown instruments you only need a few more specialist tools that you can buy as and when you need them.

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