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Tools for a newbie

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Hey dudes,

Just going to start making a guitar from scratch apart from a pre-slotted fretboard(after a LOT of deliberation about buying a neck and stuff), and I've been checking out this forum.

I found a BIG and quite scary list of tools that are needed to make a guitar - and being a poor student I can't afford them all.

Can anyone suggest a bare minimum of tools that I could use to make a guitar - I'm prepared to put in a lot of work to make this guitar!!!

I'm hoping to get a carpentry firm with a bandsaw to cut out my neck & body shapes roughly, but after that I'm on my own...


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well here is what i think would be the bare minimum

spoke shave or a wood rasp for the neck- 8- 15$

small nilon faced hammer for frets- 15$

three files; one for frets 6" triangle, one for neck half rasp half smooth-12$ set of jewlers files-12$

a cheap router- 50-80$

lots of sandpaper

tightbond wood glue

lots of clamps, c-clamps, quick grip clamps, any kind

a good ruler

a neck caul

a dremel if your doing inlays-35$

a drill and assortment of bits

that would probably work for ya, and you can get most of this stuff at lowes or home depo and also check out www.harborfreight.com they have a lot of tool really cheap,there not the best tools but if your on a tight buget it will get you started. then if you like building you could invest in better tools down the road.

good luck! :D

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even though u can make the neck caul, u can just fret ur neck before u contour the back of the neck, thus removing the need for it. Theoretically, u could make a guitar with a basic set of drill bits, some chisels, and alot (and i mean alot) of sandpaper, and just use a small carpenters square to check ur work. the dremel is handy, but so are a good pair of plyers :D And don't foget to get one of those rubber sand paper holders, they kinda fit in ur palm and are flat on the bottom, those things are great!

if it walks like a router, talks like a router, and knows the secret router handshake..... well... u found urself a deal!!

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Yeah that router is ok.. depends on how much your gonna use it and what precision you need. My personal favorite is the Dewalt dw621 simply because it vacums the dust also.. and works great, except it will cost you alot more, but you get what you pay for most of the time. As far as tools go... I'd suggest you read all of the tutorials Brian has on Tools... and make everything you can possible make, there is no need to go out and buy everything, but you'll still need these tools no matter if you buy them or make them.. Here is a breakdown of what you can make and in the process save tons of money. For this post I'll just consentrate on tools to do necks with. These are some of the tools you can build.

Neck Work:

Radius Sanding Blocks: Used to shape the fretboards radius... These cost around 14 dollars and you can learn how to make them from Anthony Setchell article:


Fret Bender: These help you bend the frets to the proper radius before hammering or pressing them in. Brian has a great way of making one for alot cheaper than StewMac's 89 dollar one.


Miter Box: If you ever decide to actually slot your fretboards, you can pick one of these real cheap at Sears or such.. for under 30 dollars you can get a really good one.. It will cost you 70 dollars from STew.

Nut Slotting Files: These cost alot for the good ones.. so to get by cheaper.. buy you a set of feeler guages from a local parts store, and rough up the edges so it acts as a file. They work great and I'm still using them.. lol.. the guages will actually have the sizes already labeled on them.. so no guessing..

Fret Beveling File: They cost about 50 dollars for a good 7" fret beveling file. but once again Brain comes through with a great idea of making your own. Just read near the bottom of this great article for how to's.


These will get you started in the neck building process... next, guitar body tools!!

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A neck support caul is also needed for pressing the frets either by hammer or by buying an arbor press and getting the stew mac fret cauls.. I'm thinking Brian has a tutorial making a neck caul.. but I haven't been able to find it now. Brian should be able to tell you where it is. This is a list of things your probably gonna have to buy or borrow... Your gonna need a way to cut the neck out.. bandsaw is the best way I know of.. so your gonna want to bring it to someone who has a decent one that will cut out your pattern for you. Your gonna want a rasp and other files.. mill files, etc etc. Shokeshave is a tool you'll want to use, and orbital sander is a plus if you can borrow one to do a carved top. You'll need access to a drill press, since you want to drill the tuning peg slots straight as possible. Last but not least.. alot of sandpaper...!!!

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Nut Slotting Files:  These cost alot for the good ones.. so to get by cheaper.. buy you a set of feeler guages from a local parts store, and rough up the edges so it acts as a file. They work great and I'm still using them.. lol.. the guages will actually have the sizes already labeled on them.. so no guessing..

Hehehe, same as Stew-Mac, only more than 90% cheaper....hehehe.

O wait, just found out that they only go to .035".... :D meh...still more than 90% cheaper!


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As much as I wanted to be a spokeshave kind of guy, I actually had better results with a good scraper (fairly cheap). The stewmac scrapers are not as good as the scrapers I get locally - I think they need some additional burnishing plus they are a bit small.

Don't forget router bits - they are not cheap. Do not buy the lowest grade router bits if you can avoid it (Black&Decker $20 sets are junk in my opinion and will burn your wood).

I think the router and bandsaw are the two things I have used the most. If you can get someone else to bandsaw, that's a big help.

I don't use the neck caul since I put frets in before shaping the back of the neck.

Last thing - consider a set of brad point drill bits. Maybe the 10mm bit from stewmac (or others) also.

Good luck!

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