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Cheaper Tools


scottyd
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Ok on my current bass project i came about needing some tools for fretting. Well the first thing i did was bust out my trusty LMI and Stewmac catalogs, very dissappointing. Being the cheap guy I am I started searching the local Harbor Freight for the tools i needed heres what i found.

1 Japanese flush cut saw -.024" kerf (I got mine on sell for 3.99 and extremly sharp!) you can add a "splint to it to make it more ridgid to cut slots. I bought my board pre cut so i mostly got this to clean out the slots after radiusing.) Cheap Saw

1 Plastic and rubber faced hammer- (I paid 2.99 works great! mines bigger, has a wooden handle and didnt come with all the tips this one offers) Cheap Fret Hammer

Files- $3.99 I already had a set of files so I didnt buy more. These are the ones i have

Cheap Files

Fret Cutter- $19.99 I aready had a set of these too. Still $8.00 cheaper than Stewmac!

Cheap Fret cutter

Im not going to say that these tools are any better than what Stewmac or Lmi offer but from the looks of it they dont look much different. I do know however I used the tools and they work just fine. I cant see me wearing them out any time soon. Also it should be pointed out that the "speacilty tools" offered by luthier shops are generic and without a namebrand. So more than likely they arent that much more of quality. I would just like to point out that you dont have to put out big money to support this hobby. These so called "speacilty" tools started life as regular tools! I encourage you to look at your local hardware stores and tool stores to save yourself a little money. Also the tools i chose arent the only options, theres alot more to choose from. You can compare some of the tools here StewMac

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Specialized tools... if you are in the business of repairing/building guitars then they are well worth the money. A fret crowning file is good for only one thing...crowning frets. I use a small triangular file with edges ground down. I can use this file for doing many other things besides crowning frets, which I don't do all that often.

These specialized tools are also manufactured to guitar building specs, eg. fret slot cutting saw blades cut the exact kerf size of a fret slot. In so many ways all these tools are basically idiot proof requiring less skill needed to get things done right. So if you aren't that handy at doing things to specific dimensions needed for guitar work, with non-specialized tools, then its wise to shell out.

If you plan on only building ONE guitar and feel you NEED the specialized tools then you may as well just spend the money on a guitar thats already been built.

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I totally agree. Now even if it were my job to build guitars and i made a living doing it I still dont think i would buy most of the tools they sell. I know that some tools, mostly the fretting tools and acoustic tools are needed if your banging out a high number of guitars a month but for the average hobby builder (like myself :D ) its just not needed..

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I agree with you both, but I must confess I am some what of a tool junkie...But I do build as many things as posible, Like the neck jig that stew mac offers. They want $355 for the thing and I built mine for about $65.

I also built the neck rocker, and the Neck Support Caul with some scrap wood that I already had around. You can find some good alternative tools that will do just as good a job as the stuff stew mac kicks out, but when it comes to doing a consitant job with precise results time after time some of these so called " Speciatly " tolls realy are quite handy. As I have made the decision that building guitars is how I am going to make a living.

But as a hobbiest you have to determine the amount of time you will spend on a certain task. And if you can get by with some generic tool to do the job. Like I said you can bild alot of what you need depending on your skill level and confidence in building in general.......

I say kudoos to you on your purchases and saving money you can spend on materials for your next guitar.....

Mike

I guess if something works for you then go for it.......

Mike

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The les paul i have been working on for the last two year (hey, school and robotics take up my time, so i only get to build during winter and summer breaks) i made the body and shaped the neck and headstock all with sanding sponges, a hack saw, and a hand drill with drill bits. Talk about cheap. ahahaha. But the quality is pretty good. The sanding sponges were great. I recomend them as they are easily cleaned with my compressor. Just shoot it really fast and its good to go again.

The les paul i have been working on for the last two year (hey, school and robotics take up my time, so i only get to build during winter and summer breaks) i made the body and shaped the neck and headstock all with sanding sponges, a hack saw, and a hand drill with drill bits. Talk about cheap. ahahaha. But the quality is pretty good. The sanding sponges were great. I recomend them as they are easily cleaned with my compressor. Just shoot it really fast and its good to go again.

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Yeah for me this is all a learning adventure. Who knows If tommorow I decide i dont want to do this as a hobby. (AS IF im hooked) At least i wont have thousands of dollars invested in tools!

I look at it this way...the cost of the tools I buy will be averaged out over the number of guitars I build. But the cost of the frustration I'd have from not using these tools would be much higher!

So yeah, I've spent at least $150 on specialized fretting tools already --but they're all for pretty specific parts of the job and they're designed to reduce the risk of error. Some of them I might have been able to build myself (like the edge beveler), but I wouldn't have saved enough money to make it worth it.

Most of those tools will last me a lifetime. So if I end up building 10 guitars, the cost per guitar becomes minimal. And even if I end up building just one 'perfect' guitar --good enough to replace that '59 LP Jr. I saw i the store last month--then that's enough! Accord ing to my patented "Mickeynomics Financial Theory " I'll have saved, what, at least $6000? :D

And if these specialized tools didn't exist, I probably would never have decided to go ahead and try to build my own neck --the thought of fretting still makes me nervous, having the right tools for the different steps helps take away some of the scariness of it all...

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Good on ya Scotty. Whatever floats your boat I guess. :D

I'm a toolaholic, so I have no qualms in buying what is required.

But being a toolaholic also means I try and buy the best I can afford , or in some

cases can't afford. I let my wife know I can also use them at work but also claim

a percentage on tax and she's kinda happy (note: wife is an accountant) :D

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how often is the HF flush-cut saw on sale ? I've never seen it on sale, and I get the HF catalogs in the mail on a regular basis.

I dont know i was in there a couple of weeks ago and happened to catch it during a sidewalk sale. Great buy though. I guess it could have been a local thing.

Edited by scottyd
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Yeah, a lot of the tools I see in the Stew Mac / LMI catalogs seem really expensive or seem like something I can't see myself needing. But I will say every tool I've bought from either of them has been of the highest quality, and probably worth the money. And any time I've had a problem, both vendors have been more than willing to help me. I've expressed dissatisfaction with purchases and had replacements shipped to me overnight and had them in the morning. I do agree there's some things that are too expensive, but I really think that's economies of scale more than anything else. I wish Stew Mac's shipping was less.

There are plenty of times that it's worth it. There are also plenty of times where it's not, and you're fine with whatever thing you can rig together or purchase elsewhere. The key is figuring out when it matters, so you can save money whenever you can, so you're able to afford to buy the expensive tools when you need them! With tools you have to modify or create yourself, there's also the worth of your time. My time is limited, and I'd rather spend what time I have making guitars, because that's more fun to me.

But I'm not trying to shoot this down, just add my perspective. Hearing about good deals on tools is always appreciated.

My favorite cheapy - I take a good straightedge to the scrap yard, and check various pieces. For a few bucks, I got a whole bunch of heavy extruded aluminum channel. The not-perfectly straight stuff got chopped up and makes good effects boxes, as well as very long, stiff clamping cauls. The straight stuff got me a four-foot sanding stick. The length makes it pretty accurate, and using all of it I can level things pretty fast. Clamps to a workbench easily because it's mostly hollow, and then I can sand fingerboards or necks against it to get things perfectly flat before glueing.

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Sometimes it's better spending the $30 on a specialized tool instead of say, $10 plus 2 hours of modification. Even if you aren't in the business of building guitars, even if you have tons of spare time, your time alone is still worth something.

On the other hand, even if it winds up costing you the 2 hours of work, spending actual less $$ on something and modifying it yourself is a pretty good feeling. Kind of like cheating the system.

:D

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I used to slam StewMac and LMI regarding their tool prices too. I've built some things as well... Neck jig, beveling file, templates and that sorta stuff. But as time goes on, I find myself running into jobs requiring tools I can't make or find anywhere else. I've also found myself doing more and more guitar work over the past year and man... When you're doing a good bit of work, having tools at hand that will save *time* becomes more and more important too. Soo... Like it or not, I've become a StewMac stooge! :D Atleast where tools are concerned anyway.

MLAR, Cor

Edited by Uncle Os
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