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Essential shop tools


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I am currently trying to set up a small buisness doing setups / minor modifications for friends and local guitar players just to raise a bit of cash for more gear B)

I would like to know what you guys think would be the essential tools for me to have? Im planning on doing simple ( :D ) stuff like fret dressing, electronics, setups (maybe even a bit of inlay) etc. I probably have most of the stuff - but Im sure there are a couple of things that have slipped my mind...

Thanks alot

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Soldering Iron


Solder remover (braid or sucker thingy)



Wire stripper

Shielding stuff, (that conductive paint is the best thing)

Hardware setup:

Allen wrenches


String winder

Fret stuff:

No clue really.

I guess those fret sanding thingys.

The crowning stuff.

Assorted rags/cloths/polishes/cleaners..

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I think it really depends on how deep you 're going to get into it.

Basics are a good set of screwdrivers and wrenches.

For electronics you'll oviously need a soldering iron, wire cutters, stripper & solder.

For frets you'll need your files and I always use steel wool (0000) for final polishing.

Setups depends on the guitar but allen wrenches, a good measuring device and a screwdriver usually cover it. I say measuring device because I have seen a ruler for set ups at an online place for about $25. I bought a nice steel rule with 1/32" marking at the hardware store for $2.

I'm sure I missed some stuff too........ :D

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For fretting, I think:

Fret pullers, which can also be your fret end nippers

Fretting hammer, 8oz with plastic or nylon head is best

Long flat "bastard" file I thinks it's called, for leveling

Small file with edges ground smooth for taking the corners off the fret ends

Masking tape

Long level or staing egde

For dressing frets, I like to mask off the entire board, except for the frets, use a file with teeth on the faces only and re-shape the frets, then use 320grit sandpaper to remove the file marks, then 600grit to remove the 320grit marks, then 0000 steel whool the polish the frets, so I'd say get some 320 and 600grit sandpaper, but that's just my method. I use the same file for filing the fret ends as dressing.

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anyone got any oppionon on those concave fret dressing files? the purpose made ones...

They're expensive - that's my opinion.

You can do tha same thing with a file that has teeth on the face of the file only, like I do and learned to do from a luthier. Take any small file and grind the teeth on the edges away. You just shape the fret while you are dressing it, leaving a small amount of unfiled fret in the middle.

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  • 2 weeks later...
anyone got any oppionon on those concave fret dressing files? the purpose made ones...

Hi there, check out stewartmcdonald.com for guitar repair supplies. I just started a business (repairs& set -up work and have gotten some nice stuff from them a little pricey$$ Fret tools i use are beveled straight edges for neck alignment and set up, and vvery fine diamond cut fret files 140 grit for dressing and a dressing stick which is awsome tool really cheap to . good luck order catalog or go on web site and let me know how yu make out..

bball :D

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thiS is hilarious.... my current set up in shop is............. a saw used for cutting trees or "boards as wes says" but its used for yard work. So I have that, sandpaper... check this out 4 whole sheets!!!!!!!! then i have a rasp..... which was acquired a couple of weeks ago and my major helper as of about 4-5 days ago is my new random orbit sander.... can you dig? so i do EVERYTHING by hand essentially. You dont need fret dressers. check out the site you can make one.

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  • 2 weeks later...

I'd invest in those expensive fret files. If you're doing it for money hopefully you'll make your investment back. I think some cheaper tools are often a false economy and if you are working on somebody elses guitar you want to do the best job possible.


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Luthiers Mercantile International has a page that can help some. Basically it really just depends on what kind of repair work your gonna be doing. You could even go so far as to buy a Neck Jig if your really serious about doing pro setups. Another great tool you probably want later on is a arbor press with various fret cauls so you can refret accurately. There are some basic tools that can get you by until you can afford luxury tools that just make specific jobs faster and easier. Like they said before, here are some basic fretting tools.

Fret pullers

Xacto knife

Nut slotting files

Fret slotting saw

Various glue

Fretting hammer

Various sandpaper

Various fret dressing files

Good straightedge (some notched so you can check fretboard level, not frets)

Various radius sanding blocks

Fretboard leveler (16" works great)

Fret cutter

Various clamps

You'll also want to buy or make a fret bender. You can get by with a pair of fret bending pliers. Instead of the fret leveler mentioned above you can get by with just a good oilstoneor fret leveling files, but I prefer the 16" fret leveler from Stew Mac myself. These are only fretting tools, if you want to repair inlays, paint chips, etc etc. your list would grow even bigger. Good luck on your business.

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Installed the workbench in my room last week, its really useful just for minor repairs/restrings/electronics etc... and it doesnt take up too much room :D


Also, I got me a nice charvel (cream coloured one on the wall) a steal for £170 i thought B)

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cool..i suggest some of those carpet squares from home depot to rest the guitar on...and also i would reccomend leaving the headstock hanging off of the table to prevent headstock chips or breaks if something should fall off the wall above

also i store my necks fretboard down or hanging from a coathanger for the same reason

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I realize that it is not technically a tool, but I think that patience may be the most valuable thing you can have in building guitars.

There isn't a lot of magic stuff - mostly just common sense and planning. Recognize that you will screw up and most times you can fix it. If you can't, learn from it and don't do it again.

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