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A list of luthier tools that can help DIY Guitar manufacturers assemble and finish kit guitars to a high standard.
The right tool for the job.
Luthiers Tools for DIY Guitar Kits
Chances are, most of us have heard the saying, along with other gems such as measure twice, cut once repeated more than once. And, while repetition tends to dull the impact, when it comes to building kit guitars, having the right tools , along with a knowledge of how to use them correctly are important.
Not just for the success of the task at hand, although it certainly helps, using the correct tool is the safest way to work and helps maintain the other tools in your arsenal, saving you from using them for jobs they’re not designed for.
Essential Luthier Tools for DIY Guitar Kits
Perhaps, it’s a stretch to call a workbench a tool but your first consideration should always be your work space.
A workbench with luthiers vice (e.g. with soft faced jaws) is ideal, but if you don’t have this option look for a large well lit and well ventilated area that you can safely work on your electric guitar without increasing the chances of scratches and dents occurring.
Finishing products have the capacity to cause serious health issues unless you take the necessary precautions. And, while a well ventilated area is important, using a dedicated mask is essential - learn more about Guitar Finishing Safety Tips.
If you are assembling a kit with a bolt-on-neck, you can probably get away without using a cramp.
But if you are assembling a set neck guitar, you’re going to need at least one cramp (ideally two) to maintain pressure on the neck joint as the glue dries.
If using a cramp, be sure to use padding to protect the guitar and prevent compression dents.
3.Screwdriver or Powered Drill
While you can use a screwdriver and it’s actually preferable when installing smaller screws, using a powered drill will allow you to work much faster and allow you to drill pilot holes for the screws of smaller components such as tuners, strap knobs, and string guides without risking cracks developing.
If you are planning on using a powered drill and have the option, choose a cordless drill, they’re just a lot easier to work with for jobs of this nature.
You should also reduce the torque if possible so you don’t inadvertently countersink your screws or risk the components damaging the paint which can happen if over tightening strap knobs and pickup surrounds for example - Common Mistakes to Avoid When Building an Electric Guitar Kit.
You can reduce the torque by adjusting the clutch settings (the numbered section on the drill’s collar). Use a medium or slightly higher setting.
A small hammer, or ideally a builder’s malette is required if you are working on a guitar that features a Tune-o-Matic bridge as the bridge and tailpiece pins need to be tapped into place.
Note, you should never hit the pins directly if using a standard hammer. Always use a cushion (plywood works well for this purpose) of timber to cushion the impact and avoid scratching the hardware.
This is also useful if your aim is off, as it will prevent denting your guitar. If using a timber malette, consider drilling a hole in a section of play wide enough for the pins as this can serve as a collar and prevent dents.
If you are doing the wiring yourself, you are going to need a soldering iron.
This is the case for even some of the easier kits to assemble (e.g. the ST guitar kit which features a pre-wired pickguard) as the ground wire will need to be connected to the bridge.
Soldering is best done, once you understand the basics. You can read more about how to correctly and safely use a soldering iron here.
Also, keep in mind a soldering iron can be useful for repairing dents. A combination of heat and a damp rag can reduce the impact of a dent if held over the dent until the timber swells.
6.Coping Saw or Jigsaw
If you plan on shaping your guitar’s headstock, a coping saw (or electric jigsaw) is required.
Coping saws feature thin, flexible blades (similar to a jigsaw) which allows more precise cuts and curves to be made when shaping your headstock.
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