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The luthier’s tools, part 1: the basics

The luthier’s tools, part 1: the basics
19 October 2020 Cecca Guitars
Une scie à ruban et une défonceuse, les deux indispensables du luthier


Here you will find the basic tools for guitar making, what you need to acquire to start working with wood. The list is obviously not exhaustive. As in any profession, the tools necessary for each luthier vary according to the practice, habits, know-how and training of each. This list is therefore required to be modified and completed. For the moment, it is only a question of making a wooden guitar. We will see later the tools necessary for the manufacture of steel guitar.


For cutting the body and the handle: a band saw

The first indispensable tool is the band saw. This is used to cut the body of the guitar and the neck to the desired shape. It is a multi-purpose saw that will allow you to make straight cuts if necessary, with the rule and the adapted blade.

It can, and this is in its interest, be used as a scroll saw. This requires a thinner blade than for straight cuts. This blade, thinner and therefore more flexible, allows to follow precisely the design while roundness of the body of an electric guitar.

Scie à ruban pour la découpe du corps et du manche d'une guitare électrique
Défonceuse pour le contour et les arrondis du corps d'une guitare électrique

The router for a precise contour and the different cavities

I then needed the router to refine the outline of the guitar with the body template. The violin router is an omnipresent tool. It is used for the contour of the body, the smash for the net (binding) if we put some and the rounded edges. It is also used for all knockouts for the heel of the neck, pickups and cavities housing the electronics.

It is a tool that should be handled with care (like all cutting tools), both for your fingers and for the piece of wood you are working. The gap with the router is no forgiveness!

de gauche à droite : fraise à copier pour les défonces du corp de la guitare, fraise à copier pour le contour du corps et du manche, fraise droite pour la défonce du truss rod et fraise quart de rond pour les arrondis du corps

Quality cutters

You have to use different types of cutters to machine a guitar: straight grooving / routing cutters, copying cutters, a flush cutter, quarter-round cutters … These must be of very good quality, in order to do not wear out quickly (some burns in a few passages, they are to be avoided). While an affordable router will do just fine, it’s important to put the price on the cutters. It costs between 20 and 40 € depending on the type of cutter, to have a quality tool that will last and make an impeccable cut.

The different carpentry hand tools

It is then essential to have a rasp, a sharp wood chisel, files and a sander to save time on flat surfaces.

Finally, there are also consumables with, at the top of the list, sandpaper of different grit depending on the use: stripping if necessary, sanding and finishing.


Clamps of different sizes

Des serre-joints de différentes tailles pour l'assemblage du corps, le collage de la touche...

Do not forget the clamps for gluing operations. You will need it for the assembly of the raw body (often in 2 parts) and the gluing of the fingerboard on the neck in particular. You will also need it if you are setting up a table, like on the Gibson Les Paul.


Conclusion: and the price in all this?

The budget goes up quickly to equip yourself with basic tools in order to make an electric guitar. It is possible to find a band saw for around $200 and a router for $80. These are all the small tools that will increase the bill. It is therefore necessary to watch for good deals, to buy second-hand, to equip yourself at a lower cost. We can thus equip basic tools of violin making for less than $450.

You will have to put an additional ticket to buy the specific tools for the manufacture of the handle, the shrinking, as well as the different templates. If you’re winding your pickups (let’s go all the way!) You’ll need a few extra tools. This will be the subject of other articles on this same blog.