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essential tools?

Discussion in 'Luthier's Corner' started by slamzilla, Mar 15, 2004.

  1. slamzilla

    slamzilla Supporting Member

    Feb 17, 2004
    Could someone please provide a list of tools that would be "must have" to start building good quality basses? I have a pretty good start but am unshure about some tools. I don't want to buy a lot of un-needed tools. I am mainly interested in building basses for myself. :confused:
    Thanks much!
  2. I'm also just about to start making quality(hopefully ;) ) custom basses; here's what I expect to need...

    Wood... ;)
    Clamps-large enough to use when glueing the body to the neck....
    Router(plunge and fixed base) and appropriate bits
    Bandsaw for cutting rough shape
    Sandpaper and lots of it(and or a power sander)
    Hide glue or franklin tightbond wood glue
    Scroll saw(for making continuous backplates)
    drill press, unless you're really good with a hand drill.
    shaping tools, gauges, scapers, etc
    solding iron, solder
    truss rod(s), tuners, electronics, bridge, nut.

    I think that's about it but I may be missing something....
  3. slamzilla

    slamzilla Supporting Member

    Feb 17, 2004
    Any recomendations on what size band saw and scroll saw. I looked at them at Home Depot and Sears. The 9" bandsaws are fairly inexpensive but the price goes up considerably beyond that. I want to build everything from 4 to 7 string basses so i'm not sure if I will need the larger saws for the larger basses.
    Thanks for your help. :p
  4. brandinstroy

    brandinstroy Supporting Member

    Feb 21, 2001
    Colorado Springs, CO
    I Support the following: Fodera, Noble Amps, JHAudio, Trickfish Amplification
    It all depends on how your basses are constructed.
    It maybe kinda tight space if you get a 9" band saw.
    There isnt much room for turning your wood in there.
    I have learned this from experience.
  5. Skorzen


    Mar 15, 2002
    Springfield MA
    If you are serious about this you want to get at least a 14" bandsaw. You could possably get by with something smaller, but you will eventually upgrade. It really pays to be able to do at least some resawing, becuase it allows you to buy more raw lumber. sure you can get everything processed, if you want to pay twice as much. Check out mimf for some good info on bandsaws(be sure to check out the library) There are also several archived discussions of this very topic.

    Also when shopping for tools don't rule out getting used stuff. I was able to get a Laguna LT16 BAndsaw(~$1300) for $500 at an auction, and the even bigger steal was the Performax 25" dual drum sander(~$3600) for $300 :D :D see if you can find a local classified magazine or something similar. Alot of times you can get stuff that is practically brand new for a signifigant discount.

    For information on which brands ect this might be helpful: American Woodworker Tool Survey
  6. Is it possible to use a router with a long straight bit instead of a table saw? I'd have it table mounted with the fence removed. Thanks
  7. You can use a router in place of a planer in some cases (strictly mounted) but you'll need the ability to make long clean slices through hardwood. That's a lot of material removal for a router. Besides, a well tuned table saw can and often does leave a suitable gluing surface. In most cases a table saw can be used to do light re-sawing say for headstock laminates, or even fretboards. Don't underestimate the versatility of a good table saw.

    On a lighter side...

    I've often sat here in my shop and thought about what were the tools that could perform the most jobs and it suddenly dawned on me - the 4 legged wooden bar stool is the most versatile tool in the workshop. Well worth the $10 or so that one costs. Here's what I've done with mine:
    • seat
    • ladder
    • stepstool
    • drill table
    • saw table
    • routing station
    • clamp stand
    • table
    • table saw extension
    • paint stand

    And there might be more. So this is my candidate for an "essential" tool in the shop.

    How about CLAMPS!! Anyone mention clamps yet?? :hyper:
  8. schuyler


    Aug 5, 2003
    Atlanta, GA
    if there's one tool i would absolutely get the best quality available, it's a spokeshave. i do 90% of the neck shaping with mine, and the better quality the blade, the less sharpening needs to be done. i'm hoping for a nice new lie-nieson shave soon!

    if you get creative and have good technique, you can get by with a jigsaw instead of a bandsaw, though i'd much prefer to have the biggest, best bandsaw i could afford. on the last bass i did, i put a theory to the test and did all my drilling with a $30 benchtop drill-holder style press, eliminating the big drill press entirely.

    other tools i've found particularly useful:

    spindle sander -- the delta BOSS is awesome, and worth every cent of the $200 it costs.

    the microplane brand of surforms -- for neck and body shaping

    a dremel tool -- for small sanding tasks, inlay, etc.

    a good digital caliper -- for all the precision measurements

    adhesive sandpaper -- for radiusing the fb, stick them to a piece of glass for sizing and shaping the nut, make miniature cork sanding blocks of various sizes and shapes, etc.

    a good sharpening system -- waterstones are my preference, but diamond stones, arkansas, or anything else that works. especially if you want to use denser woods like wenge, rosewoods, ebony, etc.

    hinge bits -- for centering holes in the countersinks of bridges, tuners, and other hardware.

    of course, there are many solutions to any woodworking problem, and whichever you chose will be determined by your budget, your skill, and your knowledge. i don't claim to have an abundance of any of these... this is just part of my approach. i like to look at the problem in reverse, asking myself which tools i *don't* need. after all, stradivari were made without electricity and with only a basic knowledge of metallurgy and chemistry, and they sound pretty good!
  9. Suburban


    Jan 15, 2001
    lower mid Sweden
    "must have", you say.... well...
    1 Rulers. For measuring and to ensure stright lines where needed.
    2 Caliper, for more precise measuring.
    3 "Curve saw". Any narrow blade saw will do. Handsaw works, a jigsaw machine is OK, a bandsaw is great.
    4 Clamps. Clamps. Clamps. Lots of precision gluing in making instruments.
    5 Files. I couldn't imagine making anything good without files. Use'em for all kinds of shaping.
    6 Plane. For flat shaping.
    7 Drill. Ref to 3. Note all the different bit types that may turn out handy!!
    8 Chisels. Versatile tools, indeed.
    9 Router. Simplyfies lots of tasks, a lot, but not truly necessary.

    Then add whatever you feel like, to make building easier. In the pace your finances allow.

    Oh, and the bar stool is not too bad, either...
  10. slamzilla

    slamzilla Supporting Member

    Feb 17, 2004
    Excellent! Thanks for all the great advice everyone.
    Zilla :)
  11. snip2save----

    How about CLAMPS!! Anyone mention clamps yet?? :hyper:[/QUOTE]

    Ace has some nice ones, I bought the 72" ones with Silicon sqare padding on each end, scratchless is the word! :)
    A little pricy 39.99 for one, but these would stretch from the neck block to the tale if needed. :)
  12. they sell clamp kits that you can make using i believ 1" gas pipe...you just have to have a tool that can thread the ends of the pipe so you can mount the clamp base. This way you can make clamps virtually any size up to the longest piece of piping you can find.
  13. slamzilla

    slamzilla Supporting Member

    Feb 17, 2004
    I decided to go with a drill press as a next purchase. Any advice on what size to go with? Brand recommendations?
    Thanks again.
    Zilla :bassist:
  14. HannibalSpector


    Mar 27, 2002
    Makita trimmer (little router)
    Plunge router
    14" bandsaw
    Block plane
    Die grinder/drum sander (electric spokeshave) ;)
    4" fitting tool - err ...grinder :D
    Thicknesser 12"
    Blocks or sheets of glass - the truest things I've found for sanding boards/ files etc.
    If you've got loads of money a good table saw with a sliding bench and fine blades will get you the 'invisible' join look.
    Fret slotting machine or cheat and get someone with a fret machine to slot the fingerboard for you at a fraction the cost.
    Loads of different sized clamps.
    Loads of jigs
    Lots of sandpaper.
  15. slamzilla

    slamzilla Supporting Member

    Feb 17, 2004
    Whoops, jumped the gun. I get tool fever when I go to Home Depot. I got a ryobi 10" drill press. Hope it works out for me. I think next will be the fretting kit from Stewmac and the shop fox vise from LMII.
    Any other advice is surely welcome.
    ZILLA :D
  16. KSB - Ken Smith

    KSB - Ken Smith Banned Commercial User

    Mar 1, 2002
    Perkasie, PA USA
    Owner: Ken Smith Basses, Ltd.
    Come and visit my shop. Bring a pad and pen.....
    on second thought, bring 2 pads and a few pens....lol...
  17. JP Basses

    JP Basses

    Mar 22, 2002
    Paris FRANCE
    Now that's a very nice offer from Ken!! Anyone in the area should definitely take Ken's factory tour!!

  18. Bass Kahuna

    Bass Kahuna

    Dec 3, 2002
    West Lafayette, Indiana
    Luthier, Custom Builder
    For the above post about band saws, I bought the 15" from Grizzly and am very happy with it. I have even used it for some resaw work to make matching veneers for a headstock overlay from figured top sets I purchased from Gallery...

    - Routers with a variety of bits (pattern bits with bearing guides, etc). A router table with a good router comes in very handy for routing grooves for the truss rod.

    - Lot of files, from rasps on down to jewelers files, files for cutting nut grooves, etc. I shape my neck profile starting with a rasp on down to a fine cross cut file

    - LOTS of clamps! I have probably 20+ 4" C clamps alone...

    - Tools for doing fret work. Fret cauls, hammers, dressing files, radius blocks, etc.

    - Oscillating belt/spindle sander is a great thing to have

    - descent planer (for getting body blocks down the right thickness, etc)

    - good jointer (6" or larger) for getting those body blocks to a good 90 degree flat surface for glueing together. I also use mine to get the front surface of the neck flat and straight surface for the fingerboard, I then use a flat scraper before glueing the fingerboard on.

    - Drill press. I have a decent craftsman

    - lots of measuring tools. Depth gauge, thickness calipers, etc.

    - a good set of scrapers. Used properly, you get a much nicer finished surface than with sandpaper, especially for preping flat surfaces for glueing like the scarf joint surfaces, etc.

    - MORE clamps! Bar clamps on down! I even like to use those "quick clamps" for initial mating and lining up of two surfaces being glued and then I put on the bar clamps, C clamps, whatever for final clamping pressure

    - I would also strongly suggest that you invest in a few good pairs of safety glasses, hearing protectors, and push sticks for any and all power tools used (jointer, table saw, etc.).

    - A decent shop vac is nice, too.

    - sanding blocks. I have two, one flat one and one cylindrical one. I bought them for a shop that specializes in automotive painting supplies. They are a super dense foam that doesn't absorb water, great for wet sanding down lacquer and other clear spray finishes, and blocking down wood to get it ready for finishing.

  19. Bassmanbob

    Bassmanbob Supporting Member

    This is funny. I was just looking for the thread I started back in September or was it August 2003 with the same topic. There were some really good posts. If I can find it, I'll let you know.

    Class trip to Ken's place! Nice offer Ken.

    Safety first!

    I've found so far that information for me is the best tool. Books, woodworking magazines, this site and mimf.com are very informative. When I'm convinced I'm not going to chop fingers off my hands, I'm going to start building.
  20. I've discovered the secret to keeping a pencil within easy reach...massive quantities of the suckers!

    I went to the local office supply and bought a box of golf pencils. This box must have 250 3½" long pencils. I just grab handfuls and leave 'em everywhere in the shop. Now, there always one handy.

    Now, where did I put that ruler?...

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