Tool questions... (Yes, I know it's been beaten to death...)

Discussion in 'Luthier's Corner' started by PaulSimonon, Jun 20, 2005.

  1. I hate to do this to you guys, but after searching over and over at several places, I still have questions...

    1. I've found good deals on a 3 1/4 hp Makita router (15 amps, 22,000 RPM) and a 1 1/4 Makita router (7.8 amps and 24,000 RPM). I'm concerned with the 3 1/4 being too big for freehand use (Following a templete, of course. By freehand I mean out of a table mounting.) and the 1 1/4 being too underpowered to handle the harder woods like wenge, purpleheart, and cocobolo that I intend to use.

    If anyone has experience on how similar powered routers have done in these situations, please share. I'm also open to suggestions on routers, but I'm on an extremely tight budget, so if it's over 150$, it better be perfect. I probably can't afford anything over 200$.

    2. What the hell am I supposed to use to cut out the body shape without breaking the bank? Bandsaws are too expensive (Unless there's an inexpensive 9" that will suffice for most things other than resawing?), scroll saws are too weak and the blades break too easily, and most jigsaws have trouble with the depth of body blanks and still can't resaw. Again, I'd be grateful for any suggestions aroung 150$, and not much more than 200$.

    3. How much do I need a drill press? They're obviously useful, but so are drill stands which seem easier to adjust the angle of the hole with, and allow you to turn your drill into a bottom mounted spindle sander when mounted into a table.

    4. How is a hobbyist supposed to join things like body and neck laminates? Has anyone used the jig in Koch's book for using a router for jointing?
  2. nateo

    nateo Schubie Fan #1

    Mar 2, 2003
    Ottawa, Ontario
    Well, in terms of question 1 I use a 1 1/4 horse Mastercraft router and it works like a champ. I use it almost exclusively in a table, though. With the smaller routers you just need to be careful that you take small bites and everything should work out fine. If it's a Makita I'd say you're in business. Personally I think you'd be hard pressed to find a better brand.

    I'd love to have a 3 1/4 horse router, but the power can be a bit frightening. If you're careful and take your time I don't think it should be a problem.

    Either way, the real trick to good router performance is a good router bit. There's a reason the cheap bits are cheap. Try it once if you don't believe me, then follow it up with a good Freud bit and revel in the glory.

    I'll leave the other questions to other folks, since my "I can do that for cheaper" thinking can cause trouble and I'd rather not lay that trouble on anyone else.

  3. Thanks man! Since I have good deals on both, I guess I'm leaning towards the larger router since it's not much more and can take the more stable 1/2" bits and the 1/4" bits.
  4. Suburban


    Jan 15, 2001
    lower mid Sweden
    Get them both!!! Man, if I could find a 3hp router, I'd jump for it!
    The big one would go into a home built table, which I have long sought for. The 1hp that I have, cheap as it is, will do all the handrouting work, instead of all the work as of today.

    For cutting out shapes, a jigsaw is pretty OK. I have another cheapo for this, a Skil 300W...cutting depth 50mm. Does the job, end of story.
    If you need to resaw, there are jigsaws that can take 120mm (+?), and if you table mount that, it can be useful.
    Otherwise, don't ask - get a bandsaw.

    A drill press can do many more tricks than drilling holes. You can use it as a spindle sander or a knob lathe, etc.
    Drill stands may be useful for odd use, when you just need to align the bit to...whatever.

    You go to a little joinery next door, and ask them if they can help, or let you use their machinery. If it's not often, most people will let you do that for free or some coffee change.
    Or you use the tabel router mentioned above, see the recent thread about metal tools. And in time, you add all different kinds of jigs to make the routers useful for whatever, a home made thickness sander for planing, a jig for neck and fingerboard radiusing and tapering, etc.

    Then you buy a big factory and the fun ends.
  5. I use a band saw to cut out the body and have a router (makita) that I use for the edges, cavities etc.

    Since you're not in the market for a band saw, maybe get the bigger router and use that. Some people use a body template and rout around that to cut the shape (probably better to table mount for stability and ease if doing this).
  6. Luke Sheridan

    Luke Sheridan Commercial User

    Dec 30, 2004
    Yonkers, NY
    I build guitars and sell them. Strings, too
    Has anyone had any experience with Rand Tools? This companies stuff is all over eBay and always comes up first when I'm searching for tools. Specifically, I'm looking to get an inexpensive lathe.
  7. FBB Custom

    FBB Custom TalkBass Pro Commercial User

    Jan 26, 2002
    Owner: FBB Bass Works
    I used a 9" bandsaw for cutting shapes (not resaw) and 4 and 5 string neck profiles in my first year or so. It was sufficient, but not great. Having sharp blades is a necessity. I'd look at the Grizzly catalog if I had to buy a new bandsaw. A jigsaw will absolutely bog down in harder woods like Wenge unless you get a real nice one like the Festool.

    1.25hp will do most routing as long as you take shallow passes.
  8. Yet another question...

    How much of the routing neccesary can be done when it's table mounted?

    Thanks for all of the help you guys! I really appreciate you all sharing what you know.
  9. I'm not a professional, but I do build quite a bit. Here are my power tools (and I don't feel like I need anything else, really):

    1. fixed/plunge base router. only one.
    2. bosch jigsaw.
    3. small 12" benchtop drill press
    4. hand drill
    5. random orbit sander.

    I cut everything (profiles, etc) to rough shape with the jigsaw. Neck laminates, you can buy predimensioned stock for all the lamites (like what Larry sells). I use the drill press to remove most of the stock on cavities, neck pockets, etc. and also to drill straight holes and thickness wood with the safe-t-planer. I use jigs, templates and straight edges to take everything to final dimension with the router. Hand drill to make connecting holes and sometimes tuner holes. Router for roundovers and some carves and also for some joints (edge and scarfs). Sander for removing tool marks. From there it's all hand tools.

    The big trick here is to buy predimensioned and thicknessed wood whenever possible. I think this is quite an efficient set up for the hobbyist or amateur, not at all for the professional shop where time is money.
  10. Thanks a lot! I hadn't even thought about those planer attachments for a drill press. I know I've seen your basses and have been pretty amazed with them, so I'm glad you helped me out because I know what kind of quality I can expect once I get better.
  11. Suburban


    Jan 15, 2001
    lower mid Sweden
    With the proper templates: everything.
    Though I would perfer to do the truss slot from the top... I'm sort of a coward...

    Predimensioned stock simplifies everything except paying for it. I find that getting the right grain, fault free and dried is costly enough.
    I've got a friend to do any resawing, the rest I do from raw stock. Takes some time, but not so much money.
  12. Looks like I'll probably go with the larger router then. I'm so grateful to everyone who's been helping me. You guys are awesome here.
  13. Tim Hall

    Tim Hall

    May 23, 2005
    I don't know if this has come up here before, since I'm a newbie here, but the 14" bandsaw from Harbor Freight gets consistently good reviews in other forums. Mine was under $200 a couple of years ago IIRC, and after a bit of setup and a decent blade, will do anything a 14" bandsaw needs to do.

    I think mine was item #32206.
  14. Cerb


    Sep 27, 2004
    Does that Safe-T-Planer work pretty well? I have a 12" portable table planer that does it's job alright, but it's sometimes more of a hassle than anything. It also makes me pretty nervous, because the depth indicator was broken off, so being extremely careful is a must. I had looked into the Safe-T-Planer, but was pretty skeptical.
  15. If you are a tool newbie, these might not be for you. Tool safety is paramount with this particular attachment. You have to use it at the highest speed for the blades to cut efficiently and that makes for the worst case should the piece get loose. Wilser puts out some incredible work and you might too with one of these planers but just be forewarned of it's potential.

    Here's my list of wood specific tools:
    • Porter Cable 690 Router - 1 3/4 hp, with fixed base, plunge base and micrometer edge guide
    • Craftsman 1 hp fixed bass router with homemade horizontal sliding table mount
    • Black & Decker 1 3/4 hp plunge router, vacuum base
    • Floorstanding 5 speed vertical spindle sander w/16 x 20 table
    • Floorstanding 15 speed 12" drill press w/16 x 20 table
    • Rigid 14" band saw with vacuum
    • Rigid 10" precision table saw system with attached 20 x 24 router table - holds the Porter Cable in it's fixed base.
    • 18" thickness sander - 1 1/2 hp, homebuilt
    • 5 hp 125 psi 25 gallon air vertical air compressor
    • 2 hp dust collector - New (2) 4" inlets and double bags. Going to hook it up to all of the tools in the shop
    • Every moto, roto, grinding, winding, spinning, drilling handtool a 46 year old tool hound can accumulate in a lifetime.
    • A ton of CNC cut and handmade templates
    • A pretty good selection of storebought and shopmade luthiery tools
  16. Yeah, I have never done much work with powertools outside of handdrills and sanders.

    I did take a class on routing raised panel cabinets today to get the basics of routing and safety and such, and those 3 1/4 hp motors can do a lot of damage. The instructer was kinda jumpy when he put on the larger bit, and that was with the speed way down, so I'm thinking that the larger router without the variable speed might not end well.
  17. James Mobius

    James Mobius

    Feb 28, 2011
    I got a question, I have 2 drill presses, which each have the same problem,the chuck has fallen off, that is the cylidrical bit at the bottom, textured so you can rotate it to secure or release drill bits, they've just fallen off and there is no evidence as to how they stayed on in the first place, there's a metal cylinder sticking down like a cow's udder, only silver and shiny, and ok not really like a cow's udder at all, the point is there is no cotter pin, no way to see what kept the bloody thing on in the first place, I tried jamming it back up on there, but it's not really secure and I have no faith that it will actually function, and not just spin, in a useless manner I mean.

    how do I get it to stay on there? why isn't there a set-screw on these things? who's idea was this anyway? please help!

    thanks guys. I'll put up photos if it helps explain what I'm talking about.
  18. Babar


    Mar 22, 2011
    Los Angeles Area
    Most of the drill press arbors have a taper. MAKE SURE IT IS UNPLUGGED FIRST. The way to put the chuck back on it to put the chuck on in closed position. Put on piece of wood scrap on the drill press table, and lower the chuck into the wood to 'squeeze' the chuck onto the arbor.

    Another good tool to have with the drill press are a set of sanding drums. You can do a lot of the shaping of the body and neck with it.
  19. Big B.

    Big B.

    Dec 31, 2007
    Austin, TX
    Given the choice of a 3 1/4 hp vs a 1 1/4 hp router I would always go for the bigger router. IME a bigger tool is less likely to do damage as long as you use it correctly. With a smaller machine you are more likely to bog down the bit and "bite" into the wood. Larger tools also generally have less vibration and leave less chatter on the workpiece. The key is to always practice your cuts on a test piece of the same species before you put the router on an expensive piece like a guitar or a piece of furniture . This allows you to check the depth of cut and get a feel for how fast/slow you need to feed the router. Learn the sound your router makes under different loads and you will be able to catch many mistakes before they happen.

    Personally I dont have a need for a smaller 1 1/4 hp router but I find a small trim router to be especially useful for getting into tight corners and for delicate cuts that could be detonated by a bigger tool. As far as how much work can be done on a router table, I like to do as much as possible. Especially jobs like routing bodies to shape with a pattern bit or routing a 3/4' roundover on the profile of the body. With the workpiece sitting flat on the table you minimize the chance of slipping up and letting the bit tip into the workpiece.:scowl

    I think that a good router and table with a strategic choice of bits can replace many of the tools in your shop in a pinch if you know the proper techniques. IMO the router is the bridge that separates the woodworkers from the carpenters. :bassist:

    Anyway, this is my experience as a professional woodworker and ultimately I guess it's really just worth the paper it's printed on. :D Still, I hope it was useful. Good luck!
  20. As far as routers are concerned - I have several from the Dremel mini to the Dremel Pro-Series to a Makita 1.25 HP to a Craftsman and another Bosch 3 HP unit, all but the Craftsman are plunge-types.

    I like to have the smaller routers for the intricate stuff I do - although not much so far has been guitar/bass oriented.

    Not enough can be said about really quality bits though. Buy cheap and they will fail, burn the wood or just throw pieces of wood at you as the catch and/or dig in.

    The words 'Harbor Freight' and 'quality tools' should not be in the same sentence.

    A couple of drill presses are very good and I also have an oscillating belt sander that uses standard belts for a regular belt sander, so I can save money that way too. An regular oscillating arbor sander would be nice, but I seem to have most situations covered with the belt version.

    A joiner would be nice as would a sander/planer - but I can always use a friend's unit if I have to.

    One thing I do though is buy a few Millers Falls hand planes. My favorite is #9.


    You can find these in swap meets for a buck or two and take them home, clean them and refinish the paint and wood knobs/handles and they are like new.

    A DA sander and a long block are necessary I feel, as are belt sanders and even a pocket power plane.

    Air tools are of course, the safest - but then you need a compressor anyway - right?