Guitar Building Tools

Updated February 21, 2017

Guitar builders, or "luthiers," have a rich tradition of craftsmanship. There are two sets of guitar tools, one for electric guitars and one for acoustic guitars. For electric guitars, more power tools are involved, whereas more hand tools are used in acoustic guitar building.

Band Saw

This tool is essential for cutting out electric guitar bodies. Electric guitars are built of hardwood, and a band saw has the power needed to accurately follow the lines drawn out by the designer of the guitar body. The band saw can accurately follow the curves and sometimes-intricate patterns in imaginative guitar shapes.

Plunge Router

The most useful item in a electric guitar builder's shop is the handheld plunge router. This machine allows the luthier to shape the body, cut the pickup, control cavities and neck routing. It can also be used to plunge holes for the volume, tone and pickup switch controls. That ensures the holes will be perfectly straight, as the router base works as a levelling agent as it settles onto the face of the wood.

Pickup and Control Routing Templates

No router would be complete without guides. These custom-made template/guides are clamped to the surface of the guitar, and are specific to the kind of hardware and neck cavities used on the guitar. Templates are crucial to getting tight-fitting, well-aligned components on an electric guitar.

Wood Rasp

For electric guitar body shaping, wood rasps are essential. They allow the luthier to shape the guitar body after it is rough cut by a band saw. These handheld tools come in a variety of tooth sizes. The heavy tooth rasp is used to remove wood quickly, then finer cutting rasps are applied as the shape of the guitar begins to get definitive.

Acoustic Guitar Building Clamps

For acoustic guitar building, speciality clamps are needed. Sound hole clamps reach through the sound hole for gluing and attaching braces on the inside of the guitar body, and for clamping rosettes to the outside of the body. These clamps also have a self-levelling screw to ensure that the clamp stays perfectly perpendicular to the object being clamped.

Hardwood Cam Clamps for Acoustic Guitar Building

These simple clamps are essential in acoustic guitar body assembly. They have a sliding jaw that opens to accept the wide body of the acoustic guitar, with an offset wooden cam lever on the end that tightens the clamp. They are easy to use and let the operator control the tension, ensuring that the operator does not use too much pressure and possibly damage the thin shell of an acoustic guitar body.

Bridge Clamp and Caul for Acoustic Guitars

For clamping the bridge on an acoustic guitar, a bridge clamp is necessary. It has a throat depth of 6 inches to reach deep into the sound hole. Couple this clamp with a bridge clamping caul that spans across the top of the bridge to apply even pressure on the bridge for accurate and square bridge installation.

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About the Author

Specializing in hardwood furniture, trim carpentry, cabinets, home improvement and architectural millwork, Wade Shaddy has worked in homebuilding since 1972. Shaddy has also worked as a newspaper reporter and writer, and as a contributing writer for Bicycling Magazine. Shaddy began publishing in various magazines in 1992, and published a novel, “Dark Canyon,” in 2008.