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Old 05-15-2019, 06:11 PM
kenneth22 kenneth22 is offline
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Default Tools needed for a shop

Hi im Kenny I was on the fourum some years back. Ive had the idea for a few years about learning to make guitars. I have some basic wood working experience. Im thinking about starting out with a kit and than going from there to eventually bending my own sides and so on. Im in a place where i can start to finally put a shop together. Im wondering what are the major machines ill need and what sizes. I have a 13 inch dewalt planer. what size jointer do i need. what size band saw do i need. ect.... im going to get a drum sander. I may be looking to by new or possibly used in good condition.

Is there a market if i were to get good for someone to make a living making guitars. im on long island in new york.
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Old 05-15-2019, 08:33 PM
charles Tauber charles Tauber is offline
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Hi Kenny.

The machinery you'll want/need depends, in part, on how close to the log you want to start. If you, for example, want to re-saw your own backs and sides, you'll need different equipment than if you buy them already rough sawn, such as from a luthier supply house. The larger the boards you start with, the bigger the equipment you'll need.

The equipment you'll want/need also depends upon how quickly you want your builds to go. For example, one can do nearly everything with little more than hand tools, but, at least for some operations, doing so is slower than using machinery for some of the tasks.

I wouldn't suggest investing in a lot of machinery until after you've at least finished your first kit: a kit can be a good introduction to guitar making.


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Originally Posted by kenneth22 View Post
Is there a market if i were to get good for someone to make a living making guitars. im on long island in new york.
That's the million dollar question.

As the joke goes, "How do you make a million dollars making guitars? You start with two million."

There is an enormous amount of competition that includes Asian imports, established North American factories and more-than-ever-before number of individual luthiers. Never before now has there been a larger choice of guitars for consumers to buy.

The question is how are the guitars you make going to differentiate themselves from all of the other guitars that everyone else is making? For example, if you make copies of Martin guitars, why would someone want to buy one of yours, rather than a Martin? Are yours better, or cheaper, or available with options one can't get from Martin, or ...?

There are people who make a living making guitars, but being "good" is necessary but not sufficient. An individual luthier needs more than to just make a good guitar to make a living at it.
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Old 05-15-2019, 09:04 PM
mirwa mirwa is offline
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My only recommendation on top of everything charles has said.

Build a guitar for the enjoyment of it, do not build with the aspiration of making a living from it, if you enjoy making it, make another one for a friend and or family and keep the build process going.

After a while, if you do the job well and enjoy doing it, with luck you may get a commisioned build and then you can start as an established builder.

If your doing it for money and want to quit your current job etc, then best returns are in repairs. So in that instance go and buy damaged guitars repair them and flip them until you have a skill set you can sell.

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Old 05-16-2019, 06:13 AM
MC5C MC5C is offline
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Lots of people make nice guitars with hand tools - coping saw, fret saw, hand plane, rasps and files, chisels. If you are going the power tool route, then a table saw, 14" bandsaw, 6" jointer, your planer are basically what I have in my shop. A hand-held router and a router table to mount it in are very nice to have. A drill press is very handy also.

I know a young woman who is making a living building guitars, teaching guitar and doing some classical recording and concerts. She builds three or four mostly classical guitars to commission a year.
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Old 05-16-2019, 02:25 PM
redir redir is offline
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IF you do invest in a fully tooled out shop then jsut jump right in and start building from scratch. A kit guitar is for people who lack the tools and build guitars in their kitchen imho.

A drum sander is a wonderful machine but only if you plan on building a lot and learning how to use planes and scrapers is a good skill for many other things then just thinning backs and sides.

Investing in education can also be a good idea too if you want to go pro at this. Having school of 'such and such' luthiery on your 'about' page of your website carries a lot of weight and you might even learn something too

Some people are naturally talented at this sort of thing but most of us take a lot of practice. So I would not count on having a viable guitar for sale until you build at least ten. So jumping right in and learning by doing and making mistakes will get you there faster.
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Old 05-17-2019, 11:42 AM
Alan Carruth Alan Carruth is offline
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IMO the hand tool route is the place to start. Hand tools are the basics: if you learn to make something with those you can move to power tools when you want to up production. People who start out with power tools often seem to be lost without them. I've had students from the guitar making schools who have said it's flat out impossible to make a guitar without a sander. When you ask them how Torres or CFM 1 made guitars without one they just look blank.

It has been said that: "You can hurt yourself with a hand tool, but real destruction calls for power tools". Hand tools will teach you the easy way to make the cuts. You can bull through things the wrong way with a power tool, and that's when you'll get into trouble.

Corollary: learn to sharpen. Everything. One basic power tool that seldom gets mentioned is a grinder for sharpening. You'll destroy a lot less wood, and shed less blood, with sharp tools.

Another item that gets passed over a lot is good work surfaces. A heavy, flat, solid bench top on a really rigid base is a necessity, IMO. I made plywood boxes; essentially like kitchen cabinets, with tops of three layers, of ply-MDF-ply, for the tops. A 'peninsula' bench, about 2' wide and 6' long, with a short end attached to a wall, makes a good surface that can be accessed from three sides.

The 2' nearest the wall makes a good go-bar deck. Just screw some plywood to the ceiling and get long dowels. If you need to, make a 'torsion box' up on the ceiling to lower it, and use the spaces between the verticals to store your bars. With a vice on the free end of the bench you can still work while something is in the deck.

Don't forget clamps in your budget. No wood worker ever had enough clamps, and they can get expensive.

I guess what I'm trying to get across is that it's easy to get hung up on big, shiny power tools, and blow the budget before you even start. Think small: what do you absolutely need to make one guitar? What can you buy already done, or that can be worked up easily with just hand tools? Once you've made a few, and have gotten to the point where you can sell them, plow the profits back into better tools. By then, you'll have a better idea of what you want and need to go forward (if, indeed, you still want to).
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Old 05-17-2019, 01:29 PM
runamuck runamuck is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by kenneth22 View Post
Hi im Kenny I was on the fourum some years back. Ive had the idea for a few years about learning to make guitars. I have some basic wood working experience. Im thinking about starting out with a kit and than going from there to eventually bending my own sides and so on. Im in a place where i can start to finally put a shop together. Im wondering what are the major machines ill need and what sizes. I have a 13 inch dewalt planer. what size jointer do i need. what size band saw do i need. ect.... im going to get a drum sander. I may be looking to by new or possibly used in good condition.

Is there a market if i were to get good for someone to make a living making guitars. im on long island in new york.
You ask good questions but I think they're premature. You'll find out approximately what hand tools you'll need building a kit.

As far as machinery goes, I'd suggest you build a kit or two first and see if you actually fall in love with what's required to build a guitar. It's not for everyone and I'd strongly suggest that if you want to build more, do it because you love it and not because you think you'll make money. The strong probability is you won't.

But wait on the machinery.
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Old 05-17-2019, 03:07 PM
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Bruce Sexauer Bruce Sexauer is offline
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I built 45 guitars before I owned a bandsaw or a table saw, and about 75 before I got a thickness sander. My first power tool was a sabersaw, followed by a Delta 690 router. I got my earliest bandsaw skills by being friendly with the local community college woodworking department.

A joining plane, a Stanley 9 1/2 plane, and a couple of chisels (1/4 and 3/4), and a serious scraper (I am currently in love with my Carruth StewMac scraper) can do almost everything important. Especially if you have the sabersaw and router.

Everything else is pretty much just convenient.
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Old 05-17-2019, 03:40 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Bruce Sexauer View Post
...followed by a Delta 690 router.


You’d be hard pressed to find a better router than the Delta 690!
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Old 05-18-2019, 01:44 PM
Howard Klepper Howard Klepper is offline
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Ditto the previous advice re hand tools, clamps, and sharpening (for which you do not need an electric abrasive wheel grinder. It would only make setting the bevel angle of an edge tool easier, and you can do that by hand, too).

On to next questions: There is one stationary machine that is really needed: a drill press. At least 15" swing; 17" is better. This is needed because you really can't do the same job of drilling straight and square to the work with a hand tool. The rest of the machines are just time and sweat savers.

The next one I would get is a bandsaw. At least 12", 14" is better and there are a lot of good 14" saws that you might find in a professional's shop, but pretty much all 12" ones are light duty and quickly outgrown.

Next choice is more open. I would get a belt and disc combination sander, 6" belt and 9" or 12" (better) disc. It's a great convenience.

After that, probably a table saw. They are the heart of a cabinet shop, but not essential to guitar making. Still, they do a lot of things with an accuracy that is hard to get with hand tools.

You can do without a jointer for a long time--forever, really--if you learn how to joint with a hand plane. Hand planes can also do your thicknessing. A drum sander that can thickness tops and backs is a big expense; you will know when it is worth getting, but not at the start.

Making a living at it [suppressing a guffaw]? Very unlikely, even if you are good. I suppose it depends a little on what you call a living. But the number of builders who make enough money at it to support a family with a middle class lifestyle, without a second person's income or a day gig or a repair business or a trust fund, probably can be counted on your fingers and toes. There is a glut of pretty good or very good builders trying to sell their guitars, whose output far exceeds the demand. They pay for rent and food with said second income, day gig, repairs (which is also quite competitive) or trust fund. And because their shops are at home, there is never a shakeout such as happens in real-world industries. Just more and more people on the supply side of the market.
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Last edited by Howard Klepper; 05-18-2019 at 02:17 PM.
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Old 05-18-2019, 02:17 PM
charles Tauber charles Tauber is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Howard Klepper View Post
Ditto the previous advice re hand tools, clamps, and sharpening
Ditto**2.

Lots of very good advice thus far, particularly from Alan, Bruce and Howard.

Quote:
There is one stationary machine that is really needed: a drill press. At least 15" swing; 17" is better. This is needed because you really can't do the same job of drilling straight and square to the work with a hand tool.
The first power tools I purchased were a router and bandsaw. Next was a drill press.

Back-in-the-day, no one had invented a hand drill stand that works like a drill press. I've never tried using one, but it might be suitable for drilling peg head holes and the like. However, drill presses can be used for all sorts of other things when fitted with template-following sanding drums, safety planers, small thickness sanders, fly cutters, buffing wheels ...


Quote:
After that, probably a table saw. They are the heart of a cabinet shop, but not essential to guitar making. Still, they do a lot of things with an accuracy that is hard to get with hand tools.
I have a table saw and the only guitar-related thing that I use if for is fret slotting, which can be done adequately with a hand saw and jig. (My early fret slots were cut with a hand fret saw and a square a la Sloane.)

Quote:
You can do without a jointer for a long time--forever, really--if you learn how to joint with a hand plane. Hand planes can also do your thicknessing. A drum sander is a big expense; you will know when it is worth getting, but not at the start.
I find a jointer is a HUGE time saver in dressing lumber/boards that one re-saws into smaller pieces. If one is buying pre-cut blanks for parts, such as neck blanks, probably a jointer isn't all that essential.

Keep in mind that having adequate - read, large - dust collection is essential with a drum sander and needs to be factored into the cost and shop space.

Also keep in mind that when one runs warped or twisted lumber through a drum sander, one gets out thinner warped, twisted lumber. One reference side needs to be flat prior to sanding, one use of a jointer. Thin materials, such as tops, backs and sides, can be squished flat locally by the sander's rollers. Doing so doesn't flatten the thin material, but does allow it to be sanded to uniform thickness, unlike thicker lumber that will not deform under roller pressure.
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Old 05-18-2019, 04:20 PM
Alan Carruth Alan Carruth is offline
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One thing you will also need is some way to bend sides. Although there are some effective (and sometimes scary) benders based on propane torches or charcoal burners, most of that sort of thing plugs in these days. Bending blankets are really nice, particularly for beginners. Bending over a hot pipe is one of those things you will probably need to do eventually, if not much sooner. It might be possible to use a blanket like a hot pipe. I use a 1000 W dimmer for heat control with mine.

I find a good router very handy, not only for making guitars but for making jigs to make guitars, and benches to make them on.

I agree about the drill press. A drill press planer can substitute nicely for a sander, and do some things, like roughing contours on arched plates, that no sander can. I've never had a table saw, and can't say I miss it. I got a joiner fairly early on , because I was making lots of things besides guitars, such as hammered dulcimers, and needed to join up wide backs. I still don't have a sander, although I did finally set up a dust collector.
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Old 05-18-2019, 09:25 PM
mirwa mirwa is offline
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Thread should be scarying the op by now.

The closer to the tree a builder starts, typically the more tooling they need.

The further down the commercial food chain the luthier starts their build from, the less tooling they need.

Then you can get factor in fancy tools like cnc routers, they make doing inlay work and fret slotting simplistic

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Last edited by mirwa; 05-18-2019 at 09:35 PM.
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Old 05-18-2019, 09:35 PM
redir redir is offline
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A fire extinguisher or two is a must have in the shop as well. That helps in the 'scary' situations
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Old 05-19-2019, 09:17 AM
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As said, it all depends how close to the tree you want to go. Some here have started from a log, the odd one from the live tree, I would not doubt one may have planted the tree. I am going to evade the making a living part, I think it may be a little premature given your lack of output. Thinking about it after your tenth guitar is reasonable advice.

Forget the kit, jump in with both feet but buy luthier quality wood even if it is second grade. A few have made a great looking guitar from the start, the rest of us only have mild OCD. Don't go for exotic woods, a sitka top and mahogany, walnut, easy to work woods will cause you less grief. You are in the US so lot of places to get wood from. A mahogany neck makes for easier carving also. Might as well start from plans as they will get you a reasonable guitar (I built my first without, got lucky that it still didn't sound bad).

http://www.grellier.fr/en/downloads

I did a thread on making a guitar as cheaply as possible with the minimum of tools, mostly hand tools. It was the first time I worked with a plane to a great extent, you can do a lot with even just a block plane. Doing that build showed me what I need (so not to be a frustrating experience) to make a reasonable quality guitar. A drill press for accurate holes, can double as a thickness sander and a drum sander. A little futzing around but it can be done, a internet search will show how it is done. A laminate router, for doing a truss rod slot, neck joint, binding channel, rosette channel, jointing the edges of the top and back plates. Clamp down the pieces with a framing T square as a straight reference for the router to run against and make some chips. With a router sled it can mill wood flat.

Two other powered tools I use a lot is my bandsaw and belt sander. They are nice to haves but as said a saber saw can do, a good surface and sandpaper also. A bench with some sort of vice is needed. When I did the minimum cost build I found I could do the operations with hand tools as long as the piece was held in some way. Bending sides, a basic approach is a piece of muffler pipe and an electric BBQ lighter or propane torch will do. I have a heating blanket but will do the basic bends on a pipe and set the shape on a form with the blanket. Bent a few sides with just a pipe. Bend binding and rosette bits on the pipe also. Clamps, the gobar deck is a given, mine is my work bench and a piece of plywood attached to the floor joists. At least half a dozen trigger clamps (as I have seen them called) but more the merrier. A fret saw and a couple of good chisels, Bas*ard file, caliper, assorted shop tools. Finishing could be a brush and varnish (Bruce sprays but uses varnish) or even just wipe on products.
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