Sales: parts and tools - luthiers' tools

I regularly order from leading luthiers' suppliers like Stewart-MacDonald and Luthier's Mercantile and can supply tools and equipment for guitar-making projects at competitive prices.

I'm not going to list everything I stock or can obtain here, but here are some notes on tools I've found particularly useful. Please feel free to contact me if you're looking for something.

Back to Sales: parts and tools Back to Sales: parts and tools

  Routing

Clamping and gluing

Drilling

Reaming

Finishing

Fretting

Setting up

Electrics

Tuning


Routing

 
Stewart Macdonald precision router base

This is one of Stewmac's best. A high quality tool to adapt the Dremel mini-router for precision work. Made of durable machined steel, brass and aluminum. Each turn of the large knurled thumbwheels adjusts your Dremel's cutting depth by .035" (.889mm). You can rout an inlay cavity that's precisely compensated for the thickness of the pearl and glue, for less sanding later. Tall twin handles give you excellent control for freehand routing, and you get a good view of your work. There's even a built-in nozzle for attaching a mini air pump to continuously blow away the dust-you'll rout inlay cavities more precisely, for a better fit requiring less filler.

£82.50

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Stewart Macdonald precision router base

Clamping and gluing

 
Bridge clamping caul

This device is easy to set up and reduces the need for multiple clamps. The machined aluminum caul is 5-7/8" long and 1" wide, and has a slightly arched bottom to accommodate most bridges on flattop steel-string acoustic guitars. It's padded with thick cork on the underside and on the thumbscrew-adjustable end clamps. Needs to be used with bridge pin inserts to prevent the bridge sliding around as the clamps are tightened.

£45.00

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StewMac 4600 bridge clamping caul

Hot hide glue pot

Electrically heated glue pot for melting and maintaining traditional hot hide glue and other substances at the correct temperature. The inner container is removable. 1 quart. 230V. Fitted with a fixed thermostat which maintains the contents at the correct temperature for hide or pearl glue.

I get these to special order - they usually take about 12-15 days to arrive.

£215.00

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Electric glue pot

Drilling

 
Strap button drill bit and tap

Screw-type strap buttons can be easily installed, without damaging or marring the button: this set includes a .120" bit for drilling the pilot hole, and a hardened screw with 5/16" brass hex head for threading the hole.

£21.00

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Strap button drill bit and tap

Bridge drill jig

This bridge pin hole drilling jig was developed by Frank Ford. It allows you to drill accurate holes in your bridge at whatever stage you want, whether in the wood blank or in the finish sanded bridge. Holes are accurately located for 2 1/8", 2 1/4", 2 5/16" or 2 3/8" spacing. The comes with an alignment pin and an Allen wrench. The top is machined from hardened steel for long life. Hole spacing on this tool is equidistant, there is no compensation for string gauge. This tool is set up for 3/16" bridge pin holes.

£135.00

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Bridge drill jig

Reaming

 
Bridge pin and end pin hole reamer

Stewmac's special wooden-handled steel reamers are designed to properly taper the holes for bridge pins or endpins. They're semi-fluted, to help keep the holes round, and are available in two sizes. The 3-degree reamer tapers from approximately .312" to .150", with 3" cutting length, and is suitable for many bridge pins from Gibson and other high end makers, including martin pre-1994 and Collings pre-2002. The 5-degree reamer tapers from approximately .350" to .135", with 2" cutting length. It works for vintage-style pins, as well as modern Martin and Collings bridge pins. (Slightly) cheaper versions can be found, but these are the best way to ensure accurate fitting.

3 degree £75.00
5 degree £75.00

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Bridge pin and end pin hole reamer

Endpin jack reamer - two-step

To ream out the endpin hole for a pickup's strapjack, Stewmac provide a nifty two-step reamer for hand or power use. This machined steel reamer is made specifically for enlarging a guitar endpin hole to accept a 15/32" or 1/2"-diameter endpin jack. It won't chip the finish, and it's semi-fluted to help keep the hole round. The 3/8" shank can be chucked in a hand drill for slow reaming. The upper 1" cutting length is 1/2" diameter; the 1" centre section is 15/32" diameter, and the lower 2-5/8" section has a standard 5-degree endpin taper to 1/4".

£87.50

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Endpin jack reamer - two-step
Endpin jack reamer, 3-12mm

The two-step option is the way to go if you often need to ream out for endpin strapjacks. However, for occasional use a cheaper option will often do, as you just need a neat 12mm (1/2") diameter hole. This a reliable alternative, made from high quality heat-treated carbon steel. It can be turned by hand or run slowly in an electric drill. As well as allowing you open out the hole gradually, it has a long enough shank to allow you to make a 12mm hole through the full thickness of the endblock.

£9.50

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Endpin jack reamer

Finishing

 
Foam polishing pad

Even though I use a large buffing machine with a range of different cotton polishing wheels and polishing compounds, I still find these fibre-free foam buffing pads useful for spot refinishing and removing swirl marks. Ideal for finishing off - the gentle polishing action helps avoid swirl marks, fine scratches and burn-through, leaving a beautiful mirror-gloss surface. For the small shop or casual builder, this is a great way to get factory-quality finishes without tedious hand polishing or expensive buffing equipment. Can be used in any electric drill.

5-1/2 in diameter £24.00
3 in diameter £17.00
3-1/8 in diameter cone £17.00

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Foam polishing pad

Set of 150mm foam polishing pads - different grades

Unlike the pads shown above, which are best used for final polishing, this set provides different grades.

- White firm polishing and buffing sponge. Use for compounding modern 2 pack paint systems. Gives excellent results with G3 cutting paste and similar.
- Blue machinededium sponge for compounding and polishing cellulose and acrylics.
- Red soft sponge for final finishing and polishing.

These pads have a M14 x 2 thread to fit sanders and polishers (maximum speed 4,600rpm). Also included is an adaptor spindle which allows the pads to be used with any power and air drill with a 10mm chuck capacity. Parallel-faced nut for tightening and loosening.

3 x 150mm foam polishing pads + adapter spindle £24.00

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polishing sponges

14mm to 10mm polishing mop adaptor

Fretting

 
Diamond fret file

Unlike traditional fret files, diamond files cut in both directions, they don't chatter or leave chatter marks, and the fret is smoother after crowning. These files are being used by repair shops and major manufacturers all around the world. Expensive, but will last a long time - clean with a brass wire brush.

This well-balanced steel fret file is offset, for more comfortable fret dressing and improved clearance at higher frets. each file has two full-length concave filing grooves (one for narrow/medium fretwire, and one for medium/wide wire), whcih are uniformly coated with micro industrial-diamond particles. 8-1/2" x 1" x 5/32". Available in two versions - I use the 300-grit most, but the 150-grit is preferable for speedy removal of a lot of material.

150-grit £135.00
300-grit £135.00

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Diamond fret file
Concave fret end file

I've tried a lot of different ways of dressing fret ends, and these are currently big favourites. The different fret filing/rounding techniques used by various high end makers can all be mimiced with these tools, and you can work quickly and consistently without marring the fingerboard. Not cheap, but they do last very well.

These files are for use after the frets have been installed, trimmed flush to the sides, and bevelled with a flat file. Each of these sturdy steel files is 7-7/8" long (similar files from other suppliers are only 3"), a practical length for filing fret ends without jamming the handle against the edge of the fretboard. Cutting surface length is 2-3/4". The file tang is rubber-coated for comfort.

Available in two sizes, for medium and wide frets.

Concave surface: Single-cut teeth help blend the fret ends into the fret crown.
Medium: .080" (2mm)
Wide: .120" (3mm)

Safe surface: Opposite the concave edge is a flat, untoothed surface to protect the fretboard when you're filing with the side surfaces.

Toothed sides: The single-cut teeth on the sides file away metal burrs and help smooth the bevel on the fret ends.

Safe corners: Each file also has smooth untoothed corners to help prevent damage to the fingerboard and the upper edges of bound necks.

Medium £59.00
Wide £59.00

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Concave fret end file

Concave fret end file
Fretting hammer

My favourite fretting hammer - a well-balanced dual-face hammer. The aluminum head is threaded for two replaceable striking surfaces: a low-dent plastic flat face with smooth edges, and a brass convex face that's radiused for installing frets. Sturdy hardwood handle.

£28.00

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Fretting hammer
Stewmac Jaws fret press

Using a fret press is often a better option than using a fret hammer. It gives you finer control over the pressure needed to seat a fret into the slot - you can actually feel it seating! It eliminates complicated clamping setups, so your press-in fret jobs go faster. A range of 2-1/2" radius brass inserts are provided for different radius fingerboards. Stewmac also supply other models for working over the neck heel and the fingerboard extension; they all utilize the same 2-1/2" radius brass inserts.

£280.00

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Stewmac Jaws fret press

Setting up

 
Fret bevelling file

The fret bevelling file is the fast, accurate way to put a uniform 35° bevel on fret ends after installing new frets. With a quick, smooth motion, this file angles the fret ends and makes them ready for fret dressing and polishing. Available in either 3-3/4" or 7-1/2" filing lengths.

3-3/4 in £62.00
7-1/2 in £82.00

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Fret bevelling file

Wooden radius-sanding block

These radiused sanding blocks are great for truing up a fingerboard before fretting and then levelling the frets once they're installed. Needless to say they're also ideal for setups and reprofiling worn frets, and can be used as clamping cauls. The 8" versions are best for major jobs, the 4" ones come into their own for spot repairs. They're available in all the common radii.

4" long
7.25" radius £16.00
9.5" radius £16.00
10" radius £16.00
12" radius £16.00
14" radius £16.00
16" radius £16.00
20" radius £16.00
8" long
7.25" radius £23.00
9.5" radius £23.00
10" radius £23.00
12" radius £23.00
14" radius £23.00
16" radius £23.00
20" radius £23.00

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4 inch wooden radius-sanding blocks

8 inch wooden radius-sanding blocks

String action gauge

This pocket-size stainless steel rule is ideal for accurate setup adjustments on any stringed instrument. Developed by Dan Erlewine and Don MacRostie at Stewart-MacDonald, the gauge features a progressive string height scale: simply slide it across the frets and read the measurement under the string. It's faster to use than any ruler, and stays parallel to the fingerboard--much easier than trying to hold a ruler perpendicular to a rounded fret.

The string height markers are graduated from .010" to .140" on the inch model, and from 0.25mm to 3.50mm on the metric version.

The back of the gauge has a time-saving fractional/decimal/metric conversion chart.

As well as setting/checking string height, you can use it to measure:

. Bridge saddle height
. Saddle slot depth
. Fret slot depth (unbound fingerboards)
. Nut height
. Pickup polepiece height

You can also use it to set up router cutters accurately.

Metric £27.50
Inches £27.50

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String action gauge

String action gauge String action gauge

Budget string action gauge

It didn't take long for a Far Eastern copy of the Stewart-MacDonald string action gauge to appear. Frankly, the manufacturing quality is poor compared to the StewMac version, but it does what it needs to - and it does provide both metric and US measurements on the same gauge.

The string height markers are graduated from .010" to .140" and from 0.25mm to 3.50mm.

The back of the gauge has a 3-inch scale, a 75mm scale and a list of suggested string action heights for different types of instruments.

As well as setting/checking string height, you can use it to measure:

. Bridge saddle height
. Saddle slot depth
. Fret slot depth (unbound fingerboards)
. Nut height
. Pickup polepiece height

You can also use it to set up router cutters accurately.

£7.50

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String action gauge

String action gauge

Understring radius gauges

Set of 9 gauges for fast, accurate bridge saddle adjustment. Each of these unique gauges has an accurately radiused arc on both the top and bottom surfaces, and is shaped to fit easily under the strings. Use the bottom curvature to determine your fretboard radius, and the matching top curvature becomes a reference for setting string saddle heights for best playability.

They're handy for matching pickup polepiece heights to the arc of the strings, too. Precision laser-cut from .050" stainless steel, the set of eight gauges includes 7-1/4", 9-1/2", 10", 12", 14", 15", 16", 17" and 20" radii. They'll work for string spreads and fingerboards up to 2-5/8" (66.68mm) wide.

**Now includes 17" radius for Ibanez guitars**

£39.50

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Under string radius gauges

Stainless steel radius gauges

These radius gauges can quickly find the curvature of a fingerboard or bridge. Use them frequently to check your work as you smooth or shape a fingerboard or frets: a quick visual check keeps you from accidentally altering the shape - a mistake that's easy to make and hard to fix. Set of 2 (7.25", 9.5", 10", 12", 14", 15", 16" and 20").

£32.00

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Stainless steel radius gauges

String spacing rule

This laser-etched stainless steel string spacing rule quickly finds the right spacing for just about any stringed instrument. It does all the calculation for you: progressive slot spacing automatically compensates for string diameters, from treble to bass, so the thicker strings won't seem crowded to the player.

£29.00

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String spacing rule

Fingerboard guards

Set of 6, includes 2 guards each to fit narrow, medium and wide frets. Protect your fretboard when filing or polishing a fret. Improved design fits between ALL the frets on guitars, banjos, basses - even the high frets. Fits most mandolins and ukulele spaces, too.

Guards are notched for holding the guard in place with a rubber band, freeing both your hands for the job. They're made of flexible .010" stainless steel for durability and long life.

Dimensions
Overall size: 3-1/8" x 5/8" (79.38mm x 15.88mm)
Narrow slot: .070" x 2.625" long (1.78mm x 66.68mm)
Medium slot: .097" x 2.625" long (2.46mm x 66.68mm)
Wide slot: .125" x 2.625" long (3.18mm x 66.68mm)

£23.00

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Fingerboard guards Fingerboard guards Fingerboard guards

The Intonator

I've recently started using this to find the correct location for placing the saddle on a flattop guitar bridge. Dan Erlewine of Stewart Macdonald designed it to use before cutting the saddle slot in new bridges, or when you fill and reslot an existing saddle. The old method of placing dowels or pins under the strings isn't accurate because the strings pull the dowels out of position. This doesn't happen with The Intonator, because the solid brass bar anchors the adjustable brass saddles while you fine-tune them. It's a bit of a fiddle with pinless bridges, or bridges where the pins aren't in a straight line, but a great help nonetheless.

£100.00

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The Intonator

Nut and saddle setup gauge

This nut and saddle setup gauge is machined of aluminum with four troughs measuring depths of 1/32", 1/16", 3/32", and 1/8". Each slot can accommodate a 1/4" wide nut or saddle. You simply place the nut or saddle in the trough and draw parallel lines on both sides of the piece, depending on how much material you want to remove. It's quite simple: say you want to lower the action by a certain amount. Measure the height of the low E string over the 12th fret. If you want to lower the action by 1/32", you remove twice as much from the bottom of the saddle, 1/16". Place the saddle in the groove stamped 1/16", mark it with a sharp pencil on both sides and sand on the belt sander or use a file. Note that the thickness of the gauge itself, 1/4", also serves as another depth stop, giving you a total of five different depths.

£41.00

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Nut and saddle setup gauge

Larrivee truss rod wrench (old and new styles)

This is an essential tool for adjusting truss rod nuts that are tucked away behind top braces.

The old style Larrivee truss rod wrench will fit Larrivee guitars with serial numbers in the 40000s and lower. This wrench measures 3/16". This is a fraction under 5mm and can also be used on guitars like Lowdens that require a 5mm wrench.

Newer Larrivee guitars with serial numbers above the 40000s require the smaller new-style wrench which measures 5/32nds (a whisker under 4mm)

Please note: Due to a grey area between the change from old style and new style, some serial numbers may overlap their relative category. if you are unsure which you need, please order the new style - we can exchange if necessary.

Old style £21.00
New style £21.00

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Larrivee truss rod wrench

Tele truss rod crank

This compact steel wrench is a great time-saver. I use one all the time in my workshop.

If your guitar has a slotted truss rod nut at the heel end - as on vintage Teles and the like - it will enable you to adjust the truss rod without unstringing the guitar or removing the neck. Just remove the pickguard! Straight and diagonal ends mean you'll have sufficient space to do the job.

Compact 3-9/16" (90.49mm) length fits a guitar case.

£12.95

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Tele truss rod crank

Tele truss rod crank

Tune-o-matic Bridge Jack

Adjust Tune-o-matic bridges quickly without loosening the strings - using the same tool Gibson used in their original Kalamazoo factory. Lift a Tune-o-matic with this jack and you can adjust the thumbscrews up or down freely, and without pressure from the strings you'll no longer damage the plating on the hardware.

With the Bridge Jack, you can even hold the guitar in the playing position and jack up the bridge with one hand while watching the 12th-fret action - when it looks right, spin the thumbwheel to hold that height.

Use from either side of the bridge. Can also be used to raise the upper part of archtop and mandolin bridges.

Pricey, but I find it invaluable in the workshop. Of course, you could always heat up and grind an old file to the same shape....

£49.00

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Tune-o-Matic Bridge Jack

Tune-o-Matic Bridge Jack

Tune-o-matic Bridge Post Tool

Another great time-saver. The Post Tool makes it easy to remove, install or straighten Tune-o-matic bridge posts.

Bridge posts are often set too low or too high, and this tool makes it easy to adjust them. And when Tune-o-matic bridge posts are bent, the bridge leans and intonation suffers. It becomes hard to turn the thumbwheels to set the bridge height, and the threaded posts may even be uncomfortable against the player's hand.

Interchangeable threaded brass inserts (6-32 thread for Gibson, and M4 x.75 thread for imports) snap into the Post Tool's handle. Simply thread the tool onto the post until it's flush against the thumbwheel, tighten the wheel against the tool, and hold the two together to turn the post for installation, removal, or height adjustment.

Instructions are included - we also include matching drill bits for correctly reinstalling the posts in new holes when needed.

£38.00

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Tune-o-matic Bridge Post Tool

Tune-o-matic Bridge Post Tool

Stop Tailpiece Wrench

I see a lot of guitars where the tailpiece has been damaged by use of an incorrectly sized screwdriver. Sometimes too the top has been damaged when the screwdriver has slipped.

The Stop Tailpiece Wrench has a thick screwdriver tip recessed into a smooth-walled socket that fits the 1/2" (12.70mm) diameter tailpiece stud snugly. The socket keeps the wrench centred, to protect the stud's plating and avoid accidents that could mar the guitar top. Made of tool steel, with a durable plastic handle.

Custom made in the USA. Overall length is 7-3/4" (196.85mm). Inside diameter of the socket is 17/32" (13.49mm). This tool will work on tailpiece studs with 17/32" (13.49mm) maximum diameter.

£49.00

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Stop Tailpiece Wrench

Stop Tailpiece Wrench

Electrics

 
Tele jack installation tool

Installing or removing the retainer clip for vintage-style Tele output jack ferrules can be awkward, and without the right tool it's virtually impossible to get a firm fit. This jack installation tool makes it easy. At the turn of an allen wrench, the tool flattens the retainer clip. The clip firmly "grabs" the hole in the guitar body, for secure jack mounting. Allen key supplied; jack cup and retainer clip not included.

£29.00

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Tele jack installation tool

ESP multi spanner

I reach for this multi spanner all the time in the workshop. You can quickly fix a loose output jack, control pot, pickup switch or tuning machine. It's by far the best way of tightening the circular knurled rings on Les Paul selector switches. Turn adjustable bridge thumbwheels more easily, too. One end of the Multi Spanner is toothed for loosening a nut; the other end tightens it. Only.075" (1.90mm) thick, the tool can fit under a control knob and is specially angled for clearance over a guitar body or peghead.

£18.50

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ESP multi spanner ESP multi spanner

ESP multi spanner ESP multi spanner

The Key - Floyd Rose intonation setter

Setting the intonation on a Floyd Rose can be a frustrating and time-consuming business. if you do it without the right tool. If you loosen the allen screw, the bridge saddle has a habit of slipping forward, and there's a lot of trial and error involved. It's not surprising that I see lots of guitars with a 'that will have to do' setup.

This tool is essential to an accurate setup. Nothing's THAT fast when setting up a Floyd Rose, but you can set intonation much more quickly and accurately than doing it manually. Slacken the string (remembering to loosen the locking nut first), and then slip the lugs between the back of the bridge and the fine tuner as shown in the illustration. Tighten the screw until it begins to grip. This ensures that the bridge saddle won't slip forward when you slacken its allen bolt. You can then adjust the intonation, tightening the Key's knurled ring to move the saddle back if the string was sharp or slackening it to move the saddle forward if it was flat. Re0tune the string and check, if necessary repeating the process. Then do the same on the other strings, re-tighten the locking nut and fine tune as necessary.

A few notes of warning:
Don't try adjusting with the string up to tension - you need to slacken, adjust, re-tune.
Work on one string at a time and only loosen one bridge saddle at a time.
And - most important - this is for genuine Floyd Rose tremelos only - it won't work on Ibanez Edge, Ibanez Lo-Profile, or Schaller locking tremolos.

£23.00

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The Key - Floyd Rose intonation setter

Bullet jack tightener

What do you do if your guitar has a loose jack socket? Leave it for later and hope nothing breaks? Take the guitar apart to fix it? The Bullet Jack Tightener works from the outside to prevent twisting and shorting the wires on the inside. Simple and inexpensive, it's a pocket-size fix for loose jacks in guitars and amps. Smooth moulded plastic, so it won't scratch your guitar or amp hardware. Tighten (or loosen) your guitar's jack in three easy steps: Put the socket head over the 1/2" nut. Press the rubbery Grip-Tip into the jack to hold it. Turn the tightening handle. Easy! Fits US-sized 1/2" inch nuts for 1/4" inch jacks. Postage free.

£18.99

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Bullet jack tightener Bullet jack tightener

Guitar knob puller

Prying off a control knob with a screwdriver blade is a recipe for a dented knob and a nicked guitar finish.

The Knob Puller is a simple solution for stubborn knobs. Just slide it under the knob, push the tension ring down for a firm grip, and carefully pull the knob off. It works with standard speed knobs, bell knobs, and Strat® knobs. The smooth durable plastic helps protect pickguards and guitar finishes..

£14.50

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Guitar knob puller Guitar knob puller

Guitar knob puller Guitar knob puller

Tuning

 
Bridge pin puller

How do you remove a stubborn bridge pin? Risk marring the pin or the bridge by trying to lever it out? Slacken off the strings so you can push it out from inside the soundhole?

This is a real timesaver if you've got stubborn bridge pins.

Snap it onto the head of a stubborn bridge pin, slide the lock ring down for a firm grip, and simply pull up the pin. Fast and easy - no marring, no flyaway pins. Made of rugged ergonomically designed plastic. Get one for your guitar case!

£11.99

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Bridge pin puller Bridge pin puller

Zap-It EZ-Winder

This will be one of your busiest tools! The EZ-Winder is a durable plastic socket that fits most guitar tuning knobs, to make restringing faster and easier. The 1/4" hex stem fits your cordless screwdriver or socket driver. It's a real time-saver.

£7.00

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Zap-It EZ-Winder

Turbo Tune guitar string winder

Fast string changes, by hand or cordless screwdriver.

Here's a time-saving tool that's long been a favourite of mine - makes a great present, too! Turbo TuneT is a cleverly designed string-winding crank that also pulls apart: use it by hand or with your cordless screwdriver. I use it with a small Bosch 3.6V electric screwdriver and it's saved me hours of tuning time. Not only do you save time, winding is neater and more evenly tensioned, resulting in less slippage and less breakages.

Its versatile socket fits practically any guitar or bass tuner knob, to make string changing fast and easy. The handle is conveniently notched for pulling stubborn bridge pins, too.

Electric screwdriver not included.

£12.99

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Turbo Tune guitar string winder
Turbo Tune guitar string winder

Turbo Tune guitar string winder