This may come as a surprise, but you don’t need a lot of tools to make a guitar. If you are already into woodworking, you probably have the majority of the tools that you will need. There are some specialty tools that guitar makers use, but thankfully they are not terribly expensive. Here is how you get started.
You Don’t Need a Lot of Tools
Guitar making is just woodworking…the only difference is you are making an instrument instead of something else. Many of the tools that you are already using in your shop will work perfectly for making guitars.
In the beginning, most guitar makers buy their wood already roughed out close to the sizes that are needed anyway. This eliminates the need for a large band saw or a re-saw that can handle nine inch tall pieces.
Also, guitar making suppliers know that people making guitars may not have a ton of tools, so they have options. For example, someone with a lot of tools might pick out a fretboard blank that has not been slotted, tapered, or with a radius. They have the tools to perform all of those operations, so they do it themselves. If you don’t have the tools, then you just purchase a fretboard that has already been milled and slotted.
Guitar Making is a Type of Woodworking
Since you already have woodworking tools, chisels, planes, saws, sanders, you already have the majority of the tools that you will need to make a guitar. The process is really just making a wooden box with a neck, and you can cut your pieces with any normal woodworking tools.
Even bending wood is something that is done in other branches of woodworking. Steam bending has been around for a long time, and even thick pieces of wood can be bent for other woodworking projects.
Most of the operations are done with saws, chisels, a router, and sandpaper or scrapers. These are common tools, and any woodworker should have something similar in their shop.
Specialty Tools for Guitar Making
There are some special tools that you will not use unless you are making a guitar. Thankfully they are not expensive, and they last a long time. Over the course of the build, you will pick up these tools, and you will always have them for your next build.
Some of these more dedicated tools are a Taper Reamer (for making tapered holes in the bridge), a Fret File (used for rounding and leveling frets), and a Fret Saw (a special thin kerf saw for making fret slots.) These are all hand tools, and are not expensive.
Guitar making is a very old type of woodworking. When you are looking for tools, remember that the first guitar makers did not use electricity. They used hand tools for everything, so even the most fancy modern tool will have a traditional equivalent that you can find.
Buying Based on the Tools You Have
I already touched on this earlier, but you can really get a lot of things done for you by a guitar making supplier. The suppliers know that there are people who want to make a guitar that don’t even own a screw driver. They will need to buy some tools along the way. However the suppliers understand that they really only want to make a guitar.
For this reason, they carry their pieces in different stages of completion. Many of these places even sell sides that are already bent. They will join plates, and even sell necks that are already made and ready to attach.
In the beginning, buying some of the pieces already made is nothing to be ashamed about. As long as you are practicing the techniques and learning, you should not worry about buying a couple pieces that cut a lot of time and money out of the build.
Additional Information About Westfarthing Woodworks
While I publish the overwhelming majority of my woodworking content for free, I also have several books available as well. You can see them on my Available Books Page, and they cover several different woodworking disciplines.
You can also Join the Community, and receive updates from me about new articles, upcoming books, and when I release new books. It’s completely free, and full of great tutorials, freebies, and great content.
If you like guitar making, check out Acoustic Guitar Making for Beginners, which highlights the best parts of my massive 508 page acoustic guitar making book.