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  1. #1

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    Just dropped 4k at Stewmacs. There's no going back now.

    They are expensive tools no doubt but finding replacements in the UK and ones that are in stock, is impossible.

    I'm looking to start a manufacturing company as many of you know but I thought it wise to learn the shop floor as part of the process. I can get others to do all of this and likely people with great skill but I need to know what it takes, to get a really high quality result and so I need to understand what goes on, in this area. The best way for me to do that, is to get my hands dirty.
    Understanding the needs of this side of the business and being able to talk the language, seems important to achieving the level of quality I want.

    Here is a list of the tools I bought.

    I spend big on some items, items that most techs would probably scoff at but for me, what's important is to get whatever makes the work easier and more accurate, with as little skill and time input as possible on my part, as I have a lot to learn and I need to focus on many other parts of the business too.
    Spending this money helps me do that. I do appreciate for those in the know, a lot of this stuff seems excessive and some of it probably is.

    Fret Cutter
    Precision Notched Edge
    Two Cherries Brace Chisel
    Precision Straight Edge 18"
    Precision Fret Puller + 2 guards
    Fret Heater
    String Lifter
    Neck Relief Gauge & Slot Gauge Straight Edge
    Heat Stick + Soldering Iron Neck Removal Kit
    Rubber Clamping Bands (narrow)
    Mitchel Abrasive Chord
    Peghead Overlay Veneer Ebony x 2
    Pre Cut Fret Wire Medium 12 Radius
    Pre Cut High Medium 12 Radius
    Nut and Saddle Sander
    Crack Repair Tool Kit
    Micro Mesh Touch Up Pads
    Hex Nut Truss Rod
    Guitar Bench Pad x 2
    Understring Radius Gauges
    Re-fret Saw + Slot Cleaner Tool Set
    Tuner Bushing Press + Expansion
    5 Ply Pick Guard Material
    Fine Line Applicators
    The Glue Looper Kit
    Fret Crimper
    Fret Slot Depth Gauge
    Binding Laminator
    Stew Mac Z-File Original
    Macrostie Binding Trimmer
    String Spacing Rule
    StewMac Ultimate Scraper Original + Concave
    Stew Mac Buffer 230 Volt plus compounds, grate and buffing wheels
    Bridge & Fingerboard Heater
    Tune-o-Medic Bridge & Tailpiece Tools
    8" Radius Blocks Set of 5 Sizes
    4" Rad Blocks Set Of 5
    Gauged Diamond Cut Nut Files (heavy Strings)
    Binding Router Set (standard)
    MacRostie Binding Trimmer Bit
    Kerfed Lining Clamps x 40 (metal ones designed by Taylor).
    Radius Gauge Complete Set
    Fret Arbor Full Kit
    Fretbar Under String Leveler 4"
    White Plastic Binding (all sizes)
    Black Plastic Binding (all sizes)
    2x Concave Fret End Files.
    Last edited by ArchtopHeaven; 09-27-2021 at 07:03 PM.

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  3. #2

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    To be honest, the work can be done with fewer and simpler tools, but not on a production basis. I level my frets with a small length of I beam milled flat and carrying self-adhesive abrasive paper. I crown by hand with the microfiles I used to use for finishing machined parts (I’m a life long SCCA racer who built & maintained my own cars). I use machinists’ feeler gauges etc, and I’ve adapted many surgical and metal working tools to lutherie. But I do a neck or two every few years and have built 3 guitars in 60 years.

    You really do need production level tools to learn at the level you want to reach. There’s no other way to develop reasonable expectations for production and quality goals. And you haven’t gone overboard at all if you really plan to make a business of it. What you bought will help you know what to expect and demand from your employees, but good people will be far ahead of you if what you know is limited to a novice’s experience with what’s on that list.

    I wish you the best of luck! Making stuff you love is fun. Getting others to love it enough to buy it at a price greater than your cost of goods sold is the first hurdle. And delighting your customers so they come back to you first is the second. Spend what you must - just be realistic about what you make and how you present it.

  4. #3

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    Bravo on your commitment and optimism.
    Having worked a few years cabinet woodworking, I have found tools can be in three classes:
    1/ Multi purpose / repurposed
    2/ Specific purpose (but the cheapo bargain bin version)
    3/ Specific purpose and made with little if any compromise to be excellent at that purpose. Often not found at the big box hardware.
    4/ Tools or Jigs I made myself to fulfill a specific purpose that was not readily available.

    I have had examples of all three through naivety and the learning journey.
    None of category 2 are left. Some of category 1 were good at somethings, but average at the rest.
    Category 3 made work efficient, precise, predictable leading to less rework or mistakes.
    Category 4 is noble, effective, and when I pulled it off well, was as good as anything in Cat3. Some hits but some with 'developmental opportunity'.

    There was a 5th 'category' I experienced- but more an amp'ed up steroid/boutique version of Category 3. Nothing wrong there, but I saw a law of diminishing returns. Its important for some people. I have some- if only to support local toolmakers. Like many, I love to support the underdog that is obviously in need of the help.

    There are plenty more that others could identify as well.

    In short- a lot like guitar gear reading back on all that!

    I did learn over time that Buying wisely once is cheaper in the long run, but only if you demonstrate commitment to use the gear.
    Chisels will wear out. Some in 2 years of heavy use. Some in 20 years of equivalent use. Same goes for most things in life I guess.

    Cheers and best wishes going on!

    EMike

  5. #4

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    Congratulations on all of your wonderful new toys, er tools!

    Best of luck to you in this endeavor.

    Buy some stuff to protect your eyes & lungs & hands.

    Learned this on the shop floor.

  6. #5

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    Did you try Crimson Guitars?

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  7. #6

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    You mentioned elsewhere that you plan to use laminated plates.
    What you are planning to build?

  8. #7

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    Quote Originally Posted by nevershouldhavesoldit View Post
    To be honest, the work can be done with fewer and simpler tools, but not on a production basis. I level my frets with a small length of I beam milled flat and carrying self-adhesive abrasive paper. I crown by hand with the microfiles I used to use for finishing machined parts (I’m a life long SCCA racer who built & maintained my own cars). I use machinists’ feeler gauges etc, and I’ve adapted many surgical and metal working tools to lutherie. But I do a neck or two every few years and have built 3 guitars in 60 years.

    You really do need production level tools to learn at the level you want to reach. There’s no other way to develop reasonable expectations for production and quality goals. And you haven’t gone overboard at all if you really plan to make a business of it. What you bought will help you know what to expect and demand from your employees, but good people will be far ahead of you if what you know is limited to a novice’s experience with what’s on that list.

    I wish you the best of luck! Making stuff you love is fun. Getting others to love it enough to buy it at a price greater than your cost of goods sold is the first hurdle. And delighting your customers so they come back to you first is the second. Spend what you must - just be realistic about what you make and how you present it.
    Thank you for the wonderful and very sage advice. I'll be sure to keep you up to date.

  9. #8

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    Quote Originally Posted by thelostboss View Post
    Did you try Crimson Guitars?

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    I did but apart from some basic setup tools, they didn't have a lot of the other stuff I needed. That and some of crimson's stuff came out the same price as the stuff from StewMac, once the discount was applied.

  10. #9

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    I'd like to make a series of Archtops that are distinctly English. Using English woods and including English folk law but not luthier guitars. Between luthier and mid level mass production.

    I will be working with professional builders in the acoustic world, professional CAD specialists etc.. I'm not going into it totally blind and dumbfounded.

    I want to bring my experience in playing and my experience in dealing, which as you know simply means, having played so many guitars, we get a feeling for what works and what doesn't.

    I will be using pre existing guitars to 'learn' from and as you've likely noted, you can tell what I've been putting together to do so.

    I also have a USP that I'm keeping under wraps for now but you'll hopefully be filled in shortly.

    I'll keep you posted about what's going on and any advice will be much appreciated. You're an especially knowledgable member and you've always been generous with it.

  11. #10

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    Quote Originally Posted by EastwoodMike View Post
    Bravo on your commitment and optimism.
    Having worked a few years cabinet woodworking, I have found tools can be in three classes:
    1/ Multi purpose / repurposed
    2/ Specific purpose (but the cheapo bargain bin version)
    3/ Specific purpose and made with little if any compromise to be excellent at that purpose. Often not found at the big box hardware.
    4/ Tools or Jigs I made myself to fulfill a specific purpose that was not readily available.

    I have had examples of all three through naivety and the learning journey.
    None of category 2 are left. Some of category 1 were good at somethings, but average at the rest.
    Category 3 made work efficient, precise, predictable leading to less rework or mistakes.
    Category 4 is noble, effective, and when I pulled it off well, was as good as anything in Cat3. Some hits but some with 'developmental opportunity'.

    There was a 5th 'category' I experienced- but more an amp'ed up steroid/boutique version of Category 3. Nothing wrong there, but I saw a law of diminishing returns. Its important for some people. I have some- if only to support local toolmakers. Like many, I love to support the underdog that is obviously in need of the help.

    There are plenty more that others could identify as well.

    In short- a lot like guitar gear reading back on all that!

    I did learn over time that Buying wisely once is cheaper in the long run, but only if you demonstrate commitment to use the gear.
    Chisels will wear out. Some in 2 years of heavy use. Some in 20 years of equivalent use. Same goes for most things in life I guess.

    Cheers and best wishes going on!

    EMike
    Thanks Mike.

    I always go for number 3. Number 3 allows you to excel were your knowledge and skill level doesn't.

    I own several Mafell, Lamello and Festool tools, for joinery and went from a total novice, to putting together desks and drawers, like a pro in essentially a day. A flat pack pro of course ) Not something on your level but you get the point.

    There is no point in me learning how to tap tune and carve a top now. I'm 40 years old, it's likely too late and far too time consuming. So I bought a CNC machine in stead and I'll employ someone with that skill to do the final carve. Sure, I'll pick it up over time but if I put too many hurdles in my way, I'll never get off the ground.

    I down't want to be one man in a shed, well perhaps when I'm 64. That's why I don't consider myself a luthier. I'm going to put together the right people guided by my knowledge as a player and collector and someone with a fine eye. Let them do what they do best and I'll do what I do best (fingers Crossed).

    Besides the best guitars have already been made and they're out there for you to find and learn the secrets of. Most f the hard work has already been done and it's been that way since almost the 50's when Johnny Smith went peddling a D'angelico to Guild and Gibson.

  12. #11

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    Best of luck, AH. we're pullin' fer ye!

  13. #12

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    Quote Originally Posted by citizenk74 View Post
    Best of luck, AH. we're pullin' fer ye!
    Cheers mate!

  14. #13

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    Several days ago, my shipment from StewMac arrived in the UK. DHL have spent the last week playing silly buggers with it, so I eventually gave up and collected the 4 parcels from their depot at Heathrow, this evening.

    I haven't opened them yet but will take them to the workshop tomorrow morning and do so.

    I'm also off tomorrow to check the planner/thicknesser I'm purchasing. It's a 6 hour round trip to Devon and back.

    I've driven to the border of Scotland, Wales, Devon, and London (several times) in the last month.
    It's been fun.

  15. #14

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    Good luck!

    Woodworking is my other big hobby, and I agree with you about tools. Though things can often be done different ways, there is usually a BEST way to do something and a BEST tool for the job.

  16. #15

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    I opened the bits I ordered from StewMac this evening.

    Was like an early Christmas!

    Here's the spread.

    No Going Back-1-1-jpeg
    Attached Images Attached Images No Going Back-2-1-jpeg No Going Back-4-1-jpeg 

  17. #16

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    Don't think much of those wooden radius blocks.

    I'll buy some rolled aluminium billet and have some proper ones machined on my friends monster XYZ mill.