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Thread: Starter Tools

  1. #1

    Question Starter Tools

    Hey all,

    I'm wanting to start my first build, and even have the wife on board. I'm still undecided if I want to go with a kit or just go all out and try to do it myself.

    Anyway, I was just wanting to see what you guys think are the necessary tools. I have the normal house hold type stuff like a drill, jig saw, and circular saw. I grabbed the Ultimate Bluegrass Mandolin Construction Manual and it has a fairly long list of required tools. I'm willing to get what I need to get, I was just hoping not to break the bank the first time around.

  2. #2

    Default Re: Starter Tools

    Break the bank. The second time around will seem cheap. If you don't have a band saw, jointer, well a whole wood shop really, get a kit.

    Just fret and nut tools will run a packet. You can make spool clamps and a thickness gauge. There are very good reasons to have every specialty tool.

    A kit will leave you plenty to do.
    Silverangel A
    Arches F style kit
    1913 Gibson A-1

  3. #3

    Default Re: Starter Tools

    Most people have access to a small good quality steel axe, and can borrow a drill from a friend for 30 minutes.
    The tools are already available. And if you sing and record mp3’s instead of video, people who can’t see it will say, ‘what a beautiful instrument’!


    Click image for larger version. 

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  4. #4
    Adrian Minarovic
    Join Date
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    Default Re: Starter Tools

    So it appears you want to make archtop mandolin from scratch...
    I started with just few household hand tools and to this day I don't have more than I can store in one ordinary cabinet and if I select just those I use 95% of the time, it would barely fill flight sized suitcase.
    There are always different ways how to do certain jobs - with or without specialized tools and often you don't need to own the tool if you use it just few times during the build. If someone around you has good woodshop and is willing to help you out with some smaller tasks you will save lots of money and space. I've never owned bandsaw and for the few tasks where it is essential I just visit my friend for a chat, bring him a new blade for his bandsaw, setup the saw and cut the few blocks. If you need to join your wood perhaps just kind asking and thank you will be enough to "pay" for the few passes over joiter at some shop near you.
    Lots of tols you can make yourself (I strongly recommend at least trying this as it will help you hone your skills and understanding the tools is essential) and many smaller quality handtools can be bought cheaply used.
    There is a thread with similar topic on MC where I posted my starter set of tools. Do some search and you'll find out.
    Adrian

  5. #5
    Teacher, luthier
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    Oct 2017
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    Southeast Tennessee
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    Default Re: Starter Tools

    It occurs to me that the absolute essentials for a scratch built carved top instrument are one or two gouges, an arched sole plane with toothed blade, some sort of graduating caliper, perhaps a violin maker's knife, a couple of cabinet scrapers, something to cut your binding channels with, a couple of dozen spool clamps [you can make these], and a couple of nut files or jeweler's files to slot your nut. In addition, you will want a good fine-cut saw and miter box if you slot your own fingerboard.

    You can fret without any specialty tools except for a crowning file. In the old days, we would crown with a triangle file with the corners ground safe.

    I repaired instruments for years on my kitchen counter with the only specialty tools being a crowning file, 4 jeweler's files to slot nuts, a home-made set of fret pullers, 4 deep throat clamps for gluing guitar bridges [you don't need these for a mandolin build], and the narrow blade saw and triangle file mentioned above. Everything else came from the hardware store. I didn't even own a belt sander [neither did Strad], but I sure was happy to get one when I moved and had room for a shop space. I'm pretty sure Strad would have liked a belt sander also.

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  7. #6
    Registered User
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    Default Re: Starter Tools

    When I started I bought a used jointer, band saw, small belt sander. Never used the jointer, so sold it. I prefer to use a jointer plane, takes up less space, is quieter, and safer but gets the job done just fine.
    THE WORLD IS A BETTER PLACE JUST FOR YOUR SMILE!

  8. #7

    Default Re: Starter Tools

    You haven’t mentioned layout and measuring tools. You’ll learn plenty about what tools you need after making a full sized layout and considering how you’ll manufacture and assemble each piece.

    And what type of stock you start with and what items you’ll purchase (fingerboard, bridge, end pin?) will influence the tool selection. You can certainly get by with a minimal set of tools, but it takes more skill, patience, time and work.
    Play it like you mean it.

  9. #8
    Registered User
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    Default Re: Starter Tools

    I’ve only built 8 mandolins so far but I’ll tell you what I’ve got. A cheap, used bench table saw, band saw, bench drill press. Bought a new dremel, stew Mac binding cutter, thumb plane, and small belt sander from home depot. I’ve cut my own finger board and frets before but now just order that done from LMI and hammer frets in, so a cheap soft blow hammer from harbor freight, I also picked up double jaw cutting tool for frets from there. I don’t have a shop only a dirt floor carport that I work under( when I actually get the time). The tools increase over time. I’ve recently bought a safety planer from stewmac which really helps on thinning side wood for bending. This little hobby is extremely addictive, fun and rewarding so get in there and enjoy!

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  11. #9

    Default Re: Starter Tools

    Seriously though... Buy your tools as you need them. If you're going to build an instrument, take your time and go one step at a time. Its an awesome adventure. Buy good tools when you can. Each step in the process usually has a number of different ways to get it done. Grizzly is a good place to get a few medium quality tools while they are still selling them -- I think they are getting out of the luthier tool supplier business. The need for you to own the expensive tools depends on your intentions. Are you going to build more instruments? My primary job is as a stringed instrument tech. I have no problem doing the nut slots for an amateur builder for about the same price as a single nut file.

    I have two rooms full of tools and equipment at home -- overkill and a personal problem. I also have made friends with a number of people at a local mill via numerous visits with coffee and a dozen donuts. Anymore, the only thing I get from them is lumber scrap and the use of their surface sander which they are happy to operate for me taking only a few minutes to get six or seven passes through the machine. My six cups of coffee and a dozen donuts makes for a nice break for the crew and the supervisor appreciates the moral boosting treat. I'm sure that if I needed someone to execute a cut or two on a band saw or run a length or two on a joiner it would be no problem but I have a number of these machines after doing this for nearly twenty years. Find a local mill and make friends with baked goods. These aren't guitar makers but there is a lot of knowledge that all of them are willing to share.

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  13. #10
    Registered User belbein's Avatar
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    Default Re: Starter Tools

    Quote Originally Posted by awkwhit View Post
    even have the wife on board
    Better quit while you're ahead.
    belbein

    “Years ago my mother used to say to me, she'd say, ‘In this world, Elwood, you must be oh so smart or oh so pleasant.’ Well, for years I was smart. I recommend pleasant. You may quote me.”

    See my latest blog post: http://www.mandolincafe.com/forum/en...lay-for-People

  14. #11

    Default Re: Starter Tools

    Quote Originally Posted by belbein View Post
    Better quit while you're ahead.
    Yeah, parlay that approval into a new Mowry and then be done with it...

  15. #12
    Registered User
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    Default Re: Starter Tools

    I've built two mandolins from scratch. My favorite hand tools are a Stanley #100 1/2 block plane 3 1/2" convex sole (Squirrel-tail) for carving, a bright goose-neck light, 1/8" chisel, and a 3 1/2" or smaller flat sole plane. Resist the temptation for a new Mowry!

  16. #13

    Default Re: Starter Tools

    Like most things it is much cheaper to buy used. I often stop at garage sales and flea markets just to see what they have. Most people now a days don’t know what a plane, spoke shave, or a scraper is and you can get them for a very reasonable price. The same hold true with power tools. Be patient and you will find some very good deals.

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  18. #14

    Default Re: Starter Tools

    I was repairing a wood toy for my grandsons yesterday and realized how handy my wood carving tool set was. I think there are six different shaped blades. I built my mandolin over the course of a year and spread out tool cost and hardware over time.

    Look in the classifieds for tuners, tailpieces and cases. I bought a Cumberland bridge and a nice TKL case way before I needed them. Seize every opportunity. There are rims and roughed out neck blocks sold occasionally too.
    Silverangel A
    Arches F style kit
    1913 Gibson A-1

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