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Essential Tools

Here’s our list of essential tools we suggest you acquire for instrument making. You can get by without some of them, but chances are they’ll all end up in your tool box eventually. We invite your comments and suggestions as we work to refine this list.

Layout and Measuring

4″ engineers square
digital bevel gage
drafting triangle
6″ x ¾” steel ruler
36″ steel ruler (100ths, 64ths, 32nds, 16ths)
dial caliper
marking awl
#2 and #3 wooden pencils
white drafting eraser


Watlow Flexible Heater 5.0″W x 35.0″L 120V/875W with 12″ leads #050350C1-0001B
Chromalox Infinite Control Mechanism #CH-152 120V//1.8KW
water pan
2 spring steel slats – .010″ x 5″ x 35″

It may be possible to use router controllers or dimmer switches to modulate the temperature of heat blankets. HOWEVER – make certain that your controller is properly rated for your heat blanket.


1/8″ cabinet makers chisel
1/2″ cabinet makers chisel
1/2″ glue chisel
3/4″ cabinet makers chisel
3/4″ long paring chisel


low angle block plane
palm plane
10mm Ibex finger plane (not essential but a joy to have)
cabinet scraper


X-Acto 3/4″ razor saw
0.023″ fret saw with adjustable depth stop


water stones
bevel guide

Neck Shaping

spoke shave
rough shaping rasp – Nicholson #49
medium double-cut cabinet makers wood file
10″ mill bastard file

Fret Work

14″ radius sanding block
fret bender
dead blow fret hammer
fret pressing caul
end cutters
8″ fret leveler
fret rocker
10″ mill bastard file
fret crowning file
end shaping file
high density foam pad (fret polishing)

Set-Up Work

nut and saddle vise
string spacing rule
fine cut shaping file
gauged nut files
electronic tuner
string height gauge
truss rod wrench

Wrenches and Screwdrivers

#0 Phillips head screwdriver
#1 flat-head screwdriver
10 mm nut driver (tuning machines)
9/64” hex wrench (truss rod)
3/16” hex wrench (neck bolts)
7/16” nut driver (MegaMold)


pattern makers vise
shot bags
inspection mirror
X-Acto #1 knife
utility knife

Router Bits

1/8″ down-cut spiral flute (saddle and kerfing pockets)
1/4″ mortising bit (truss rod slot)
1/4″ down-cut spiral flute (binding and purfling)
1/2″ flush trim bit (flush trimming plates)
3/32″ down-cut spiral flute bit (kerfing pockets)

Drill Bits – Reamers – Countersinks

brad point drill index 1/16″ – 3/8″
5 mm (fingerboard dots)
violin reamer (end pin)
3 deg. tapered reamer (bridge pins)
5/16″ countersink (bridge pins)
3/8″ countersink (end pin)


4 – 4″ x 6″ Klemsia cam clamps
2 – 6″ x 6″ Klemsia cam clamps

6 – Jorgensen #3706 bar clamps
2 – Pony #246 6″ deep throat c-clamp
2 – 4 -1/2″ deep throat c-clamp

100 – wooden clothes pins
4 – ¾ aluminum spring clamps
4 – 1″ aluminum spring clamps


3″ x 4″ flat block
2” x 3″ felt pad
2″ x 3″ hard rubber pad
20″ x 24″ sanding board – 80 grit
3″ x 24″ x ¾” sanding board – 80 grit
6″ x 2″ x ¾” sanding blocks  – 80/150/220 grit
6″ x 1″ x ¼” sanding files  – 80/150/220 grit

Power Tools

Dremel rotary tool w/ inlay base

Plunge and Laminate trim router
DEWALT DWP611PK Variable Speed Compact Router Combo Kit

12V cordless drill
Makita FD02W 3/8-Inch Driver-Drill Kit

random orbital sander
Makita BO5031K 5-Inch Random Orbit Sander Kit