The wonderful world of luthier tools. Our recommendations for the tools you need!
I have a great love of good woodworking tools and in particular luthier tools. Many of the great makers used knives a lot and I have been developing my carving skills using a knife more and more over the recent years. For Violin making you only need access to a few of these tools. Even though you might not call yourself a luthier, some of these tools are specialist. That said you can use many general purpose tools too.
Remember that you don’t need all these luthier tools at once and if you are building your violin through a night school or summer camp then these tools and more will be available through the class. In fact you will also have access to many power tools like pillar drills, planers and disc and belt sanders that will help speed up the rate of build. As a violin maker I love looking for secondhand or new tools. My favourite tools are Luthiers knives and finger planes as I love shaping and forming different shapes.
The Luthier tools list
I have split this section into 3 parts:-· General tools.· More specialist tools.· Templates, holding aids and jigs and fixtures.
General Tools which are found in the luthier tool box
These are the types of tools that you might expect to find at home with anyone that does even a small amount of DIY or has dabbled in woodwork before.
· Pencil – propelling or pop up type are good as they give you a constant line thickness but any sharp pencil will do.
· Pencil – Used as a straight edge and to measure. Some plans are still in inches so a Metric/Imperial 12 inches in length ruler is good.
· Narrow Tape measure – Again inches/mm. A steel tape is better than cloth as it will not stretch. The tape is used to measure over radius’s on the back and front so needs to be pliable to follow the shape.
· Set square – to give you 90 degrees.
hammer – For pressing purfling into the groove.
· Compasses and Dividers – For accurately marking out string widths and for checking out various dimensions for symmetry.
· Small Japanese pull saw – This gives a really good and accurate finish, also a delight to use.
· Hand drill and a selection of drills though a 6mm and 1.5mm drill are probably all you need – For drilling pilot holes for the pegs in the pegbox and endpin.
· A small metal or wood block plane – For planning and thicknessing rib’s and for planning fingerboards etc.
· A longer jack plane about 18ins long if possible– For planning the joints and flattening surfaces.
· Chisels and gouges – Normal carpenter’s chisels that are 5, 10 and 20mm wide will be fine providing they are sharp.
· Gouges – You need to have at least 2 -3 gouges and I would suggest that you obtain the following - 30mm wide no 4 gouge for rough arching, 20mm wide no 5 mainly for the scroll and gouging around the purfling groove and 15 mm wide no 6 again for the scroll.
· Combination waterstone – For sharpening chisels and plane blades. 1000/5000 grit works well.
· Shapening cone – For sharpening gouges.
· Hand Coping saw – For cutting out rough outlines.
· Fret saw - For cutting out “f” holes and making patterns.
· Stanley knife – For rough cutting out.
· “Surgeons” Scalpel knifes – For fine cutting out.
· If you can get hold of luthiers knifes then any will do as they are a pleasure to use and it is a skill that is worth developing. I like 3 blade sizes 18-20 mm, 10-12mm and a really fine knife with a 3-4mm blade for cutting out “f” holes or working on the scroll in the final stages.
· Sandpaper , wet and dry or abrasive paper or Aluminium oxide or Garnet are all types and can be used. The general range is 80 grit for real roughing out and then 180, 240 and 320 are all suitable for different jobs and also 600 or 700 I have used to sharpen blades from time to time
· Files and rasps - Again for roughing out and final finishing. I only use rasps on the neck and finger board as they are too rough to be used on the spruce front or bass bar.
· 1mm thick carpenters scraper for final finishing.
· 0.3 – 0.5mm thick scrapers of different shapes to finish off different parts of the violin. This features in our top tips section so have a look.
· A sharp Bradawl for marking peg holes and starting “f” holes. This can easily be made if you don’t have one.
· An old table knife – Used to split spruce for blocks.
More Specialist Luthier Tools
· Glue pot – For heating hide glue. This features in our top tips section for suggestion of how to aquire one cheaply. Remember that it must not be steel or it will go black from the glue.
You also need the glue itself. Click here for advice on glues
. Peg reamer – For reaming out tapered holes for the pegs and end pin
· Needle files – For filing out string positions in the nut and bridge.
· Purfling marker – To mark the position of the purfling on the front and back.
· Finger planes – Flat bottomed and curved for shaping the front and back. Typically 25mm up to 35 mm long.
· Set of 4 bass bar cramps that can be made from ply wood and they will wedge and hold the bass bar in place whilst the glue is drying.
· Caliper to measure the thickness of the back and front plates. See our top tips section.
· Bending iron and strap – Used to form the ribs and linings.
· Peg shaper – pegs are supplied as blanks and the peg shaper allows you to cut down the taper to the correct size to fit the already finished off peg holes in the neck block.
· Various “G” clamps for holding the ribs in place whilst the glue is setting.
· Soundpost setter.
· Dental mirror
More luthier tools - Templates, holding aids and jigs and fixtures
· The initial mould for the ribs needs to be made. The whole shape of the finished violin is based on this mould so it has to be made very accurately.
· The templates of the shapes of the back and front need to be cut out of the plan and then placed on thin plywood sheet and cut out. These are then used to check the outside shaping on the back and front as you progress.
· Clothes pegs for holding the linings in place whilst the glue is setting.
· A shaped block to hold the fingerboard whilst you are planning it to shape.
· 3 off “F” cramps or similar – Used to cramp the 2 halves of the front or back together during the gluing operation. The minimum size would be 150mm long and have a depth on the cramps of 50-60mm.
· A cradle to hold the front or back whilst they are being shaped on the outside or inside. This can be made from chipboard and lined with carpet underlay or similar non slip material. Remember that these are just suggestions and that there are lots of good ways to get the end result and this is dependant on you and your preferences.Where to find all these luthier tools?
I have also been fortunate to pick up luthiers tools from people retiring and from specialist auctions. Look in our top tips section for some ideas on how to save money on tools and equipment.
I have bought tools from a number of suppliers over the years but my favourites are:-
Dick Fine Tools. They are based not far from Munich in a town near Metten.
For those of us in the UK, sadly the Euro price is not so much in our favour at the moment. But luthier tools are fantastic for a birthday or Christmas present. My recent passion is their Japanese hand tools from the pull saws through the beautiful hand planes to gouges and chisels. Moving on quickly.
Axminster Tools. They are based in the UK at Axminster Power Tools Ltd, Unit 10 Weycroft Avenue, Axminster, Devon. EX13 5PH.
If anyone knows great luthier tools or general tools suppliers in other parts of the world that they think would be useful to violin makers,amateur or professional let us know.
If you have any questions or suggestions feel free to contact me through our contacts page. We'd love to hear from you.
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