General tech questions

Decent setup tools?


OK, smart people, where is a good source for decent quality tools for working on guitars?

I mean, I have a lot of tools, and I can usually track down a phillips-head screwdriver for basic tasks, but finding the rinky-dink allen sizes used on Fender bridges, or a small screwdriver that doesn't want to strip the screw head out (or its own head) -- that's more of a challenge.

I see kits on Amazon and other sources, but I have some suspicion most of them are low-quality junk intended for people who know nothing about guitars to give as gifts for those guitar people in their lives.

And I don't really want to spend a hundred bucks on a "basic kit" from Stewmac, either. I'm just looking for some appropriately sized, good quality tools that are going to work well for the task.



Years ago, I'd've suggested Sears Craftsman. I'd avoid Harbor Freight nowadays as well. Snap On, Stanley, and the like would be my go to choices now. I have 50+ year old tools that were my Dads that still work fine. Buy a good quality tool and you'll never have to replace it.


I'm a Professional Mechanic/Welder/Fabricator etc. I source tools from everywhere , I have thousands and Thousands of dollars in tools from Snap On to Harbor Freight and everything in between. As far as Specialty Luthier tools theres no way around it, buy from Stew Mac and the other Guitar suppliers.

When It comes to generic tools, start going to Yard Sales, Estate Sales and hunt them down. Made In U.S.A. is Always a safe bet, the older the tool the better quality. Dont be afraid to buy the same redundant tool as you can never have enough files, pliers,clamps and drill bits. I recently picked up 6 spools of soldering wire at an Estate Sale for $3.

I have shopped Harbor Freight for cheap disposable single use tools ,but If I know Im going to use a tool on a daily basis I fork over the dough for the good quality tools.

"My Name is Manny, and Im a Tool Junkie"


Bax, search for CruzTools on Amazon. You should find a kit that will suit you.


String Action Guage - Timthom62

I bought the Warwick Rock’n’Ruler from


Your local hardware store. Harbor Freight has good nut files. Hardware store for everything else.


Bax, narrow it down and specify what tools you need - i.e., for what particular jobs on the guitar.

I need capable minimal tools as well, specifically for frets and nuts.

Curt, Billy - can you suggest economical good-enough tools for those purposes? The needle file set is a great start.

Manny, I feel your obsession. We're all afflicted in some way. After 30 years of tearing Macs apart (and always getting the back together) I finally swallowed hard and spent the money for the task-specific set. It's not that it makes the work possible - I always managed with generics - but it makes it SO much faster and considerably less cussy.

And yeah, we all remember when Craftsman was the good stuff, Snap-On was better stuff for the mechanic, and everyone took care of tools. Now it's more about 3,000-piece kits for 29.95 all spread out in blister packs ooh shiny.

Handyman Krafty John, who made our remodel possible and can be called on for literally any job (that isn't finish work) has a truck full of every specific purpose-made tool I can imagine (and many I can't, because I don't have his experience). He's the kind of guy who watches videos of plumbers, carpenters, and mechanics on youtube to pick up hints. And he has some nice tools - but most of them are of the very old/estate/auction variety. Not shiny or fresh, just very functional.

But I don't think we're talking about a journeyman luthier's toolkit here - for Bax's purposes or for mine. Every time I go looking at StewMac for a basic set for the sort of occasional meatball fret and nut work I'd want to attempt, I founder in the selection and balk at the cost.


Unless you're doing it everyday for a living, you don't need much. THey didn't have luthier tools in the day.


Well, I found the itty-bitty allen wrench I long ago marked as being correctly sized for Fender-ish bridges. It still is, so I need to just not lose it again.

I probably need to just buy some new screwdrivers. I hate buying screwdrivers since the great Craftsman collapse. They're all junk now, and more likely to slip or strip than actually do anything worthwhile.

Billy, I'll probably pick up some of those files.

After that, I dunno. I suppose I'm just cranky at how hard it is to get decent quality tools at all anymore, coupled with the annoyance of never being able to find anything when I need it.


Allen wrenches are easily purchased generic and they'll work fine. I can see Curt needing professional tools but cheap replacements are readily usable and likely will never break. There shouldn't ever be an allen bolt that tight on a guitar.

I got a small screwdriver set at CVS in their glasses/spectacles area for cheap. It has some very precise small screwdrivers and they work great. Harbor freight is another great suggestion. I had no idea they had those files. I may get myself some of those.


Here Otter. The guage sets for doing dwell on old cars may be just as good.


It was some harbor freight screwdrivers that prompted the thread. After just a few screws the phillips head is shot


Well there's cheap and there's extremely cheap.


As another person who relies on their tools to make a living and to whom a broken tool or damaged fastener due to a poor quality tool will cost me a lot of money and time I will make these budget minded, yet professional quality recommendations for basic hand tools

Screwdrivers. Wera or Wiha are exceptional quality and available relatively inexpensively via Amazon. You will probably need a set with #2, #1 and precision sized phillips which will likely mean buying two sets.

Allen Wrenches. Bondhus. Always Bondhus. There is a reason Snap-on re-brands them with their name. Link

Get the set with SAE and Metric. You will need both and using one when you need the other is why most truss rods have stripped heads.

Feeler gauges tend to all be accurate enough, but for my peace of mind I go with Proto Link

For pliers I am a hardcore Knipex man, but that might be a bit much for guitar work. A set of mini pliers of decent quality should be cheap to buy. For side cutters I get them at my local electronics store. Under a tenner for sharp, close cutting units. Similar to these


I will admit that the cheap buy in and excellent return policythat Tekton offers is really great, but I have had to use their return policy way too much to recommend them. Not up to my uses, again probably fine for guitar work.

I also keep a 1/4" drive socket set in my guitar workbench drawer with deep sockets in metric and SAE and a 1/4" nut driver handle for pot and jack nuts.


Thanks. I wasn't familiar with wera or wiha, but they seem to be highly respected.


Don't get me wrong. When I work on tough jobs or auto's I use my Craftsmen tools but I don't think there's anything torqued down very hard on a guitar, is there? Stew mac isn't cheap, for tools. I agree on using the right tool for the job and if you can afford good tools, then great but they aren't always required, IMO.


I was collecting the various allen wrenches that came with guitars or other things I bought for years until I finally broke down and got a full set of metric and American at Home Depot. It has everything from truss rod sized to Fender bridge sized and everything in between.

I'm disgusted with most screwdrivers today too. I found a good one that interchanges a few different sizes of phillips and flat head in one at the hardware store at my office which has since closed.


Here Otter. The guage sets for doing dwell on old cars may be just as good.

– Suprdave

Dave, those look like they're for measuring. I need something for cutting nut slots.

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