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The Guitar Player Repair Guide - 3rd Paperback – December 1, 2007
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Aside from things like truss rod and bridge adjustments on electrics, or saddles and replacing tuning keys, almost everything else requires that you purchase dedicated tools to do each of the jobs right. For example, yes you can shape a nut with a generic file and sandpaper, but to file the slots for the strings you must purchase at set of six graduated files that correspond to the gauge of each of the strings to be used (.10, .13, .17, etc). So if you're planning on doing nuts for your acoustics and electrics, you need close to 24 graduated files; (6 for a light acoustic set and 6 for a medium acoustic set) and the same for electrics (another 6 and 6). There's a little crossover on a few of the gauges and you can 'file wide' on a few but otherwise there's no way around springing for a bunch of slot files. It adds up fast. If you already own a fine woodworking shop and are a very experienced woodworker, you can maybe find alternate ways of doing things but for most of us, a specialized tool will be required. Really. Yes, the author works for the #1 luthier tool supply house and their tools are pricey but it's a niche market and even where there's competition, the prices are mostly the same.
And it doesn't stop there with the $$$ for the specialized tools. That's why luthiers and guitar techs get the big bucks; they bought all the very costly tools and have the experience.
I bought all the tools and measurement instruments to do the more mundane work on both acoustics and electrics -- up to and including fret leveling and fret polishing, and I estimate I dropped more than $350 on tools alone, not including the materials and parts like nuts, saddles, glues, electrical wire, etc, etc. And then it turned out that my $12 Radio Shack soldering iron wasn't good enough so it was another $100 for a pro soldering iron. Sometimes I wish I had paid a luthier instead. Again, it really adds up fast.
The very best and cheapest tools to start with are the nut slot files and assorted measurement instruments like this 6 Inch LCD Digital Caliper, an incredible bargain at only $12. What size replacement nut do I need to buy? What are the gauges of the strings that are on this guitar now? What are the string spacings of the nut and saddle? This tool will tell you all that and much more. I end up using this tool fairly often on household projects too, on more things than I ever could have imagined.
Mistakes happen so if you're making a new nut or saddle for example, buy two or three to cover your early mistakes; they're cheap and will get used eventually. Before I started working on my best guitars I went around to the pawn shops and bought one $50 acoustic and one $50 electric ($$$ again) to make mistakes on and after quite a few mistakes they eventually ended up being slightly better guitars.
Some other reviewers complain that the book is not a good read or not well organized but hey, it's a reference book. Just look in the index for the job at hand and follow along carefully. Others complain that there's not much guidance for the more esoteric guitars but the techniques crossover perfectly. The most popular guitars are used as examples because ... they're the most popular guitars. And this again is why the pros demand the high fees. They have been forced to think long and hard about how to apply their existing skills to every new and esoteric challenge that comes into the shop. And they instill enough trust for you to permit them to do it. Experience is priceless. This distinction is what separates the pros from the amateurs.
Overall a great book. You may never use half of it because the tools are so expensive but more knowledge is better than too little.