After a lot of work my mid 19th century German guitar is nearing completion. It's been interesting and challenging but the end is now in sight. One of the last things to do is fit the bridge pins, now I know I could do this with a rat tailed file but I think it would be better if the bridge/body/bridge plate was reamed. Looking on the Stew Mac web site reamers are $65, about £55, so when I see this

at £30 for the two obviously I am tempted. All views appreciated.

Also I know I could work out whether its 3 or 5 degree taper using maths but is there a simple way of finding out?

Many thanks


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Reamers are very much something that you get what you pay for and often not even that....

Stew-Mac's reamers are of good quality and work great in my opinion.  Compared to what other quality reamers cost such as from industrial supply houses such as MSC Stew-Mac's prices are not excessive, again... in my opinion.  Mine get used near daily and it's important to me to have tools that will perform at professional levels.  

What I am seeing in the ebay pics would concern me because they look like it would be very easy for these reamers to chatter and wander either of which are not what you want in a reamer.  They may work fine in a limited capacity and after some "getting to know you" time with the new tools and some scrap.  But for consistent, professional results reamers are not something that I'm personally comfortable factoring in price above quality.

Regarding pre-turn-of-the-century (two times back now...) guitars 3 degree pins were much more common than they are now.  However pin tapers can be found that are less than or greater than 3 degrees too including no taper at all.  If you don't have a 5 and 3 degree reamer to compare the taper to or do a trial fit with scrap math is your best bet.

I agree with Hesh on the quality of the Stewmac reamers and cost benchmarks. 


One note about using tapered reamers is that it's pretty important to maintain a constant centerline angle when making new holes or changing the angle of an existing hole.  Tapered reamers can create oval or irregular holes if not kept parallel to the centerline of the hole. 


I also use a Keo Zero Flue countersink to finish the edge of the holes.  A small chamfer (about .02" wide, just barely noticeable) is a nice finishing touch.

These look like the paddle bit of the reamer world. There's nothing wrong with a paddle bit if you don't care much about dimensions but you can't trust them to be very accurate.   I agree with Hesh that good reamers are worth the price but I think a rat tail file would work better than these and work fine for a one off job. 

I dealt with a reamer from Harbor Freight for the first couple of years building and repairing and got fairly good results after many struggles/learning experiences. Then I purchased a Stew Mac reamer and I heard angels singing. What a difference. Go the extra bucks and save yourself the frustration later.

I wouldn't stress too much about getting an exact match between bridge pin and hole tapers.  

1. Lots of us have gotten by over the  years with rattail files and reamers that weren't very close.

2. Martin made upwards of a million guitars with no taper at all in the bridge pin holes.

Thank you all for your thoughts and excellent advice. The eBay reamers look too much like file tangs which are fine for opening out plate but I wouldn't rely on them for any degree of accuracy.  While I would feel fairly confident using a file there is the possibility of spoiling the job for the sake of a £ or two, so I think I'll shell out for the reamer. Now where did I put those trig tables?? 

You don't need trig tables.  There's several interactive trig calculators on the web.  Google is your friend.


Trig!!! yes!!!

LOL ..gotta love these threads ...

OP : " I am thinking of buying this product, would love to get opinions from all you guys who haven't even clapped eyes on it, let alone used it".

Replies  #1 to #100: ..."Don't touch it with a bargepole ...I admit I have never used the product, but I have bought a similar product  which  costs twice as much, so, by a process of logical  extrapolation, the product which you are contemplating buying cannot do what it claims, cuz it only costs half as much"

OP: "Gosh ,thanks ..."

I bought a cheap one from Grizzly to do a job. I think it was a 5 degree? At any rate, it was a 'proper' degree for Gibson. I was reaming a replacement bridge. It seemed like it took forever (many many turns) to get each hole done. I was not impressed with the tool.

I am an amateur though and needed it once so far. If I used one daily as stated above, then 'no doubt'....I would own the best. I like quality stuff!

Alternatively Murray, you could be getting a reply from someone who knows what they are talking about due to years of engineering experience and hands-on professional luthiery. This person may also have spent the time and money to find out the best and most cost and application effective tool for the job.  

Frank Ford opines what tradesmen know - the skill is in the experienced hands and even rudimentary tools can be used effectively.  But, not everyone here has the experience and skills to do that.

Consequently, and similar to what Eric SJ says previously, The Stewmac reamer is a great production level tool and  also very effective in unskilled hands - I have used a lot of cheaper ones over the years and can confidently say (as RETROROD adds) that cheap reamers simply don't work as well as the purpose built self guiding HSS/Tool steel  reamers such as the SM one.

I am given to appreciating wit,  so a simple "Gosh Thanks...." will suffice.

I agree with buying quality time tested tools. The good thing about ebay is that you can sell things you don't like. The used market is fairly stable in pricing, especially on quality items. An alternate suggestion is to visit a local luthier and ask to try out their reamer. I have made some good friends this way. And I learned a few things along the way.


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