I am always on the lookout for a new or different tool or method, and the cheaper the better. Here are some items that I've found lately that worked out well.
My wife uses false finger nails, and part of the kit are these great little sanding boards; stiff foam with fine and finer grits. I guess around 220 and 300 maybe. Work great for sanding carved tops, neck angles, etc. Check with the wife, girlfriend, sister, etc.
Another item found at the big box store, is double-sided masking tape. I believe this was Duck brand, and it's incredibly cheap, and holds very well. I loosen it with the old standby, naptha dripped under the template. I was having trouble with the other stuff being very thin, but this is a little thicker and conforms to tiny irregularities.
Last item is a cheapie nail file. I believe these are diamond coated, as they stay sharp a long time, but cost only about a buck or less.
Thanks to Frank's site for the inspiration to look for new uses for old or free stuff. I'm always picking up old knives for other uses. Cheers.
I dont know what you guys are doing to brake those Harbor freight clamps as I have a 5 gallon buck full of them long enough to clamp tops and backs on stand up basses. I am sure if you abuse them you could brake them or hammer on them.
I haven't broken any, Ron, but I don't trust them as much as my others and I really don't like the release button. I find that sometimes it's hard to reach the button if I use the clamp in a confined space. They also just don't seem to clamp down as hard or hold as well over time. I do use them all the time for quick test fit or hold down clamps but I just don't trust them to hold well over the time it takes the glue to dry.
I broke 2 when they fell off a bench onto the garage floor. But these are Jobmate clamps maybe they're inferior to the Harbor Frieght clamps.
I have quite a few tools I copied from others, like the Erlewine's neck jig, rock n roller, leveling beams and such. Easy projects.
But one of the completely homebrew idea is to cut the nut slots with a string and valve lapping compound. I am sure somebody else came up with it long before me, but I haven't heard of it anywhere, it just struck me one day when I was very close with finishing a refret and should start on a nut. It can be messy but it works, no doubt, even with plain strings. :)
Most of the time it's actually easy to copy something completely than making something new. Browse throug StewMac's site and you'll get plenty of ideas. You can make radius gauges out of acrylic, fret pressing cauls (take two pieces of aluminium, put a radius on both then separate and bevel the inner edge on each one of them to get a fret slot), you can grind down wire cutters to get your own fretwire nippers/pullers. Just make sure that you don't grind the face of the nippers completely flat, leave some of the factory "V" on both sides of the claw, it will last a lot longer.
Dowels are great too, you can make all sorts of hadles for needle files, cutting blades, just drill it or slot it and glue it with CA or epoxy. My latest was fret slot cleaning chisel, I used a hook-shaped cutters for cutting carpets, shaped it with a dremel, made a slot in the dowel and glued it in. Wooden wedges that are used in massonry for installing windows and doors are also handy and cheap. They are hardwood, about 100 pieces for like $3, you can stacks them, glue them etc. They make perfect sanding blocks, clamping blocks, tremolo wedges for setting intonation and such ...
Marble or granit window shelves in your house make a nice platform for you flat sanding, chisel sharpening etc, so you don't need a separate heavy granit board for your benchtop just for that. I don't know about USA, here in Europe these are quite common.
If you know a machine shop near you that grinds down cylinder heads, just go buy some 2x4 steel in your HW store and ask them to grind the sides flat and you'll have your own leveling beam that is 10x cheaper than the ones SM sells.
Machine shops that do laser cutting can also make you precision straight-edges, fret rockers, notched straight-edges etc. But be sure to take a really good look at a trial or demo piece, some shops can be quite sloppy.
A local bearing supplier is often a good place to buy industrial grade superglues, epoxies, acrylic cements, thread locking compounds for open-gear tuners, etc. A hydraulics shop is a good place too to find any size brass, aluminium or steel tubing you need. If you squish one end of a brass tube to get it flat you get a nice brace glue applicator. You could also seal the ends and make a small cut on each side so glue will squirt out from the sides. Again just going through various stores and shops and browsing might help get you an instant idea too.
Stanley makes snap line chalk in black. This stuff is a very fine powder and very BLACK. It mixes well with epoxy and soaks up super glue well. I haven't used it but a few times on guitars, but i use it all the time repairing clarinets (my day job) and it is worth having around. Also, its cheap. Stanley's part number is 47-808.
Can't remember where I first saw these but they work nicely. Its jist an o;d tuner in a block of wood. attach an old guitar string to it, and I use them to hold internal patches in place from the outside. The string holds the patch, the 'thingy' is on the outside and by winding up the tuner the patch can be held securely in place. It works very well.
This is pretty dumb, but here's wooden fret bender for touching up individual frets. I don't actually lever it as seen in the photo but use two hands to do small incremental bends. I just drilled a hole in some oak and used a triangle file to put a vee at the bottom for the tang. I then put some CA in the hole and notch to harden it.
I just discovered that a single string is the perfect tool for binding a fingerboard. That's a cheapie, isn't it?