Hi all, I've been browsing the forum for about a month now. I started with the first threads in 2008 and am reading my way through as many threads as possible. It's amazing how much info is here and how much I've learned already. Incredible to have so many talented craftsmen that are willing to share their knowledge, thank you for that.

I've been doing basic setups on my own and band member's electric guitars and basses for the last twenty years as well as installing pickups, pots, jacks, switches and other minor repairs.Since quitting my last band five years ago, I've been playing acoustic only and for the last couple of years I have been doing setups, making nuts and saddles from blanks, I have done some LCP and re-frets, cut sounds ports and even refinished one guitar that came out decent for a first try. I've been buying tools on a need to have basis and made a neck jig similar to Dan Erlewines. I've bought a couple of project guitars to work on an I am learning by trial and error. I read anything I can get my hands on but I still am not confident in a lot of my skills. I think I need some validation from a professional that I am going about things in the correct manor. I am hoping to take Charles Fox's setup and maintenance seven day class sometime in the next six months. The class is in Portland OR and I am in New York so not exactly convenient or cheap but I am sure it will be worth it. 

My goal after I have some confidence and more knowledge and skills is to start doing set ups and fretwork for local musicians to try to earn some extra cash. After a few years if all goes well and the business is there, I would love to be able to do it full time.

Besides what I have been doing and taking the class is there anything else I should be doing to further my knowledge and skills to get me closer to my goals?

Sorry for the long winded introduction and any help is appreciated.


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Hi Guys,

There are two parts to this story: one is a comfortable hobby environment and the other is making a living by luthiery and repairs.  Two different things and not to be compared.

"No power tool is truly necessary, they can just make things easier."

How about: "they just make things a lot faster and prevent a whole bunch of arthritis and Carpel tunnel / Tendonitis that has befallen just about all of the senior guys in the business.

Faster by such a degree that power tools = profitability  in a small business. 

A complete pull apart of a Strat takes a minute or two with a power driver compared to 15-20  minutes with hand held screwdrivers - ditto setting up a heel adjusted truss rod on a bolt on - couple of cyles of removing the neck plate soon gets tedious with a screw driver.   Same goes for 11 screw pickguards and the pickup at this for a few years and it all mounts up.  Not to mention the joys of a powered string winder/unwinder - absolute bliss and a lot less damage than a hand operated winder.

Same goes for radius blocks, and particularly the full length cauls which accurately radius and index the whole fretboard and frets in one operation.

It's not disagreement: it's just different things.  



Agreed on the power screwdriver. Agreed on anything that preserves the most valuable tools we have - our hands, our heads, and our lungs. Good dust collection is a must, lots of safety glasses all over the place so that there is no reason not to put them on, gloves to protect hands, ear protection, dust masks, etc. Push sticks, dead man switches, jigs that secure work - all very important. A safe place to put used oily or solvent - filled rags seems like a must as well. 

Russell, I wonder if part of the problem with Carpel Tunnel is the complete lack of thought some of us put into posture and hand position when working. I know that I think about where my hands are when I'm playing, but I never look down when I'm deep in a neck-fitting session at where my hands are and how I'm using them. I'll try to be more conscientious of this in the future. 

Hi Mark,

Thanks for getting where I was coming from.

I'm a victim of the saying "if i knew I was going to live this this long I would have treated myself better" - I've got more titanium in me than a space shuttle.    We wear out bits that we use a lot and seeing as we all live longer and work longer these days (and I enjoy work much more now than I ever did when I was a kid) I do everything possible to extend the life of my frame and senses.

That's the point I made about the use of power tools and energy saving (body energy) measures to prolong our working life and quality of work.

Nobody will ever question the pleasure of working with finely tuned hand-tools or the joys of hand sculpting and creation, but, for everyday work and for the purposes of efficient and profitable processes we need to work faster and with the least effort - hence my avocation of power tools and other energy saving tools.

I have written previously about teaching oneself to work both left and right handed to spread the load and also the need to change grips and stances and use ergonomic handles on tools etc.

Also , the double wammy is that a lot of us are players and beat the crap out of our knuckles, wrists and elbows when we are taking time off the job - which is doing exactly the same thing.

We are seeing the issues now and it is our responsibility to raise awareness of these things with those coming behind us.



I teach a ukulele club at my elementary school, and the first few weeks involve a lot of how to hold the hand, how to not turn the wrist, how the tendons work, and how to keep the arm working well. 

Watching a performer's circle yesterday, I was struck by how few people pay attention to this really important detail. It's amazing how much easier things are with the correct posture!!

So, my advice has changed. Instead of buying tools, buy a yoga mat. :)


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