Classical Guitar on the Bench

Benches, Bench Tools, Vises and Clamps for Guitar Making

Any woodworking shop will have a certain amount of vises, clamps, bench hooks and shooting boards, that almost feel like part of the shop. These tools are not particular to guitar making per se, but there are certain types of these tools that lend themselves to building guitars. These are the tools referred to here as guitar making shop tools. These tools can be found in virtually all shops in one form or another. The bench hooks and shooting boards you can make yourself. In this way they can be designed and built for a particular purpose. See details at bottom of page.

Shooting Boards and Bench Hooks for Guitar Making

Shooting boards and bench hooks (see video below) are essential to any guitar making shop as theses simple devices are indispencable for thicknessing stock, shooting a straight edge, and squaring. A standard size bench hook will suffice for making a guitar and there are a two sizes of shooting boards that are recommended for guitar buidling.

The bench hook is used to square an edge (make one edge perpendicular to another) of any material that can be hand planed. The material to be planed is held perpendicular by the stop fence and the plane is slid along the ramp. The cleat on the bottom edge keeps everything from sliding around.

 thicknessing guitar bridge

The shooting board is very much the same thing as the bench hook only it is longer and it can be used to straighten an edge on a long piece of stock, or thickness a small piece of wood that would otherwise be difficult to hold in a bench vice as shown at right. The cleat on the bottom surface of the shooting board fits into the bench vise and the stop fence keeps the work piece from moving it is planed. There is no ramp in this case, the plane slides along the bench. If you don't have access to a jointer a shooting board will be necessary to joint an edge straight.

Both of these shop aids are easy to make and use. Watch a video of John describing these must have tools and how to make them. Download free plans for a bench hook and shooting board.

Vises and Clamps

vises used in guitar making

Holding devices such as vises and clamps are indispensable in guitar making. There are many types of vices available and I have a few different types in the shop. Specialized vises make certain tasks easier while minimizing damage from clamping pressure. A few types of useful vises are the universal vise, the pattern makers vise, and any small portable vise. The universal vise in my shop is mounted on a stand and used to hold the solera which provides access all the way around the fixture. The pattern makers vise will hold anything with a taper very well and may be rotated 360 degrees. It is invaluable when carving the heel, shaping the neck and setting up the instrument. The small portable vise is extremely useful for cutting small diameter round stock such as the brass registration pins, and shaping the nut and saddle. It can also be used to drill the string holes in the bridge and to notch the fan braces to fit over the bridge patch. A vacuum clamp although unnecessary is a real luxury. This type of clamp works well to hold the body of the guitar while providing unimpeded access all the way around.

Clamps are an absolute necessity and you can never have too many of them. This is a list of clamps necessary for making the guitar in my guitar making book:

cam clamps used in guitar making
  • 16 - 8" Clamps with 4"throat
  • 16 - 4" clamps with a 2 1/2" throat
  • 8 - 8" Cam clamps with an 8" throat
  • 8 - 8" Cam clamps with a 4" throat
  • 12 - 2" Hand clamps
  • 6 - 4" Hand clamps