Benches, Bench Tools, Vises and Clamps for Guitar Making
Any woodworking shop will have at least a workbench and some amount of vises and clamps. For me they almost feel like part of the shop. These things you simply a must have.
The Bench & its Vices
The workbench is probably the most important. I have worked on many types of benches in my 40 odd years of woodworking and by far the best type of bench to have is a traditional cabinet makers bench as pictured on the left.
These benches have been around forever which says there must be something to them. They were designed for woodworking with hand tools. There are a few configurations of this bench available. There are different length benches and different bench vise combinations. Length is not as important as the vise arrangement. I prefer the combination of an end vice and side vise. The side vice is the one under the guitar and its about 14 inches across. The end vise is at the other end of the bench and is about 5 inches wide and the jaws move in the direction of the bench length. A good one will have about 9 inches of travel. This is the vice I use the most by far. This just seems to work for me.
Space Saver Workbench for Guitar Building
Some years ago I built a small bench to braces tops and backs on (picutered on right). This bench is about 4 feet long and has a good amount of storage space underneath for wood or tools. The bench has a removeable universal vise (more on this below) mounted on top which is very versitle. The vise is limited as to the size of what you can mount in it but if you are making a guitar from wood that has already been milled this would work fine as your only vise.
Recently I redesigned the bench to improve it. I needed the top to be a bit longer and I needed more storage underneath with a couple of drawers. While drawing the plans I realized that this bench would be perect for someone with a small space. Its compact, has a good amount of storage. When its full of stuff it can be pretty heavy so this helps to keep it from moving when you are working on it. It can also be screwed to the floor. I was not sure whether or not I wanted drawers so I designed it with an option for drawers so the same design will work with or without the drawers. You can download the plans for this bench on my website's free downloadable drawings page.
Holding devices such as vises and clamps are indispensable in guitar making. There are many types of portable or removeable 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 very useful vise is the pattern makers vise shown on the left. This vise is also refered to as a universal vise. If I could only have one vise this would be it. The jaws swivel so they will hold odd shaped parts very well. It can also be rotated 360 degrees. It is invaluable when carving the heel, shaping the neck and setting up the instrument as demonstrated in the video excerpts.
I also have a universal vise in my shop mounted on a stand. It can be moved around the shop where ever it is needed. It also allows you to walk completely around whatever you have clamped in it. I find it very useful to hold the solera while the guitar is being put together. I also use this vise to make some of the smaller parts for the gutar like the bridge. I put the tiny vise for making nuts and saddles in this vise for stability, to put it at the right height for me while working and to provide the 360 degree access.
A small portable vise like a drill press vise is extremely useful for cutting small diameter round stock such as the brass registration pins. I also use it 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 indispensable in guitar making. There are many types of clamps and I use a few for guitar making. For general use I like the Bessey 8inch clamps with a 4 inch throat. These things are undestructable. I have had mine for years and they are still going. A word of warning - it sees you can never have enuogh of them. I have 32 in my shop and would like more. These clamps are perfect for laminating, putting the neck together and gluing on the top and back. It is also good to have smaller and larger versions of these clamps around as well. I always seem to need them for something.
Another type of clamp I highly recommended for guitar building are wooden cam clamps. These things are indespensible when gluing on braces and the like since they do not exert a tremendous amount of force and have cork padding on both jaws. I have 8 and 4 inch throat versions of these clamps and I use them all the time. I use these clamps to glue braces on since I really dislike go-decks.
And lastly there's the hand clamp. These are the little clamps that look like exercise gadets for your hands. These things are not only useful they are quick. No screwing or twisting to create pressure. You can apply theses with one hand which comes in handy. In the video you wil see me using these for any number of things.
List of Clamps
- 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