I recently purchased two new machines for guitar building. In guitar building one can get away with smaller, more compact machines since most of the work is on a comparatively small scale. These new machines replaced a couple of old ones that were larger, no longer working properly, and took up too much room in the shop. The shop seems to be shrinking all the time therefore space is at a premium.
As it goes of any woodworking shop a guitar making shop, should be laid out on paper first. This is also true if you are rearranging the shop. This is very helpful in making sure everything will fit and there is enough room between all the stations to get around safely. It is much easier to move things around on paper than it is to move heavy machinery around.
The old 12” joiner was actually a joiner/planer, or over and under machine. Just as any multi-purpose machine it was not that great at either task. The joiner had terrible fence system and changing the blades was difficult and time consuming. However, it is still great for mill planks and large stock and is out in the garage with all the rough lumber.
The shaper served me well for 30 years but the motor bit the dust a while back. The 3 HP motor was more money in parts and labor to replace than it was to buy a new machine, hence it was a no brainer. Although a great machine, it took up too much space. A 220 volt 3 HP shaper is great for making furniture but is gross over kill for typical guitar making use.
The Perfect Joiner for Guitar Making
The main function of the joiner is to straighten an edge or clean the face of a piece of wood. There are many times during the guitar building process where a joiner will come in handy. If you are a professional guitar builder, an enthusiast that makes guitars regularly or someone that also make other things such as furniture a good joiner is a must. If you plan to build just one guitar you probably don’t need one but you will need to learn how to use a hand plane. A 6” model is all that is needed. This is sufficient for guitar building.
All Hail the Helical Cutter Head!
Hands down, the best feature of this joiner is the helical cutting head. A helical cutter head is significantly more quiet than one with full width blades and the blades are a snap to change. A helical cutter head has a bunch of small blades that wrap around the drum in a helical pattern. In this way only one small blade at a time is doing the cutting. The blades are square and have four cutting edges. When dull or nicked just take it out, turn it around to use another edge and presto. No more setting the blades at the right height by hand.
A Small Shaper comes in Handy
Although a shaper is not a necessity it is nice to have one. A small shaper is all you need to make guitars. Most small shapers today accept router bits so a new set of bits will be unnecessary. They also come with miter gauges for cutting end grain. And a shaper fence is very versatile. It can be used many different ways and with a little creativity can be adapted for almost any task. The best feature is it is so easy to replace the bit and adjust the bit up and down. The adjustment crank is typical on the side of the machine and it is easy to see what is going on while adjusting the height of the bit, therefore it is also way more accurate.
Router Tables vs Small Shapers
Some may prefer to put together a router table arrangement thinking they will save money but this is simply not the case. A router table will certainly accept any router. But the height adjustment for most routers is on the side of the router. This means adjusting it is difficult and will shortly become tiring.
There are routers that are made to be used with router tables and can be adjusted from above but they are over $300. A good router table can expensive and there are always necessary attachments that have to be bought separately. This can get very expensive. A small 1-1/2 HP shaper costs about between five and six hundred dollars. These machines are perfect for guitar building and can be used right out of the box without expensive attachments.
Smaller Machines for Guitar Building Rock
Most guitar building shops I have seen are quite small. Smaller machines take up less room, so if space is an issue they are ideal. They can also be put on wheels making them virtually portable and can be tucked away when not in use. Another feature of a smaller machine is the smaller motors can be wired for 110V. This can be huge if there are no 220V sources available. And the best feature of all is they are relatively inexpensive.