Power Tool Substitutions

Lie-Nielson Low Angle Block Plane

Lie-Nielson Low Angle Block Plane

In this article I want to focus on those of you who may not have access to either a Band Saw or a Drill Press. Both of these items are quite costly to purchase if you are tight on funds or only plan on making a single guitar or two.

In particular the Classical Guitar Headpiece requires the most intense machining with the drill press and the band saw. I do want to share with you the possibility of using hand tools for these operations though. The great master luthiers did not have access to these tools and built their guitars completely by hand with fine hand tools.

Many of the fine luthier shops in Italy, Germany and the U.S. still rely solely on hand tools for most of there guitar production. This is due to tradition that was handed down from generation to generation.

Drill Brace

Robert Larson 10 Inch Swing Bit Brace with 3 Jaw Chuck


Hand Tools Require More Care In Their Use:

The concern is that by using hand tools you have to exercise more care in making your cuts and drilling. Keep a steady hand as they say. Hand tools can be somewhat safer to use, if they are kept sharp and things to happen nearly as fast if you don’t have a spinning blade or fast moving belts etc.

Power Tool Substitutions:

In lieu of using the band saw to cut the outline of the peg-head, you can use a Coping Saw with a very sharp blade. Keep the blade perfectly horizontal when sawing and leave a little bit of wood beyond your layout line so you can machine down to the line, or sand down to it.

Low Angle Block Plane:

To finish-off the sides of the peg-head use a very sharp low angle block plane and set it to take a very fine cut. Work slowly down to the your layout lines and finish off with a Surface Sander.

I have the Lie-Nielson Solid Brass Low Angle Block Plane. It costs a bit of money for one of these, but the perfection you get from the cuts makes it worthwhile.
This is a beautiful plane and the cuts are smooth, even and very precise. No touch-up is required on this planes work.

Brace and Bit:

I currently have the Robert Larson 10 Inch Swing Bit Brace with 3 Jaw Chuck and Set of Drill Bits. You can use these for drilling out the beginning and ending holes of the string slots for the classical guitar. When you purchase a Brace make sure it is a good one as the cheap ones experience bit slippage and will make a mess of your guitar project.

Cordless Drill Option:

Of course you could use a battery operated drill in lieu of the brace and bit. I do this. I have the DEWALT DC759KA Heavy-Duty 18-Volt Ni-Cad 1/2-Inch Cordless Drill/Driver Kit that I love. It is battery operated, has speed control from 0 to full rpm. The 18 volt drill will cut through anything from the hardest wood to a steel bar.

Post Your Favorite Tool:

Do you have a favorite tool substitute that you like to use in place of a power tool? We have only scratched the surface here with a few power tool substitutions. Please let us know what you use and share the knowledge with others.

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