What Are the Different Types of Luthier Tools?

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  • Written By: Dan Cavallari
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Last Modified Date: 25 October 2019
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Luthiery is the process of building or repairing stringed instruments, including lutes, guitars, and violins. The person who performs such duties is known as a luthier, and he or she will usually be trained how to perform complex tasks related to the building or repairing of such instruments. In order to do so, the luthier will usually use tools that may or may not be specific to the craft. Some tools, such as chisels, can be used for a wide variety of woodworking projects, though other tools, such as fret files, are designed specifically to accommodate luthiery processes.

Since wood is the primary material used in luthiery, many of the luthier tools are woodworking tools similar to those used in other wood projects. Chisels, for example, are designed to remove material from a wooden blank in order to create a shape. Various sizes and shapes of chisels are used in luthiery, as they are in other woodworking projects. Some types of chisels, however, are designed specifically for luthiery projects. A purfling groove maker, for example, is a tool designed to shape edges on guitars or to create purflings on violins or guitars. Purfling is a binding that wraps around the edges of the instrument's body to prevent chipping and cracking.


Other luthier tools include hand planes and various types of guitar-specific jigs. Hand planes are similar to larger hand planes used in other woodworking projects, but hand planes used as luthier tools tend to be small and easily manipulated with the palm of the hand. The cutting blade of the plane is also likely to be curved rather than straight in order to allow the luthier the ability to dig channels or cavities into the body of the instrument. Jigs are basically supports that hold materials in place for cutting or drilling. A headstock jig, for example, will hold a piece of wood in place so the holes for tuning machines can be drilled precisely.

Rasps, saws, shavers, and draw shaves are other tools used to manipulate wood, but since the instruments are likely to feature other materials besides wood, luthier tools have been developed to accommodate such processes. Frets on guitars, for example, are made of metal that must be snipped and then ground and shaped. Fret snips are used to do this cutting, and files are used to shape the frets. Before these frets can be installed, a pull saw is usually used to cut slots in the guitar's neck, and a rubber mallet will be used to position them.


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A rubber mallet? Really?

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