Opinions on setup tools?

Discussion in 'Other Guitar Discussion' started by kerneroptical, Oct 3, 2021.

  1. kerneroptical

    kerneroptical New Member!

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    I'd like to learn more about what tools would be needed, I already have a few items for cleaning and maintaining from Music Nomad so hoping to accent them with ones to help setup guitars.

    After looking at a few articles and poking around at options that go from cheap to expensive, I'd love to hear any feedback on what would be the best bang for the buck. I don't mind paying more for quality, especially to help precision and protection (sharp edges that would cause damage!)... here's some of the ones I'm looking at in order of price:


    https://www.amazon.com/dp/B07WW2XM7Q/?tag=strattalk05-20

    https://www.amazon.com/dp/B07WRWDJHV/?tag=strattalk05-20

    https://www.sweetwater.com/store/detail/MN604--musicnomad-mn604-precision-setup-gauge-6-piece-set

    https://www.stewmac.com/luthier-too...ts/action-adjustment-set-for-electric-guitar/

    https://www.stewmac.com/luthier-tools-and-supplies/stewmac-tool-sets/basic-setup-kit/

    Thanks!
     
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  2. Bob the builder

    Bob the builder Most Honored Senior Member

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    A screwdriver + allen set from my tool box is all I use
     
  3. Triple Jim

    Triple Jim Guy Who Likes to Play Guitar Silver Member

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    Agreed... I rarely need anything other that what Bob said above. If I were trying to see if I have a high or low fret I might want something to serve as a fret rocker. Radius gauges are definitely not needed.
     
  4. Colnago1

    Colnago1 Senior Stratmaster

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    Nut files are sure nice to have. I’ve rarely met a properly factory cut nut. They’re always a bit too high and it’s an impossible job to do without nut files.
     
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  5. ThreeChordWonder

    ThreeChordWonder Senior Stratmaster

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    A set of feeler gauges and a set of Allen Keys, and a small set of small-ish screwdrivers, including a #1 and a #2 Phillips is all you need.

    $20 at AutoZone should cover it.

    Fret rocker? Use a credit card.
     
  6. ajb1965

    ajb1965 Old Enough to Know Better Gold Supporting Member Silver Member

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  7. rolandson

    rolandson Dr. Stratster

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    Depends on what ya wanna do.

    Cut your own nut...good nut files. Uo-Chikyu files are as good as one can find. Same with fret files. But these assume the necessary skills are in place. They aren't cheap. If you buy from stewmac, once you pay for shipping, they really aren't cheap. A set of nut files will run about what it would cost for a luthier to do it. They'll last a lifetime.

    Shop around, the same stuff is available elsewhere at much better prices.

    Feeler and radius gauges? Unnecessary. Easily made. Same with straight edges. A ruler is a straight edge.

    But for the everyday things, a screwdriver is about all one needs
     
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  8. charlie chitlin

    charlie chitlin Senior Stratmaster Silver Member

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    I've done hundreds of set-ups and never found the need for a radius gauge or ruler.
    Granted, I've been a mechanic for a loooong time and can eyeball thousandths of an inch...but it's really not that hard.
    You need allen keys and proper sockets for truss rods, allen keys for Fender saddles, screwdrivers for pickup/pole height, and a set of nut files.
    I'm not a tool nerd...I actually enjoy getting by with a bare minimum of tools...but they have to be right.
    I've tried welding tip cleaners and cutting teeth into feeler gauges, and have come to the conclusion that there is no substitute for a set of proper nut files.
     
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  9. Cerb

    Cerb Anti conformist reformist

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    Yes, screwdriver and allen key. The rest is unnecessary.
     
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  10. Dreamdancer

    Dreamdancer Senior Stratmaster

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    You dont need extra tools for a setup...you might though need extra tools to bring the guitar into position to receive a good set up.....so for example if the frets are uneven or the nut too high then the setup can only go up to a certain point and if you decide to address it yourself then yes at that moment you need to get a couple of more tools for the job.
     
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  11. jvin248

    jvin248 Senior Stratmaster

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    .

    Get a $6 Welding Tip file kit for nut slots, round wire files in different gauges.
    You will only need/want the pro nut slotting files if you are doing dozens of guitars a week, for a home player you'll never spread out the cost enough to make it worthwhile. The pro nut files can actually get you in more trouble if you are not handy at cutting the first few times because they can take so much more off too quickly.

    If you get into fret leveling you can acquire tools cheaply there too. Like one of those simulated granite door thresholds from the hardware store. Sandpaper on a spool.
    Look for the Ron Kirn 'how to level yer Tele' thread on TDPRI and likely linked on Strat-talk too.

    As far as Radius gauges ... look up the 'Frudua' youtube channel for Strat setups and he'll show you how to use a business card to set the saddle heights and curvature. He has some other good setup videos.

    Daves world of fun stuff channel, if watching a dozen or more setups you'll learn the order of operations.

    Sam Deeks channel has a lot of good information, especially the ones he shows how to use 'the banana leveling system'.

    .
     
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  12. kerneroptical

    kerneroptical New Member!

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    Hey everyone, appreciate all the feedback!

    I've been able to make adjustments with what I have to a point where I think the most glaring problems have been fixed but just didn't know if I was missing some extra secret sauce from all the reviews for these products, sounds like I'm not which is a good thing for my wallet. ;)

    cheers
     
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  13. Thrup'ny Bit

    Thrup'ny Bit Grand Master Curmudgeon

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    If you can stay awake long enough, Sam does ramble on a bit in his three hour set up videos...
     
  14. StratoMutt

    StratoMutt Most Honored Senior Member

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    Guitar string snips make great tools for measuring relief. I find them much easier to use strictly by feel than wide flat automotive feeler gauge which are tricky to use. You are measuring the intersection of two thin perpendicular lines. A thin gauge really works best. For me anyway.

    I have snips ranging from .007" to .012". That is some extra sticky gooey duct tape there.


    IMG1100.jpg
     
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  15. revtime

    revtime Strat-Talker

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    I have cool tools just because I can. I dont need them but are nice to have access to. My friends with guitars appreciate them too.
     
  16. dreamingstrat

    dreamingstrat Strat-Talker

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    I was hoping to learn how to do fret work and nuts this year, but with a 3 yo bub, work and house chores, I just couldnt find the time.

    i wanted to buy some really good tools for fretwork, nut work and some little things here and there. But I also got limited budget. Lololol
     
  17. Lonn

    Lonn Mod Admin Staff Member

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    The most important tool you need for guitar set up is a basic understanding of simple geometry. On my workbench I have a regular set of pliers, wire snippers, wire strippers, various Allen keys, various screwdrivers, metal 12 inch and 18 inch ruler, and a decent soldering gun. I also have a much-needed 10 mm socket for tightening loose tuner nuts. Non tool things I use every time are petroleum jelly to apply at every spot your strings will touch and toothpicks to apply it.
     
  18. ThreeChordWonder

    ThreeChordWonder Senior Stratmaster

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    Good quality, basic tools from an auto parts or DIY store every time.

    Shopping list:

    1. One of those 4 in 1 screwdrivers with #1 and #2 Phillips (cross head) bits ir a decent set of smallish (not watchmaker small, mind) screwdrivers.
    2. A set of imperial Allen keys. The longer, ball ended, ones are best, but a bit more expensive.
    3. A steel ruler, 12, preferably 18 inches long.
    4. A basic metal tape measure.
    5. A digital vernier caliper.
    6. A set of feeler gauges.
    7. A high (80 ish) wattage soldering iron and soldering supplies (63/37 thin rosin cored solder, solder wick or a solder sucker, some tools to hold things while you solder.
    8. A digital multimeter.
    9. A quarter inch drive metric and imperial socket set, sockets up to 12 mm and 1/2 inch.
    10. A set of needle files for shaping fret ends and doing away with fret sprout.
    11. A toolbox with a sturdy padlock.

    That 10mm socket for tuners? Make sure it's a quarter inch drive not a 3/8 or even a 1/2 inch, otherwise you risk over-torquing the nuts. You'll need a 12 mm and or 1/2 inch socket for your output jack and pots too, so you'll save money buying a modest set from one of the auto parts or DIY stores.

    One thing to mention is that feeler gauges often come soaked in oil to stop them rusting. Give them a good wipe down with kitchen towels before you use them.

    Exceptions? The notched straight edges for checking neck relief are a godsend and radiused sanding blocks for fret leveling. A fret file can be a worthwhile investment too, but only if needed.
     
  19. Scott Baxendale

    Scott Baxendale Senior Stratmaster Gold Supporting Member

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    Stewmac are experts at selling guys like you a bunch of stuff you don’t need. Be careful and do your research or you will spend some decent money on things you won’t need. A set of their double edged nut files are good, but you only need three. A set of chisels is good but you only need three. Etc. Also, anything that stew mac sells that is a generic tool that is used in other fields can be bought much cheaper from a different supplier, such as screw drivers, dykes, and calipers.
     
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