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Finding a suitable dust extractor for a small workshop is not an easy job. On the one hand, you may not want to spend a lot of money, yet on the other hand, what is the price of your health? In the UK the H.S.E. website has lots of great information on controlling dust in a factory environment and with a little care and attention you can bring the same standard of dust control to the small workshop. Wood dust you can see from Routers, planers and sanders is a nuisance and you can mostly protect yourself from this with a simple well fitted face mask. The dangerous wood dust particles are the one’s you can’t see. These can get passed your body’s natural defences and embed themselves deep in the lungs. The long-term irritation can cause anything from minor coughs to tumours. This is where proper dust control is needed.

Dealing With Wood Dust

Finding a suitable dust extractor for a small workshop is not an easy job.  On the one hand, you may not want to spend a lot of money, yet on the other hand, what is the price of your health?

In the UK the H.S.E. website has lots of great information on controlling dust in a factory environment and with a little care and attention you can bring the same standard of dust control to the small workshop.

Wood dust you can see from Routers, planers and sanders is a nuisance and you can mostly protect yourself from this with a simple well fitted face mask.

The dangerous wood dust particles are the one’s you can’t see.  These can get passed your body’s natural defences and embed themselves deep in the lungs.  The long-term irritation can cause anything from minor coughs to tumours.  This is where proper dust control is needed.


It is accepted in the woodworking business that Class M dust control for hardwoods is the required standard.  A Class M dust vacuum cleaner means that <1mg /m3 of air is emitted.  Workplace exposure limits for wood dust is 5 mg/m3 . These are limits placed on the amount of dust in the air, averaged over an eight-hour working day.

Having a properly rated vacuum dust collector is one part of the story.  The second is the placement and design of collection hoods to draw ALL the dust particles produced by a machine or operation.

The HSE has published some great short videos to illustrate how air flows around a vacuum extraction point and how to design and test appropriate “hoods” for your tools and sanding benches.


When I attended the European Guitar Builder’s conference in June 2017, one of the keynote presentations was about controlling dust.  When hand-sanding, for instance, our top guitar builders use both a downdraft sanding bench and a P3 dust mask.  The downdraft benches were simple, shop made items powered by small M Class vacuums.  The P3 dust masks were half face masks with P3 filters to prevent even the smallest dust particles getting through.

The presenter, Jacco Stuitje, asked the question, “What is the most dangerous piece of workshop equipment”?  He then showed a photo of a sweeping brush.  The recommendation is, NEVER use a brush to sweep away wood dust.  This simply throws the most dangerous particles into the air where they remain for days.

Investing in wood dust control is both an investment in your health, and in the comfort and enjoyment when working in your workshop.

Tonetech has sourced a good quality M class  vacuum dust collector and a quality Moldex P3 half face dust mask.  With these you can manage most of the dust hazard in your workshop.  You can add to this with a fine particle filter to remove the smallest of airborne particles.  These units are typically suspended from the ceiling.

7 Sep 2017 09:20:19 By Bill Quinn Comments Technical Corner

Bailey Online Guitar Courses


On-line Guitar Making courses

Mark Bailey, of Bailey guitars, has produced some amazing online courses for people interested in learning more about guitar design and guitar making. 
Mark is a renowned luthier and has delivered guitar making courses to over 400 students from his workshop in Maybole, Scotland.

Design Your Own electric Guitar

His online Design your own Guitar course provides the fundamentals to produce a plan to make your own guitar.  Mark clearly lays out how to draw the plan, and how to ensure all the components fit the anatomy of the guitar.  Even if you never want to build your own guitar, this course gives you a fascinating insight into the world of guitar design.  

Click Here for the Design Your Own Electric Guitar Course


Build your own Electric Guitar

Build your Own Guitar-ONLINE is an amazing, comprehensive tutorial.  Mark takes you through every detail in the making of an electric guitar.  He includes the design course and then takes you step by step through the tools you need (not as many as you think), choosing wood, safety, making jigs and patterns, and all the way through the woodwork bits and on to the hardware and wiring.

In addition to all this, you have access to Mark to get any questions you have about the build answered.  Once you’ve signed up you can ask Mark questions directly or use the online community to help you.

Take me to Mark's Build Your Own Electric Guitar Course


Build Your Own Acoustic Guitar 

If acoustic guitars are more your thing, worry not!  Mark has a Build Your Own Acoustic Guitar-ONLINE course.  It covers design, safety, wood choice, jigs, patterns tips and tricks to help you make a success of your acoustic guitar build.  Mark can also provide a kit of all the wood parts you need, including thicknessed tops and backs, already joined, and radiussed and slotted fingerboards.  These “pre-prepared” parts are probably the ones that cause the home woodworker the most difficulty.

Take me to Mark's Build Your Own Acoustic Guitar Online course

Access All Areas.

If you are bitten by the guitar making bug then Mark's "Access All Areas" package may be the thing for you.  A one off membership sign up fee and a small regular monthly membership fee gets you permanent access to all Marks current and future courses.  Here's what you get.

  • Design Your Own Electric Guitar
  • Build Your Own Guitar
  • Build Your Own Acoustic Guitar
  • All resources for each course
  • 20% off all wood, tools and parts!
  • Secret Sales and Special Deals
  • Direct Access to ask Q’s
  • PLUS – All future courses !

    Get me Access All Areas Click Here


8 May 2017 08:51:00 By Bill Quinn Comments Technical Corner
Rocklite Ebano Binding, How does it Bend?

Here is a video featuring guitar maker, Rory Dowling, showing just how easy it is to bend Rocklite Ebano Binding


14 Apr 2017 10:53:40 By Bill Quinn Comments Technical Corner
String Position Ruler

ToneTech String Position Ruler.

Finding the position for the nut slots on a new nut can be fiddly. With the Tonetech String Position Ruler get accurate string spacing every time.

When Stringing a six string instrument, mark the positions of the low bass and high treble strings on the new nut. 

Place the String Position Ruler across the nut so that there are exactly 10 spaces between the low bass and high treble marks.

The numbers on the ruler are there to help to count the 10 spaces

Now place a pencil mark on the nut in line with  every second space on the ruler.

The numbers appear on only every second mark on the ruler but it is OK to use any of the marks to position the two outer strings exactly.

Tonetech String Position Ruler close up

24 Feb 2016 10:15:00 By Bill Quinn Comments Technical Corner

The Holy Grail Guitar Show Symposium on 30th October 2015

provided some useful insights into the impact of ever tightening controls on guitar makers

The Holy Grail Guitar Show Symposium on 30th October 2015


This is the second year that a symposium has been held as a prelude to the Holy Grail Guitar Show. This year it was clear that one of the general themes was going to revolve around tonewood use.

A presentation on CITES left guitar makers in no doubt that if they are sitting on old stocks of Brazilian Rosewood, and have no proof it was acquired before the regulations came into force, then it cannot be sold. It is the trade in this timber that is prohibited.

The discussion led on to suggest that any tropical materials used in the making of stringed instruments needs to be accompanied by some form of date authentication so that if in the future, the materials are elevated to CITES controls, the instrument owner will have documentation to prove the materials used were acquired prior to CITES control. It is recommended that instrument makers provide their customers with documented proof by detailing the following.

  • Complete information about their instrument making company.
  • Serial Numbers.
  • Year and Month the instrument was built.
  • Details about the material used (scientific names are helpful).
  • Identifying marks.
  • Photographs.
  • Cites conformity declaration. (If the instrument does not contain any parts made out of Cites restricted materials at the time of building).
  • Signature and date.

    The general concensus among the audience was the CITES controls and the number of species covered will only increase. Luthiers will need to provide certification to accompany the guitars sold so that the buyers can demonstrate to the authorities that the timbers used were compliant at the time the instrument was made.
16 Nov 2015 10:29:29 By Bill Quinn Comments Technical Corner

Carbon Fibre Rods for Guitar Neck Stiffening.

The trend towards thinner guitar neck profiles has meant that some additional stiffening may be required. The first attempts to make necks more stable was gluing two or more pieces of wood together, then inserting metal bars, square tube and U profiles, adjustable truss rods and combinations of these. Following this evolution came the appearance of new technical materials and they too found place in instrument building.

Now the carbon rods find their place in luthiery. Light in weight, stiff enough do the job, the necks could be thinner, remaining stable stiff and rigid which is is important for tuning stability, vibration transfer, attack, sustain while allowing comfort playability.

But is using standard, off the shelf, carbon fibre rod the best solution?

 Carbon fibre is available in many variations and the thickness of the fibres, coupled to the stiffness of them and the resins used to bind the fibres, has a bearing on the finished CF rod.

Sever Custom Guitars owner, Davorin Sever, a custom guitar maker since 1978, has experimented with a variety of CF products and now specifies his own carbon fibre construction.

 Sever found that by adjusting the formulation of the fibre and resins / additives the final rods responded differently to sound vibration. By inserting high responsive rods into guitar necks he found improvements in the attack and sustain of the guitar. Standard “modelling” carbon fibre tends to reduce the attack and sustain.

Tone Graphite Rod FlatTone Graphite Rod UOptimising the dimension of the profile also ensures that there is sufficient wood left in the neck below the rod cavity. A practical benefit of using a thicker rod (4mm) is the availability and durability of router cutters. 4mm cutters are 25% stronger than 3mm cutters and cut faster.






Tone Graphite Rods Box SectionIntrigued by the overall response and looking for greater strength, Sever developed the “U” profile Carbon Fibre Rod. Giving great strength across its widest dimension it is ideal for stiffening necks. Sever also discovered that gluing two “U” rods together in the neck channel to form a box section profile provided an air chamber that further enhanced the tone and sustain of the neck.






This experimentation combined with over 30 years guitar making experience has resulted a range of Tone Graphite Rods.

Flat bar dimensions are 8.5mm x 4mm section with lengths of 440 and 580mm

U-Profile dimensions are 4.7 x 12.2mm section with lengths of 440mm and 580mm

The rods have rounded edges so there is no scratching of the wood on insertion which may prevent proper seating in the slot.


Tone Graphite Rods offer a more thoughtful, engineered solution to improving the performance of guitar necks.





30 Oct 2014 00:12:19 By Bill Quinn Comments Technical Corner

Cutting Stainless Steel fret wire.

When looking back at my sales of fret wire over the years it is clear that stainless steel fret wire is becoming more popular. Many guitar makers and techs tell me that installing stainless wire is easier as it seems to bed into the slot well, it doesn't get deformed by over-enthusiastic hammering and there is generally less levelling and recrowning required. While stainless wire can be tough on levelling and crowning files, the diamond coated ones seem to cope well.

There are two areas where the pro users tell me the stainless wire causes problems. Fret cutters and fret tang nippers. Both of these tend to chip when using stainless steel. I've had many conversations with people who bought a well-known American luthier supplier's tang nippers where the jaws shattered. The reason this is happening is the original tool makers designed them to cut tin plate. The Klein Nibbler has been adapted to cut fret tangs but it is only really suitable for Nickel Silver fret wire. The re-ground Knippex cutters normally have a “V” shaped jaw to give it maximum strength. When they are ground flat to remove the “V” the cutting edge of the jaw is weakened and these too can chip.

Chipped Fret Cutter


Even the purpose made fret end cutters from Hosco, which perform well on Nickel Silver and EVO Gold fret wire are prone to damage when cutting Stainless Steel fret wire.

These Fret cutters have seen around 4 years use / abuse.








Tonetech will shortly have a solution to the problems of cutting Stainless Steel fret wire and tangs. A new company in Europe has specially commissioned the design and manufacture of a range of cutters and fret pullers along with other purpose made fretting tools. Tonetech will soon be in possession of a full set of these tools and will bring you detailed descriptions, videos and photos to demonstrate them.

These tools are intended for the professional luthier and instrument repairer and are not cheap. They are, however, long lasting and ergonomically designed to do the job. I'm sure they will also appeal to the keen amateur.

15 Oct 2014 16:24:47 By Bill Quinn Comments Technical Corner

Measuring Fret Wire at Tonetech.

Our two fret wire suppliers, Jescar and Sintoms, supply their wire in coils. Jescar supply 5lb coils and Sintoms 1kg coils. In order to sell fret wire to customers in meaningful quantities we need to convert the weight of the coils into metres.

The number of metres in each coil varies depending on the fret wire crown width and height, and the metal it is made from.

When the coils first arrive I measure the diameter of the coil, count the number of complete circles in the coil and make use of the only piece of geometry mathematics I ever found a use for; ΠxD to get the circumference of a circle. Now I can calculate the length of fretwire in each coil.

When it comes to measuring fret-wire for customer orders I use a couple of circular measuring boards. I constructed one large circular board with a diameter of 636.5mm giving me a circumference of 2.0m I use this one to measure Sintoms wire as their coils are around 12” radius.

Measuring Fret Wire At Tonetech










I have a smaller board for Jescar wire as their coil radius is around 9.5”.

Once I have measured and cut the length required I then have to re-coil the wire to fit our posting box.

Good old Royal Mail have reconfigured their parcel sizes so that the length plus width plus height of the box should not exceed 90cm. Our fretwire boxes are therefore 42cm square and 5cm high.

The fret wire coils are wound into the smaller circular frame and taped in place.

Fret wire Small Coil

When you unpack your fret-wire please take care as it may spring open once you remove the tape.


6 Oct 2014 14:30:43 By Bill Quinn Comments Technical Corner

What tools do you need to make an acoustic guitar

When a customer asked me to put together a tool kit to make an acoustic guitar I thought it would be straightforward.  Most people have some woodworking tools but in this case we were starting from a base point of an electric drill and a few drill bits.

In thinking through the process of making my acoustic and classical guitars I realised just how many general woodworking tools I already had, and how useful they are.

In producing the list for this customer I came up with the following tools and their uses, (in guitar making).

Nut slotting files

Setting the string height / action at the nut.

Nut shaping file

Filing bone nut blanks to shape (unless you buy pre-made nuts)

A set of chisels

for cutting the mortice and tenon for the neck and shaping the bracing

Fret levelling file

Levelling and bevelling the frets. Can also be used to sharpen chisels.

Fret cutters

Nipping the fret wire ends and cutting to  length

Fret crowning file medium

Rounding over the fret tops after levelling

Fret slot saw

Cutting accurate fret slots

Radius sanding block

Radius the fingerboard before fretting.

Fretting hammer

Knocking the frets into the slots

Set of scrapers

Smoothing binding, the neck profile, and cleaning away any dried glue

Some G Clamps  4 of these should be enough with a 6" throat.

 to clamp the end block and neck block to the sides.

A bag of clothes pegs

to clip the kerfing in place while the glue dries. (The wooden ones are best).

A wooden Mallet

to use on the chisels.

A block plane or small hand plane.

Shaping the edge of the sides and levelling the kerfing

A 24" Metal rule

Measuring, setting the bridge position.

A straight edge, 24" 

Setting the neck angle and truing the frets

Spokeshave, flat

Shaping the neck

Spokeshave curved.

Shaping the neck

Tenon Saw.

Cutting the neck timber.

Screw Driver.

Number 1 phillips for the small screws holding the tuners in place.

Small router

Routing the truss rod channel and rosette channel (you could use hand chisels)

Try Square.

Marking out mortice and tenon joint and setting up centrelines on the neck

Coping saw

Shape the headstock

Cam Clamps.

You can make some cam clamps.


For shaping the neck

Something to bend the sides

2 Oct 2014 19:27:04 By Bill Quinn Comments Technical Corner

Sintoms Fret Innovations

Sintoms Fret Profiles

Triangular Frets.

Triangular profile frets have a steep crown angle and a radiused tip of the crown. This gives a much lower contact area between the string and the fret crown. When recording using instruments with a standard fret crown the recording equipment can pick up a “rustling” sound. This is caused by the vibration of the string against the exit curve of the crown. Using triangular frets eliminates this effect.

For guitarists who use glissando (gliding/sliding up the fret board), you may find triangular frets uncomfortable. The gentle curve of a regular fret crown helps this technique.


Asymmetrical Frets.

Simtoms has produced a hybrid fret where the crown on the fingering side is the traditional gentle curve, and the crown on the exit side has the triangular profile. This combines the benefits of the reduced “rustling” of the triangular profile, and the easy of playing glissando. Legato playing is also easier.

Frill Frets

The crown design of Sintom’s Frill Frets is aimed at maximising the mass of the fret crown. Tests made by Sintoms show a more powerful, clear and full sound is achieved on an instrument compared to the use of standard frets.


Equal High Frets.

The objective in the design of equal high frets was to increase the fingering space between the frets close to the sound board, thus allowing the string to be pressed to the fingerboard.

2 Fret Heights are available. 1.08mm high is for folk instruments and 1.4mm high for electric guitars.


26 Aug 2014 11:09:17 By Bill Quinn sintoms, fret, wire, Comments Technical Corner
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