Some of my favorites. . .
Stock Tools
© Frank Ford; Photos by FF

Mini 4-1/2" Quick Grip Clamps (Regular woodworker tool sources)

I'd seen these things in the hardware store and in catalogs, but it wasn't until a local luthier, Colin Kaminsky, said "Forget the regular ones, get the mini size. You'll throw your spool clamps away." Well I didn't throw my spools away, but I don't use 'em much any more!

These tiny wonders are GREAT! A bit pricey, maybe, but I can DO stuff with them. Easy one-hand operation makes them priceless for tricky side crack clamping. I have one hand free to align parts, and I can move FAST to clamp long cracks or even an entire mandolin back with hide glue. The yellow pads don't mar the surface or stick to the glue.

If they were only a teeny bit longer. . . There's a little stop on the bar that you have to remove in order to span the side of a dreadnought, but they will make it.

Of course, there's no law against modifying these tools. Here, I've replaced the bar with a really long one, so I can span the face of a dreadnought:

I took off the yellow pads and glued on some shoe leather pads that won't slip on curved surfaces. Only problem was that I had to file the corners off the length of the bar so the clamp would slide on. Even with this long thin steel bar, the clamp is surprisingly useful.

Now appearing at your local garage sale, it's

A Simple Hand Drill

Just pick up one of these simple tools at a garage sale or junk shop for a couple of bucks. You could even buy a new one. Chuck up a countersink, tightened it really hard with pliers and leave it there. You now have a tool that is always very close at hand and quick to countersink bridge pin holes:

Chances are, you'll never need to change bits. I've been using the same multi-flute countersink in this hand drill for over 15 years, and see no reason to make a change; one quick crank and the hole is perfectly chamfered every time.

Over the years, I've acquired a few small hand drills like this one, including some really small really cheapo models. I have my
other ones permanently chucked with the little drill bits I use for the most common screws like tuner mounting screws and strap button screws. Even the worst of them works just fine for these little dedicated jobs.

3/4" Chisels

Here's my collection of 3/4" chisels. They're a medium quality, and cost $11.00 each, if memory serves. I find the 3/4" size is really handy for a lot of jobs, so I keep three of them in the drawer. That way I can be reasonably sure I'll have one that's really sharp, and one that I can chip away yucky hard glue, etc.

I really like chisels of this grade because I'll frequently make a curving cut that seems to break down the edge of the more exotic chisels. These guys are fairly quick and easy to sharpen, too.

Check out the fourth chisel on the right. I've sharpened it to an incredibly acute cutting angle with no secondary bevel. This thing is amazingly delicate, and I can slice the end grain without the slightest finish chip when I'm trimming a neck for resetting. I painted the end of the handle so I don't grab it by mistake when I'm doing a rough job. This one would never make it cutting ebony!



Back to Index Page