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Recommendations for quality tools for guitar and electronic repair/general use?

Zerimas

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#1
"A poor craftsman blames his tools" or so the saying goes. Well I am a poor craftsman. I am generally fairly clumsy and my hands are shaky (probably a side-effect of some medication), but I need to repair stuff (no one is going to do it for me). I do a lot of guitar "maintenance" (if you want to call it that), and I feel like some better tools would offset my genera ineptitude. I mean the tools in the world won't magically make me more competent, but I think I'll have a somewhat easier time messing up whatever it is I am attempting to do. Everyone on this forum seems pretty handy so I figured I'd ask for some recommendations with respect tools. What are all y'all using to accomplish your various feats of technical wizardry?

I am looking for the following items:

Soldering iron/thing of some sort: I am awful at soldering. Just terrible. I am super clumsy too. I need to do some research about how to not be an idiot, obviously. I however feel like the cheap-o, unknown brand of soldering iron I have doesn't make my life easier. The Hakko FX-888D seems to be the one that most people recommend. It seems pretty hardcore for the amount of soldering that I do (not a whole lot), but I don't know. Are cordless soldering irons generally worthless (I am guessing the answer is probably "yes"). I feel like batteries have gotten fairly awesome and quite accessible in the last few years. I vape and my mod—the thing provides electricity to the coils so you can vaporize that delicious propylene glycol/vegetable glycerin liquid with that sweet, sweet nicotine in it—is powered by 18650s. They can generate quite a few watts and draw a surprising amount of current. Don't worry, I always make sure to buy authentic batteries that are rated for the amount of continuous current draw necessary for the application (LG HG2, which are rated for 20A continuous discharge). I also use a "regulated" mod. Some people use a "mech" mod, which is basically a metal tube that you stick the battery in. There is no controlling the voltage/wattage and the rate of discharge is determined by the battery's voltage and the resistance of the coil. Needless to say, these things can blow up if you do something wrong. I don't use these.

Drivers: Phillips, hex (metric and SAE): I had a set of these Wera Kraftform drivers that I quite liked. However, someone touched my stuff and lost the #0 Phillips and my life has been garbage since then. I need hex head drivers all the time for adjusting my guitars. I basically need every size from 1.5mm to 4mm. I might be OK with what I have. The Kahler tremolo uses SAE hex screws in a bunch of different sizes and it annoys me to no end. I think it uses .050", 1/16", 5/64", 3/32" (I always end up needing at least 2 or 3 sizes every time I touch the thing). Also, non-metric units confuse me.

Pliers (needle-nose, soft jaw?): I don't own enough pliers. Please recommend some non-garbage ones. Also, are soft jaw pliers a thing? I frequently need more grip/torque than my pathetic hands alone can apply, but the metal jaws of pliers will destroy whatever object I am trying to fix (but realistically I'll probably break it anyway). I was thinking about putting some medical tubing over top of regular needle nose pliers, but I think a non-corporeal/incorporeal (but still malicious) entity came into my home and absconded with all my pliers. I have a set of spark plug terminal pliers and they come in handy all the time. However, they are not ideally shaped for every task I encounter.

Calipers (or some other device for measuring small-ish stuff): I just don't have the tools to measure anything accurately. So give me your suggestions.

I usually buy stuff from Lee Valley Tools because I live in Canada and they sell some decent stuff, but I figured I should avail myself of this site's knowledgeable (and friendly!) userbase.

I'm not really a knowledgeable dude. However, if you do need some recommendations on knives and sharpening equipment feel to hit me up. Actually I might make a post about that anyways since everyone here seems pretty multifaceted and handy (someone might be interested in it). I don't know what forum to put it in. I am not even sure this is the right forum for this post.
 

NTK

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#2
Knipex is my favorite brand for pliers (sorry, no soft jaw) and diagonal cutters. They are certainly expensive, but you get real value for your money.
https://canada.newark.com/c/tools-production-supplies/tools-hand-workholding?brand=knipex

Hakko FX-888D is a very good choice. I recommend getting a "third hand" and/or a soldering vise which can make life much easier.
https://canada.newark.com/c/tools-production-supplies/tools-hand-workholding?brand=panavise
https://www.amazon.ca/QuadHands-Wor...GW0NXPG9QSN&psc=1&refRID=X95GWK7AMGW0NXPG9QSN
 
Last edited:

RayDunzl

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#3

Zerimas

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#4
Knipex is my favorite brand for pliers (sorry, no soft jaw) and diagonal cutters. They are certainly expensive, but you get real value for your money.
https://canada.newark.com/c/tools-production-supplies/tools-hand-workholding?brand=knipex

Hakko FX-888D is a very good choice. I recommend getting a "third hand" and/or a soldering vise which can make life much easier.
https://canada.newark.com/c/tools-production-supplies/tools-hand-workholding?brand=panavise
https://www.amazon.ca/QuadHands-Wor...GW0NXPG9QSN&psc=1&refRID=X95GWK7AMGW0NXPG9QSN
Those are some reasonably expensive pliers. $40 isn't terrible, but it is fairly spendy for a pair of pliers. Are there detailed specs for these things? It just says "chromium vanadium steel" and "oil hardened and tempered", which is pretty uninformative.
 

NTK

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#5
@Zerimas You can go to Knipex's web site. It doesn't say exactly what type/grade of steel each of their cutters is made of, but they do specify hardness and maximum sizes for hard, medium (e.g. stainless steel) and soft (e.g. copper) wire they are designed to cut.
http://knipex-tools.com/products/knipex/
 
Last edited:

Zerimas

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#6
@Zerimas You can go to Knipex's web site. It doesn't say exactly what type/grade of steel each of their cutters is made of, but they do specify hardness and maximum sizes for hard (e.g. music wire), medium (e.g. stainless steel) and soft (copper) wire they are designed to cut.
http://knipex-tools.com/products/knipex/
Ah. I see. I guess I've spent too much time in the knife world. With respect to knives it isn't unheard for a manufacturer to use an alloy that is inappropriate for the application, or to totally botch the heat treatment. Some companies are notable (I think Bark River Knives may be among them) for employing whatever you might call the metallurgical equivalent of "audio-woo". I am sure Knipex probably knows what they are doing.
 

NTK

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#7
I have a few Wera tools myself and I consider Wera and Knipex tools to be equal in quality.

I just re-read the Knipex website, and I realize that only a few of the Knipex cutters are rated to cut piano (music, super-hard) wires. It seems a cutting edge hardness of minimum 64 HRC (Rockwell C) is required to cut piano wires. Below is a chart of what their wire symbols mean.
wire symbols.JPG

I don't want to mislead you with my error. I have updated my previous post. I apologize.
 
Last edited:

Blumlein 88

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#8
I like these for flat screw drivers. These are tough, if you have the self discipline not to use the leverage of a large handle to rip things lose, they also allow a fine feel of what you are doing. The shape is better for staying in the head of the screw being hollow ground which keeps you from mangling the top of the screw head.

https://www.amazon.com/Grace-USA-Screwdriver-Gunsmithing-Screwdrivers/dp/B0030HL5O0
 
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#9
I am even more of a tool addict than an audio addict. For the last thirty or so years my favorite screwdriver sets come from Wiha of germany
Willi Hahn) They are hardened and show no wear. I use them on optical equipment.

I have used Hakko gear but if I am the one paying I buy Weller which I have a large collection of.

For pliers and similar tools I have had for decades Xcelite sets from Cooper tools. One nice thing about that is that they have a lifetime warranty.
I broke a needle nose plier and they just sent me another on. Didn't have to dig up a twenty year old receipt nor anything else.

There are a lot of good options for pliers. Utica, Klein and Cooper/Xcelite are usa makes. There are lots of european ones too. So called jeweler's style pliers come from Sweden a lot or at least used to. (from the town of Eskiltuna)
I do have more Knipex pliers than I care to admit. They do have a set of parallel jaw ones intended for plumbers to use on plated fancy plumbing fixtures.

For calipers it just depends how much money you care to spend. I have seen several "reviews" where they compared cheap ones (and they have gone down to essentially free) to better quality ones and they cheapies are never more than one thousandth off. that is close enough for most uses.
If you actually are fitting things more carefully than get a name brand. Starrett, Brown and Sharpe, Mitutoyo are the best. Then General and Fowler.
Finally no names. Mahr from chermany is good too.

Pliers in wide range of prices
 
Last edited:

BDWoody

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#10
"A poor craftsman blames his tools" or so the saying goes. Well I am a poor craftsman. I am generally fairly clumsy and my hands are shaky (probably a side-effect of some medication), but I need to repair stuff (no one is going to do it for me). I do a lot of guitar "maintenance" (if you want to call it that), and I feel like some better tools would offset my genera ineptitude. I mean the tools in the world won't magically make me more competent, but I think I'll have a somewhat easier time messing up whatever it is I am attempting to do. Everyone on this forum seems pretty handy so I figured I'd ask for some recommendations with respect tools. What are all y'all using to accomplish your various feats of technical wizardry?

I am looking for the following items:

Soldering iron/thing of some sort: I am awful at soldering. Just terrible. I am super clumsy too. I need to do some research about how to not be an idiot, obviously. I however feel like the cheap-o, unknown brand of soldering iron I have doesn't make my life easier. The Hakko FX-888D seems to be the one that most people recommend. It seems pretty hardcore for the amount of soldering that I do (not a whole lot), but I don't know. Are cordless soldering irons generally worthless (I am guessing the answer is probably "yes"). I feel like batteries have gotten fairly awesome and quite accessible in the last few years. I vape and my mod—the thing provides electricity to the coils so you can vaporize that delicious propylene glycol/vegetable glycerin liquid with that sweet, sweet nicotine in it—is powered by 18650s. They can generate quite a few watts and draw a surprising amount of current. Don't worry, I always make sure to buy authentic batteries that are rated for the amount of continuous current draw necessary for the application (LG HG2, which are rated for 20A continuous discharge). I also use a "regulated" mod. Some people use a "mech" mod, which is basically a metal tube that you stick the battery in. There is no controlling the voltage/wattage and the rate of discharge is determined by the battery's voltage and the resistance of the coil. Needless to say, these things can blow up if you do something wrong. I don't use these.

Drivers: Phillips, hex (metric and SAE): I had a set of these Wera Kraftform drivers that I quite liked. However, someone touched my stuff and lost the #0 Phillips and my life has been garbage since then. I need hex head drivers all the time for adjusting my guitars. I basically need every size from 1.5mm to 4mm. I might be OK with what I have. The Kahler tremolo uses SAE hex screws in a bunch of different sizes and it annoys me to no end. I think it uses .050", 1/16", 5/64", 3/32" (I always end up needing at least 2 or 3 sizes every time I touch the thing). Also, non-metric units confuse me.

Pliers (needle-nose, soft jaw?): I don't own enough pliers. Please recommend some non-garbage ones. Also, are soft jaw pliers a thing? I frequently need more grip/torque than my pathetic hands alone can apply, but the metal jaws of pliers will destroy whatever object I am trying to fix (but realistically I'll probably break it anyway). I was thinking about putting some medical tubing over top of regular needle nose pliers, but I think a non-corporeal/incorporeal (but still malicious) entity came into my home and absconded with all my pliers. I have a set of spark plug terminal pliers and they come in handy all the time. However, they are not ideally shaped for every task I encounter.

Calipers (or some other device for measuring small-ish stuff): I just don't have the tools to measure anything accurately. So give me your suggestions.

I usually buy stuff from Lee Valley Tools because I live in Canada and they sell some decent stuff, but I figured I should avail myself of this site's knowledgeable (and friendly!) userbase.

I'm not really a knowledgeable dude. However, if you do need some recommendations on knives and sharpening equipment feel to hit me up. Actually I might make a post about that anyways since everyone here seems pretty multifaceted and handy (someone might be interested in it). I don't know what forum to put it in. I am not even sure this is the right forum for this post.
I'd vote for Knipex as well. I hate working with crap tools. It just feels...wrong.
 

mansr

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#11
Soldering iron/thing of some sort:
I have no complaints regarding my Weller station, a WT1 power unit and WTP90 iron.

Drivers: Phillips, hex (metric and SAE): I had a set of these Wera Kraftform drivers that I quite liked.
Wera is good. I have some myself.

Pliers (needle-nose, soft jaw?): I don't own enough pliers.
I second the Knipex recommendations. Bahco is another good brand. I also have a few Xcelite pliers, but I don't like them as much.

Calipers (or some other device for measuring small-ish stuff):
Mitutoyo is highly regarded. Their basic models are affordable enough that there's no reason to buy cheap crap.
 

JJB70

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#12
For pliers I like Lindstrom (I also have a set of Sibille tools for bigger work and live working from my days of doing real work). For measurement all my stuff is Mitutoyo, these days you can get decent digital callipers for not a lot which are easier to use then traditional Vernier types.
 
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#13
Lindstrom are the pliers from Eskiltuna Sweden but I couldn't remember the name.:rolleyes:
It is always nice to have some cheap calipers around for measuring dirty rusty things that you don't want to touch your "good" calipers.
 
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#14
This may be a bit off topic, since you didn't ask....but...wire strippers/cutters.
There's only one choice for me - Paladin.
I first came across these when I worked in the HE Physics lab building drift chambers as a student...they were the only strippers what actually worked on 30awg Kynar wire. (Drift chambers - think many many baby grand pianos, but with 3x as many wiars, and each chamber about 1" thick each).
Will also strip up to 18-16ga (rated higher, I think? Ah, 10awg it sez...), though there are beefier tools for that stuff.
Since then I introduced them to several different electronics assembly operations, where they became standard mfg tools, replacing several other strippers they had favored before....that company must have bought hundreds of them.
They are screechingly expensive, but the pair I bought in the 70s still work fine, and after a few years watching for them on fleabay I managed to snag one each of the large and mini versions for like $15 ea, and both looked unused!
There appear to be 'ripoff' versions out there now, and 'ownership' of Paladin has changed over the years, but these sure look the same.
https://www.techtoolsupply.com/Paladin-Stripax-Universal-Wire-Stripper-10-28-AWG-p/1113.htm
Happy Tooling!
 

Zerimas

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#15
Oh
This may be a bit off topic, since you didn't ask....but...wire strippers/cutters.
There's only one choice for me - Paladin.
I first came across these when I worked in the HE Physics lab building drift chambers as a student...they were the only strippers what actually worked on 30awg Kynar wire. (Drift chambers - think many many baby grand pianos, but with 3x as many wiars, and each chamber about 1" thick each).
Will also strip up to 18-16ga (rated higher, I think? Ah, 10awg it sez...), though there are beefier tools for that stuff.
Since then I introduced them to several different electronics assembly operations, where they became standard mfg tools, replacing several other strippers they had favored before....that company must have bought hundreds of them.
They are screechingly expensive, but the pair I bought in the 70s still work fine, and after a few years watching for them on fleabay I managed to snag one each of the large and mini versions for like $15 ea, and both looked unused!
There appear to be 'ripoff' versions out there now, and 'ownership' of Paladin has changed over the years, but these sure look the same.
https://www.techtoolsupply.com/Paladin-Stripax-Universal-Wire-Stripper-10-28-AWG-p/1113.htm
Happy Tooling!
Oh man. I do actually need a some wire strippers. I just totally forgot to ask about them.
 

mansr

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#16
Oh man. I do actually need a some wire strippers. I just totally forgot to ask about them.
For the thinner gauges, I have one of these:


It's not as convenient as the Paladin mentioned above, but it does what it's supposed to do without being stupidly expensive. There are cheaper strippers that look similar to the Paladin, but they never work, either cutting the wire or failing to actually strip the insulation. Other similarly expensive brands are probably just as good.
 
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