Ultimate Guitar Repair and Upgrade Tools Guide [2022]

Taking your guitar to a tech or luthier for setup and adjustment is very convenient from a time perspective, but finding a professional who really knows what they’re doing near to your home can sometimes be a challenge. Not only that, but the services of a pro can add up pretty quickly when parts and labor are factored in.

If you’ve got the time, inclination, and patience to have a go at some of the more common guitar repairs and upgrades yourself, not only will you likely save money, but you’ll also get to know your guitar in a way you never thought possible.

In this KillerGuitarRigs Guide, we’ll be walking you through the tools you’ll need to get started in making your own repairs, adjustments and upgrades – Let’s get started!

Tools Needed for Common Guitar Repairs and Upgrades

Refret

Soldering Iron, Fret Nipper/End Cutting Pliers, Precision Ruler, Fret Bending Jig, Fret Slotting Saw, Fretting Hammer, Fret Press, Fret Press Caul,

Fret Leveling

Fret Angle File, Fret Rocker, Fret Leveling Beam, Fret Bevel File, Fret Dressing File, Fret Eraser

Nut Replacement

Replacement Nut, Nut Lube, Needle Nose Pliers, Precision Hacksaw, Superglue

Intonation Adjustment

Clip On Tuner, Precision Screwdriver

Action Adjustment

Allen Key Set, Precision Screwdriver, Flathead Screwdriver

Fretboard Treatment

Guitar Cleaning Solution, Fretboard Oil, Cleaning Cloth, Polishing Cloth

Pickup Swap

Soldering Iron, Solder, Flux, Phillips Head Screwdriver, X-Acto Knife, Wire Cutters/Crimpers


Individual Guitar Repair and Upgrade Tool Guide

Soldering Iron

Soldering Iron Kit, 60W Soldering Iron with Interchangeable Iron Tips, 5-in-1 Adjustable Temperature Soldering Welding Iron Kit for any Hobby Enthusiast 110V US Plug

The primary purpose of a soldering iron is to use solder and flux to fuse together 2 metal components in order to make a permanent electrical connection. Because of their high heat, they can also be used to soften glue.

Best Soldering Iron For Guitar: Q-MING Soldering Iron Kit


Fret Nipper/End-Cutting Pliers

StewMac Fret Cutter, Specially Hardened Steel Jaws, Custom Designed for Guitar Fret Work, Profiled & Flush-Ground, Cuts Wire Close, Works on Stainless Steel Frets Too!

Fret nipper and fret end cutting pliers are used to get purchase on, and remove old frets in the prep stage of a refret. Besides removing old frets, they are also used for snipping off the ends of the new frets you’re installing.

Best Fret Nippers/End-Cutting Pliers: Stewmac Fret Cutter


Precision Ruler

Offidea Machinist Ruler 6 Inch, 2 Pack - Rigid Stainless Steel Ruler with Inch/Metric Graduations - 1/64, 1/32, mm and .5 mm - 6 Inch Ruler, Metric Ruler, Metal Rulers 6 inch, Mm Ruler, Metal Ruler

A precision ruler is typically made from metal for durability, and has much smaller incremental measurements than a standard ruler. These small increments allow for greater accuracy when measuring, making it ideal for jobs with tight tolerances where measurements are made in mm and thousandths of inches.

Best precision ruler for guitar: Offidea Machinist’s Rule


Fret Bending Jig 

Jiayouy Black Guitar Fret Bender Fret Wire Bending and Straightening for Guitar Bass Repair Tool - 4.5x1.96Inch

Fret bending jigs are specialist luthier’s tools that are used to bend and shape fret wire. Using a jig will allow frets to be set to a precise radius in order to properly fit the fretboard of the guitar they are to be installed on.

Best Fret Bending Jig: Guyker Fret Bending Jig


Fret Slotting Saw

SUIZAN Japanese Dozuki Dovetail Hand Saw 7 Inch Pull Saw Tenon Saw for Cross-cut, Rip-cut, Slant Cutting

Fret slotting saws are precision tools used for either enlarging fret slots to accommodate bigger frets, or to clear out dried glue from the existing frets after removal. They have short blades and short handles to allow for good control.

Best Fret Slotting Saw: Suizan Japanese Dozuki Hand Saw


Fret Hammer

StewMac Deadblow Fretting Hammer

Fret hammers have precision heads and are usually filled with sand or liquid in order to kill any shock that could otherwise cause damage to your guitar. They have a rubber striking surface to avoid causing damage to the frets or fretboard when hammering them into place.

Best Fret Hammer: StewMac Deadblow Fretting Hammer


Fret Press

Jiayouy Guitar Bass Fingerboard Fret Press Insert Tool + 9Pcs Radian Fret Press Caul Inserts with 2pcs Wooden Soundhole Cauls, Hex Wrench

A fret press is used to evenly distribute pressure onto the new frets to ensure that they are correctly and evenly seated across the width of the fretboard. They come with a range of attachments in different radii, and are designed to avoid leaving pressure indentations on the neck.

Best Fret Press: Jiayouy Fret Press


Fret Press Caul 

Jiayouy Luthier Tools Set Guitar Bass Fret Press Caul Fingerboard Pressing Tool + 9Pcs Brass Radian Fret Inserts with Hex Wrench - Black

A fret press caul is an attachment for your fret press. They come in different radius/fret sizes and need to be selected according to the specifications of your guitar. They are designed to hold the fret in place while operating the press.

Best Fret Press Caul: Jiayouy Fret Press Caul


Fret Crowning File

Baroque Guitar Fret Crowning File, Fret Edge File, Fret End Rounded Tool, Three Radius Slot & One Flat File, Diamond Coating, Multi-Function Guitar Fret Tools

Fret crowning files are specialist tools that are used to reshape the top of the fret after it has been leveled. They typically have multiple sides with different profiles so that you don’t need multiple tools to recrown different guitars.

Best fret Crowning file: Baroque Fret Crowning File


Fret Rocker 

FretGuru String Action Gauge Guitar Ruler Precision 8-in-1 Fret Rocker Luthier Tool guitarist gift #BONUS LEATHER CASE# precise CNC Machined, Diamond Honed, Polished Edge = NO SCRATCHED FRETS

Fret rockers are simple tools that are used to check whether or not frets are level with one another. The appropriate side of the tool is laid across the top of any three frets and “rocked” to check for movement.

Best Fret Rocker: FretGuru Fret Rocker


Fret Leveling Beam

FretGuru 16' Precision Sanding Beam Fret Leveler Leveling File Pro Luthier Guitar Tech Tool includes premium 100, 240, 320 grit peel & stick sandpaper [Available in 8', 10', 16' and 24' Lengths]

Fret leveling beams are large tools designed to simultaneously sand down and level every fret on the neck. They are heavy metal beams that use sandpaper to file down the frets and the paper grit can normally be changed to work from course to fine, leaving a smooth finish.

Best Fret Leveling Beam: FretGuru Precision Fret Leveling Beam


Fret Bevel File

Jiayouy 45/90 Degree Guitar Fret Beveling File Edge Sanding Dressing Luthier Tool Double-Edge Fret Files 150mm Length

Fret bevel files are alternative tools for shaping, or applying a crown, to a fret. In essence, they are Teflon blocks with 2 abrasive file inserts, each at a different angle. They can be used instead of, or in conjunction with crowning files.

Best Fret Bevel File: Jiayouy Fret Bevel File


Fret Dressing File

StewMac Fret End Dressing File - Professional Luthier Tool - Fix Sharp Guitar Fret Ends - For Rounding, Shaping, and Deburring - Works on Stainless Steel Frets Too!

Fret dressing files are specialist tools that are used specifically for filing down fret sprouts and ultimately shaping the edges of the frets to make them more comfortable to play.

Best Fret Dressing File: StewMac Fret End Dressing File


Fret Erasers 

Baroque Grit Fret Eraser Plus for Guitar Fret Polishing Abraisive Rubber Blocks, Mirror Surface Maker, Five Grits in 180 & 400 & 1000 & 1500 & 2000, 5Pcs

Fret erasers are abrasive blocks that loosely resemble the kind of eraser you would find in a stationary set, but the similarities end there. These blocks come in varying grit counts to work from a rough grind to a mirror shine finish on your frets. They are ideal for removing rust during service work.

Best Fret Eraser: Baroque Fret Eraser Set


Hand Files

KALIM 16PCS File Set, Premium Carbon Steel File Set with Carry Case, 8'' Half-round/Flat/Triangle/Square File, Medium Coarse, Ergonomic Grip, with 12Pcs 3mm Needle Files for Wood/Metal/Model/Shaping

Hand files are multipurpose tools that are used for shaving down and shaping almost any material used in luthiery. They come in different shapes and sizes, allowing you to select the most appropriate file for the job in hand.

Best Hand Files: Kalim 16 Piece Hand File Set


Screwdrivers:

JAKEMY Home Rotatable Ratchet Screwdriver Set, 69 in 1 Household Repair Toolkit, Disassemble Magnetic Kit for Furniture/Car/Computer/Electronics Maintenance

Screwdrivers are required for a huge number of guitar repairs and setup tasks. Most guitars use different screws for fitting different components, so having a full set of both Phillips head, flat head, and even Torx drivers is essential.

Best Screwdriver Set: Jakemy Ratchet Screwdriver Set


Strobe tuner

Peterson StroboClip HD Clip-On Tuner | Guitar, Bass, Violin, Ukulele, Harp, Brass, Woodwind, Orchestral Bundle with Blucoil 10' Straight Instrument Cable (1/4'), and 4-Pack of Celluloid Guitar Picks

Strobe tuners are highly accurate tuning devices that can measure pitch to thousandths of cents. Having a strobe tuner is very useful during intonation adjustments to ensure maximum accuracy across the entire fretboard.

Best Strobe Tuner: Peterson Stroboclip HD


Allen Key Set

CRAFTSMAN Hex Key Set, 14-Key, T-Handle (CMHT26001)

Allen keys are hexagonal tools that are typically sold in sets. Sometimes they are all attached to a frame, in other cases they are individual keys in a set. For guitar maintenance it’s advisable to buy the separates as it’s easier to reach tight spots with them. They’re available in metric or imperial measurements.

Best Allen Key Set: Craftsman Hex Key Set


String Action Ruler

Forever-Direct String Action Gauge Ruler, Guitar Set Up Tool Kit for Electric Bass and Acoustic Guitar

A string action ruler is a specialist measuring device used to calculate the distance from the bottom of the strings to the fretboard. Some will have metric measurements while others will have imperial.

Best String Action Ruler: Baroque String Action Ruler


Fretboard Oil

Jim Dunlop 6554 Dunlop Ultimate Lemon Oil, 4 oz. & Dunlop 654 Formula 65 Guitar Polish & Cleaner 4oz.

Fretboard oil is used for nourishing and moisturizing the wood of your fretboard to prevent it from drying out. There are a number of different oils available, including some natural, and some petroleum based. Lemon oil is another popular choice, although it isn’t actually lemon oil, but rather a mineral oil with lemon scent.

Best Fretboard Oil: Dunlop Formula 65 Lemon Oil and Cleaner


String winder

ROADIE 2 | Smart Automatic Guitar Tuner & String Winder | For Electric Guitars, Acoustic Guitars, 12-String Guitars, Ukulele, Banjo, Mandolin | 40+ Alternate Tunings | USB Rechargeable

A string winder is a simple tool designed to increase the speed at which you can turn the tuning heads on a guitar, allowing you to slacken, or tighten, strings much faster than you otherwise could by hand. They’re very handy for string changes and even just tuning when you’re trying to save a bit of time

Best String Winder: Roadie 2 Automatic String Winder


Neck support

MusicNomad Cradle Cube String Instrument Neck Support (MN206)

A neck support can either be a shaped pillow or a small tripod. In either case, the purpose of a neck support is to position your guitar correctly and to safely stabilize it as you perform your maintenance or repairs. A good neck support with have a soft touch surface so as to prevent scratching the guitar’s finish.

Best Neck Support: MusicNomad Cradle Cube


Maintenance Pad 

MusicNomad MN208 Premium Instrument Work Mat, 17' x 36'

A maintenance pad, or mat, is a great way to protect your guitar’s finish when you’re performing maintenance. Especially when you don’t have access to a permanent work bench, a mat can be laid out on top of any table, or even the floor, and provide you with a sturdy, yet forgiving workspace.

Best Maintenance Pad: MusicNomad Premium Instrument Work Mat


Notched straightedge

iLuiz Guitar Neck Notched Straight Edge Luthiers Tool for Gibson Fender and Most of Guitar Fretboard and Frets

A notched straight edge is a tool that is designed to measure how straight (or bowed) the neck is. As the name suggests, these rules have pre cut notches in order to fit properly over the frets and get the best possible measurement of the neck’s relief (or lack thereof).

Best Notched Straight Edge: iLuiz Notched Straight Edge


Contact cleaner

Hosa D5S-6 CAIG DeoxIT 5% Spray Contact Cleaner, 5 oz.

Contact cleaner is a solution that can be safely applied to electronic components like pickup selector switches and potentiometers in order to remove any dirt or debris that may be causing poor performance or even total failure of the parts.

Best contact cleaner for guitars: Deoxit Contact Cleaner


Radius Gauge 

Dreamtop Set of 9 Guitar Radius Gauge Understring Radius Gauge String Gauges Luthier Tools for Guitar and Bass Setup

A radius gauge is placed over the surface of the fretboard in order to measure the radius, or curvature. These tools usually come as a set designed to measure a wide range of radii, which is useful if you’ve acquired a guitar with unknown specs.

Best Radius Gauge: Dreamtop 9 Piece Radius Gauge Set


Radius Sanding Block

StewMac 4'-Length Wooden Radius Sanding Blocks - Set of 5 Essential Radii (7.25', 9.5', 10', 12', 16')

A radius sanding block is a pre shaped block that conforms to the desired radius you’re looking to achieve. They are normally made from wood or aluminum, and require that you place disposable sandpaper sheets on them before use. Having a set of multiple sizes makes it simple to adjust a compound radius, or to make spot adjustments where necessary.

Best Radius Sanding Block: StewMac 4” Radius Sanding Blocks


Feeler Gauge Set

Stainless Steel Feeler Gauge Universal Standard SAE and Metric Offset Valve Thickness Gauge 32-Piece Blade Tool for Measuring Gap Width/Thickness

A feeler gauge set is used to measure small distances that even a precision ruler can’t manage. Each gauge is a known thickness, so, rather than attempt to read a measurement off a scale, the feeler gauge is inserted into the gap. If there is still space between the 2 sides of the gap you’re measuring, try larger gauges until the gap is filled, and this is the measurement.

Best Feeler Gauge Set: Handook Stainless Steel Feeler Gauge Set


Luthier’s Tool Set

MIFOGE 45Pcs Guitar Repairing Maintenance Tool Kit with Carry Bag Large Care Set of Tools For Acoustic Guitar Electric guitar Ukulele Bass Banjo,Perfect Gift for Music or String Instrument Enthusiast

A luthier’s tool set combines the most commonly used of the other tools discussed in this guide in one handy set, negating the need to purchase each tool individually. The set can be added to with individual pieces as you find a need to own them.

Best Luthier’s Tool Set – MIFOGE 45 Piece Guitar Maintenance and Repair Set


Final Thoughts on Tools for Upgrades and Repairs

We hope you’ve found this guide to the best tools and upgrades useful. One of the most exciting things about performing your own upgrades and repairs is realizing that the possibilities are almost limitless when you have the right equipment, and knowhow, to take on these tasks yourself.

Simon Morgan

Simon is an Orlando based musician, but originally hails from Newcastle, England. He started playing bass and guitar in 1998, and and played the local scene throughout his teen years before life got in the way. Favorite Genres: Blues, Classic Rock, and he’s not ashamed to admit - Emo

Simon Morgan has 109 posts and counting. See all posts by Simon Morgan