Are you looking for a do-it-all guitar tool kit that can handle the setup, repair and adjustment related needs of your instrument? Or do you just need a few tools for minor tweaks here and there?
While it makes sense to pay a tech for major repairs, a guitar tool kit is the most inexpensive and convenient way to make minor adjustments. In the long run, this will save you a lot of time and money.
Plus if you’re feeling more adventurous, premium kits have most everything you need to address almost every issue short of a cracked neck.
There are a huge range of toolkits from every recognizable brand on the market. To help with this, we’ve narrowed it down to a few key contenders. We’ve completed a rigorous survey of all the guitar setup and maintenance tool kits and shortlisted the best options in 2020. Now all you need to do is pick one that suits your budget and needs.
Our Top 3 Picks for the Best Guitar Toolkit:
Our top recommendation is the Ernie Ball Musician’s Tool Kit – an all-in-one guitar maintenance and setup kit for intermediate to professional guitar players. It is a modestly priced product that offers a good cost-to-value ratio.
Senrob Guitar 26-piece Tool Kit is our Best Budget Pick – this relatively obscure brand offers twenty-six practical and useful tools with a storage case that can cover all the basics. Everything works just the way it is advertised, and the quality and durability of the components is great for the price.
Last but not the least, the Fender Custom Shop Guitar Tools and the Ibanez MTZ11 Quick Access Multi Tool gets the title of KGR Editor’s Choice. Fender offers the best kit with premium quality tools that can serve any serious guitarist well. Additionally, we also recommended owning a multi-tool kit like the Ibanez MTZ11 that can be used for all kinds of prompt handy work. It is tiny enough to fit into your pocket and can be a lifesaver at gigs when you need a quick tightening of nuts and bolts. We think it is essential to own both, one for your home and the other to carry around in your gigbag or pocket for emergencies.
Tool Kit Reviews
As you can see, the Ernie ball kit covers all the basics and offers a wide variety of hex wrenches (allen keys). This covers every imaginable allen bolt strew across your guitar. The ball profile of the arm of the allen keys has good rotation but the thinnest ones need to be handled carefully to avoid bending. The ruler is accurate which isn’t always the case in cheaper units.
The screwdriver has two sizes of Phillips heads and a flat head. The microfiber cloth, screwdriver, and cutters are top quality. The case is also reasonably well built and won’t cause any issues. There is sufficient room to add a few other essentials like spare picks, acoustic-guitar string pegs, guitar polish, and other cleaning accessories.
On the whole, this is a good kit for the price, but the all-plastic peg winder does feel rickety and frail. The wonder wipes are a thoughtful addition but the packaging doesn’t say what ingredients are used. I wouldn’t use something I can’t trust on the finish of an expensive guitar. You can swap them out with a spare set of strings.
Verdict: The Ernie Ball Musician’s Tool Kit is an all-in-one guitar maintenance kit in a durable carry case. The quality to cost ratio is high and it has all the essentials neatly organized for you to store in your guitar case. It is our Top Pick for this segment.
From changing strings to setting intonation to adjusting action, this 26-piece tool kit offers a perfect package to keep at hand while touring or traveling. It costs half as much as the Ernie Ball product but offers significantly more options. It is ideal for guitarists who want to cover the basics but this is not a tool kit for serious luthiers.
The addition of the acoustic guitar bridge pegs, guitar picks, and a pick pouch keychain adds more value to the kit. The storage pouch is sturdy and reliable. Once again, the kit has a molded plastic string winder. These aren’t as sturdy as other options but they get the job done. The three files are decent but they will only be useful for minor adjustments or light filing.
The string-cutter and adjustable screwdriver, on the other hand, are up to the mark. The length of the screwdriver can be modified and the head can be exchanged as and when required. The string rule is pretty standard and the string action ruler (Fritz Ruler) will come in handy when you want to setup the height, action and intonation.
Verdict: At under $15, Senrob’s Guitar Tool Kit is a fitting solution to cover all the essential aspects of guitar maintenance and setup. These aren’t top-shelf tools but they get the job done at a very affordable price. On account of the high value-to-cost ratio, this is our pick for the Best Budget Option.
The problem with many kits is that some of the tools don’t fit certain guitar models well. Keeping that in mind, I would highly recommend this kit if you already own a Fender guitar – ‘cause we’ve tested them to setup a Fender acoustic, a strat and telly without any issues.
This is a generously priced kit with premium quality. The 4-in-1 screwdriver has two Philips heads and a 1/4″ and 2.5mm 2.5 mm slotted head. The 1/2″ nut driver socket is deep and heavy-duty. They only offer 2 Allen keys (1/8” ball end, 3/16” ball end) and 2 Hex drivers (.050″, 1/16″) but you can buy some extra ones from the hardware store and store them in the pouch if need be.
The feeler gauge is comparable to one in the EB Musician’s Tool Kit and it is marked in inches and its metric equivalent. The Fender logo on the products is a nice touch, especially on the pouch. The pouch keeps everything organized and feels durable. This is a professional-grade tool kit for doing setup, adjustments and maintenance.
They don’t offer as many tools as other options but everything they offer is useable and high-quality. They also have more attention to detail than cheaper kits. However, with a little digging, we were able to find similar tool kits at a slightly cheaper price. I guess you can write off the extra $10 if you don’t want the Fender logo on your tools.
Verdict: At $74.99, the Fender Custom Shop Guitar Tool Kit seems intimidating. However, every component of this kit is heavy-duty and reliable. It will outlast your guitar and for that reason, it is a worthy consideration.
In case you want to give up guitar playing to be a full-time luthier…
The Mudder Guitar took kit can be overwhelming to look at if you’ve never owned one of these before. By the time you get through learning the names of half the things in this kit, it makes you respect your luthier a lot more.
It is handy for the basics of cleaning, repairing, and maintaining any kind of stringed instrument. However, you can also use it to change strings, check/adjust intonation, and adjust the action with great precision. Although a 42-piece kit may be heavy-handed for most casual guitar players and hobbyists.
For instance – it has 10 types of files that range from a willow file to a half-round file to a knife file to a flat-tapered file. Lots of variety but they don’t seem like they are going to last too long. The company has gone the economy route and stuck some abrasive material to a slipshod handle, they don’t have the traditional groove indents. Either way, most of us are just going to file them away.
The double-sided black tube has an abrasive cleaning cloth on one end (for cleaning grime off the fingerboard) and it has a lubrication pad on the other end to give a smooth finish to the neck. Additionally, it has the whole gamut of 0.016 – 0.035 nut gauges – this is a hex of a lot of wrenches.
Verdict: If you are a simpleton with basic needs, skip this overkill-in-a-pouch. If want to explore your nerdy side and/or have multiple instruments, this is going to result in hours and hours of diddle-dawdle. It is a cheap kit to try out before you progress to high-quality individual tools.
Top 3 Quick Access Multi-Tool Units
Well, if you are like me, you probably don’t need the whole shebang in a folder. As guitarists, we already have our share of pedals, cables, adapters, speakers, and guitars to lug around. When I am touring or performing, I find that a multi-tool unit is handy and easy to use in the murky backstage or green room lighting.
Unlike a folder-based guitar tool kit (which I prefer to use at home), all the pieces are attached in a multi-tool unit. There is no chance of misplacing a tiny hex wrench and it significantly reduces the work when you just need a quick touch up. For that reason, I decided to throw in 3 recommendations for Quick Access Multi-Tool Units – the Swiss Army Knives of guitar maintenance.
This nifty looking Pocket Ninja is our favorite among this segment.
Welcome to the pocket ninja – a personal favorite that looks amazing and covers all the basics. Can you imagine sitting backstage with a toothpick in your mouth (Tom Hardy style) as you nonchalantly screw in the Floyd Rose tremolo on your cutting-edge metal axe?
First off, this works perfectly well on all Ibanez guitars, even the ones with bridge whammy system with hard to access truss rods. It includes 11 essential guitar setup tools that will work for almost any guitar with a black and red finish option. The attention to detail on the product is what really wins you over.
For instance, the center hole is really useful for getting a good grip on the gorgeous scarlet casing. The wrench sizes (1.5, 2. 2.5, 3) are marked in white on the edge to make it easy for you access them instantly. The addition of the measuring scale is cool but somewhat redundant, as you need a full kit with a neck cradle and other accessories when you attempt proper setup and maintenance. Overall, this is a great multi-tool to have lying around in your guitar case for a quick fix or adjustment.
Verdict: The MTZ11 is easy to use, sturdy, and fits in your pocket. It looks and acts like a high-quality multi-tool which has a lot of well thought of features. Honestly, I would buy this ‘case-candy’ even if I didn’t own a guitar.
The Maintenance Mantis: Another high-value offering from D’Addario.
The PW-GBMT-01 is a 10-in-1 multi-tool that uses US and Metric sizes. It has most of the standard tools you need for guitar and bass maintenance. It is sleek and compact and fits easily in the pock or the front pouch of your gig bag.
The ten S2 steel tools are tiny and shiny. They are easy to remove/insert from the sturdy black steel casing. The unit contains two Phillips screwdrivers, one slotted screwdriver and 7 allen keys (hex) – 3 fractional sizes (0.05, 1/8, 3/16) and 4 metric sizes (1.5mm, 2.5mm, 3mm, 4mm). Although size doesn’t matter, you’ll try them all until something fits anyway.
This can handle all the usual stuff and can be very handy when you want to make small tweaks to hard-access spots like the headstock truss rod nut. The Phillips screwdrivers work on all the nuts and bolts scattered across your guitar, but it is also helpful for unscrewing any panel on your guitar processor or analog pedals.
It has D’Addario embossed on the product so you know the construction and QA is first-rate. However, I did feel some of the thinnest tools need to be handled carefully as they can bend easily. Other than that, the unit is faultless. One could say that it is missing a ruler since others offer it. Though I’ve never found a use for a ruler on the fly, I’ve had band mates who like to measure guitar picks in their free time.
Verdict: Looks good, gets the job done and costs $12.50 – it wouldn’t hurt to have one of these permanently lying in the gigbag front-pouch. If you pair it up with a D’Addario String Winder/Cutter, you’ve got all emergency bases covered.
A pocket-sized tech for all the guitar grooves.
The GrooveTech unit is has a no-nonsense air about it. It has the usual combination of 2 Phillips screwdrivers, 4 metric hex keys and 3 fractional hex keys. However, this one has the ruler (feeler gauge) for string action and intonation as well.
The two smallest allen wrenches can handle the bolts on the string saddles. But the unit is missing a flat-head screwdriver, could that be an oversight? It might struggle with the socket key if you own a Fender Stratocaster. The other alley keys handle bridge and truss rod adjustments really well.
You can tell just by holding it in your hand that this was built to last. Even the chrome-polished pro-grade S2 steel feels marginally stronger than the other products in this list. Sometimes when you use one tool, the others pop out to say hi. While I appreciate such enthusiasm, it can be a little annoying when you are trying to make delicate adjustments.
Overall, it is a good way to keep your hex keys and screwdrivers organized but you ought to check if the sizes are compatible with your guitar model before you make a purchase.
Verdict: Slightly cheaper but you also get what you pay for. It can be a good choice if you have a tremolo bridge and/or regular need a feeler gauge for setup and intonation.
Guitar Setup, Maintenance and Repair Tool Kit – A Buying Guide
As you’ve seen with the list, every product can vary quite a bit in terms of the tools included. Here is a list of the essential items that you need with a brief explanation of their uses.
Hex Wrenches or Allen Keys
Hex wrenches, also known as Allen wrenches/keys, are necessary for many jobs such as adjusting intonation, tremolo bridges and string action. A particular model of the guitar only needs 3 to 5 hex wrenches. Most guitar tool kits have sufficient allen keys but if you are in need of an elaborate set you can get a 26-piece set with ball ends.
A string cutter is really helpful when you want to get rid of old rusty strings and change them. In general, it makes it easy to do a quick string change before or during a gig. Professional guitarists change strings often and prefer not to yank out strings as they can damage the wood. A good plier like the Jim Dunlop System 65 will get the job done. A dedicated string cutter-winder combo can cut tuning time by half and save you the trouble of polishing off the sweaty fingerprints on the chrome on tuning pegs.
Many regular screwdriver sets won’t work for the particular screws and bolts sizes of a guitar. The best guitar tool kits have a variety of tiny, precision screwdriver heads that you can swap out based on your requirement. The tips of a screwdriver should include Phillips bits and flat-heads. You also want something with an easy grip and extender. If you really want to cover all bases you can get a MusicNomad MN228 Set or The MN229 Premium 26pc set.
Tuning and winding a new string is much easier with a dedicated string winder. These tools latch onto the tuning pegs and allow you to wind the pegs quickly. The D’Addario Pro-Winder is the nippiest and most multi-functional unit with an all-in-one clipper, pin-puller and peg-winder.
String Action Gauge
When checking and adjusting string action, it’s very helpful to have a special string action gauge feeler. These small rulers measure the minor distance between the strings and fretboard. They are specially designed to measure the thickness of hard to reach spots. You can get an imperial set with TEMSETL’s Mega-set or Activists Luthier Tools if you are seriously into setup and repair.
Some guitar tool kits include a file made for frets, and a few kits also have guards to protect the fretboard. These files are also helpful for changing nut slot depth. Try to avoid files that have some abrasive material glued onto a metal handle as they won’t last long. A good file has a sturdy handle with indents (grooves) in the metal body.
Neck Pillow or Cradle
Like humans, guitars don’t like any pain in the neck either. Any stress on the neck or fretboard can lead to warping and string action issues. A good neck cradle will eliminate the chances of damaging the neck, scratching the finish and it will provide support and stability during maintenance work. It is a great repair-aid for people who have more than one guitar or are interested in luthier work. I recommend the Donner Neck Pillow or the highly-adjustable Dunlop NC65Neck Cradle for this purpose. The NC65 has a self-aligning cradle that can rotate on an axis to provide stability. It will come in handy when you want to do intricate work on your instrument.
The guitar body should rest on a smooth surface that will not scratch the finish as you setup or service your guitar. This prevents unwarranted scruffs on an instrument that can really deprecate the resale value of a good guitar. I personally recommend an anti-slip work mat designed for musical instruments like the Music Nomad MN208. It improves traction and it is safe for all finishes. You can use a soft cotton cloth and make your own work mat.
Maintenance results in lots of fingerprints, dirt and sweat on your guitar body and neck finish. A plush microfiber cleaning cloth is ideal to preserve the pristine nitro lacquer or satin finish of your instrument. If your tool kit doesn’t have one, you should order a dedicated cleaning/polishing cloth like the Fender Premium Plush or the Planet Waves Polish cloth.
A Final Word
We hope our genuine in-depth reviews will help you find the right guitar setup and maintenance tool kit for your needs. We are a reader-supported website that depends on your pro-active actions to sustain these free guides and resources, so feel free to share this article with your friends.
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