CTotD: Knipex 64-11-115 Flush-Cutting End Nippers


What can I say? I use these little guys for basically only one thing: carefully prying frets out of a fingerboard for a refret. That’s it. As a general rule, I dislike tools that do one thing and one thing only, but gosh darn it, it just does it so well! It was a challenge finding a set of nice pliers with actual flush faces – most have a bevel on the flat side to give the cutting edge more durability. Since I’m not using these for cutting anything, only gentle leveraging of fretwire, I would much rather have nippers that are truly flush so I can more-easily squeeze them under the wire. In any case, the jaws are supposedly super hard – tough enough to actually trim newly installed fretwire flush to the side of the neck – but i’ve got a big beater set of end-nippers for that job. I don’t want to risk harming my pretty little baby pliers! Yes, Stew-Mac sells a set for cheaper, but they’re ugly and the fit-and-finish is terrible. And because they’re marketed as super fancy *Luthiers* fret removal pliers, they get away with selling a $5 tool for $31. I think my set cost me $40, and are worth every penny.

Side note for penny-pinching luthiers – don’t go buy a cheap hardware store set of end nippers and try to grind the faces flush yourself. I done been down that road. Trying to grind the faces perfectly flush and flat without heating up the teeny, tiny edges too much so as to lose their temper is almost impossible to do by hand.

Fluke 87V Multimeter

20170728_113510First of all, this is the single most expensive tool that I own. (Thanks, Dad, for the early Christmas present!). Hence, the first thing I did when I got it was scribe my name into it with an engraving tool. This is Ted’s. Please do not touch it or steal it.

So, what does a multimeter do? It measures multiple things having to do with electricity. Most multimeters can measure volts (electrical force) and ohms (electrical resistance). Many can also measure amperes (how fast electricity flows through a circuit.) Most multimeters can measure these things in circuits that contain direct current (like circuits powered by a battery) but some can also measure these values in circuits that contain alternating current (like circuits powered from a wall socket.) On top of these measurements, various multimeters will measure a few other values, like capacitance or temperature. As you might have guessed, the Fluke 87V can measure all of these things with great precision and accuracy, plus a smattering more.

In general, I’m not a big fan of multi-tools. A hammer that is also a screwdriver is probably a very ineffective hammer and a very frustrating screwdriver. Electricity is a different beast altogether, since the different aspects of electricity are very closely related. Volts, ohms, and amperes are all directly or inversely related to each other. Therefore, we can use just one tool to figure out all three things, using some behind-the-scenes math and careful circuit design. The net result is that THIS ONE TOOL can basically troubleshoot 99% of all electrical problems. It’s as if a doctor’s stethoscope could also take x-rays and measure temperature and do blood work. Multimeters are awesome.

The Fluke 87V costs about $400. You can buy a multimeter from Walmart for $10. What makes one multimeter cheap and crappy, and another expensive and awesome? A few very important things. The most important reason, to me anyways, is safety. I work on vacuum tube amplifiers, which can contain some relatively high voltages (400 Volts is pretty common). These high voltages have and can and will make cheap multimeters explode. In your hand. Or catch fire. This is bad. Expensive multimeters have big, fat, non-explody safety fuses in them to prevent this from happening.

The second different characteristic is precision. I won’t get into this much because it’s boring. It’s enough just to say that in the world of electricity, the difference between a few millionths of an ampere of current going where it isn’t supposed to can be the difference between something working or not working. It’s good to be able to measure these little electrical characteristics with a great deal of precision and accuracy.

Finally, there is reliability. Your $10 Walmart multimeter is designed to break and break fast. You test a few batteries, whatever, get a couple of years out of it, and then throw it away and buy a new one. The Fluke 87V is built like a tank that is made out of brick shit-houses. It has a lifetime warranty.

Ok, all that to say that I love this pretty guy. It makes me happy when I get to use it. I may have given it a little kiss when nobody was looking.

Microfiber Glass-Cleaning Cloth


I probably use this tool more than any other. Every guitar repair starts and ends with cleaning. As such, I’ve tried about twenty different cloths and paper towels on guitar finishes, and this works the best. Beware, though – not all microfiber cloths are created equal. There’s some with a suede finish that you get with eyeglasses or with your new cell phone – these work OK for awhile, but load up with soil too quickly for my liking. The other common microfiber cloths you see have lots of little tufts of fiber, like a bath towel. These, even┬áthe ones marketed as “Guitar Cleaning Cloths,” are universally terrible at cleaning guitars – they smudge the dirt around, and the tufts leave little grease line patterns on the finish. You’re looking for a microfiber cloth with the fibers tightly woven in a herringbone pattern. These are usually sold as glass or windshield cleaning cloths. I’ve only been able to find them in auto parts stores in person, but they’re also available online.