I've been wanting to experiment with custom inlay and refretting work, and I'm wondering what the essential tool kit looks like. I'm somewhat limited by my budget, but the biggest factor is my workspace. Table saws, routers and such are pretty much out of the question due to space and noise restrictions.

I've just found a lightly used Dremel 4000 and matching rotary workstation on Craigslist at a steal. I'm thinking:

-Dremel 4000
-hand saws (pull saw, miter saw/miter box)
-some triangular files, round files
-a good, level aluminum sanding block + a variety of grit paper
-accurate straight edge, calipers, square, level
-clamps and a table vise (to bolt to my ikea desk)
-lots of cheap practice wood and fretboards
-a basic set of chisels and a hobby knife

So, is it possible to teach myself to do a serviceable job with the above equipment? Can I at least get a decent fret level and crown? Am I missing anything essential? Also, is the Dremel at all useful in place of a real router? i.e. can it give me a flat and level inlay rout if I go slow?

Thanks very much for any input you can provide.

edit: just realized I left these out:

-small dead blow hammer
-end nippers (worth getting the stew mac, or just go harbor freight?)
-soldering station (already got this covered)
Last edited by Stickymongoose at Feb 8, 2016,
I used to be friends with this guy and he did all his refretting and so forth in his apartment for customers practically every day as he treated it as a business.

I guess it depends on what time you do it , where you plan to re-fret a guitar as if you're in say the center of an apartment versus say a room where there is a neighbor on the other side.

Than of course how thin the walls of your place are to do with noise pollution and over all how the neighbors are. Mine are nice and I get away with a lot, where as my mother has a friend who is in her late 60s on another floor and if they cough the wrong way she complains. The only thing this guy I mentioned before couldn't do in his apartment was spray wood finishes and sanding finish/paint down. Pretty sure he installed a few evertune bridges in his apartment with all the right tools too so it all depends on your apartment I suppose.
It's a noise issue, not a space issue, nor a tool issue.

Friends of mine built a Long EZ in the condo next to mine.

I lucked out there. I'm on the top floor in a corner, so I only have the neighbor below my bedroom to worry about as far as noise. I've only rarely heard them closing doors and walking around, but it could be worse from my apartment to theirs. I guess the big constraint is space.
I only use basic tools such as yours, no problem, but as dspellman notes, noise is likely to be your main problem. - I wear hearing protection these days when using the dremel, that high pitched whine isn't nice.

I did some basic inlays OK wih those basic tools, but doing a dolphin wasn't a happy experience. For dot inlays you would need a small drill of some kind, with good auger bits or similar.
I've never done inlays myself but have watched it done over a period of many days and I know how difficult it can be. It's equal parts skill, knowledge mixed with a large dose of artistic talent and patience. (I'm not good on the last two)

Refretting is an job I am familiar with and have done it successfully on several guitars but before I did my first one I spent many hours learning how to do it from a great luthier. Along with the frets is the issue of replacing the binding on the neck. Depending on the guitar the neck binding sometimes needs to be replaced along with the new frets (it's a must on a Les Paul with binding over the fret ends). It can be labor intensive. Still I encourage you to give it a try. As far as tools I didn't see on your list I'd invest in a good pair of fret pulling pliers and a good set of crowning files and nut files. These are tools that I would spend the extra money on and buy good ones. Good luck.
Yes I am guitarded also, nice to meet you.
Last edited by Rickholly74 at Feb 9, 2016,
I just ordered a bunch of blanks from www.bellforestproducts.com for practice. I got several small pieces of rosewood to try my tools out on, and a few fretboard blanks. The fretboard blanks are about 3" wide, so I'll need to trim them down quite a bit and radius them. I'm not sure if I can get a straight enough cut with a hand saw. If not, I'll probably take them to a friends house and get them roughly the right size with a table saw.

edit: I've been looking it over, and I see no real reason I couldn't build a Flying V or an Explorer from scratch if I have the setup to do fretwork and inlays. Depending on how the fretwork goes, I'll probably be attempting that soon.
Last edited by Stickymongoose at Feb 10, 2016,