If you want to learn how to make an acoustic guitar bridge, this guide will show you the best series of steps. Making a bridge requires several different processes. Some are easier to perform than others.
My process gets the most difficult phases of construction out of the way in the beginning. This reduces anxiety for the beginner, and ensures a bridge wont be ruined right at the last minute.
Making a Bridge and Selecting the Wood
When making a bridge by hand, almost any species of wood can be used as long as it is dense and strong. Also, select a saddle for the project, as the slot will be routed to match.
The dimensions of the bridge blank and the saddle will vary. Most acoustic guitars have similar size bridges, though there are some that will have different sizes. This is a standard acoustic guitar bridge, with a basic shape.
For a first bridge, this classic shape is perfect. The amount of carving will be less, and the construction process as a whole will be easier.
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Routing the Saddle Slot First
An angled board is screwed to the top of the jig, making a fence. The angle is set the same as the angle of the saddle slot, and the Dremel makes the cut.
Notice that the bridge blank is held parallel to the left edge of the jig. The fence (purple heart) is angled. This creates a slot in the bridge that is also angled. Almost all acoustic guitar saddles are angled slightly to compensate for the string being pressed.
The lower strings end up with a lightly longer scale length, maintaining the proper notes for the majority of the neck.
Using a Dremel or a router, create the slot. The best cutter for this is a spiral down cut bit, though any spiral bit will also work.
The bits I have in the shop were from a tool maker, so they are carbide. They were designed for use on metal, so the wood cuts very easily.
Making the jig is a simple matter of drilling two holes in the bridge blank, one at each end of the saddle slot. Set the fence so that it makes contact with the edge of the router plate in both positions.
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When set like this, the router will make a nice slot. If several bridges of different styles are going to be made, allowing the fence to be adjustable can help. In this case, I make the same bridge for the vast majority of my guitars, so this has a fixed fence.
Drilling the Bridge Pins
This is the second most difficult thing to get right. Drilling six holes perfectly can be a challenge, but my Bridge Pin Drilling Guide solves this problem.
Place the guide on top of the bridge and position it for the holes. Take a little extra time to line it up well. Then, clamp it down to the bench or a scrap of wood for drilling.
It is worth making the bridge pin drilling guide, because you only need to get the holes perfect one time. After that, the guide ensures they are perfect on every bridge you make.
Drill the holes using a 3/16″ bit. Make sure to drill as perpendicular as possible. A drill press is the best for this operation, but it can be done by hand as well.
Most bridge pins require a 3/6″ starting hole. Then, the holes are tapered with a reamer. The reamer creates a hole that fits the bridge pins with a taper.
This taper creates friction, and keeps the bridge pins in place. If the pins were cylindrical, they would not hold as well. This would lead to pins popping out, and strings coming off the guitar. The guide helps keep the holes aligned well, and will keep them in the proper positions.
Drawing the Shape and Carving
Once these two aspects of how to make an acoustic guitar bridge are completed, the rest of the build is easy in comparison.
At this point, draw out some guidelines for the shape and the carve. Make marks for the shape that can be followed on the band saw. Then, make marks for tapering the wings.
The more marks that are made on the bridge as a reference, the easier the carving and shaping process will be. Check the marks, and make sure they are symmetrical. Once satisfied, begin sawing and carving out the shape.
See Also: You Can Make an Acoustic Guitar
The point of how to make an acoustic guitar bridge with my method is to get the hardest parts of the build out of the way first. Once these processes are completed, the rest of the build is easier, and less stressful.
The initial cuts can be made on a band saw. After that, a belt sander does a great job at removing material. Be careful when using the belt sander. E
specially if this is the first time carving a bridge. The belt sander can remove material quickly, so it is better to look more frequently.
Remove the bulk of the material on the belt sander, or by hand with a file. Keep in mind that the more even looking the wings are at this stage, the better over all the bridge will look. Work on the wings, and stop often to look at the symmetry.
Spend a little extra time here, and the bridge will look amazing on the guitar for a very long time.
Spend time looking at the bridge in a glancing light. This will reveal any scratches that are difficult to see.
Sand the bridge down to 220 grit, making sure that the last several passes are made with the grain. Sanding with the grain does not eliminate scratches, however it does line them up with the grain, making them less visible.
My Woodworking Tip of The Week deals with sanding, and how to minimize the effort and time it takes to final sand a project before finishing.
Finishing the bridge can be done with the same finish as the final guitar, or it can be buffed on a wheel. The Beall Wood Buff System is what I use to polish my bridges. I also have finished several with Tru-Oil and my Finishing with Tru-Oil article explains how to do it.
After you know how to make an acoustic guitar bridge, you can apply this same construction style to other aspects of guitar making. Do the most difficult steps first when possible, then proceed to the easier steps.
I explain this technique in my book Acoustic Guitar Making: How to make Tools, Templates, and Jigs, as well as over 50 other tools and jigs.
This will save the beginning guitar maker a lot of money collecting the tools and jigs they need. Tooling up for making a guitar is one of the beginner hurtles that you need to get over to make a guitar.
This book lowers the entry fee for many of those tools and jigs, because you can just make them yourself.
With over 500 pages and 1600 images, it takes the mystery out of the process for beginning guitar makers. The amount of information inside the book is amazing, and you can always find something that is helpful as you flip through the pages.
Do you have any tips on how to make an acoustic guitar bridge? Share them by leaving a comment and we can all benefit from your experience.
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