How To Reset A Guitar Bridge
We will show how to remove, repair and replace an acoustic guitar bridge and get you guitar back in great playing shape.
Resetting a guitar bridge may seem like a difficult task to many of you and all kidding aside - infrequently it is difficult. Most often though it is not that difficult.
How To Reset A Guitar Bridge -Tools Required
We will show you how to do it what you need and what precautions you need to take.
Secondly, do not start this without the proper tools. We will show you where to obtain them and how to make them.
- Padded Workbench
- Good Work Light
- Top Protection Template
- Sharp knife such as an xacto or matt knife
- Deep Throat Clamps
- Wooden Cauls to Protect Bridge From Clamps
- Thin Putty Knife - Reworked
- Wooden Mallet
- Bridge Gluing Jig
- Flathead Bolts With Nuts, Washers & Lockwashers
- Titebond II Glue
- Painters Tape 3/4" Wide
How To Reset A Guitar Bridge -Bridge Removal
Once you have determined that the bridge has to be removed perform these steps:
If you suspect you have metal fasteners in you bridge, remove them. You may need to remove nuts from the bottom of bolts inside your guitar or you may have to lift mop dots and remove the screws or bolts from the top side - or both.
Take a sharp knife and carefully cut around the perimeter of the bridge. Make sure you penetrate the finish, but don't cut into the top plate wood any deeper than necessary.
Carefully place painters tape around the perimeter of the bridge.
Install your top protection template and secure it to the sides of the guitar with tape.
Take your reworked putty knife and place it at the corner of the bridge and slip it under the wing or ramp of the bridge. Another option is if the bridge has started to lift, work the putty knife under this area.
Once the knife is seated, take the wooden mallet and lightly top the blade under the bridge. Continue this process around the entire perimeter of the bridge until you can completely separate the bridge from the top.
How To Reset A Guitar Bridge - Bridge Removal
Set the bridge aside for now and lets concentrate on preparing the top for gluing the bridge back in place.
Begin by folding a piece of 120 garnet sandpaper and removing the old glue from the top. Do not remove any more top wood than you have to in this operation.
If the bridge is still in good shape and can be reused, prepare it by removal of the old glue and splinters of top wood from the underside of the bridge.
The fastest way to do this is to lightly sand on a stationary belt sander. Otherwise sand it carefully on a sandpaper pad made from a marble or other flat stone surface which has sandpaper adhered to the surface.
Again do not sand more than absolutely necessary to remove old glue and slivers of wood.
Take off the masking tape that was around the bridge. Now place new tape and make sure you overlap the line you scribed in the top with the knife to penetrate the finish.
Place the bridge in its location and secure it with the 2 bolts, fastened through the 1st and 6th string pin holes. Finger tighten from underneath and tighten slightly more with a screw driver.
Now take the sharp knife once again and cut carefully around the perimeter of the bridge making sure you cut exactly at the point where the bridge joins the tape and make sure you slice through the tape.
Remove the bridge and peel away the excess tap that was beneath the bridge. You now have a perfect outline of the bridge placement.
If you need to repair cracks in the bridge, do so now and let it dry after gluing and clamping.
Set it aside and let it dry for several hours or overnight. Sand the bridge as needed and set it on a dead level surface to make sure it sits flat - like the bed of a table saw for instance.
You should now dry-fit the bridge to make sure everything fits properly. Again, secure the bridge with the bolts as you did before.
Prepare (3) cauls for the steel clamps that will secure the bridge to the top. Dry fit the (3) clamps to make sure they clear the braces inside and will reach the bridge adequately.
How To Reset A Guitar Bridge - Clamping
If you have a good fit and everything works out, it is time to glue. Spread a thin layer of Titebond II on the bottom of the bridge and on the top of the guitar. This does not have to be a large amount of glue because a thin glue joint is much stronger than a thick. Besides you do not have to deal with as much glue squeeze-out.
Next, place the bridge on the top plate and secure it with the bolts. Place a washer and lock washer on the bolt end inside the guitar. Tighten the bolts slowly and snug them up.
Check the bridge to make sure it is properly seated. Now tighten the blots tight being careful not to crush the wood or split the bridge across the pin holes.
Take a wet cloth or sponge and clean off all the glue squeezed out that you can after cleaning with a dry paper towel. Remove all traces of the glue.
Now set the deep throat clamps and lightly snug each one up. One should be placed on each bridge ramp and one dead center on top of the bridge.
Progressively tighten each clamp until you see quite a bit of glue squeezing out. Now clean all the glue off that you can get at.
Leave this sit overnight. Remove the clamps, bolts and top protection the next day. Leave the tape so you can clean the remaining glue off with a sharp chisel or scraper.
How To Reset A Guitar Bridge - Countersink Pins And Pun In String Ramps
Remove the tape, clean up the bridge and set the saddle. Install the strings and you should be complete.
If you want to countersink the bridge pin holes and you want to know about making string ramps from the bridge pins up to the saddle see this helpful article:
These two methods are recommended as the string ramps reduce the stress on the string ends and a slight countersink for the bridge pins gives the bridge some nice detail.
- Do not use epoxy glue to secure you bridge to the top. Even though this is a much stronger glue, I would rather have my bridge pop off than destroy the entire top of the guitar due to over tension on strings etc.
- You have about 20 minutes of time to clamp the bridge before the glue sets, so take your time to dry fit the bridge and dry clamp it to work out all the bugs.
If your bridge is make from Rosewood, you will need to remove as much of the resin from the wood as possible before gluing. Do this with Acetone. Make sure to wear rubber gloves and a respirator when working with this stuff though. Clean the bottom of the bridge until no more color is detected on your cloth.
Bridges usually come off very easily. If you find one that is exceptionally stubborn you may have to employ the help of a heat lamp or an iron place directly on the bridge. I would recommend additional protection of the top in this case though.
- Pry under the bridge with the grain as much as possible. In other words, work your putty knife in from the front and back of the bridge rather than trying to loosen it from the ends. Working with the grain will produce less splintering than against the grain.
If you would like hints to making some of these specialized tools check out the section on Guitar Repair Tools. You will find instructions of how to modify tools for guitar repair operations and where to obtain specialized guitar repair tools..