A bit more than making a new bridge

This is my dad’s first and, if I’m not mistaken, only guitar.

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Its a Harmony archtop, probably from the mid 50’s.  Dad just told me he got it in third grade.  This has been moved around a bunch.  I had it for a few years and most recently my sister had it.  I just got it back with the intention of making a new bridge for it and cleaning it up a bit.  Turns out that it needed much more.

The neck dovetail was pulling out, which cracked the side.  I later found out it cracked the neck block as well.

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So I decided to see what I could do with it, both for experience, and so it was playable and not destined for the trash.  This was a first for me.  He’s what I did, in pictures:

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Well, that was exciting.  I used hot hide glue for all repairs.  I put the neck back on.  Nice and straight.

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Now on to making the new bridge, in pictures:

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The finish was pretty rough.  I could have spent a ton of time on it or even refinished it.  Not being a valuable instrument, I just did some minor touch ups.

It plays much better then it ever did.  The ridiculously high action that I always remembered is gone and it plays and sounds pretty well.

Glad I gave that a shot.

Building bridges

I finally finished the lacquering on three guitars.  Now they need to cure before I can wet sand them.  I’ve been doing some odds and ends while I’m waiting.  Just a little guitar stuff, like the bridges.

I roughed out the bridge blanks a couple weeks ago.  To slot for the saddle I decided to make a fixture that held them at an angle.  The router sits in the fixture with very little play.  The length of cut is set by the stops on the end.  To hold the bridge in place I made a couple wedges.  Yes thats right folks… dual wedge action!

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Then I measured the nut and 19th fret on each guitar and laid them out on paper (they were pretty close) to make sure my string spacing was ok.  Since I had three, I made a drilling template.  Of course I used plexiglass, which seems to be my favorite.  For precision, I like to scribe things, and plexi scribes really well.  I laid out a center line and scribed distance from the rear of the bridge to the pin centers.  I used a drafting divider to scribe pin centers.  I used these from both outside strings to make sure they matched.  Then I lightly punched the centers and drilled with a brad point bit.

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To align the template, putting the scribe lines down, I matched the template and bridge center lines (this is why I like see through plexi) and made the rear flush, then clamped each end and drilled.

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To shape the wings, I contemplated using a small 1” belt sander I have, but I figured by the time I rigged something up to keep the bridges square, I could be finished.  So I just did them with a rasp and scraper.  It was quiet, no dust flying, and enjoyable.  Also got one of those gunstock vises.  It was really helpful for these.

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I was actually surprised how close I got three of them doing it essentially by eye, but I did gang them together to scrape and sand them even closer.

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I don’t have a countersink for wood, but I sharpened up my metal countersink with a file, then countersunk all the bridge pin holes.

I fit the saddles in place and the ends were marked with a drafting french curve so the saddle looked decent transitioning into the curvature of the bridge wings.

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Then I shaped the ends on a small sanding drum chucked in my drill press.

I sanded the bridges down to 1500 grit.  No finish on the rosewood.  The rest of the saddle shaping and polishing will come later during set up.

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I love the white (and semi dusty) window sill for pictures.  Too bad I can’t photograph anything much bigger than the bridges in there.

Now I wait for the finish to cure for a few more days.  This coming weekend should be two weeks, so I think I should be able to start wet sanding.

 

Working my way towards a finish

 

 

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Masked off the two flamed maple guitars for stain.  Opposite color schemes for these.

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Used a homemade walnut stain I made last fall.  Dark back and sides on one, dark bindings on the other.

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Added a couple coats of boiled linseed oil/turpentine mix to help accent the figure, careful to mask off the top and neck.

I have the neck on the third guitar, but I’m not happy with how it seated.  I may remove it and reset it.  I guess I’ll get a bit of experience steaming apart a neck joint.  Hope to get that done soon and the neck back on with a nicer fit.

Then on to shellac sealing, fretting, bridge making and the lacquer finish.

Finished finishing… and some bridge glue up practice

Gallery

This gallery contains 2 photos.

Ok. I’m calling the French polish done. I will not touch them again, I promise. Shellac and alcohol has been put away. I’ll let them cure for a couple days. Meanwhile I practiced a bit by removing and making a … Continue reading

Ammonia fuming. Before and after.

Gallery

This gallery contains 2 photos.

Locust fingerboards and bridges. Before and after ammonia fuming session. Color is definitely a bit odd, but don’t fret, a coat of oil will make these a dark honey color. Should look interesting with the redwood and walnut. Fingerboard is … Continue reading