Making An Acoustic Guitar Bridge From Scratch

Over the years Gibson has come up with some of the most legendary instrument designs the world has ever seen, some of which are essential to defining rock and roll itself. Innovations like the Les Paul, the Firebird, and the Explorer are among the coolest guitars ever made, while the P-90 pickup, the PAF humbucker and the Tune-o-matic bridge set the precedent for design ingenuity for decades to come.

However, the 1965 LG-0 student guitar had some questionable things going on. Most of which being the plastic bridge that attaches to the soundboard with 4 screws from the inside of the guitar. From 1958 to 1961 the LG-0 was fitted with a solid rosewood bridge that was glued on, but in 1962 they made the switch to plastic in attempt to make warranty work easier, apparently. I guess a lot of bridges were coming off of these things. Perhaps they could have looked into some better wood glue? The experiment lasted until 1968, when they went back to a rosewood bridge with an adjustable saddle. Anyway, the plastic bridge idea is pretty bad: they tend to horribly warp and separate from the top.

The thing is, the LG-0 is still cool, and they can sound great with just a little bit of work. When our client brought the guitar in to us, his highest priority was to replace the bridge, but as you can see, the shape is the reverse of anything else anyone was making at the time, therefore making it impossible to find a wooden replacement. The only way around this one was to make a bridge from scratch. He wanted to go with ebony so it would match the aesthetic of the original black plastic bridge.

In this post I’m going to show you my process of making an acoustic guitar bridge from scratch:

First I start with an ebony blank. Below the piece of wood is the original plastic bridge.

IMG_9752The ebony blank has been sanded to thickness and rough-cut.IMG_9753

The footprint has been fully shaped, now I can move on to laying out the details.
IMG_9754The first things to layout are the bridge pin holes. These are in the exact locations as the original holes so they’ll match the bridge plate on the guitar.
IMG_9755Once the bridge pin holes are laid out, I can locate and mark the saddle slot location.IMG_9756

Now its time to start drilling holes.IMG_9832We take great care to make sure the holes are perfectly aligned.IMG_9833I’ve built a fixture in order to get a perfectly controllable cut with the router for this saddle slot. Also, notice the down-cut router bit. This helps with reducing tear-out, which is especially important when cutting into ebony.IMG_9834 It’s always nice to get a clean cut.IMG_9835

Now it’s time for the final shaping. I’ve drawn some lines so we know how far to go with the spindle sander.

IMG_9838I’ll feed the wood into this spindle sander square side down to scallop the sides of the bridge. IMG_9837It’s really starting to come together. Now the edges need to be rolled before the bridge can be sanded and polished.IMG_9839The rough sanding is done with the belt sander, then I’ll do the final touches by hand with sand paper.IMG_9840It’s ready to be installed!

IMG_9843Once we glue and clamp it, I’ll let the glue setup for 24 hours. For this I use Titebond II wood glue. Notice the modified bridge pins we use as locating pins to keep the bridge from shifting under clamp pressure.IMG_9845Now I just need to do a little glue clean-up and this thing is ready for a new saddle and strings.IMG_9844The new bone saddle is fit into the slot and ready for shaping.
IMG_9880Like new!IMG_9885Now that’s a Gibson LG-0 that demands respect!

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