Pinning a floating bridge

If you’ve ever owned hollow-body jazz guitar with a floating bridge, you know the perils of changing the strings without accidentally moving the bridge placement. Even scarier, the bridge is also able to slide around the top of the guitar under full string tension if bumped, potentially throwing off your string alignment and intonation, causing your guitar to play out of tune with itself. Pinning the bridge can eliminate this problem, if you have the skills and specialized tools. Pinning a floating bridge requires drilling holes into the top of the guitar in very precise locations, so if you’re not comfortable doing this, it’s best left to a professional. Okay, here we go!

Here’s the original bridge setup on a vintage Silvertone archtop. It was sliding all over the place, and the owner got sick of dealing with it, so they asked us to pin the floating bridge for them.

When pinning a floating bridge, it’s absolutely paramount to have your guitar setup and intonated properly, especially if your bridge is non-adjustable. I did a PLEK fret level and setup first, making sure the guitar was in tip top shape before pinning the bridge. Then I marked the bridge location with low-tack tape.

I have made some specialized tools specifically for this kind of job. These small brass punches, which fit into the bridge’s foot and are used to mark the location of the holes to be drilled into the guitar’s top. I drilled holes into the bridge’s foot, and then installed the punches in the holes.

Measure twice, drill once!
My cute little hand-made brass punches.
Brass punches installed in the bridge’s foot.

Next I carefully aligned the bridge on the guitar, referencing the tape I placed previously, and press the punches into the top. The punches will create small divots to guide the drill bit into the guitar.

I apply a good amount of pressure against the bridge to index the holes in the body.
They may be hard to see, but the guide holes will make the next step easy.

I used our drill press to drill shallow holes into the top, using the guide divots made from the brass punches.

Next I made some small dowels that glue into the holes in the guitar top.

The bridge now perfectly snaps into place! No more sliding around! Huzzah!

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