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Learn About Guitar Bridge and Tailpiece Installation and Repair

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1955 Gibson TV finish: recreating that unique see-thru yellow Trade Secrets! Issue 124 October 14, 2010
1955 Gibson TV finish: recreating that unique see-thru yellow
Erick Coleman fixes a chip on a 1955 Gibson TV Model, which means figuring out how to recreate that unique see-through yellow finish.
Acoustic guitar pickups: installation problems to avoid Trade Secrets! Issue 7 December 07, 2006
Acoustic guitar pickups: installation problems to avoid
In this week's newsletter, bad sound from a good acoustic guitar pickup: the problem and the solution.
Are you supposed to slot Tune-o-matic bridge saddles? Trade Secrets! Issue 109 March 18, 2010
Are you supposed to slot Tune-o-matic bridge saddles?
Customers often ask how and why they should put slots in the saddles of their new Tune-o-matic bridge. Erick Coleman provides the answers in this issue of Trade Secrets.
Better tone with a lighter Tune-o-matic bridge and tailpiece Trade Secrets! Issue 25 April 12, 2007
Better tone with a lighter Tune-o-matic bridge and tailpiece
This week, Erick Coleman steps into the ring for Round Two in the Battle for Better Tone: his secret weapons area lightweight Tune-o-matic bridge and tailpiece.
Bridge clamps: practical production tip Product Instructions A-BRIDGECLAMP
Bridge clamps: practical production tip
Bryan Galloup modifies bridge clamps for increasing speed and clamping precision.
Bridge collapse! Carving an archtop guitar bridge in a hurry! Trade Secrets! Issue 158 February 16, 2012
Bridge collapse! Carving an archtop guitar bridge in a hurry!
Erick Coleman got a text message on his cell: his customer's archtop bridge broke the night before a recording session. Can he replace it overnight? Here's how he carved a new one in a jiffy!
Bridge fitting for archtops Product Instructions I-5046
Bridge fitting for archtops
How to fit, sand, and install bridges on archtop guitars and mandolins.
Bridge Pin Hole Chamfer Tool Instructions Product Instructions I-0459
Bridge Pin Hole Chamfer Tool Instructions
Instructions for using the Bridge Pin Hole Chamfer Tool.
Bridge Pin Hole Slotting Product Instructions I-5803
Bridge Pin Hole Slotting
How to cut and file bridge pin hole slots.
Bridge Plate Repair Product Instructions I-5240
Bridge Plate Repair
How to repair most fractured bridge pin holes with the BridgeSaver.
Chopping the ends off bridge pins Trade Secrets! Issue 218 June 05, 2014
Chopping the ends off bridge pins
If you're not careful, installing new strings can create a problem that throws you out of tune or damages your bridge pin holes. Elliot John-Conry of EJC Guitars shows us an easy fix.
Christine's inexpensive guitar needs a bridge repair: fix it or pitch it? Trade Secrets! Issue 141 June 09, 2011
Christine's inexpensive guitar needs a bridge repair: fix it or pitch it?
Should you put $100 worth of repairs into a guitar you can replace for $200? Erick Coleman tells why his answer is yes. And he hands over the repair tools to Christine, who works in StewMac's office.
Clean up your old electric guitar saddles Trade Secrets! Issue 39 July 19, 2007
Clean up your old electric guitar saddles
Erick Coleman shows why brushing your guitar saddles is as important as brushing your teeth!
Compensated Saddles for Telecaster Product Instructions I-5167
Compensated Saddles for Telecaster
Installation instructions for Compensated Saddles for Telecaster.
Correct saddle intonation with The Intonator Product Instructions I-5245
Correct saddle intonation with The Intonator
The Intonator finds the correct locations for acoustic flattop guitar bridge saddle placement.
Custom-fit your bridge pins for better sound Trade Secrets! Issue 45 October 04, 2007
Custom-fit your bridge pins for better sound
Erick Coleman talks about why each guitar he works on gets six custom-fit bridge pins. It's all about hardware coupling, energy transfer, and tone.
Do-it-yourself banjo bridge lifter Trade Secrets! Issue 184 February 14, 2013
Do-it-yourself banjo bridge lifter
Dave Collins at Herb David Guitar Studio in Ann Arbor, Michigan shows an easy-to-make tool for swapping banjo bridges.
Finding saddle location with the Saddlematic Product Instructions I-4462
Finding saddle location with the Saddlematic
How to find saddle placement location with the Saddlematic.
Finding the right location for a guitar's saddle slot Trade Secrets! Issue 6 November 30, 2006
Finding the right location for a guitar's saddle slot
This issue shows how to locate and cut the saddle slot for an acoustic bridge.
Fitting an archtop bridge, easily and accurately Trade Secrets! Issue 19 March 01, 2007
Fitting an archtop bridge, easily and accurately
Did you ever try to fit a bridge to an archtop guitar or mandolin? (Or a violin?) This week Dan Erlewine shows how it's done with sandpaper and a bridge-fitting jig.
Fixing a 1937 Martin bridge. The first step is fixing a sandwich! Trade Secrets! Issue 70 September 18, 2008
Fixing a 1937 Martin bridge. The first step is fixing a sandwich!
Dan Erlewine's got an unusual bridge problem and an unusual repair.
Fixing a loose bridge on a yard sale special Trade Secrets! Issue 171 August 16, 2012
Fixing a loose bridge on a yard sale special
Dan Erlewine fixes a 1980s Harmony guitar with a bridge that's falling off. To see how fast he can do this repair, Dan decided to play Beat The Clock!
Fixing a potbelly with the Belly Reducer Trade Secrets! Issue 146 August 18, 2011
Fixing a potbelly with the Belly Reducer
Dan Erlewine's got a Martin with a potbelly: string tension has pulled the top into a hump on this 1928 0-18. To make things tougher, the guitar top's encased in a thick layer of epoxy finish! It's an interesting puzzle...
Watch the Trade Secrets Video, Fixing a Tune-O-Matic that won't tune
Online video available
Trade Secrets! Issue 228 October 23, 2014
Fixing a Tune-O-Matic that won't tune
This bridge is in the wrong spot, so the guitar can’t play in tune. Rather than drill new holes in a vintage guitar body, Dan Erlewine comes up with a clever solution.
Fixing fret buzz: raising the saddles Trade Secrets! Issue 221 July 17, 2014
Fixing fret buzz: raising the saddles
A P-Bass with fret buzz: Dan Erlewine fixes his brother’s bass, and answers the question, “To get rid of this fret buzz, should I adjust the saddles or the truss rod?”
Watch the Trade Secrets Video, Gluing a 1940s Gibson Bridge
Online video available
Trade Secrets! Issue 268 August 09, 2016
Gluing a 1940s Gibson Bridge
The bridge on this old Gibson has an unusually low, flat profile. Dan Erlewine shows how he modified a bridge clamping caul for gluing the bridge to the guitar top.
Watch the Trade Secrets Video, Grain runout made this guitar bridge pop off!
Online video available
Trade Secrets! Issue 252 November 05, 2015
Grain runout made this guitar bridge pop off!
BANG! While this guitar was being played, the bridge popped off with a sound like a gunshot. Before Dan Erlewine glues it back on, he explains the likely cause of this trouble: grain runout in the guitar’s cedar top.
Helpful repair magnet gizmo, and 1970s Earthwood Bass! Trade Secrets! Issue 206 December 19, 2013
Helpful repair magnet gizmo, and 1970s Earthwood Bass!
Ouch! Ouch! Ouch! These repair magnets snapped together with a CLACK!, drawing blood from Dan Erlewine's finger just as he was about to show his gizmo for avoiding pinched fingers and separating stacked magnets! Also, Dan explains a radical bracing change on an original Earthwood acoustic bass guitar.
How to clean a guitar that REALLY needs it! Trade Secrets! Issue 97 October 01, 2009
How to clean a guitar that REALLY needs it!
Rock's a dirty business, but somebody's got to do it: Dan Erlewine cleans up a Les Paul that hasn't had a bath in four years -- and 650 gigs!
Watch the Trade Secrets Video, How to finish an acoustic guitar bridge
Online video available
Trade Secrets! Issue 251 October 22, 2015
How to finish an acoustic guitar bridge
A small finishing job like this is easy. After the bridge popped off this classical guitar, Dan Erlewine replaced it with a new one. In this short video, he shows how simple it was to put a finish on the new bridge before gluing it on.
How to install a Strat tremolo and get it right Trade Secrets! Issue 145 August 04, 2011
How to install a Strat tremolo and get it right
Erick Coleman has a quick tip that will save you a lot of trouble.
Watch the Trade Secrets Video, How to install classical guitar strings
Online video available
Trade Secrets! Issue 240 April 09, 2015
How to install classical guitar strings
Learn the right way to install nylon strings so they don’t stretch for a month before you can start playing.
Brazilian luthier Rodrigo Gomes visits Dan Erlewine’s shop and sets up a classical guitar for Dan to start learning to play bossa nova.
How to know a bridge will play in tune before gluing it on Trade Secrets! Issue 107 February 18, 2010
How to know a bridge will play in tune before gluing it on
Dan Erlewine finds an old bridge to fit a 1950s Gibson, but will the saddle slot be in the right place? He measures and calculates, but still wants to prove it's in tune before gluing. Here's how he did that.
How to notch the saddles on your Les Paul Trade Secrets! Issue 196 August 01, 2013
How to notch the saddles on your Les Paul
Erick Coleman uses a hammer and X-Acto knife before filing. On this video he also talks with Dan Erlewine about how a 1954 Les Paul went from Bondo Mess to Relic Goldtop, with multiple luthiers contributing to its restoration.
How to see inside a guitar body if you don't have X-Ray Specs Trade Secrets! Issue 99 October 29, 2009
How to see inside a guitar body if you don't have X-Ray Specs
Dan Erlewine says he has the last working pair of X-Ray Specs on Earth, and he won't share them. At least he has some alternatives for the rest of us.
Watch the Trade Secrets Video, How to use the Acoustic Guitar Bridge Template
Online video available
Video
How to use the Acoustic Guitar Bridge Template
Dan Erlewine explains the many features of the Acoustic Guitar Bridge Template and shows how helpful this little gauge is when making a bridge from scratch.
Is this bridge saddle in the right place? Trade Secrets! Issue 185 February 28, 2013
Is this bridge saddle in the right place?
The free Fret Position Calculator at stewmac.com does the math, but can I trust its numbers for placing a Martin bridge? I tested the computer against my "stone age" method. — Dan Erlewine
JLD Bridge Doctor Instructions Product Instructions I-3694
JLD Bridge Doctor Instructions
How to install the JLD Bridge Doctor in an acoustic guitar.
Making a perfect bridge with the Sanding Station Trade Secrets! Issue 24 April 05, 2007
Making a perfect bridge with the Sanding Station
Dan Erlewine's getting fancy with his Sanding Station: with his shop-made jig, he's making better bridges than he ever has before.
Making new bridge pins look old on a vintage Gibson Trade Secrets! Issue 1 October 26, 2006
Making new bridge pins look old on a vintage Gibson
This week, Dan Erlewine reveals the seven-pin bridge that's hidden by Robert Johnson's hand in that most-famous photo of the King of the Delta Blues.
Martin Guitar Bridge Shaping Gauge Product Instructions A-BRIDGESHAPINGGAUGE
Martin Guitar Bridge Shaping Gauge
Build a shaping gauge to fit the contours of a Martin Bridge.
Mixing active and passive pickups in a jazz guitar Trade Secrets! Issue 135 March 17, 2011
Mixing active and passive pickups in a jazz guitar
Dan Erlewine wants to install two very different pickups in a jazz guitar. When there's no place to fit active system's battery he comes up with a simple, flexible solution.
Moneytalk: an easy repair -- until it blew up in my hands! Trade Secrets! Issue 136 March 31, 2011
Moneytalk: an easy repair -- until it blew up in my hands!
Dan Erlewine started a simple, quick repair, but one unlucky hammer tap created a whole new problem to solve!
Watch the Trade Secrets Video, My friend Carl's bridge gluing tips
Online video available
Trade Secrets! Issue 234 January 15, 2015
My friend Carl's bridge gluing tips
From Dan Erlewine: “My friend Sui Keung Ho aka Carl, was visiting from Hong Kong, and spent a couple days in my shop. I was making this Trade Secret about gluing a bridge, and Carl chipped in with an additional tip. Thanks, Carl!”
My guitar's too vintage for club gigs, so I created a backup Trade Secrets! Issue 149 September 29, 2011
My guitar's too vintage for club gigs, so I created a backup
Erick Coleman's 1967 Melody Maker is getting too old and pricey for knockaround club gigs. With some simple mods to an affordable new Gibson, he's made himself a good backup guitar.
National-Style Biscuit Bridge Product Instructions I-4330
National-Style Biscuit Bridge
Installation instructions for a National-style Biscuit Bridge.
Neck Set Gauge Instructions Product Instructions I-5249
Neck Set Gauge Instructions
How to use the Neck Set Gauge for a neck reset, to calculate a new bridge thickness, and setting the neck for a newly built guitar.
No-cost tools for shaping Martin guitar bridges Trade Secrets! Issue 187 March 28, 2013
No-cost tools for shaping Martin guitar bridges
Two do-it-yourself tools that I've been using for years to shape the bridges on Martins: I show you how to make one in a jiffy, and there's a free downloadable plan for the other one! -- Dan Erlewine
One dead string driving me crazy! (Transducer trouble...) Trade Secrets! Issue 32 May 31, 2007
One dead string driving me crazy! (Transducer trouble...)
I thought I'd fixed this acoustic saddle pickup, but the customer sent it back because the problem wasn't solved (STRIKE ONE)! I took another swing at it... (STRIKE TWO)! I almost struck out! -Dan Erlewine
Watch the Trade Secrets Video, Problem: a WaRpEd guitar top!
Online video available
Trade Secrets! Issue 262 May 19, 2016
Problem: a WaRpEd guitar top!
High action turned out to be a symptom of trouble for this guitar. The owner felt the strings were a little high. Taking a closer look, Dan Erlewine finds that the bridge is just about to pop off! A hump had formed under the bridge, and Dan comes up with an interesting solution.
Quick Cauls Product Instructions A-QUICKCAUL
Quick Cauls
Thomas Humphrey explains how to make classical guitar bridge clamping cauls with styrofoam.
Removing the glued-in saddle on a 1937 Martin D-28 Herringbone Trade Secrets! Issue 68 August 21, 2008
Removing the glued-in saddle on a 1937 Martin D-28 Herringbone
Someone shaved down the saddle on this great old Martin until there's barely a nub showing above the bridge. It needs to be removed, but it's glued in and so low you can't grab it. Dan Erlewine shows how to solve this problem.
Resonator Guitar Spider Bridge & Cone Product Instructions I-1530
Resonator Guitar Spider Bridge & Cone
Installation instructions for a Spider Bridge and cone.
Rugged and road-ready: replacing skimpy parts Trade Secrets! Issue 143 July 07, 2011
Rugged and road-ready: replacing skimpy parts
Erick Coleman finds that a 1970s Hondo is really well built, but the parts weren't road-ready. A couple of fixes, and this guitar's ready to tour the world!
Saddle Routing Jig Instructions Product Instructions I-4043
Saddle Routing Jig Instructions
The Saddle Routing Jig lets you slot a new bridge with a traditional single saddle or 2-piece compensated saddle, fill and move an existing saddle slot, widen a saddle slot for a compensated saddle, or flatten the bottom of the slot for a saddle transducer pickup.
Watch the Trade Secrets Video, Setting the string spacing at the bridge
Online video available
Trade Secrets! Issue 248 August 27, 2015
Setting the string spacing at the bridge
The string spacing on this old Gibson is uneven. Dan Erlewine shows how he made the E-to-E string spacing wider, then located the other four strings with proportional spacing, not equal spacing.
The fake through-saddle bridge: stronger than vintage Trade Secrets! Issue 26 April 19, 2007
The fake through-saddle bridge: stronger than vintage
Dan shows us a Martin D-18 with a nasty looking broken bridge, and explains his technique for making a replacement that looks vintage but is stronger than the original.
Thompson Belly Reducer Instructions Product Instructions I-1380
Thompson Belly Reducer Instructions
The Thompson Belly Reducer is a simple tool designed to get rid of the bellying without making permanent alterations to the original guitar top.
Tremolo tips: staying in tune with a twang bar Trade Secrets! Issue 61 May 15, 2008
Tremolo tips: staying in tune with a twang bar
You don't have to have a locking system to have a tremolo stay in tune. Erick Coleman shows tips for keeping your tremolo tuneful.
Tune-o-matic installation and set up tips Product Instructions I-4557
Tune-o-matic installation and set up tips
Tips for installing and setting up a Tune-o-matic bridge using Tune-o-Medic Bridge and Tailpiece Tools.
Tune-O-Matic setup: is the trouble with the bridge or the neck angle? Trade Secrets! Issue 93 August 06, 2009
Tune-O-Matic setup: is the trouble with the bridge or the neck angle?
Dan helps the local music store with a customer complaint about a Gibson Tune-O-Matic bridge setup. Who's to blame here?
Tune-o-matic swap: going from Nashville to Kalamazoo Trade Secrets! Issue 147 September 01, 2011
Tune-o-matic swap: going from Nashville to Kalamazoo
Taking a Les Paul from Nashville to Kalamazoo by way of the Tune-o-matic Bridge: Erick Coleman swaps the factory Nashville bridge for a 1950s-style ABR-1 Tune-o-matic.
Two 1917 Gibson L-1 archtop guitars: each with too-high action Trade Secrets! Issue 111 April 15, 2010
Two 1917 Gibson L-1 archtop guitars: each with too-high action
Dan Erlewine got a blast from the past in his shop recently, and before the dust settled he got another one! He's working on two Gibson L-1 archtops from 1917, and they both have the same trouble: too-tall bridges and too-high action.
Using a utility knife blade as a saddle shaper Trade Secrets! Issue 118 July 22, 2010
Using a utility knife blade as a saddle shaper
Dan Erlewine shares a tip for putting a rounded shape on bone saddles: use the notch in one of those utility knife blades in your toolbox!
Vintage retainer wire: searching Nashville for one little guitar part! Trade Secrets! Issue 90 June 25, 2009
Vintage retainer wire: searching Nashville for one little guitar part!
Dan and Leon Rhodes need a retainer spring for a vintage Gibson bridge. Visiting repair shops in Nashville, they find out how to make their own.
What's the problem with swapping Fender and Gibson bridges? Trade Secrets! Issue 67 August 07, 2008
What's the problem with swapping Fender and Gibson bridges?
Erick Coleman answers a Frequently Asked Question from StewMac customers: "What if I want a Gibson bridge on my Fender?" (Or vice versa.)
Watch the Trade Secrets Video, Where to cut the saddle slot on this guitar bridge?
Online video available
Trade Secrets! Issue 270 September 08, 2016
Where to cut the saddle slot on this guitar bridge?
Time to install a saddle in this bridge. Where exactly to put it? Salvaging this original Gibson bridge required filling the saddle slot. You can’t assume the original factory placement was correct. Dan Erlewine shows how he located this saddle.
Wilkinson Compensated Tele Saddles Product Instructions I-5071
Wilkinson Compensated Tele Saddles
How to install Wilkinson Compensated Tele saddles.
Watch the Trade Secrets Video, YIKES! Using a reamer in an electric drill
Online video available
Trade Secrets! Issue 243 May 21, 2015
YIKES! Using a reamer in an electric drill
This little parlor guitar was found in a trash can and Dan Erlewine is doing a quick fix on the bridge. The pin holes were entirely chewed up. Dan’s drilling them out with a peg hole reamer then plugging them with peg-shaped plugs of hardwood.