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Home : Trade Secrets Archive : Issue 1, Making new bridge pins look old on a vintage Gibson
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Photo: Dan Erlewine as Robert Johnson
Making new bridge pins look old

on this Robert Johnson era Gibson

Last week a 1928 Gibson L-1 came into my shop — just like the one in that most-famous-of-all delta blues photos.
I’ve only seen two of these in my life, and it’s a treat to work on one. The guitar had five yellowed bridge pins (originally white) and one black plastic misfit. Here’s how I made a “looks-like-new” Vintage-style Bridge Pin “look-like-old” to match the originals. (I gave it a matching Endpin, too.)

And scroll down to see the neat tip sent in by John Monteleone of Monteleone guitars. Thanks, John!
Dan Erlewine Dan Erlewine, October 26, 2006

Using amber stain as a time machine

Gibson catalog art
Photo: Bridge pin step 1
This old bridge is an oddball!
Gibson installed a miniature 7th pin just for decoration. This baby-size pin is glued in and serves no functional purpose, but it looks cool! And there’s more weirdness: the bridge is made of 3 pieces of Brazilian rosewood sandwiched together in this unusual shape. Gibson used this bridge on several guitars, ukes, and tenor guitars in the late 1920s and into the 1930s.
Photo: Bridge pin step 2
Old Gibson catalogs from the 20s and 30s refer to “white bridge pins” in their description of the L-1. I’m betting these yellowed pins are original. Our ivoroid bridge pins and endpin are a good match, except for their white color: they need 90 years of yellowing! To get this, I poured a little Behkol solvent into a mixing cup and added a single drop of Vintage Amber ColorTone Stain. Just a touch turned the new pins into vintage ones.
Photo: Bridge pin step 3
Our Vintage-style Bridge Pins are individually machined, not injection-molded, so they don’t have tell-tale “parting lines” like some old pins. This would be a good thing, except that I actually want to make this pin look lower-quality as if it was molded! This was easy to do by scoring a line in the pin with a sharp knife. I held the bridge pin securely in the upper carriage of our Bridge Pin Slotter.
Photo: Bridge pin step 4
The endpin was glued into the hole, and wouldn't budge. I didn’t want to saw it off and then drill and ream it out, so I gave our Endpin Grip a crack at it. The substantial brass of the tool gave me something solid to tap with a hammer. A couple light taps, and the endpin pulled free. This is a good way to handle endpins without damaging them. (Leave your pliers in the toolbox!)
Photo: John Monteleone 1

Photo: John Monteleone 2

Photo: John Monteleone 3
Here’s a great tip sent in by John Monteleone, maker of the renowned Monteleone Guitars:

Hi Dan,

I recently had a tough time pulling this fancy end pin out of an old D'Angelico, even with the Endpin Grip that you folks have in your catalog. By the way, that tool is very nicely made and would normally handle the job, but this pin was a tough case and needed something extra.

I recalled the old dent pullers of yesteryear and decided to hot rod your Endpin Grip in a similar way. I drilled and tapped it out to receive the 1/4-20 bolt, which is buffed and polished to slide easily. I turned a sliding knocker out of brass and in very sort order had an incredible end pin puller that I just had to share with you guys. I made two light knocks with it and this pin came out nice and clean.


Machined bridge pins

Problem-solving products mentioned above:
Photo: Endpin Grip Photo: Bridge Pins Photo: Peg Shaper
Endpin Grip
Extra help for removing a guitar, mandolin or violin endpin, and a great way to hold an endpin for shaping.
Vintage Ivoroid Bridge Pins
High quality old-style ungrooved bridge pins in grained ivoroid. (Oversized version also available for worn bridge pin holes.)
Peg Shaper
Trims wooden tuning pegs, bridge pins and endpins up to 3/8" diameter to the desired taper. Easy to use works like a pencil sharpener!
Buy Now
Buy Now
Buy Now
Photo: Bridge Pin Slotter Photo: ColorTone Concentrated Liquid Stains Photo: Behlen Behkol Solvent
Bridge Pin Slotter
Add slots to bone, ivoroid, and wooden bridge pins. A good money maker for a repair business.
ColorTone Concentrated Liquid Stains
The simplest and most flexible of all of our staining products. They can be added to virtually anything.
Behlen Behkol Solvent
Solvent for shellac and alcohol based stains.
Buy Now
Buy Now
Buy Now

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