No-cost tools for shaping Martin guitar bridges

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Issue 187 March 28, 2013

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

In this Trade Secrets video:
  • Hot Tip! Two shop-made tools for shaping Martin guitar bridges.
  • Dan shows how to make a guitar bridge platform.
  • Downloadable PDF: Dan's Martin Bridge Shaping Gauge.

Video Transcription

[on-screen text reads: Dan Erlewine - Stewart-MacDonald]

Dan Erlewine: The bridge on this Martin D-35 was loose all along the back. In fact, so loose and probably for so long that the back of the bridge warped upwards. So it was easier to get under with the knife and get it off to reglue it. Once I got it off, I decided I have to flatten it a bit before I can put it back down and it had to split down the center.

Bridge shaping platform

So now I'm making a new bridge. I've roughed it out on a band saw and a belt sander and I've got two tools I'd like to show you that I used to shape a bridge. The first tool is my bridge shaping platform. It's two pieces of scrap wood connected with the screw and glue and it supports the bridge base. I make it very carefully to the exact footprint of the bridge, and the reason for that is that I double stick tape it down and scrape and file on this to get all the sharp lines. And if you didn't have support on the underside when you were stroking with a scraper or a file, you'll get tear out and ruin the blank.

This is a piece of scrape wood, some medium super glue, my carefully made little piece and we'll Double Stick Tape and it's pretty strong and that'll hold the bridge tight, but I can still get it off later. Come on, here we go. There's one chance to get this on there and you got to get it ready or you'll have to start over again.

Now, I'm almost ready to shape this bridge. Nice thing about this little platform tool is that I can get in any position I want to and I can really square the end for example. I'm supporting that ebony, I have both hands to use my file. I can scrape in both directions, find which way the grain's going to get that shine, but I don't want to go too far yet until I show you the next tool.

Speaker 2: Cool.

Martin bridge gauge

Dan Erlewine: And here's the other tool I wanted to show you. It's my Martin bridge gauge. I made this a long time ago and I've used it for years. It's carefully made to all the curves on a Martin bridge for the back. It's got the curve of the bridge feet or wings and a 20 inch radius at the top.

So that's my two favorite bridge making tools. We made this one easy for you to make because we drew it out and it's on the website. Download it, print it out and glue it to a piece of wood and make it for yourself like I just did. Then the platforms, you'll make quite a few of these over your lifetime because they won't fit every bridge. I probably have made 25 of these over a period of 30 or 40 years.

Speaker 2: Okay.



Dan Erlewine

Guitar Repairman and Builder

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