NEW SOUND N OLD GUITAR
rosewood like the original) and about 3/4”
too short on either side to cover the footprint
of my original bridge [Photo 2].
The next step was to make a new bridge out
of rosewood. Since I had decided to keep the
adjustable bridge option, I needed a template for the exact shape and measurement
of the adjustable bridge saddle, too. For this
template I turned to an old friend: Silly Putty.
After removing the adjustable ebony saddle,
I placed the Silly Putty inside the hole and
pressed down, working it into the hole [Photo
3]. After carefully removing the putty I could
tar, across the ebony saddle, transferring
my sketch with measurements to my solid
bone mass. Next, I placed a 12 degree
radius contour block for fingerboard sanding across the top of my bridge pattern to
confirm the radius of the top.
At this point in my adventure I began considering the following conundrum: do I restore
the guitar to original condition or do I alter
the rascal from its original, poorly designed
specifications? I can still imagine some worker
at Gibson going to his superior and saying,
“You know, if we just altered the top bracing
photo in the Tulsa Jail, but I called Dick Sims’
mom to get him sprung (perhaps another
story for another time).
I positioned my new-old-stock Gibson pin
bridge over the photo of the existing bridge
and determined that I would need an additional bridge plate underneath to both
strengthen my new bridge and allow for a
base for the new bridge pins to snuggle into.
I started with a corrugated cardboard template cut out with a razor blade and carefully
shaped it to fit between the existing bridge
plate and the cross braces underneath. After
Photo 3: A saddle template with silly putty
Photo 4: Using the old bridge to drill new pin holes
measure the length and width of the cavity.
I then went in search of a large piece of solid
bone for the saddle. After making a trip to my
local butcher, I returned home with my trophy.
I carefully boiled the bone in salt water, then
baked it in the oven at 350 degrees for the
better part of an hour. Unfortunately the inner
and outer layer of bone separated while cooling, so I called my buddy Greg at Classic Axe
again and gave him my needed dimensions.
He then sent me the biggest piece he had,
along with some laminated material to fill in
the inner curve.
Before I began cutting the bone to shape
I took several measurements of the adjustable bridge at the optimum height. I lowered the bridge until it began rattling the
strings and then raised it just a skosh. After
a bit of hard strumming, I was satisfied.
Then I took my string height measurements
looking down from the bottom of the gui-
a little and added a little more to the bridge
plate, we might be able to still use the pin
bridge and make a better sounding instrument.” In my imaginary scenario I can hear
the supervisor reply, “We don’t do it that way.
We’ve had so many warranty repairs for that
pin bridge that my boss wants it done this
way.” Not working for Gibson four decades
ago, I press onward.
I then enlarged my X-ray photo of the guitar’s
top so that the image of the bridge measured
exactly 7 1/2” from side to side. I made three
16”× 20” prints, varying the contrast and
exposure between them. When dry, I had
an exact, 1: 1 ratio photo of the top with the
bracing structure revealed. This trick needs
to be done with black and white film and an
enlarger so you can tweak the enlargement
proportions. In case you’re wondering, I’ve
been a professional photographer since the
seventies. I’m the guy who took Clapton’s
staring at the mahogany bridge placed on top
of the photo of the old bridge, I determined
that I needed to add two small additional
braces going top to bottom underneath the
ends of the bridge saddle and joining the
existing lateral cross-brace under the top. I
remembered the words of my friend, the late
Stewart Mossman, “Nothing is stronger in
top bracing than the triangle.” I gazed with
delight at how I had created three additional
triangles under the top at the end of the
bridge with the addition of my two braces
glued to the lateral brace. I imagined my luthier friend from Kalamazoo up in heaven giving
me a big “OK” with his right hand.
Returning to the rosewood bridge, I carefully
measured the existing bridge and enlarged
my template for the new bridge to be about
1/16” larger all-around to cover any unsightly
footprint that may be left after pulling up the
existing bridge, which was glued down unnecessarily. I selected a slighty thicker than