REPLACING THE BRIDGE ON A ’ 74 GIBSON FLATTOP BY JOHN BROWN
Recently, a customer brought a ’ 74 Gibson flattop into
our shop for me to check out.
It was in good overall condition
and sounded good, too, with
a warm bottom end and silky
highs. But as I was examining
the guitar, my eyes were drawn
to six black bridge pins protruding from its wafer-thin rosewood
bridge and strings that were sloping over a rickety, bottomed-out
plastic saddle. I’ve seen my share
of wafer-thin bridges on flattops
built during this time period,
and I’m familiar with the problems that can occur with them.
Often, the bridge develops cracks
between each bridge-pin hole
and they follow the grain lines.
Thin bridges can also bust out at
the front. This is caused by having insufficient mass to resist the
forward pressure from the saddle.
Measuring the action, I also
determined that the strings
were low on the fretboard. You
could hear that they were getting
card stock with a hole cut out to
allow the bridge to fit through.
Applying heat to the bridge to
loosen the glue.
Planing the new rosewood
The original bridge provides
a pattern for drilling bridge-pin holes.
Using my Luthier’s Friend
Sanding Station to scallop
the bridge wings.
Measuring the action,
I also determined that
the strings were low
on the fretboard. You
could hear that they
were getting slightly
choked off, and this
was hindering sustain
slightly choked off, and this was
hindering sustain and clarity. But
I knew that, with a few changes,
we could significantly improve
the guitar’s dynamic response,
overall volume, and tone. To
make this happen, however, the
flapjack bridge had to go!
Bridge Removal. Before
starting any work—and especial-
ly before using tools that apply
heat—the first crucial step is
to protect the top of the guitar.
For this, I used a thin layer of
have functioned superbly, but the
client and I felt it was important
to try to match the subtle details
of the bridge I was replacing.
With the rough thickness
established, I used double-sided tape to attach the original bridge flush to the front
edge of the blank, and then
marked the bridge-pin holes
and traced around the sides
A 3/16" brad-point drill
bit works well for drilling the
initial bridge-pin holes. After
drilling, I used a band saw
with a fine-tooth blade to cut
the sides and back edges of the
blank to shape. Finally, I used
the Sanding Station for scalloping the wings of the bridge
and overall final detailing.
Next month, we’ll finish this
JOHN BROWN is the
inventor of the Fretted/
Less bass. He owns and
operates Brown’s Guitar
Factory, a guitar manufac-
turing, repair, and restoration
facility staffed by a team of
talented luthiers. His guitar-tool and acces-
sory designs are used by builders all over the
world. Visit brownsguitarfactory.com or email
John at email@example.com.