Scott's Guitar Blog: February 12, 2013

Making a bridge for a 1947 Martin Classical guitar

This is a very rare find, a 1947 Classical Martin. Its bridge had been shattered many years ago, and repaired very badly. In addition to having been reglued to the top in a very sloppy manner, the rear block for the strings holes had sheared off the bridge, and was also reglued badly. Bottom line: This bridge was too far gone to save, and I needed to make a new one.

I found a lovely piece of Brazilian rosewood, like the original, and drew up the lines on the blank. Next, a short walk over to the 1960s Clausing Mill to reproduce the bridge, one pass at a time. First, drilling the string tunnels through the back edge, then slotting for the saddle. I then milled away the wood to create the bridge wings on each side. The last step was to create the space between the saddle block and the string tunnel block. Classical guitar strings pass over this valley on their journey up to the saddle. In order to vibrate freely, this valley needs to be created in order that the strings aren’t dampened by rubbing against any part of the bridge. A little sanding, and purposely leaving it a tiny bit rough in places helped to mirror the guitar’s age. Done!

The only modifications in design that I made were 1- Using an angled V-shaped bit when making this valley, rather than a straight one. The extra wood behind the saddle block and in front of the string block creates a stronger bridge, which is less likely to break, as the original did. 2- I made the saddle slot 1/8″ wide rather than 3/32″ to bring more tone to the guitar, and to have the ability to intonate the saddle with more accuracy.

A mill is a wonderful way to have the kind of presicion needed for string spacing, slotting and shaping…and it’s still fun, as you’re doing it by hand. Though I’ve been repairing and making guitars for a living for 22 years now, I am still amazed and filled with wonder when a block of wood can be made into something that will bring music to people. Now I have alot of sawdust and shavings to sweep up!