This is How to Make an Acoustic Guitar – Part Thirty Four – Attaching the Bridge. This is where the bridge is glued to the guitar body, completing the instrument. Enjoy.
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Attaching the Bridge
On its face, attaching the bridge seems like a fairly straightforward process. It kind of is, all you’re doing is gluing one piece of wood to another piece of wood. However, it’s the clamping that you have to worry about.
The bridge is several inches down from the edge of the sound hole, and requires an interesting clamping method to hold down. I’ll show you a couple of these different methods, that way you’re able to choose which one works best for you.
As long as you get your alignment right, and you hold the bridge down carefully, you’ll have a good gluing experience, and the bridge will perform well. Take as much extra time as you need to get the alignment perfect, because the way the guitar functions depends on it.
If you missed last week, you can find How to Make an Acoustic Guitar Part 33 Here.
Aligning the Bridge
The biggest challenge other than clamping that you are going to run into when attaching the acoustic guitar bridge to the body is aligning the bridge and keeping it still. Movement is not a good thing, especially on a guitar bridge.
Wood glue is inherently slippery, and that also compounds the situation. You could have the bridge glued down initially in the perfect position, and then apply a clamp and have it slide away a little bit.
The way that I align my bridge is to measure and plant the bridge in the perfect position, exactly where it needs to be. Then, clamp it down without any glue. Finally, drill holes through the two outside bridge pin holes.
All you have to do at that point is slide two tight fitting bolts, or dowel pins through those drill holes, and it will perfectly align your bridge when you glue it. This way, you don’t have to try and get the bridge back in the exact same spot. The pins will do it for you.
It took me a long time to land on that little gem right there, so enjoy it.
See Also: How To Make An Acoustic Guitar Bridge
Long Reach Cam Clamps
As far as holding down the bridge while the glue dries, one of the options is long reach cam clamps. These can be store bought, or you can make them yourself. It’s actually pretty easy to make them yourself, and you can save a lot of money too.
Three of these clamps in the sound hole area, or at least two is about all you need to clamp the bridge down for gluing. You can design these yourself, and measure the distance you need to make them hold. Then, build them like any other cam clamp.
You can also just buy a sad, that you may have to shop around a little bit to find long reach clamps. It’s worth getting something nice though, because there is a lot riding on this glue joint as far as your guitar is concerned.
Bolts and Nuts for Clamps
And alternative method that I use quite frequently is to use bolts with plastic washers and a nut to secure the bridge in place. These replace your locator pins, and you tighten down the two bolts which creates pressure between the bridge and the soundboard.
After gluing, you scrape away all the excess that squeezes out, and then allow it to dry for 24 hours. After that, carefully remove the bolts and the washers, and your bridge is ready to go without having moved at all.
This clamping method is also very strong, because if you put two bolts through the bridge, right through the existing bridge pinholes, you can apply a lot of pressure. The bolts are cheap too, which is also a nice feature for a specialty tool.
See Also: Bridge Pin Drilling Guide
Use Good Wood Glue
No matter how you decide to clamp the bridge to the soundboard, make sure that you use a high-quality wood glue. This is a very important joint, and it’s also a highly visible part of the guitar body.
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Not only will bad wood glue make a bad joint, it will also reach into the surrounding soundboard area and show underneath your clear finish. This is a really bad look, and something you can avoid with the higher quality glue.
When in doubt, tight bond makes an excellent glue, is inexpensive, and has been trusted by millions of woodworkers and guitar makers over the years. You can’t go wrong with this stuff, and you’ll be glad that you’re not worried about your glue.
Do a Dry Run First
I know I recommend this all the time, but it’s absolutely necessary for certain operations while you’re making an acoustic guitar. A dry run is just putting everything together without glue, and finding the big holes in your grand plan.
It’s so nice when you do a dry run and find out that your clamps are too short to fit. That sounds awful right now, but it will be even worse if everything was covered with glue at this point. Thankfully in a dry run, it won’t be.
Put that bridge exactly where it needs to be, and figure out your clamping method completely. Clamp the bridge down tightly, exactly if this was the real thing. If there are any problems, fix them and repeat the process until it goes perfectly.
See Also: Glue Covered Problems Are Harder to Fix
Clean the Glue and Clamp Overnight
After you apply your glue, apply your clamps. Once you establish the pressure that you need, come back with a wet rag and wipe away as much glue as you possibly can. All of it is the goal, so keep wiping.
The reason that you want to get rid of all of the glue you can at this point is because it’ll be a lot more difficult to remove it later. Plus, any wood glue that you can’t get rid of will show under your finish, and it won’t look very good.
After that, let this joint dry overnight. It’s a good idea to give this particular joint the full cure time before you move onto the next step. I know that waiting is a pain sometimes, but it’s definitely worth it on an acoustic guitar.
Coming Up Next Week
Now that the guitar is ready, it’s time to go over it from top to bottom and get it ready for finishing. If you’ve been working hard on the guitar up to this point, there shouldn’t be a ton to do before applying the finish, which is a good thing.
There are always a few things that need to be done, and these will help you get the guitar ready to receive the best finish it possibly can. After all, a finish is only as good as the surface to which you apply it.
If you have any questions on How to Make an Acoustic Guitar Part 34, please post a question and I’m glad to answer them. Happy building.
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