Workshop: Bridge Cleanup

In my last workshop post, I showed the regluing of this bridge. In this post I'm going to cut a new saddle slot, stain, and finish it to match period aesthetics. Above you can see that I've marked the saddle location and size, drilled the "ends" of the slot, and used my Dremel tool with a cut-off wheel to  cut the edges of the slot to depth.

Next I take a chisel and rough-it down to the depth I want it at.

This StewMac slot-leveling file is super-handy to then finish the slot off.

The owner wants to stick with nylon-tension/intonating strings, so that's why I've kept the saddle slot straight instead of compensated.

Here's the new bone saddle -- with just a hair of radius to it -- in place. I know a drop-in saddle is not quite period, but it will make adjustments easier, the bridge stronger, and can always be cut through to make a through-saddle later on.

The next step is to stain it (just like it was to begin-with) to match the ebony fretboard. I use India ink and then wipe-off any excess build-up. It dries in about 10 minutes.

I can then put a sealer-coat on and lightly distress it here and there to get it vintage-looking. I'm almost certain this is the same technique Lyon & Healy used on their maple bridges, as the India ink doesn't go deep into the wood like proper stain or "ebonizer" and thus won't hurt its structural integrity over time.

Because the bridge plate on this guitar is so shallow, I've double-balled the ends of the strings (with balls cut-off of worn-out steel strings) to keep the wraps off of the saddle. This is a handy trick if you have one of these old guitars that was never intended for use with the long-style wraps we use on guitars these days.