Belly Bridge Construction

Belly Bridge

Most of our Guitar Building Plans here at Georgia Luthier Supply are of the Belly Bridge type.

Other types of bridges that are considered in the construction of an acoustic guitar are the pyramid bridge used on the vintage Martin Guitars, Moustache Bridge, used on vintage Gibson Guitars, and the reverse belly bridge used on may Gibson Acoustics.

The popularity was begun when the C.F. Martin Co. created the belly bridge for their dreadnought steel string guitars made popular in the 1930’s. These are also referred to as pre-war Martins.

There is a reason that the belly bridge gained so much favor. Here are a few reasons that I can think of….

  • The footprint or size of the belly bridge is adequate that allows a secure attachment to the guitar top without the need for mechanical fasteners. This was huge!! This meant no screws, bolts or other mechanical devices needed to be used.
  • Due to the design of the bridge, it is thin enough to clearly transmit a great deal of the vibrations from the strings to the top plate.
  • The look of the Belly Bridge is indeed very graceful. It is simple and functional and truly follows the axiom form follows function.
  • Due to it’s size and design, it allows luthiers to play around with the design while still keeping the basic shape. I.E. Bridge pin arrangements can be straight or arched, the ends can be angled etc.
  • The Belly Bridge is quite easy to make, given you are willing to make a few jigs and patterns, for instance, our Bridge Ramp Sanding Jig and our Saddle Channel Routing Jig.
  • The Belly Bridge is easy to glue to the guitar top plate, again with the aid of our Bridge Clamping Jig.
Selection of the Bridge Wood:

Usually this is quite an easy decision as it is a traditional one for most acoustic guitars. The wood of the bridge usually matches the wood of the fretboard. For example, if you have an ebony fretboard you will have an ebony bridge. The same holds true for Rosewood. Of course you can vary from this, but that is up to you or to the customer.

My all means, do not construct the bridge from anything other than a very hard and dense wood that can stand up to the abuse of 200 pounds of tension place on it for its entire life. It is also important to use a very hard wood to resist pullout of the strings from the bridge pin hole.

While you can purchase bridge blanks from such sources such as Luithers Mercantile, or StewMac, my question is why? If you are building a guitar from scratch, there is very rewarding to find great flitches of exotic wood from which you can cut bridges, fretboards or even side and back plates. The fun is in the ‘hunt’. Plus you can save a pile of money by re-sawing your own wood.

This of course depends if you are just going to make one or two guitars, or plan on making a bunch of them. I will warn you this hobby or profession is very addictive!

If you decided to make just one bridge you can complete all of your work without the need for any specialized jigs or stationary power tools. If you plan on several bridge-making projects you will want to make templates, make a saddle routing jig, make a bridge ramp shaping tool for a Stationary Belt Sander and have access to a Belt Sander, Drill Press, Countersinking bits, and assorted other tools.

Get the PDF Plans for Your Dream Guitar:

The very first thing you will want to do is get an accurate plan of the guitar you want to build. I have several shapes, options and helpful guitar building tool plans, and they are all available at Georgia Luthier Supply

Guitar Building Handbook

If you need additional assistance with your guitar building project, be sure to check out the Guitar Construction Book by Georgia Luthier Supply. This book features 118 fully illustrated pages that will walk you through the entire process of building a guitar for just $11.99.

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