The bridge is not that terribly difficult to make. Here are the steps that I use to make one:
Step 1: Select your wood for the bridge – preferably use the same wood species as the fretboard. Rough cut the blank to size and thickness, by following the free plans. Finish sand the top and bottom surfaces with a Stationary Belt Sander or a Drum Sander.
Step 2: Print out the Mustache Bridge Plan. Spray the bridge plan backside with Spray Adhesive and place it on the bridge blank. We include a Mustache Bridge layout for the the Gibson J Series of guitars
Step 3: Take a very sharp Woodworker’s Marking Knife or a fine-tipped Xacto knife and carefully trace around the bridge outline, not only cutting through the paper but slightly into the wood as well. Try to cut right on the center of the lines.
Take a sharp Scratch Awl and mark the location of the bridge pin centers and the reference lines for the saddle ends. All of these marks should be deep enough that you can clearly see them to cut and drill easily.
Step 4: This step can be optional or done at the end. I find it easiest to cut the bridge saddle slot into the bridge blank when the bridge blank is sized and still rectangular. I have come up with a jig that allows you to use a Dremel Rotary Tool and you can set the exact angle of the saddle. Be careful to set the saddle depth to about 50% of the bridge depth and make several passes as necessary. Size the saddle width to allow the saddle to slide in with just a little bit of friction, but not so much that you have to use more than just moderate finger pressure. My all means do not have excess space so the saddle can lean over when string tension is placed on the guitar.
Step 5: To actually cut the bridge shape you will need a good Scroll Saw. This Scroll Saw will allow you to easily cut out the scrolls for the bridge with extremely accurate results. In fact, with just a bit of practice you can cut right down the center of the line of your pattern with a very fine blade and barely have the need to sand the cut edge. If you don’t have access to power scroll saw, you can use a hand held scroll saw.
Step 6: To cut the interior portions of the bridge, select a Brad Point Drill Bit that most closely matches on of the radius curves of the inside scroll work. Drill through the bridge on each side of the bridge with this bit. Now remove your Scroll Saw Blade and place it through the hole(s) and reattach the blade. You can now cut the interior scroll work.
GLS Tip #1: Remember, no matter how sharp your drill bit, you risk wood tear-out upon exit of the drill at the bottom of the work piece. To assure a clean hole without any tear-out, place a sacrificial piece of wood beneath the workpiece, drill down through the work piece and into the sacrificial wood. You will get a clean perfectly drilled hole every time.
Step 7: Next you need to round over the edges of the bridge. This will be easiest completed with a Dremel Rotary Tool with a round-over bit. Carefully rout around the perimeter and at the interior of all the scrolls and cut-outs. The portions you cannot reach with the router will have to be cleaned up with a small, sharp wood chisel. This task can also be complete by hand using sanding sticks.
Step 8: Now is the time to drill the bridge pin holes. It is essential that you have these holes sized perfectly or you will botch the job. I would suggest that you test-drill holes in a wood scrap and test fit the pins. They should slide in completely without binding, but should not have any play in them. When satisfied with the test holes drill out the pin holes, again with the sacrificial wood beneath the bridge blank.
Step 9: Countersink the Pin Holes just a bit to allow the bridge pins recess into the bridge plate and this gives a very nice look to the bridge.
Step 10: Route the string ramp grooves into the bridge to allow a graceful angle from the bridge pin hole to the saddle. (Note we will have future articles on the care and setup of the bridge that will cover the string ramping, bridge pin countersink etc., so watch for those coming up soon.