The bridge clamp is a wonderful addition to your guitar shop and the materials and equipment needed to make it are relatively simple – at least compared to the construction of a guitar.
The clamp can be easily constructed with basic tools used for guitar building. Stationary tools of course make the job much easier.
Tools and Materials:
10″ Table Saw
Stationary Belt Sander
Fine-Toothed Japanese Pull Saw
Brad Point Drill Set
1/4″ x 20 Brass Threaded Inserts
1/4″ x 20 Knobs with 1-1/2″ Studs
Wing Nut Assortment
Scrap Maple Stock
1/16″ Rubber Cushion Material
Adhesive Sandpaper 120 Grit
Adhesive Sandpaper 220 Grit
Woodworkers Try Square
Get The Plan:
We have a PDF download for you to make one of these clamps for yourself. Who knows, you could make some improvements on it and share it here so other can benefit from that too?
Just go to our Bridge Clamp Page, to pick one up for yourself and make your bridge clamping much easier.
Select The Wood Stock:
There is a lot of stress applied to this clamp, at 4 different locations along it’s length. It is important that you select a very strong wood, with little bending or deformation. I prefer to use rock maple with a straight grain. You could certainly substitute other hardwoods such as birch, hornbeam, walnut or even rosewood.
As with all your guitar tools, show off your luthier abilities in you tools. Make them precise and a work of art. This way you will take pride as you work with your guitars too.
Cut the Jig Base:
Start out by making the Jig Base. I prefer to cut this on the Table Saw, if you have one. If not, you can use the Band Saw or even hand saws if you have no access to stationary tools.
GLS Hint: If you do not have access to stationary power tools, give the Japanese Pull Saws a try. You will be amazed at the cutting speed and accuracy of these fabulous saws. I use them for several operations on the guitar, where other traditional saws take far more effort and time to complete.
Sort through your wood scraps or in your search for a new piece of wood, select a straight grain piece of wood with vertical grain.
Cut the block to the dimensions of 156.6mm long x 41.1mm wide x 24.3mm tall (6-1/8″ x 1-5/8″ x 1″). You can of course vary these dimensions, but try to keep the jig footprint within the footprint of the bridge for easy clean-up.
Cut the Wood Cauls Out:
Next you will want to cut out the wood cauls from each end of the base for the ramp clamps. I prefer to first cut the contour on the bottom of the caul to roughly fit the bridge ramp contour. Use the band saw for this operation. Now take the piece over to the Stationary Belt Sander with the Vertical Fence attached and gently sand the final contour to each end of the block.
We now need to cut out the cauls from the jig body. Do this with Japanese Pull Saws or the Band Saw. Clean up all cut surfaces on the Stationary Belt Sanders for the smaller surface and sanding surfaces for the caul cut-outs.
Drill Out Bolt Holes:
Now measure you bridge pin separation and mark them on the top face of the jig base. I prefer to elongate these holes so that the jig can be used on a multitude of bridges.
To drill these elongated holes on the Drill Press, do the following. Set up a fence of the drill press so the piece is centered over the hole location. Start drilling with a Brad Point Bit at one end of the slot and progressively move toward the other end of the slot. Drill your holes about 1/2 bit diameter spacings and drill very slowly to let the bit do its work.
To clean out the slot, just lock the bit in the down drill position and move the wood piece slowly through the bit and you will have a nicely cut slot. If you move to quickly the slot will deform.
Drill Out the Bridge Ramp Clamp Holes:
Next drill holes for the threaded inserts to the proper diameter and depth. Now drill out the hole for the bolt for the remainder of the depth of the jig.
GLS Hint: In order to prevent wood tear-out upon the drill exiting the wood, just use a sacrificial piece of wood beneath your work.
Screw in the Threaded Inserts. Locate the wood cauls beneath and centered on the inserts and mark the center of the bolt hole on each of them. Next drill a hole that will accept the threaded stud bolt in each of the cauls, which helps keep the caul in position.
Now final sand the jig and put a chamber or radius on each of the edges to give it that final touch and to protect the guitar.
You may wish to apply a 1/16″ or 1/8″ rubber cushion on each clamping surface to protect a finished bridge. That is up to you.
Install your hardware and you are finished.