Claescaster

Tag: How to… remove a bridge

How to… carve a bridge

K. Yairi YW-1000 Made in Japan 1973K. Yairi YW-1000 a Martin D-45 copy made in Kani, Japan in 1973

It’s been a while since I posted anything in my little DIY series, How to…, like me previous post about How to… reset a Levin neck or remove a bridge. I did carve a little floating bridge for my Levin 65 over a year ago but now it was finally time to carve a proper ebony bridge for my K. Yairi YW-1000.

K. Yairi YW-1000 Made in Japan 1973I thought about getting a pre-made Allparts ebony bridge at first but felt that it would be more fun to make one myself from scratch instead. I ordered some rosewood and ebony blanks from Madinter, it thought it could be good to have some extra at home, and got started. First I removed the old bridge, it had two screws that was a bit tricky to get out but eventually I figured it out. I removed the bridge with a spatula that I heated on a normal clothes iron, it works like a charm every time. Start in a corner and work yourself towards the middle and be careful when it starts to loosen up so you don’t break it off and chip the top, it should come off slowly and without force. I planed the ebony blank and then used a cabinet scraper to get it even. I copied the old bridge and drilled the holes straight away. It felt easier to do this before the bridge was shaped, it would also have saved me a lot of time in case I messed up the holes and had to start all over again. Luckily everything went fine.

K. Yairi YW-1000 Made in Japan 1973Once the bridge was sawed in to a good size, I made it a couple of millimetres bigger on all sides, I drew the outlines of the final shape. I mounted the bridge blank on a piece of scrap wood with two screws so I could more easily work all around with the bridge firmly secured. I used a chisel to carve out the shape on the sides and from the top down towards the wings. I got a good round shape with a half round rasp and then it was just a hell of a lot of sanding to remove all the lines from the rasp and to get it smooth and nice.

K. Yairi YW-1000 Made in Japan 1973I glued the bridge on and after 3 days I strung up both E-strings and used a drill as a saddle so I could move it around until I got the intonation right, I forgot to take a picture of that. I marked out the saddle and then sawed a 3 mm slot. Next step was to create a bone saddle to match and string it up. Easy peasy, well it was a hard days work but it was easier that I thought.

Goya GG-172

Levin Goya 172 Made in Sweden 1970 Goya GG-172 Made in Sweden by Levin in 1970

I feel really ashamed, I’ve had a beautiful Levin at home since June without fixing her up. There was a lot of things to got in the way, me building a Telecaster from scratch being the main one, but also that I had a lot of different ideas of what to do with this guitar that in the end never happened. This is my 8th Levin, or actually it’s number 9 in the collection since I got my 1951 Levin Royal after. It’s an old worn Goya Model GG-172 from 1970, according to Vintage Guitars Sweden. You can check how old your Levin / Goya is here, Levin serial numbers / Goya serial numbers. It plays very well now after my little restoration and starts to sound better and better, I have a feeling that no one has played this for a very long time. The Goya GG-172 is grand concert sized Levin, the same size as my dad’s old Levin LT-16. They are 38 cm wide just like a Martin 000, they are 15″ which is 38.1 cm. It’s a very nice size to play, slightly smaller than a normal Dreadnought but with decent bass from the solid mahogany back and sides. I bought the guitar via eBay from a pawn shop in Browns Mills, New Jersey, I freaking love the internet. I used the Global Shipping Program which worked fine this time as well, it took 2 weeks just like it did when I bought my Goya 163. I really wished that the Japanese sellers would start with this as well since it was such a mess when I bought my K.Yairi TG-40, it took 40 days to get through customs, with the Global Shipping Program you pay all the import taxes and charges straight away so it just goes straight trough customs without any delays. It’s a really nice little Levin but since I have 9 of them now and actually another on the way, I might have to consider selling it to make some room. If you are interested send me an email to claesgellerbrink@gmail.com

Levin Goya 172 Made in Sweden 1970

Levin Model 172 / Goya Model 172 / Goya GG-172
Grand Concert size: Body width: 380 mm, body length: 480 mm, body depth: 98 mm
Fingerboard width: 43 mm, scale length: 630 mm
Spruce top, mahogany back and sides, 4-ply bound top, single-bound back
Mahogany bolt-on neck with adjustable truss rod
Single-bound rosewood fingerboard with bass side pearloid dot inlay
Rosewood bridge with individual height adjustable plastic saddles
Nickel plated individual Van Gent tuners with metal buttons
Matte natural finish and ten year warranty

Levin Goya 172 Made in Sweden 1970 I started with taking the guitar apart. The neck needed a reset, the pickguard was loose and the previous owner had bolted the bridge to the top. I used a spatula that I heated on a normal clothes iron, worked like a charm.

Levin Goya 172 Made in Sweden 1970 I filled the holes in the bridge and then glued it back. I filed down the heel to get the neck angle correct and get guitar playable again. I re-glued the pickguard and reshaped the top on the saddle screws.

Goya 163

Goya Model 163 Made in Sweden 1968
A very early Goya Model 163, they were introduced in 1969 but the serial number puts this one to 1968. That would make it the earliest known example on the Vintage Guitars Sweden site. Levin serial numbers / Goya serial numbers

I thought I might as well post some images of the Goya 163 I received back in January. There was some work to be done, actually quite a lot. First I had to reset the neck to get the action down and then I had to remove the bridge and redo the saddle screws. I cut a new pickguard over the weekend, well it’s not perfect yet, I’m still looking for a better material but it will do for now. I bought this Goya from a girl called Marilyn Moser in Maynard, Massachusetts. She had used the guitar for some live gigs in the New York area but gave up on it because of the high action, it was fairly unplayable when I got it. The guitar came with a nice handwritten note to me, the new owner, that’s why I got curious to find out a bit more about her. Here are links to some of her music and her awesome 1960’s blog.

Goya Model 163 Made in Sweden 1968
Goya Model 163, made in Sweden by Levin in 1968

Levin 163 / Goya 163
Goliath size: Body width: 400 mm, body length: 505 mm, body depth: 95/120 mm
Fingerboard width: 43 mm, scale length: 630 mm
Spruce top, flame maple back and sides, 4-ply bound top, single-bound back
Mahogany bolt-on neck with adjustable truss rod
Single-bound rosewood fingerboard with bass side pearloid dot inlay
Rosewood bridge with individual height adjustable plastic saddles
Nickel plated individual Van Gent tuners with metal buttons
Sunburst finish and ten year warranty

Goya Model 163 Made in Sweden 1968
I still haven’t found a good pickguard material. Well the red plastic that I happened to find in the street is actually perfect but who wants a red pickguard. I’ve managed to find 0.8 mm thick matt black plastic but I need something around 1-1.5 mm and preferable in high gloss jet black or even better in red tortoise.  I fitted a strap button in the usual place, and then I painted the new bone nut orange to match the original Levin Galalith nut.

Levin Goya Model 163 1968
Update: March 21, 2014 The pickguard material I ordered from China looked a lot classier than expected so I cut in to shape and put it on

How to… remove a bridge

Levin / Goya 163 individual height adjustable plastic saddles
The old plastic saddles before I removed the bridge on my Goya Model 163 from 1968.

I recently had to remove my first bridge on an acoustic guitar, after removing my first neck it just felt like a natural next step. It turned out to be both harder and easier than I first thought it would be. I needed to do this for two reasons, first because the bridge started to come loose, it felt like the glue had dried up and started to fall apart. Second, I wasn’t too excited about the extremely low individual height adjustable plastic saddles, as Levin calls them, that the previous owner had left me. They were too low to adjust and made some strings sound muted and dull. I watched a Youtube clip before I started with Julyan Wallis, who happened to be working on a Levin guitar as well, and learned a few good tricks. He was heating up the spatula on an normal clothes iron and that way managed to loosen the old glue under the bridge. It worked extremely well.

Goya 163 bridge removal
I heated up the spatula on a normal clothes iron and touched it with my fingers to make sure it didn’t get too hot, I was scared to scorch the lacquer. As soon as you loosened the corners and worked your way around the whole bridge you can keep the tip of the spatula quite hot if you are quick to get it in under the bridge and not resting it on the lacquer. This could have been such a smooth and and easy job if I would have realised earlier that that saddle screws went all the way through and was actually screwed in to the top as well, something that kept the bridge secure even when all the glue was loosened. I tried over and over and even managed to damaged the lacquer in two places in my desperate attempts to get the bridge off. Since I couldn’t get a grip of the saddle screws, two was filed down smooth and the others were too low to hold on to with any pliers. I had to heat up a screwdriver on a candle, I should probably have used the clothes iron, and then melt the tip in to the saddle and that way get a grip and unscrew them. Once all the saddle screws were out the bridge came off straight away. It could have been a cleaner removal if I had realised that the saddles were attached to the top but still, I’m pretty pleased with the result for being my first time.

Goya 163 bridge removal
I painted the wood where the finish had come off and then added a bit of nitro lacquer to seal it. Since I had to burn the tip of the saddles to get them out I thought the best I could do in order to save as much material as possible was the flip them over and reshape the bottom instead. I used a normal hand file to shape the saddles, I made the tip both higher and wider to get a better grip with the pliers when I adjust them. Once the shape was good I rounded them off with my fret crowning file. I glued the bridge back in place with fish glue and a couple of clamps and let it set for 24 hours. It worked pretty well, the tone is better and I can now easily adjust the string height like Levin intended 46 years ago.