Claescaster

Tag: lowering the action

How to… reglue a bridge

Francisca Montserrat, Barcelona
Francisca Montserrat Barcelona, Spanish guitar 1960’s

I recently reglued the bridge on my Francisca Montserrat and just wanted to show how easy it is if anyone out there feels a bit scared of doing it yourself. It’s very straight forward and only takes a couple of minutes.

Francisca Montserrat, Barcelona
Heat a spatula on a normal clothes iron, it’s good to keep a finger on it so it doesn’t get too hot and scorch the lacquer. Insert the spatula under the bridge, start with the edges and work your way to the middle to loosen the bridge. I prefer to reheat often instead of working with a really hot spatula from the start, less risk of damaging the top that way. Be careful when you do the last push so you don’t break it off, it’s supposed to come off without any direct force if the spatula is warm enough to loosen the glue. Once the bridge is off, clean the guitar top and the bottom of the bridge with some sandpaper to get a smooth surface. I earlier thought that it was good to scratch the bottom of the bridge with a knife to get something for the glue to grip to but have later been told that’s an old myth and it’s better to keep the surfaces smooth. Apply plenty of glue on both the guitar top and the bottom of the bridge, I always use fish glue for my guitars. Put the bridge in place, apply some pressure with your hands and remove all the extra glue that comes out on the side and then apply a couple of clamps to keep it in place over night. I recently got myself a couple of deep throated, 200 x 195 mm, Klemmsia clamps from German eBay that worked great.

Francisca Montserrat, Barcelona

How to… carve a bridge

Levin Model 65 parlour guitar Made in Sweden 1942
Levin Model 65 parlour guitar Made in Sweden 1942

Last weekend I decided to make a new bridge for my 1940’s Levin model 65. I actually did the same thing about a year ago but with less success, you can read about it here. This time I had more tools, better material and at least some knowledge of working with wood.

Levin Model 65 parlour guitar Made in Sweden 1942I started with a rosewood blank that I carved roughly to the right height with my trusty old Mora kniv, a cheap Swedish knife that solves most of my guitar related problems. Then I carved the shape of the edges, I just marked where to start and then carved it in to a rounded slope. I got the top in to a nice triangle shape with a narrow chisel and then cut out the arch in the bottom with a round file. I compared it to the old bridge to get the string spacing right and then just made little groves with a small triangle file. After a bit of lemon oil I was ready to try it out and it worked perfectly.  

Levin Model 65 parlour guitar Made in Sweden 1942The final result, a new bridge for not only the oldest Levin I own but the olderst guitar I’ve ever actually had in my hands.

Alhambra

Alhambra 1978
Alhambra, Made in Spain in 1978

This beautiful old Alhambra arrived to the office yesterday. It’s a present for my father-in-law, Marcos. He picked up a guitar for the first time a couple of years ago when he was in his late Sixties, which proves that it’s never too late. Now he felt that he had outgrown his beginners guitar and wanted something else so Araceli and I bought this one for him. He really wanted an Alhambra, not only for their reputation but also because they are built in Muro de Alcoy, a small village in the mountains north of Alicante, not far from where Marcos grew up in Cartagena. The only problem is that the second hand markets for guitars in Spain is pretty bad and even worse in the South so his only option would have been to spend 700€ on a new one, the prices are quite high down there since there isn’t much competition. So we decided to help him out and found this fairly cheap from Germany on eBay. I wasn’t really sure what to expect, nowadays Alhambra is one of the worlds best and biggest guitar builders known for their great quality, but how were things 30-40 years ago? I had only played one once, a beat up Alhambra from 1976 that I found in a Cash Converter. It had a terrible belly and the bridge was coming off too but they still wanted 120€ for it and refused to lower the price since it was an Alhambra. These Seventies models doesn’t seem to have any model indications so it’s hard to know if a certain guitar was made for the tourists in the 1960-70’s or if it was made to be played properly. The machine heads, fretboard and frets are on the cheaper side but the wood is amazing and they have really great tone. So even if this was made fairly cheap for a tourist to bring back home to Germany they still knew how to build great guitars because the volume and tone is far better than on any modern Spanish guitar that I have played lately. I levelled the frets a bit, crowned them and softened the edges and then polished everything. I also sanded down the saddle since the action was a bit high but now it feels nice and plays really well, maybe not as nice as my Francisca Montserrat but still. Now we just have to wait and see what Marcos feels about his new guitar, hopefully he will like it as much as Araceli and I do.

Alhambra 1978
The frets felt pretty uneven so I levelled, crowned and polished them and then sanded down the saddle a bit

Alhambra 1978

Alhambra 1978
Alhambra built in Muro de Alcoy in 1978

Levin model 65

Levin Model 65 parlour guitar Made in Sweden 1942
Levin Model 65 parlour guitar Made in Sweden 1942

Last weekend I decided to try to improve the playability a bit on my little parlour Levin model 65 from 1942. It doesn’t have an adjustable trussrod, few guitars did before the 1960’s, and would probably benefit from a neck reset but I thought I should start with the easy things first. Like making a new bridge that is a bit lower and that way get the action down and it worked really well. The easiest would have been to just file down the original bridge but I felt I rather make a new one than mess with the old one.

Update: July 31, 2014
I actually carved a new bridge from scratch, you can read about it here: How to… carve a bridge, that worked out ten times better.

Levin Model 65 parlour guitar Made in Sweden 1942

Levin Model 65
Body width: 315 mm
Spruce top, birch back and sides.
Unbound top, back and headstock.
Unbound walnut fingerboard with mother-of-pearl dot inlay
Rosewood bridge, brass tuners, nickel plated tailpiece
Dark brown finished neck, back & sides.
Sunburst finished top and one year warranty

Levin Model 65 parlour guitar Made in Sweden 1942
Since the strings were off I thought I mights as well even out the fretboard a bit and polish the frets. I cleaned the edges of the frets with a toothbrush and then oiled up the fretboard with lemon oil. I managed to cut through the old glue with a razor blade and that way get the old bridge off.

Levin Model 65 parlour guitar Made in Sweden 1942
I think this bridge has been re-glued a couple of times since 1942 and that’s why some of the nitro lacquer came off. It’s hard to tell, it might have looked like that for 60 years under the bridge, who knows. Either way there isn’t much to do about it so I will just try to ignore it for now. If I can’t stand it I can always put the original bridge back. I got a cheap replacement rosewood bridge from eBay, straight from China for 3.50€. Now I just had to get the angle right, Levin always has their floating bridges in an angle, maybe it’s the same for all floating bridges. I copied the old bridge to get the angle right and started to make it as low as possible. Of course I cut my thumb after about 12 sec and had to rethink my methods of getting the bridge lower. In the end it was a combination of knife, a Swedish Morakniv of course, and sandpaper before I oiled it up with lemon oil to get it dark and nice. I read on Swedish forum that a great trick to get this parlour guitars to sound less jangly or rattly is to mute the tail piece. Apparently the main reason why these small bodied guitars sound like they do is because of the rattling tail piece. I muted mine with half a black sock that I tucked in so you can’t see it and it really made wonders to the sound. It’s a lot warmer and more woody now.

Levin Model 65 parlour guitar Made in Sweden 1942
I copied the string spacing from the old bridge, made a notch with a knife and then filed it down with folded fine sandpaper and a round file. I also realised that since I had to take so much off in the bottom on the high E side, the bridge looked really unbalanced so I cut of a chunk on the other side and rounded off all the edges to try to create a nice looking bridge.