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Bridge alignment

Discussion in 'Luthier's Corner' started by PERDZOMBIE, Oct 18, 2017.



    Apr 15, 2017
    I am making a body for a 5 string bass neck and I am wondering how to properly align the bridge with the neck
  2. charlie monroe

    charlie monroe Gold Supporting Member

    Feb 14, 2011
    Buffalo, NY
    You could run a piece of butcher string or fishing line down each of the B and G string routes.

    This will help ensure that the string paths are straight and centered on the fretboard.

    Then measure out your scale length and drill for the bridge's fastening pattern.
    RobertUI likes this.
  3. Attach the neck to the body and use a laser level lined up on the dots in the neck (assuming the fret markers are centered ). That will give you the centerline on the body and bridge. If the body is painted I put some tape on it and mark the centerline on the tape.

    If there are no fret markers or they are offset you should still be able to relatively easily find the neck centerline to line up the laser. You can also pretty easily see the center of the nut (D string slot on a 5’er) to get started finding the center.

    He’s lining up the neck with the body here but it’s the same concept.


    Apr 15, 2017
    I heard somewhere that you can do it by lining up the end of the neck and the B string bridge saddle. Is this true?
  5. ctmullins

    ctmullins fueled by beer and coconut Gold Supporting Member

    Apr 18, 2008
    MS Gulf Coast
    I'm highly opinionated and extremely self-assured
  6. Bruce Johnson

    Bruce Johnson Commercial User

    Feb 4, 2011
    Fillmore, CA
    Professional Luthier
    All you need is a 3 foot ruler, like an aluminum carpenter's ruler. Or some kind of 3 foot long bar with a straight edge.

    Put some masking tape down on the body , about where the bridge should go.

    Place the 3 foot ruler against the side of the neck, touching the fingerboard right at the nut and at the heel. Make a pencil mark where it crosses over the masking tape. Do the same thing with the ruler on the other side of the neck, make another mark.

    Draw a line between those two marks. Measure the length of that line and divide by two, mark it. That's your centerline side-to-side.

    Measure the distance from the inboard face of the nut to the center of the 12th fret. On a 34" scale bass, it will be 17". Measure that same distance (17") from the center of the 12th fret down onto the masking tape; make a mark. That's what we call the Zero Line, the theoretical scale length point.

    Now, take your bridge and adjust the saddles almost all the way forward. With the saddles forward like that, place the bridge on the body so that the witness point on the saddles is right over the Zero Line, and the bridge is centered side-to-side over the centerline. Check to make sure it's square in relation to the centerline and the neck. That's the position. Mark the holes.

    Sometimes it helps to mark and drill the center screw hole only first. Screw the bridge down with just the center screw. Then stand the bass up vertically and step back a few feet. Adjust the bridge until it visually looks square and right. Then, mark and drill the other screw holes.

    A laser???? Really? I thought you were joking, Matt, but I guess not. I guess I'm just an old fogey, but I kind of prefer a ruler and pencil for lining things up less than 3 feet away. A laser seems like an excessive use of technology. But, okay, if it works....
    Mechanical likes this.
  7. I’ve done exactly what you described with the ruler and tape many, many times. I had the laser level around from other stuff and saw Ken’s video and figured “ what the heck.”

    Plus, it just seems kewel to say your instruments are laser aligned or some similar silliness. :smug:
    pudge and Beej like this.
  8. Bruce Johnson

    Bruce Johnson Commercial User

    Feb 4, 2011
    Fillmore, CA
    Professional Luthier
    I can see it now; someone is going to sell a kit on ebay for doing laser guitar setups. For that high tech accuracy.
    pudge and fenderfour like this.
  9. When you line up the bridge side to side, measure the saddles and not just the edge of the bridge. The saddles may not be the same distance from each edge.
    It may be easier to measure your scale length, mark it and use kite string from your outside tuners to the outside bridge saddles and eyeball the center to center.
    Last edited: Oct 22, 2017
  10. charlie monroe

    charlie monroe Gold Supporting Member

    Feb 14, 2011
    Buffalo, NY
    teh sik tonez is in da lazer
    pudge and Mechanical like this.
  11. Primary

    Primary TB Assistant

    Here are some related products that TB members are talking about. Clicking on a product will take you to TB’s partner, Primary, where you can find links to TB discussions about these products.

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