How to contour bridge feet???

Discussion in 'Setup & Repair [DB]' started by BassGreaser, Jul 30, 2003.

  1. BassGreaser


    Aug 22, 2002
    Austin, TX
    How does one go about contouring the bridge feet? I need to do it on my bass, and don't want to waste the money just to have a luthier do it
  2. tsolo


    Aug 24, 2002
    Ft. Worth
    Uh Oh.
  3. Chris Fitzgerald

    Chris Fitzgerald Student of Life Staff Member Administrator Gold Supporting Member

    Oct 19, 2000
    Louisville, KY
    On the other hand, why pay a mechanic to fix your brakes when you can read about how to do it in a book? All they do is stop your car, right? How hard could it be, and what could possibly go wrong?
  4. Damon Rondeau

    Damon Rondeau Journeyman Clam Artist Supporting Member

    Nov 19, 2002
    Winnipeg, baby
    On the other hand, maybe MR SLIPPERY could use a little practical self-education on "waste". I'm not sure any of the luthiers are going to step up after the bald-faced insult that was offered to them by way of "hello".

    Luthiers are skilled people, carving bridge feet is NOT a low skill job, and the fit of the feet is critical to the sound of your bass. Paying someone to do it is money well-spent.

    First of all, OLEAGINOUS LOW FREQUENCY PURVEYOR, you had better feel comfy with your woodworking skills. Even though this is different, it helps if you've ever made a nice coffee table or assembled a plank device....

    Here's how one amateur does the job (namely, me.) Pull the strings off your bass. Protect the soundpost from falling. Get yourself some old-fashioned carbon paper. Stick it down on the bass at the bridge position. Being careful to hold the bridge in the appropriate position, give the bottom of the feet a little rub on the carbon paper. (Keeping everything in the right position is critical.) Now look at the bridge feet. See where there are marks from the carbon paper? Take your wicked sharp carving knife and carve away wood ONLY where there are carbon marks. Repeat this process until the carbon covers the bottom of the bridge feet COMPLETELY evenly. Don't whack off huge chunks of wood -- you'll regret it. Work slow. You're not done until it fits PERFECTLY.

    Working this way, it should only take 5 or 6 hours to fit the feet. You MIGHT be satisfied with the result of your first effort. If not, get another bridge and try again.

    You could try sandpaper instead of carbon paper, and rubbing the bridge right on the belly of your bass, but you probably won't like the rounded edges and rotten fit you'll get.

    You gotta like doing this sort of thing -- the zen whittling and the graveyard whistling at the risk of ruined stock.

    If you don't like it, spend a few bucks and see a luthier. You won't regret it.
  5. BassGreaser


    Aug 22, 2002
    Austin, TX
    sorry about how I stated that... I respect what a skilled luthier can do. It's just that my bridge is a shipping bridge and I'd rather "practice" on it. Now if I had lets say I $100 bridge i'd surely take it to a luthier!! Again I'm deeply sorry for being such an A$$
  6. Damon Rondeau

    Damon Rondeau Journeyman Clam Artist Supporting Member

    Nov 19, 2002
    Winnipeg, baby
    Attaboy. Funny how one word can set off a chain of events, huh?

    Best luck with your bridge feet.
  7. Aroneng

    Aroneng Supporting Member

    Sep 7, 2001
    Ft. Lauderdale, FL
    If you go to "all hail" Bob Gollihur's website, there will be some instructions for fitting adjusters to a bass bridge. Within those instructions will be some helpful information for fitting the bridge properly. As was mentioned, take your time and don't be in a rush. If you don't have the time/skills/patience necessary then you are better off taking the work to someone more qualified.

    Something to take into consideration is that when you are fitting the bridge, there is no pressure coming from the strings. When the bass is strung up, the bridge legs have a tendency to spread out. To make a proper fit the legs should be spread apart ensuring the proper fit under normal string pressure.
  8. John Sprague

    John Sprague Sam Shen's US Distributor

    Mar 10, 2003
    Rochester, NY
    Sales Manager, CSC Products Inc.
    Fitting the bridge is the most difficult item of the set-up, with the post running a close second. Also, the bridge is very much a "signature" item with most luthiers, with their preferences for the legs, heart shape, top, feet thickness, profile/bridge thickness, etc... being honed over many years of experience and study. Doing it yourself is kind of like saying your wife wants a new painting for the living room, but you don't want to throw the cash at it right now so you're gonna paint something in the garage this weekend for her.:)

    Lise Goss is sort of near you, I'm not sure what she'd charge though, and there must be some books to be had at one of the major libraries that can guide you as well.

  9. Marcus Johnson

    Marcus Johnson

    Nov 28, 2001
    Does anyone in the world of violin family luthiery use sandpaper to fit a bridge? The use of a carving knife seems more efficient and accurate to me, assuming that the person wielding the knife has the skills required. But you still see those little jigs with the wheel that supposedly provide the stability needed to get a bridge to fit correctly.

    My thinking is; learn to use a sharp knife correctly. I don't know how else you could approach a lot of the work involved on a bass. That's why good luthiers are so valuable.
  10. Those little jigs work ok for violin and viola bridges, but for a bass, they still rock far too much. In addition, the thickness of the sandpaper makes them pretty useless for obtaining a good full contact fit. You would still need to finish fitting with a knife, so why bother with it?
  11. Johnny L

    Johnny L

    Feb 14, 2002
    New Jersey
    I fitted my first bass bridge using the sandpaper/jig trick with little pain and suffering and a good bit of thought on the matter.

    It may not have looked perfect (it looked pretty bad), and it may not have brought out the best possible sound quality on my bass (who could tell at the time anyway as well as I could play then), but it did a perfect job of getting my bridge to stand upright on the top and give me a bass to work with.

    My teacher finally convinced me to take my bass to a luthier for damage-control. I don't regret it at all, but it didn't transform me overnight into a better bassist. If you want to do it the way I did it, check out both the Gollihur website and whatever the name of that guitar luthier store in Michigan or Indiana or somewhere around there is for a mandolin bridge jig...and good luck 1) bridge fitting and then 2) bass luthier hunting.
  12. Jeff Bollbach

    Jeff Bollbach Jeff Bollbach Luthier, Inc.

    Dec 12, 2001
    freeport, ny
  13. Don Higdon

    Don Higdon In Memoriam

    Dec 11, 1999
    Princeton Junction, NJ
    I've watched David Gage shape bridge feet with broken glass.
  14. Actually that is not that unusual. I know a several good violin makers who use broken glass as scraper when working their plates. Many prefer glass to steel scrapers. I don't because I cut myself too often as it is.
  15. Marcus Johnson

    Marcus Johnson

    Nov 28, 2001
    I've heard that some luthiers swear that microscope slides make perfect scrapers.
  16. Damon Rondeau

    Damon Rondeau Journeyman Clam Artist Supporting Member

    Nov 19, 2002
    Winnipeg, baby
    Before everyone runs out for a box of microscope slides, or starts smashing up the stemware, remember what Bob B said about CUTTING yourself!

    Now that you know you can use glass for scraping, you might as well know that any good flat tool steel (like saw blades) can be used for scraping. Learning to roll a scraper edge is another story unto itself, though...

    It's a cute trick, and it might be a necessary trick in someone's bag of tricks, but the glass thing isn't really necessary IMHO.

    On the other hand, blood stains on the bridge CAN show your dedication like nothing else.
  17. arnoldschnitzer

    arnoldschnitzer AES Fine Instruments

    Feb 16, 2002
    New Mexico. USA
    Try using your teeth. Front teeth are best; little hamster bites.

    Just kidding!!!
  18. How much would it cost in the NYC area to shape bridge feet? How about getting a new bridgee cut?
    I'd do it myself but don't want to waste the money on having a luthier repair what I destroy along with the job that needs to be done. :D
  19. Damon Rondeau

    Damon Rondeau Journeyman Clam Artist Supporting Member

    Nov 19, 2002
    Winnipeg, baby
    Just remember: no tickee, no bridgee.