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Sandpaper to fit bridge feet, while bridge on bass

Discussion in 'Setup & Repair [DB]' started by martin durkin, Mar 24, 2013.

  1. I know this subject has been covered, but I intend to try getting a perfect fit of the bridge feet using the following technique. My bridge fits well except for spots where it is possible to insert a piece of paper, so it's not far out. I intend to:-
    1. Slacken off strings enough to put a strip of fine sandpaper under one bridge foot, the Bass side first
    2. Hold the bridge in place and drag sandpaper the direction of top to bottom of the bass eg vertical direction
    3 Repeat procedure on the treble side.
    My concerns are
    1. Cracking the table or sound post crack when lifting the bass side in order to insert sandpaper
    2. Dropping string tension so much the sound post drop or moves into a dangerous angle, which could crack the table when strings are tightened
    3 ending up with a worse fitting bridge

    I really want to get the maximum tone and volume out of my bass and I think well fitting feet will contribute to this. Presently the soundpost and bridge are in the optimum place, positioned by a luthier.
  2. The sandpaper method sounds OK, but it never worked well enough for me. I ended up using a smear of lipstick on the table to highlight the contact points on the bridge feet, Remove the bridge and scrape the feet down with a small, sharp stiff-bladed knife. Repeat until perfect.

    I ended up with a very pleasing result.

    Perhaps search for the thread with 'lipstick' in it. (n.b. Plenty of fun advice was provided about colours etc.) :rollno:

  3. Thanks Steve. I'm going to try the sandpaper but use wet and dry as its not grainy. I'm also going to pull laterally eg side to side with the wet and dry as I think that will prevent bridge movement and minimise the rounding off risk. I still intend to hold the bridge as much as possible. I don't want to risk my sound post dropping. If that happens I'll have to go to the luthier which will mean being without a bass for nearly a week!
    I'm going to just do the bass side.
  4. powerbass

    powerbass Supporting Member

    Nov 2, 2006
    western MA
    you'll be at it a long time w/wet/dry sandpaper since the grit is so fine. 220 grit might be quicker. A band clamp available at any hardware store can be used to hold the sound post in place. A band clamp is nylon webbing w/a ratchet clamp - attach it around your bass next to the bridge, this will hold tension on the top and keep the sound post in place
  5. An edged tool is much more effective for this, either a very sharp scraper blade or a very sharp "violin knife" with a curved blade, so you can place your cuts precisely without hitting the edges of the feet. A little bit of water applied with your finger helps make the end grain easier to cut. The sandpaper is useful for marking where you need to cut.
  6. Thanks. I've used sandpaper on the bass side, and the tailpiece side of the feet are 90%+ in contact with the table. The corners right at the end are just not fully in contact. The fingerboard side is about 75%+ in contact, again just a fraction out at the corners, not even as wide as a post it note, but not 100% firm contact. I'm going to look out for the webbing and clamp, and do the job properly when I have a couple of days in the near future, also using the lipstick/carbon paper/pencil. I'm also considering giving the feet a good dusting of powdered rosin, which might compress an fill any micro millimetre gaps. I'll live with my adjustment just for now, as it is an improvement. What the bass needs now is about 20 hours of bowed Simandl to settle in!
  7. Jake deVilliers

    Jake deVilliers Commercial User

    May 24, 2006
    Crescent Beach, BC
    Owner of The Bass Spa, String Repairman at Long & McQuade Vancouver
    That's the result of using sandpaper.

    If you want the feet to fit 100%, follow Steve's advice: lipstick and a sharp edge tool - scraper/chisel/knife. When you have 100% lipstick transfer, you have 100% contact.
    arnoldschnitzer likes this.
  8. I'm going to try the band clamp and lipstick today. In getting a band lamp from screw fix £5.99, then cheap lipstick. I've got a decent 3/4 inch sharp chisel for scraping off raised areas. So I take it I attatch the band clamp at max tension before slackening strings. I was thinking in situating the clamp between the narrow point of the c bouts which will prevent it getting any looser if it slips. Will this be too far away from the bridge to maintain sound post pressure?
  9. Should read I'm getting a band clamp!
  10. Be careful with a large chisel like that, it will be challenging to place the cuts exactly without hitting the edges. And be sure it's sharper than it's ever been. It could be ground with a very slight crown, which would help place the cuts and keep the corners from digging in. Skew the cut, and carefully pick which direction to cut to avoid knocking grains off the edges.

    Careful with the band clamp. Don't crank it too tight! I've never used one for this, but I imagine one could do some damage cranking a clamp like that around the body!
  11. Greg Clinkingbeard

    Greg Clinkingbeard

    Apr 4, 2005
    Kansas City area
    KC Strings
    Martin, I see many problems with your plan but it will be a learning experience. In the end, I suspect you will take your bass to a pro and hand over a bigger job but proceed at will.
    Sorry to be the joykill.
  12. powerbass

    powerbass Supporting Member

    Nov 2, 2006
    western MA
    it doesn't take much pressure w/the band clamp to keep the sound post in place. Placing a towel between the band and bass body is a good idea.

  13. Jake deVilliers

    Jake deVilliers Commercial User

    May 24, 2006
    Crescent Beach, BC
    Owner of The Bass Spa, String Repairman at Long & McQuade Vancouver
    I use a 25 lb. bag of shot to stabilise the sound post. Skip the clamp and load the top with a 10 lb. bag of flour.

    Or you can always fill up a Ziploc bag with pea gravel...
  14. rgarcia26


    Jun 9, 2008
    Miami Florida
    When I take the strings of my DB I always place a small sand bag that I made my self, its like a good 10lbs I never have any problems with it...
    as per tools to fit the bridge I tried the sand paper it took forever and it didn’t work at the end, it got me close to finish the job with scrapers, i also use a sharp piece of glass as an scraper.

    Disclaimer: Don’t do this at home kids
    Any ways it was lot harder that it looks like
  15. rgarcia26


    Jun 9, 2008
    Miami Florida
  16. Thanks for all the advice!
    I strap clamped the bass body, with a towel above the sound post for that downwards pressure. Then I was horrified by the lipstick test. I thought I had about average 80% feet contact. The lipstick on the feet showed about max 20%. So I whittled away with my chisel (and my wife's makeup) until I got pretty near full cover on the feet. But I got to a stage where enough was done and more removal was counterproductive. Then I had to move the bridge back to its original position, and lots of adjustments thereafter until the optimum was achieved. Thanks for the advice guys, I think I've managed to do a pretty good job for my first bass setup. It's been a good learning curve. I will need to go to Simon at Kevin George's workshop and explain I have cut the bridge feet away to within mm of it's life. Thanks for your advice guys, I have the confidence and now the tools to do this again. Thank god basses are so forgiving!!
  17. JoeyNaeger

    JoeyNaeger Guest Commercial User

    Jun 24, 2005
    Houston, TX
    Bass Specialist, Lisle Violin Shop
    I'm glad it turned out well. When you reach that point that additional work doesn't help, it's time for a scraper.
  18. rgarcia26


    Jun 9, 2008
    Miami Florida
    +1 Scapers are your best friend... best woodworking secret too....
  19. Roger Mouton

    Roger Mouton Supporting Member

    Aug 19, 2003
    Southern California
    Does anyone ever tape the sandpaper to the top of the bass (grit side up, obviously) and move the bridge feet back and forth, thus sanding the feet to the contour of the general area? I saw this done locally by a very respected luthier but no one has mentioned it here.
  20. Jake deVilliers

    Jake deVilliers Commercial User

    May 24, 2006
    Crescent Beach, BC
    Owner of The Bass Spa, String Repairman at Long & McQuade Vancouver
    No! ;)

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