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yourwhathurts69

 

Posts: 117
Joined: Sep. 16 2009
 

Shaving or Sanding a Bridge 

I've seen many guitars where it looks like the bridge was shaved or sanded around the saddle area to make room for lowering the strings. Is this a bad idea? Does removing material from the bridge have a significant effect on the sound and response? I'm especially interested in hearing what luthiers have to say about the impact of small amounts of bridge material in an area that looks like its function is mainly just to hold the saddle.
  REPORT THIS POST AS INAPPROPRIATE |  Date Jun. 29 2023 23:29:42
 
estebanana

Posts: 9391
Joined: Oct. 16 2009
 

RE: Shaving or Sanding a Bridge (in reply to yourwhathurts69

quote:

ORIGINAL: yourwhathurts69

I've seen many guitars where it looks like the bridge was shaved or sanded around the saddle area to make room for lowering the strings. Is this a bad idea? Does removing material from the bridge have a significant effect on the sound and response? I'm especially interested in hearing what luthiers have to say about the impact of small amounts of bridge material in an area that looks like its function is mainly just to hold the saddle.



A few quick notes-

Often classical guitars today are made with the part of the bridge that holds the saddle ( where the saddle slot is) very high for a 10 to 12 mm saddle height. If someone wants to convert that kind of bridge to a flamenco height bridge the saddle slot hump can be lowered to make it possible to fit a lower saddle.

Lowering the saddle usually affects the way the action feels, but doesn’t really change the sound. A player might perceive the sound to be different because the lower saddle affects the power and response of the guitar a bit.

Is it a good or a bad idea? It depends on a lot of variables and should be evaluated case by case. Have bridges on important guitars been ruined by doing this? Yes, occasionally, but since it’s not the norm and is usually done to students classical guitars to make them more flamenco action accessible, then usually it’s not hurting anything.

Shaving the bridge of a vintage Esteso or a Romanillos however shouldn’t be done under any circumstance. It’s a violation of the better guitar makers code and should carry a death sentence for perps.

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  REPORT THIS POST AS INAPPROPRIATE |  Date Jul. 2 2023 2:26:40
 
Ricardo

Posts: 14927
Joined: Dec. 14 2004
From: Washington DC

RE: Shaving or Sanding a Bridge (in reply to estebanana

quote:

Shaving the bridge of a vintage Esteso or a Romanillos however shouldn’t be done under any circumstance. It’s a violation of the better guitar makers code and should carry a death sentence for perps.


If the neck moved, or the top sunk a little, this operation could SAVE a nice vintage guitar, or at least improve its playability.

The only danger I can think of is that if one takes it too low, the break angle could drop to zero and create intonation and buzzing problems requiring string holes to be filled in and re-drilling at a downward angle. But all that might be worth it for a vintage guitar restoration. A converse solution is the replace the fingerboard with a thicker one such that the bridge can remain untouched. I have a guitar with a double thick ebony board and too high bridge that needs the opposite treatment, that I might have done some day. For now, the bleeding is building some tough skin.

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  REPORT THIS POST AS INAPPROPRIATE |  Date Jul. 2 2023 16:24:21
 
estebanana

Posts: 9391
Joined: Oct. 16 2009
 

RE: Shaving or Sanding a Bridge (in reply to Ricardo

quote:

ORIGINAL: Ricardo

quote:

Shaving the bridge of a vintage Esteso or a Romanillos however shouldn’t be done under any circumstance. It’s a violation of the better guitar makers code and should carry a death sentence for perps.


If the neck moved, or the top sunk a little, this operation could SAVE a nice vintage guitar, or at least improve its playability.

The only danger I can think of is that if one takes it too low, the break angle could drop to zero and create intonation and buzzing problems requiring string holes to be filled in and re-drilling at a downward angle. But all that might be worth it for a vintage guitar restoration. A converse solution is the replace the fingerboard with a thicker one such that the bridge can remain untouched. I have a guitar with a double thick ebony board and too high bridge that needs the opposite treatment, that I might have done some day. For now, the bleeding is building some tough skin.



The point I’m making is that guitars from important recognized makers should never be altered. Their guitars should not be preserved or kept in playing condition by making structural modifications or compromises that cut down any of the parts they made. If that is done then we lose the original dimensions that the maker intended to get that design to function.

Rather than go with a cheap compromise repair, shaving a bridge is a compromise to a neck angle situation, fix the the actual problem instead of mutilating the bridge.

On lower tier classical guitars I don’t see it this way, but on a guitar of historical importance I think from this time in history we should be doing restorations which do not mutilate any parts. It’s like if you have a Strad cello, you wouldn’t hack any wood out of it as a way of getting it to play, you would make the repair properly without any compromises in cost or methods. The important guitars have reached that level of consideration in terms of restorations.

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  REPORT THIS POST AS INAPPROPRIATE |  Date Jul. 3 2023 2:17:52
 
Ricardo

Posts: 14927
Joined: Dec. 14 2004
From: Washington DC

RE: Shaving or Sanding a Bridge (in reply to estebanana

quote:

If that is done then we lose the original dimensions that the maker intended to get that design to function.


What good was the design if it no longer functions? I was surprised to see so many vintage guitars where the frets were re-set in order to correct intonation. That might be extreme. But guitars that have bent or twisted necks that require lower bridge saddle, but have run out of slack, how do you fix those?

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  REPORT THIS POST AS INAPPROPRIATE |  Date Jul. 4 2023 14:38:35
 
estebanana

Posts: 9391
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RE: Shaving or Sanding a Bridge (in reply to Ricardo

quote:

ORIGINAL: Ricardo

quote:

If that is done then we lose the original dimensions that the maker intended to get that design to function.


What good was the design if it no longer functions? I was surprised to see so many vintage guitars where the frets were re-set in order to correct intonation. That might be extreme. But guitars that have bent or twisted necks that require lower bridge saddle, but have run out of slack, how do you fix those?



By studying carefully for a long time. How do you come up with carefully crafted Bulerias falsetas?

The design wasn’t wrong, the guitar isn’t a thing that exists in one single perfect mode of operation through the duration of its lifespan. The guitar is a structural/ engineering ‘situation’ that’s going to go through changes over time due to the malleability of its components and materials. This is to be expected, thus a guitar that has changed in its situation isn’t necessarily a bad design, it’s going through a natural course of stress and degradation.

Martin guitars tend to fold up, the neck moves forward, the brilliance of the design is that the neck and be removed and the ‘situation’ can be corrected for a further duration. You could cut the neck off and bolt it back on, but that would seem to be a more updated corrective, but the neck will eventually move, so better to preserve the dovetail neck joint that can be re set,
as we’re finding out on 180 year old Martins.

If you don’t understand the analogy to the Strad cello I made, then my analogy wasn’t that good. Some people like myself are concerned with preserving and conserving, others would strip the varnish off a 380 year old Guarneri, put a pick up on it and spray it with blue lacquer. I’m against the layer and aware of the former.

My first teacher was a violin bow maker, architect, painter and and an art conservator. He did each type of work at a professional level. He once designed a concert hall ( Pacific Union College in Angwin CA) it’s got incredible acoustics. During the time he was designing and building it he was making baroque violin bows at night. He sold one to the violinist Ken Goldsmith, who was teaching there at the time. Goldsmith have a concert on his del Gesu and played in the concert hall Mr. Tenney designed. Tenney was watching a rehearsal of Goldsmith when the violinist stopped for a second and mused to Tenney, I am playing my fiddle with your creation, inside your creation.

This was before I joined that workshop, and by the time I got there Tenney was retired from architecture and building bows and restoring art full time. Sometimes I helped with relining old canvases and mounting them on stretchers, and sometimes I helped shape abalone inlay pieces for bow frogs. Tenney’s had an art collection, some minor impressionists, a few old Italian, French and German paintings, and a few important Barbizon school painters. The best one was a Diaz de la Peña, a Spanish artist in France in the 1840’s.

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  REPORT THIS POST AS INAPPROPRIATE |  Date Jul. 4 2023 15:55:14
 
estebanana

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RE: Shaving or Sanding a Bridge (in reply to yourwhathurts69

The Tenney’s Diaz hung over an original Beethoven era Chickering piano, and in the floor in that room was a rare Saruk Persian rug with a blue field. Rare I tell you.

They bought the Diaz forest scene at auction in Los Angeles and paid less than $6000.00 bucks for it, because it had never been cleaned. The 3’ x 5’ foot monster was covered with blacked caramel colored dirty picture varnish and the forest landscape was barely visible, but it was an authentic Diaz, authenticity paper from the curators at LA County Museum. He showed it to them for a cleaning consultation and they said they would not touch it because the liability was too great.

What did they mean by liability? Diaz was famous for mixing a lot of varnish into his paint as a paint medium to get the paint to behave and refract colors how he wanted. The problem is that if you clean the the picture varnish off with a solvent, the solvent will remove upper layers of pigment and paint from the canvas because the solvent will melt the paint with varnish medium in it.

Eventually he took a white grease pencil and gridded off the whole painting surface with a 1” grid. Then over a few years working on a weekend schedule he chipped the varnish off the surface with dental tooth scrapers without removing the paint layers. This astounded the curators at LA County museum who considered trying to purchase the painting.

As part of my education in that shop the Tenney’s took me and the other student to the museums in Southern California to look at art and learn about the connections between art history and music. We went to the museum called the Huntington Library, where they had a Diaz de la Peña, a bit smaller and from the same time as the Tenney Diaz. Mr. Tenney led me to it, because he had occasion to look at it several times. We’re looking at it and he scoffed, “The damn bastards skinned it.”

What he was saying is that whomsoever cleaned the varnish off the Huntington Diaz went too deep and used solvent that apparently softened the paint layers as well as removed the outer coat of varnish. The picture didn’t look right and seemed to be as Bilbo Baggins described himself in old age ‘ not enough butter spread over toast’

This is one of my earliest lessons, I was 18 or at most 19. Things like intact components of historical guitars mean something to me because it irritates the fu¥k out of me to see guitars of any historical significance in a state where they have been altered or mis- repaired in a way that leaves them in the situation of having been ‘skinned’.

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  REPORT THIS POST AS INAPPROPRIATE |  Date Jul. 4 2023 16:51:57
 
mango

Posts: 158
Joined: Apr. 2 2019
 

RE: Shaving or Sanding a Bridge (in reply to yourwhathurts69

Playability is very important, so I would do it if necessary. Everything you do on the guitar will change the sound. The question is if you like it or not. But in this case what will make a difference is not so much the loss of material of the bridge, but the actual height of the strings. The way the power is transferred from the strings to the top changes mechanically. The lower the saddle, the more snappy it sounds. Higher saddles have a rounder tone.
  REPORT THIS POST AS INAPPROPRIATE |  Date Jul. 4 2023 18:52:35
 
yourwhathurts69

 

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RE: Shaving or Sanding a Bridge (in reply to estebanana

I appreciate the approach of preserving guitars as best as possible to the original maker's intended design. I suppose there's always the possibility that a guitar with issues may not be 100% preserved, so it must be a bit of a best judgement call. I gather that altering the bridge in any way is frowned upon in the restoration world. Would you instead shave or replace the fingerboard to change the angle/playability? Is that considered the standard, acceptable method? Is there much importance in a fingerboard being original? In other words, would many people care that an Esteso or Romanillos had a replaced fingerboard as long as the work was done properly? I'm sure they'd care a lot more if the bridge were altered.

Aside from the preservation/restoration issue, do you think of a bridge as something that is made to have a specific pitch, in which case, removing material would change the pitch and affect the whole guitar? Is it a bad idea to think of what effects any single piece has, and instead, it's best to think of the overall effect of all the pieces?
  REPORT THIS POST AS INAPPROPRIATE |  Date Jul. 12 2023 17:44:45
 
Ricardo

Posts: 14927
Joined: Dec. 14 2004
From: Washington DC

RE: Shaving or Sanding a Bridge (in reply to yourwhathurts69

quote:

ORIGINAL: yourwhathurts69

I appreciate the approach of preserving guitars as best as possible to the original maker's intended design. I suppose there's always the possibility that a guitar with issues may not be 100% preserved, so it must be a bit of a best judgement call. I gather that altering the bridge in any way is frowned upon in the restoration world. Would you instead shave or replace the fingerboard to change the angle/playability? Is that considered the standard, acceptable method? Is there much importance in a fingerboard being original? In other words, would many people care that an Esteso or Romanillos had a replaced fingerboard as long as the work was done properly? I'm sure they'd care a lot more if the bridge were altered.

Aside from the preservation/restoration issue, do you think of a bridge as something that is made to have a specific pitch, in which case, removing material would change the pitch and affect the whole guitar? Is it a bad idea to think of what effects any single piece has, and instead, it's best to think of the overall effect of all the pieces?


The idea of preserving the original functional set up of a vintage guitar is noble, however, I have never seen a flamenco guitar that was systematically designed to have the same set up. IN fact that is the whole point of having a bone saddle, so you can change how the bridge functions. So I think if there is a need for shaving a bridge, redrilling string holes, change tieblock cap, or whatever, it is silly to avoid doing it because it came out of the shop that way. I totally understand if people go hacking away at a perfectly fine functioning instrument that is a different story. I bring up fret reassignment due to lack of “compensation”, when it is a playing technique issue, which turns out to be popular for vintage instruments. But if it is not my guitar, then I dont care if it makes people happy.

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www.ricardomarlow.com
  REPORT THIS POST AS INAPPROPRIATE |  Date Jul. 12 2023 18:38:34
 
estebanana

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RE: Shaving or Sanding a Bridge (in reply to Ricardo

.



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Attachment (1)

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  REPORT THIS POST AS INAPPROPRIATE |  Date Jul. 13 2023 2:21:42
 
estebanana

Posts: 9391
Joined: Oct. 16 2009
 

RE: Shaving or Sanding a Bridge (in reply to yourwhathurts69

quote:

ORIGINAL: yourwhathurts69

I appreciate the approach of preserving guitars as best as possible to the original maker's intended design. I suppose there's always the possibility that a guitar with issues may not be 100% preserved, so it must be a bit of a best judgement call.



I think you understood what I meant in a profound way. It’s what I’d say is an ‘experience call’ ; the more value the guitar has in guitar culture, the more experienced the person making the decisions should be.

quote:

Aside from the preservation/restoration issue, do you think of a bridge as something that is made to have a specific pitch, in which case, removing material would change the pitch and affect the whole guitar? Is it a bad idea to think of what effects any single piece has, and instead, it's best to think of the overall effect of all the pieces?



I suppose there are people who would have something to say about pitch, but they’d say in terms like Hz numbers. They can tell you how ( and I could too) the difference between certain modal resonances of the guitar before and after the bridge is glued on. It’s a whole genre of study in guitar making now. My assessment of it is that it goes too far to explain some things that are not crucial to making a good flamenco guitar.

Bridges should be light weight, but what that means to every builder in different phases of their building life is even different. I’ve made bridges on successful guitars ranging from 16 to 23 grams. Shaving the saddle mound down a tiny bit in my view doesn’t seem to make a difference, what changes the feel of the guitar is saddle height.


You may ask why then if it doesn’t make a difference, how is shaving it a bad thing? Well it’s like I said, it’s an experience call.
And Ricardo is correct, although far too cavalier in attitude, that you can rebuild bridges by filling and drilling new string holes and replacing worn through tie block covers. It’s inevitable that bridges will be rebuilt, but there needs to be a treatment plan that is conservative in how the instrument is repaired.

Since the bridge and the top are two of the most salient components in terms of the makers intent and significance in the history of guitar making, particular attention should be ( this is my own opinion) payed to preservation of these parts as much as possible.

Guitars are fragile boxes of wood and parts will be replaced and scarfed on, inlayed, cleated, refinished. All that should be done without leaving evidence of the hand that did the repairs. I’d just say if a repair person took the route of shaving a bridge on a fairly important guitar they could at least photo document and make a drawing of the original saddle mound size and shape for future generations to study or know the dimensions on that guitar.

In the case of a Romanillos or l1st generation Fleta or a Torres- Arias- Manuel Ramirez, the earth should be moved in order not to alter the original dimensions.

A garden variety orange plastic coated Conde’ from 1993? Get out your Sawzall’s and hamfist & hack away at it.

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  REPORT THIS POST AS INAPPROPRIATE |  Date Jul. 13 2023 4:20:33
 
Echi

 

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RE: Shaving or Sanding a Bridge (in reply to yourwhathurts69

Clearly the point is to try to keep the instrument as original as possible and in the meantime to correct any issue. This is very common for the violins, to say.
The point imho is to let the job be done by a professional restorer with an expertise in the field.
2 examples:
A nice guitar made in Granada used to have a very well thought set up: the fretboard used to be worked in a special way (with a little torsion) to keep the bridge saddle even at 8 mm throughout is length.
Basically with the time the action grew up a little and the guy who fixed the problem just made a new flat fretboard which altered the original idea: he probably didn’t even realise the guitar was built in a specific way.
Same thing happened with the set up of some old Conde guitars which follow specific rules. Better to ask people accustomed with those guitars or at least able to assess the problem correctly.
The second example is about an old classical Ramirez.
That guitar was extremely good but was made with the purpose to have 5 mm action at the 12th fret and 8 mm at the bridge saddle.
Basically that neck angle was desiderable at the time but not suitable to today’s standards.
I the wrong thing to do is shaving the bridge down; all considered I thought the best option was to fix the fretboard in order to preserve the 8 mm at the bridge saddle. Not original but playable.
  REPORT THIS POST AS INAPPROPRIATE |  Date Jul. 13 2023 9:24:06
 
Ricardo

Posts: 14927
Joined: Dec. 14 2004
From: Washington DC

RE: Shaving or Sanding a Bridge (in reply to estebanana

quote:

In the case of a Romanillos or l1st generation Fleta or a Torres- Arias- Manuel Ramirez, the earth should be moved in order not to alter the original dimensions.


I was going to say… when I say “guitar” I don’t mean that junk, I mean CONDE!

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CD's and transcriptions available here:
www.ricardomarlow.com
  REPORT THIS POST AS INAPPROPRIATE |  Date Jul. 13 2023 17:09:19
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