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Jinder

Surgery in the aviary...

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Hi all,

             Yesterday I fixed something that has been bugging me for the last couple of years.

My Dove, one of my favourite instruments, had a replacement bridge fitted at some point in the last 25yrs of its life...exactly when, or indeed why, is something I will probably never know, but when it came to me it had a '70s style bridge, which is one of the things that attracted me to the guitar. 

The '70s style replacement bridge, whilst perfectly inlaid and shaped, was an incredibly thick and heavy chunk of Ebony, half an inch thick with a deep saddle rout, so despite the perfect neck angle of the guitar, when set up for a medium/low action the saddle would be barely peeking out of the top of the honking great bridge.

Sonically, the guitar was nice and balanced (great for recording) but quiet and felt a little restrained in the top end...not quite as shimmery and chimey as most Doves. 

Having measured the neck angle and the distance of the strings from the top, it became an inarguable fact that the replacement bridge was just too thick. Why this was, and what the luthier in question had to gain from building it so heavily, I'm unsure...it just seemed unfinished. The bridge also had an upward incline towards the pin holes which reduced break angle further and made it even more of a tonal and geometric compromise in my eyes. 

So, yesterday I finally performed the surgery that I've been meaning to carry out for the last couple of years. I measured out the correct bridge height using a straight edge off the top of the frets, marked it out and began gently removing Ebony from the top of the bridge. This process took hours, working with a handheld mouse sander, checking, checking and checking again. Ebony is one tenaciously hard wood and this particular chunk was almost unbelievably dense. 

Eventually, I brought it down to the correct height, bevelled the edges, then whipped out my Dremel tool and re-countersunk the pin holes. I also took the fine diamond-tipped micro-reamer tool and ramped the pin holes for optimum break angle. No saddle material needed to be removed as it was set for perfect action before, and the rout was so deep I didn't need to recut it, which saved a ton of time.

I restrung the guitar with a set of Martin SPs and was astonished at the difference. It is so much louder, brighter, more responsive, free in the top end and looser sounding. It really does sound like a classic Dove now and I couldn't be happier. I was expecting a marginal improvement, but the reality is quite remarkable. 

The bridge is now the same height as that on my SJ200, and looks identical height-wise to the bridges on my previous two Doves. 

I didn't capture any before pics but will post some afters soon. Just wanted to share the tale!

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That sounds like quite the sanding operation. Did you take the before and after measurements of the bridge top to string?

I wonder what the experts would consider as the bigger cause of the tonal improvement. Less mass, break angle or other? I also wonder if the tone robbing qualities is similar to what those bigger bridge plates some folks have had in the past.

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8 hours ago, Jinder said:

Hi all,

             Yesterday I fixed something that has been bugging me for the last couple of years.

My Dove, one of my favourite instruments, had a replacement bridge fitted at some point in the last 25yrs of its life...exactly when, or indeed why, is something I will probably never know, but when it came to me it had a '70s style bridge, which is one of the things that attracted me to the guitar. 

The '70s style replacement bridge, whilst perfectly inlaid and shaped, was an incredibly thick and heavy chunk of Ebony, half an inch thick with a deep saddle rout, so despite the perfect neck angle of the guitar, when set up for a medium/low action the saddle would be barely peeking out of the top of the honking great bridge.

Sonically, the guitar was nice and balanced (great for recording) but quiet and felt a little restrained in the top end...not quite as shimmery and chimey as most Doves. 

Having measured the neck angle and the distance of the strings from the top, it became an inarguable fact that the replacement bridge was just too thick. Why this was, and what the luthier in question had to gain from building it so heavily, I'm unsure...it just seemed unfinished. The bridge also had an upward incline towards the pin holes which reduced break angle further and made it even more of a tonal and geometric compromise in my eyes. 

So, yesterday I finally performed the surgery that I've been meaning to carry out for the last couple of years. I measured out the correct bridge height using a straight edge off the top of the frets, marked it out and began gently removing Ebony from the top of the bridge. This process took hours, working with a handheld mouse sander, checking, checking and checking again. Ebony is one tenaciously hard wood and this particular chunk was almost unbelievably dense. 

Eventually, I brought it down to the correct height, bevelled the edges, then whipped out my Dremel tool and re-countersunk the pin holes. I also took the fine diamond-tipped micro-reamer tool and ramped the pin holes for optimum break angle. No saddle material needed to be removed as it was set for perfect action before, and the rout was so deep I didn't need to recut it, which saved a ton of time.

I restrung the guitar with a set of Martin SPs and was astonished at the difference. It is so much louder, brighter, more responsive, free in the top end and looser sounding. It really does sound like a classic Dove now and I couldn't be happier. I was expecting a marginal improvement, but the reality is quite remarkable. 

The bridge is now the same height as that on my SJ200, and looks identical height-wise to the bridges on my previous two Doves. 

I didn't capture any before pics but will post some afters soon. Just wanted to share the tale!

Congrats Jinder. Well done. I’ve been struggling to build enough energy to wash my truck. You’re an inspiration to me.

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Wow, a bridge 1/2 inch thick made from Ebony.  I would imagine the difference in sound would be tremendous post-surgery.  Out of curiosity I measured the bridge thickness on my acoustics.  My Hummingbird and Collings are both 1/4 inch, the Taylor 5/8ths.  So I'm guessing you removed close to half the bridges thickness.

Congratulations on a successful operation, and enjoy the improved sound! 

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Thanks all! I did measure it post-surgery but didn't make a note of the figure. I will get the Vernier on it again and let you know...the guitar is massively improved, which I think is down to less vibration being damped by the enormous block of Ebony that was attached to the top. Break angle is an obvious factor too...the guitar feels so much more free and resonant. Volume massively improved, also. 

I removed just shy of a third of the bridge's height, and levelled the top of it as it previously had a little hill of Ebony behind the saddle where the pins sat. None of it made sense geometrically, so I was keen to correct it, especially as the guitar sounded excellent already but felt like it had more to give, and was being held back a little.

Coming from a background in aerospace engineering (which I trained and worked in in my late teens and early twenties prior to going full-time with music) and with Motorsport and race engineering being my hobby for the last 27yrs, I am always relentlessly meticulous with this stuff...forget "measure twice, cut once", I was trained to "measure five times, consider it for a while, seek a second opinion and THEN cut, but only after seeking out the correct tool for the job and ascertaining that there is no other option"!

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Well done, Jinder!

You know George Lowden has a real ‘thing’ about having ebony fretboards with rosewood bridges....weight of the bridge....most if not all Lowdens have this. Maybe you need to go for a new rosewood bridge?

The (rosewood) bridge on my 2005 pawnshop Dove is a big chunk of wood! See photo in Billroy’s thread. I can’t see shaving it down as it has those dove inlays on either side. It would have to be removed and shaved underneath, I guess. Or just get a neck reset and new saddle..... it will need it soon. First I will try a bone saddle to replace the horrid plinky plastic that came standard with pickup’d Gibbies.

The Dove bridge (mine) is a weird configuration for a 100% fingerpicker - I like to damp the strings with the edge of my right hand and brace my pinky on the guitar top....usually on a pickguard. But the Dove bridge is big and awkwardly shaped and my usual pinky position has the sharp and fat corner of the pickguard. But we battle on, ho ho. First world problem etc.

 

BluesKing777.

 

 

 

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19 hours ago, BluesKing777 said:

 

Well done, Jinder!

You know George Lowden has a real ‘thing’ about having ebony fretboards with rosewood bridges....weight of the bridge....most if not all Lowdens have this. Maybe you need to go for a new rosewood bridge?

The (rosewood) bridge on my 2005 pawnshop Dove is a big chunk of wood! See photo in Billroy’s thread. I can’t see shaving it down as it has those dove inlays on either side. It would have to be removed and shaved underneath, I guess. Or just get a neck reset and new saddle..... it will need it soon. First I will try a bone saddle to replace the horrid plinky plastic that came standard with pickup’d Gibbies.

The Dove bridge (mine) is a weird configuration for a 100% fingerpicker - I like to damp the strings with the edge of my right hand and brace my pinky on the guitar top....usually on a pickguard. But the Dove bridge is big and awkwardly shaped and my usual pinky position has the sharp and fat corner of the pickguard. But we battle on, ho ho. First world problem etc.

 

BluesKing777.

 

 

 

Ah yes of course, the modern Dove bridge is entirely flat...the '70s style one on my guitar has the MOP inlays in very thin wings, with the main body of the bridge sloping up from there to the "mainland" where the saddle and pins sit, which made it easy to shave down! Mine definitely doesn't need a reset-the angle is a little TOO keen if anything, but I think of this as futureproofing-but the replacement bridge was just too much of a chunky monkey for its own good. Much better now!

I'll definitely consider a Rosewood replacement if I have any further issues with the Ebony one. As things stand it's performing superbly now, but any cracking or issues and it will come out and a Rosewood substitute fitted methinks. I am nobody to argue with George Lowden...the guy knows a thing or three!!

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And to confuse the party goers, my Waterloos both have ebony bridges and nuts with rosewood boards!

And....when my luthier was getting my old 37 L-0 playable a few years back, he said he had...quote....a very dense piece of Ebony in his rack. So the old girl got a fat ebony bridge, board, faceplate. And this gave the guitar a lot more..........don’t know! 😃

BluesKing777.

 

 

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