Pinless Bridge Jigs

This drawing shows the angles involved with the pinless bridge. It's critical that you get the ball ends as close to the saddle as possible, to get enough break angle. I put the low E 5/8" from the back of the saddle, just far enough to get past the overwindings. You don't have as much lattitude with saddle height for the same reason, so I adjust the action on my guitars with my Adjustable Neck Angle System, rather than shaving the saddle down:

This jig has drill guides for the six 3/16" holes for the ball ends. It holds the bridge blank at a 25 degree angle for correct rod angle, and centers the holes in the blank. I set the drill press depth stop as deep as I can go without drilling all the way through the bridge, and use a brad point bit:

This "drawer jig" holds a laminate trimmer to make straight-line routs in the bridges. It guides the laminate trimmer and has stops at both ends:

I made a separate "drawer" for each routing operation for each bridge design (steel-string or nylon-string). A bolt in the top of the jig screws down to lock each drawer in place before making a cut. This one holds the steel-string bridge at the correct angle to slant the saddle for intonation purposes. When I slide the drawer all the way in, the bridge blank will be in exact position for routing the saddle slot, and the stops on top of the jig define the length of the saddle slot. I use a laminate trimmer with a 3/16" downspiral bit for this cut, and cut 1/16" depth at a pass:

This drawer holds the bridge perpendicular to the router's direction of travel, to cut the slots for the strings between the ball ends and the saddle. It has two ramps, one at 20º for 6-string slots, and one at 17º for the second bank of strings on a 12-string bridge. I slide the drawer in and out to align the cut to the center of the ball-end hole by eye, then lock it down and rout the slot. I use another laminate trimmer with a 3/32" downspiral bit for this cut:

I use this jig on my spindle sander to shape the wings. It guides the bridge blank at a set depth, perpendicular to the spindle. I shape the little parabolas in the wing ends on the spindle sander too, but there I just hold the bridge in my hand and make the cuts by eye:

After the bridge is glued down, I use this little jig to drill the holes for the string rods. It's just a block of wood with a piece of brass tubing glued in at a 25 degree angle. Then there's a 2mm drill bit glued into another smaller piece of tubing which slides into it. The tubing is actually several layers of hobby store brass tubing, in decreasing sizes. The idea is to guide the bit to the center of the 3/16" hole, at the correct 25 degree angle:

Here's the underside of the block, with the drill bit out in front:

The tubing sticking out of the underside of the block slides into the holes in the bridge, then the bit slides into the tubing (imagine that the bridge is glued to the top here - I drill all the way through the bridge patch, with a caul clamped underneath to prevent splitting the bridge patch wood):

The rods are .078" piano wire. You can get it at hobby stores in 3' lengths. I chop off 5/8" long pieces with a Dremel cutoff wheel, and then chuck them in a hand drill and clean up the ends against a belt sander. I also stop the sander and burnish the show end to get a nice circular pattern on the ends. I roughen the side of the rod to help the glue stick and tap them into a #1 washer; then I put two drops of super glue in the hole and push the rod in flush to the top of the bridge with the blunt end of an Exacto knife handle:

I put a paper towell inside the guitar before installing the rods to catch any drips of glue. Ordinary dime-store super glue works just fine - I've never had a rod let go - but I don't accellerate the glue, I just let it dry on its own.

Please note: the pinless bridge was invented by Jeff Elliott ( Jeff doesn't mind if small shop luthiers use his design, but asks that anyone using it give him credit for the idea. Also, the bridge pictured in this article is a Doolin Guitars bridge, and its shape is a trademark of Doolin Guitars. I ask that if you use the information in this article that you not copy this bridge shape, but rather create an original shape.

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