Dan Erlewine at FRETS.COM
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Dan Erlewine's
Bridge Plate Saver
© Frank Ford,6/7/02; Photos by FF

Well, here's what $145.90 will get you this week from Stewart MacDonald. (Say, who thinks up those odd prices, anyway?) It's a modest-looking kit of little precision parts, but the job it does is far from modest. It can literally save an original bridge plate.
This nasty little fellow is a specialized hardwood button maker.
In the drill press, you simply plunge it into the appropriate bridge plate material, thus.
And you get these neat little spherical cut buttons, that measure about 7/16" across.
This one is the recess cutter. It has four sharp teeth to cut the exact spherical radius in the bridge plate. There's an adjustable collar to make the cutter stop at the right depth.
I'll demonstrate this unit in my Taylor cutaway guitar body. (Thanks to Zack and the Taylor service crew.) I just stick the shaft up through the bridge pin hole to locate the cutter right on the bridge plate where I want it.
On top there's a threaded brass block, with left hand threads to match the cutter's drive shaft. This cutter works just as well when the bridge is glued in place.
And, I simply turn the shaft with my little tap wrench until the stop collar runs up tightly against the bridge plate. (My tool is an early production model, and it came without the little handle for cranking the cutter.)
The cutting depth is so shallow, there's no need to worry about chip clearance.
And, here's the result. An extremely neat recess for a repair plug.
By being careful with grain orientation and a bit of sanding, I end up with a very neat repair. Generally, I'm using the medium viscosity cyanoacrylate because I like its rigidity, gap filling quality, and ease of use for this job.
Once the hole is drilled, the bridge plate is restored and solid as new in the area where the string ball will seat. To make things just a bit more solid in that area, I usually swab the inside of the bridge plate holes with thin cyanoacrylate after I've reamed and fit the bridge pins.
So, now there's a better recourse than replacing or overlaying a bridge plate like this one to correct for the chipping and wear caused by string balls. I still overlay or replace cracked plates to regain structural stability in the area.
These three shots are from the ASIA convention in 2001, where Dan first demonstrated this tool and technique, using his transparent dreadnought demo guitar.
He also described in detail how he made the tool, but because it was a tool under development for Stewart MacDonald, he asked me not to present it on FRETS.COM until it was in the catalog.
Deciding that I couldn't live without one, and not wanting to wait the year of product development, I made one for myself, and I must say it was worth the effort, even though it really cost me a lot more that the eventual StewMac price, if you know what I mean. Now, in case you didn't get the hint, let me remind you that this kind of demonstration is another good reason to join ASIA. Thanks to that convention, I had access to a very important technique a year in advance!

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