FRETS.COM Tips & Tricks

Really quick and easy
Burnishing Dowels to Size
© Frank Ford, 2003; Photos by FF

This is one of those peculiar Martin arch top guitar bridges from the 1930s. They have plastic guide rods and plastic adjusting screws:

This one's rods had become so bent with time and tension that the bridge was in danger of collapsing.

Not having either the time or the inclination to chuck up a piece of phenolic rod and turn a replacement on my lathe, I figured I'd measure it and substitute a nice strong wooden dowel:

Of course, the size turned out to be nowhere close to a standard dowel diameter.

I ran to my number drill index and grabbed the one that matched my measurement:

Chucked it up and quickly drilled a hole through a piece of scrap ebony:

I suspect any hardwood can do this job, but I had the ebony handy.

Then I chucked a piece of 1/4"birch dowel in my Makita and ran it against the small belt sander to rough it down to a smaller diameter:

With the drill running in reverse and the belt speeding by, it was very quick and easy to make a lumpy approximation of what I needed. I went too far with the end of the dowel, and simply chopped it shorter, leaving plenty enough for the job at hand.

Running the dowel at full speed, I was able to jam it through my newly drilled hole:


Viola! (This spelling always seems more musical. . .) I had a dowel of exactly the right diameter for a tight press fit in the top of the bridge and a loose fit in the base:

A few quick strokes with the infamous "Steinway Touch-up Kit" and my new dowel was black and shiny:

Here it is, doing its job:

You might be tempted to use this technique for precisely sizing dowels to use for other purposes. I was, and I've found it necessary to break the glaze on the surface before using the dowel for gluing.

Some judicious sanding does the trick quite well, and I believe that the water in the glue tends to swell the burnished dowel a bit, tightening its fit in the hole. I've tried burnishing the dowel into the actual hole in which it will be glued, but that's a dead end street because of the difficulty of breaking the glaze down in the hole!

Back to Index Page