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Bridge Plate Removal on Epiphone Acoustic Guitar

And now the fun starts!

I've read a lot about removing bridge plates and I think I'm ready to try it.

I cut a kitchen sponge to more-or-less fit the shape of the bridge plate on the guitar.  This particular sponge had curves on the side, so part of the plate won't be covered but I don't think that's a problem.

An admission up front:  it took me about 3 hours over two days to nail this process down.  What you're reading now is what was successful.

I wet the sponge, squeezed the excess water out of it, and put it onto the bridge plate inside the guitar and flipped the guitar face down on the workbench.  The sponge was then just sitting right on the bridge plate.  I let it sit there about an hour.  We don't want to soak the plate, but we want to get it damp so the moisture will help dissolve/weaken the glue.

At the end of the hour, I heated up the bridge plate removal tool in a cast iron pan.  The tool is from Brown's Guitar Factory.  Basically it's an aluminum plate about 3/8 or an inch (maybe 10mm) thick, and shaped in the general shape of a bridge plate.

I heated it up to about 425-450 degrees F.  I have a grill thermometer, which came in handy.

You could use whatever kind of skillet you have on hand, but cast iron is great because it will retain the heat well.

I carefully put the heated plate tool onto the bridge plate.  The tool is hot!  I actually wore gloves when I did this.  (I think this picture is from inserting the sponge).

Since the bridge plate is damp, the hot tool won't burn the wood.  It's likely that it will sizzle when it hits the damp wood, though!  We're playing some hot licks on that geetar, I garontee!

Ahem.

Flip the guitar over onto its top, and let it sit with the hot bridge plate tool on the plate.  Your mileage may vary with regard to the time.  Brown's site says "a minute" but my experience with this guitar was that I needed about 4 to 5 minutes.  Also, since the tool doesn't cover the whole plate at once, I shifted it once during that time in order that the whole plate got the tool directly on it at least once.

After a few minutes, I felt the top of the guitar in the area of the bridge.  When it was fairly hot, I took the tool out and started in with my removal tools.

On the picture on the right, you can see one of the removal spatulas (its silver) through the bridge pin holes.  At that point, I had gotten the tool about halfway through the joint between the plate and the guitar top.

The green line represents the joint side where I started.

When I got about halfway in, I stopped, left the tool where it was, and reheated the plate tool.  Then I put it back on the plate for a few minutes and worked the removal knife in again.

It took about three rounds of heating to free it up enough to get the tools in.

Here's a shot via the mirror showing my progress almost at the end.  The longer handle on the left is the main thin removal spatula/knife.  On the right is one of the short pry bars I customized.  Once I had the joint opened up a bit, I was able to get the pry bar in and work that into the joint.

Some things I discovered:

First, you can only get one hand in via the soundhole.  You're working blind, and it's hard to be able to reach in far enough to the end of the guitar to be able to get the tools started.

Second, your hand and arm will get sore.  I had "ring" marks on my arms from where they contacted the soundhole!  I also couldn't always grip the tools by their handles, so I took to holding the blades (with gloves) to work them into the joint.

Third, patience is key.  If you get frustrated, stop.  Once you get it going, though, you will succeed.  The tough part is working the tools in and not tearing up the top.  You probably will need to stop and reheat the bridge plate at least once - I had to do it three times.  But the last two times, I left the knife in the joint, which got the knife and the joint hot and made it easier to separate.

Fourth - Don't force it.  Once you get a tool in halfway, you should be able to gently twist it which will help separate the joint.  My goal was to get the plate out intact, and I did.  It's tiring, so stop when you get tired and frustrated.

Dig it.  Success!

Here's the inside of the guitar with the bridge plate removed.  It came off very cleanly - just a bit of the laminate was stuck to the plate itself.

I have a Martin that I want to replace the bridge plate on this summer, and this was a great learning experience.  The plate on the Martin is actually bigger, but I'm thinking it should come out easier than this one since it's all solid woods.

The bridge plate now out of the guitar.  This side is the side that was glued to the top.

You can see the small bit of laminate from the top that tore off.  It's my own fault - I tried to twist the pry bar too much and it cracked it off.  Next time, I'll have a bit more patience.  However, I'm very pleased - I got it out in one piece.  Now I can use it as a template for a solid maple replacement.

Mmmm, yup.  Even the bridge plate is made of plywood....er, laminate.  Strong, maybe, but a tone-sapper for sure.

Now I'm going to play with hide glue!

 
 
 
 

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