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DIY Bridge Plate Removal Iron for Large Martin Bridge Plates

The saga continues on the Martin bridge plate removal.  The things people will go to for better tone.

It's the Interweb's fault.  If I hadn't read about the stoopid hudge bridge plate sapping tone, I'd be oblivious and wouldn't be doing all this.   But I did and here I am.

I had put drafting tape on the top of the guitar approximating the location of the plate.  I also stumbled upon some actual measurements of the plate, and armed with those, I was able to create a reasonably close paper template of the plate.

Then I procured a 2 inch by 36 inch 22 gauge (I think) hunk of aluminum.  The plate is wider than 2 inches, so I am making two halves to joint together.

I could have used thinner aluminum sheet and had one piece, but I felt that I'd be better off with a thicker piece - better heat retention and stability.

Actually, I'm making this all up as I go.  I have no idea what I'm doing.

So I traced the outline of the template onto the al-LOO-min-um...or is it al-you-MIN-ee-um?  Depends on which side of the pond you're on, I suppose.

Then I used my trusty jigsaw to cut it.  With a proper metal cutting blade, it went very well.  I made lots of metal bits that went everywhere.

I thought long and hard (i.e., thinking is hard for me) about how I'd attach the two halves.  I got the idea of using a 'plate' across the two halves with screws through the plates and what will be the actual iron to hold it together.

Since it's becoming a bridge plate heating iron, I can call it that now.  Even thought it's made of aluminum.

Still with me?

That picture shows the drilling of the plates.  Look at all that crazy swarf!  Which reminds me of a great line from the MG factory repair manual for the MGB - something to the effect of: "Cleanliness is important.  Dirt and swarf are the enemies of mechanical devices."  So English.  And so true.

Then, ve bolt ze whole ting together!  It's a bit crude, but it will work...I think.

This is the bottom side.  I'll heat the iron on the smooth side, then flip it to hold against the bridge plate itself.

I could have sworn I had an old dresser knob, which I wanted to use as a handle.  But I couldn't find it in my bins of junque, so I rigged up a dowel.

You see a couple of extra holes.  I countersunk the flat side so the screw heads wouldn't protrude, and I had to make a couple attempts to get the depth right.

But all was not lost.  In testing the fit, I found that if I ran a longer screw through one of the holes, I could use it as a location pin!  It lined up perfectly with one of the bridge pin holes.  Rather fortuitous, eh?

 This is the business side of the iron.

You can see how the holes are countersunk - the attachment screws are below the surface so it will sit flat for heating and when it's on the guitar.

The long screw is from the 'location pin' test.  In practice, I'll use a short screw that I can leave loose so the iron will still sit flat in the skillet when it's heated.  I just need to be able to see the screw enough to line it up.

Here's what I mean about the pin.  I don't need all this length, and I only ran a bolt on this side to hold it in place for the picture.  Although now that I think about it, I might be able to use a shorter screw, but long enough to protrude through the hole and take a bolt.  That might help hold it in place instead of me using my hand for 5 minutes while heating the bridge plate.

This I shall ponder.

And the tape shows how big the plate is.  If I manage to get the old one off and actually make a new one, it will be half the size of this one.  You can see how much of the top is dampened by the big plate.  All of that area will be free to vibrate with a smaller bridge plate.  This may be worth all this effort after all.

So now I have an assortment of removal tools, a new removal chisel, and a custom bridge plate heating iron.

(Deep breath) On to the removal.

The Complete Martin Guitar Restoration Saga
Restoration begins
Repairing heel break
DIY chisel for bridge plate removal
DIY bridge plate removal iron, Pt.1 (This page)
DIY bridge plate removal iron, Pt.2
Steam removal of bridge plate
Bridge plate removed
Tongue brace removal
Crack repair and brace scallop
New bridge plate Pt. 1
New bridge plate Pt. 2
Patching hole in top
Final fitting of top patch
Installing carbon fiber rod
Fret removal
Fingerboard crack repair, Pt. 1
Fingerboard crack repair, Pt. 2
DIY fret bender tool
Refretting Pt. 1
Refretting Pt. 2
Tuner shaft repair
Neck reset - dovetail fitting
Measuring neck set with DIY jig
Gluing the neck with hide glue
Tortoloid Pickguard
Fitting bridge pins
Brace reglue
Making bone saddle
Making a buffalo horn nut
Restoration completed


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