Lots of people seem to like the bridges I make for my builds, and I've often said they're quite simple to make. It's not really my design - it's similar to a banjo bridge and there are a few other builders on CBN who use similar bridges. I've been meaning to do a how-to for a while, so here we go:

I start off with a bit of scrap wood, most likely an offcut from the fretboard. For these two I am using walnut and maple, but any hardwood is fine. The little bone pieces are from a 80x10x3mm bridge blank which I cut into 4 pieces. I mark the bridge's full length, then mark where to drill to make the slope on the top and the 'arches' on the bottom. I work out the height the bridge needs to be first, then subtract the 3mm for the bone and mark it out on the wood.

I carefully drill out the holes with the piece clamped to a scrap of wood to prevent tear out.

Now the bridges are cut out and are beginning to take shape. Next the bone pieces are glued onto the tops of the bridges. I use superglue for this.

The bone is glued on and the tape is removed. Time for some sanding.

I clamp a piece of 60 grit sandpaper to my bench and sand the bridge at an angle to blend the bone and wood, and to make a 'sharp' peak along the top of the bone. This is also handy for flattening the bottom of the bridge. the curves are done with the rounded corner of a sanding block.

These are both finished now after being sanded to 180 grit.

A few coats of Danish oil and they're done! Measure the string spacing you want to use and carefully file some shallow grooves with a triangle needle file.

Of course there is plenty of opportunity for individual expression with this design. In the photo above I doubled up the thickness, so the blank was 1/2" thick, and used half a bone nut blank. I also went without the centre 'foot'.

I hope this has been of some use!

-Richey Kay

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Comment by Wayfinder on September 8, 2016 at 2:48pm

Are you discussing cutting rod piezos?  Yeah, that's tricky.  Be sure to cut in between the lumps.  Middle of the lump is where the piezo is.

Regarding the caps... usually .022 (uf?  pf?  someone help out here) or .047.  But a piezo may even be able to take higher.  I bought a whole set of caps just to test, but haven't got around to the experimenting stage yet.

Comment by Danny B. on September 8, 2016 at 2:34pm

On the glued and screwed through-brace, that's slick, and you get a big pocket under the top huh.

Piezo - Yes I meant warm as in the tone not temperature ;). I've been buying larger bars and cutting off the extra wafers with wire cutters - I think it has a good chance of ruining them or at least changing how they sound. I have found more 3 wafer piezo bars available lately and will stop doing this. Otherwise it's not an issue.

What size cap to warm the tone?, and on what end (+ or -)

OK I'll make a pickup, it would be cool to be able to mix between the piezo and magnetic pickup.

Wayfinder, Richey, and Darryl, thanks guys - you gave me a lot of killer information today, I'm excited to put it to work!

Comment by darryl kernaghan on September 8, 2016 at 10:39am

Think i messed up Richey, my comment was for Danny B,but ended up here, sorry, hope he finds it

Comment by darryl kernaghan on September 8, 2016 at 10:34am

If i've got your meaning correct re "warm", one of the advantages of winding your own pups is the ability to control the brightness or opposite as you see fit, for a warmish single coil, around 5000 winds will be a good start for experimenting, and that should be reasonable on a 3 pole pup, more winds will reduce the warmth, and progressively get brighter as a rule, i'd suggest for 1st attempt, just make a bobbin similar size to what you're seeing others use, and just fill it with wire, and see what you get, but keep a rough,[or accurate] count of how many turns you put on for future comparisons, that's the same advice another knowledgeable member gave me a few years ago, and i think it stands up ok, have fun

Comment by Richey Kay on September 8, 2016 at 10:03am
What that guy said :-/
Comment by Wayfinder on September 8, 2016 at 9:14am

Here's another way to get height on your fretboard:

Comment by Wayfinder on September 8, 2016 at 9:09am

The wire used inside pickups is extremely thin, usually 42 to 44awg.  Hair thin.   As in "breaks if you blink".  Not to discourage-- just letting you know the reality.  Pickups don't get warm (at least, not under normal playing circumstances).   But in truth, if piezos are a bear to work with, hand-making a pickup will be several magnitudes worse.  Still-- try it.  It's a great experience to build your own pickup and hear it for the first time.

Mag pickups almost always sound far richer than piezos.  However I can say this:  everyone I've ever spoken to who disliked piezos, when I questioned them... they weren't installing them correctly.   They have to be sandwiched between the bridge and the box to get good, rich sound out of them. 

There are other ways as well:  put them in a bottle cap filled with silicone, then silicone glue that on the inside of the box directly under the bass side of the bridge. 

Use two piezos in parallel, one on each side of the bridge.

Use a capacitor in the piezo line to reduce the tinniness.

Realize that a piezo is picking up true box sound, not strings interrupting a magnetic field.  So they're going to give you a far more authentic sound from the instrument (which is why a lot of people like them).   They're also very easy to install compared to mags (unless you use flat pickups, which are admittedly pricier than cheap Chinese mags).

Piezos can be used along with a mag as a tone system.  They work very well as such, far better than a standard tone control.

I like piezos.   I still use them to this day-- and I hand-wind my own specialty pickups.   It is very common for me to mix a FlatCat mag with a piezo and dual volume controls for a wide range of sound.

Comment by Danny B. on September 8, 2016 at 9:05am

So I woke my wife up mangling and reinforcing the neck an an almost finished build. I had to remove material from the topside of the neck at the tail and add it to the bottom to angle it or it wouldn't have fit under the lid. I wonder what you do. 

Anyway Here's what I wound up with. If I place a level on the frets its a 1/2 " drop to the 1st fret to the 21st, or to the bridge area it's 3/8, I suppose with some distance for the strings to clear the frets that gives me about a 1/2 inches bridge. Look right?

Comment by Danny B. on September 8, 2016 at 8:02am

LOL OK guys... I won't quit yet, thank you both, it would be badass to make my own pickup. I've been thinking I've already had it with these piezos on my 4th build. I've wrecked 2 of them cutting to 3 string length and they just kind of suck to deal with, they are too bright anyway. I placed an old Dean Markly in my first build. I just bought a soap bar to try on my next build which is my first commission. I hope it will have nicer sound than the piezos. Is it similar coils of wire inside to hum-buckers or the one you guys make? Are they warm?

Comment by Richey Kay on September 8, 2016 at 3:26am
Hey Danny. Pickups are easy to wind once you've got the knack. Just be prepared for some frustration at first. I just use a drill to wind mine :-)

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