editor's note:  G. S. Monroe is a Florida based folk art instrument maker.  Shane Speal calls his instruments "visionary and a true throwback to the Depression Era sound." Visit his website at GSMonroe.com.  Connect with him on Cigar Box Nation at the Official G. S. Monroe Page.

Getting the right string height (aka "string action") on a fretted cigar box guitar can be tricky if you're using a floating bridge as seen above.  In the past, many of us have spent a long time cutting and re-cutting them to get the strings at the exact level above the frets to make playing easier.

Builder, G. S. Monroe has come up with a simple solution to make the floating bridge the right height from the very beginning, using a triangle scrap wood piece he calls a "feeler gauge." 

G. S. Monroe writes:

Anyone that has followed my builds or seen my instruments will know that I'm a huge fan of "floating blade" style bridges combined with a "Zero-Fret" string guide/nut. I have found this combo to be one of the most consistent ways to achieve low string action.

I'm going to now share with you one of my secrets to how I make my floating bridge the correct height.

I use a simple wedge feeler gauge:

I locate where the bridge will sit on the soundboard, and slide the feeler gauge under the string. I then check the action and adjust the gauge until I have the action that I want. I mark that height on the gauge with a pencil:

I then take the gauge to my bridge material and mark that height.

I then draw out my bridge design, cut and finish.

I hope this little tip will help you.

-G. S. Monroe


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  • I was in the "Dollar Tree" today and I think I found a ready made gauge. A small hard rubber door stop! Just throwing this out there for something to look at.

  • Great idea! I'm 99 1/2 away from my first 100 builds.

  • Sweet, simple solution to what can be a frustrating task.  LOVE it!

  • Love this.  I have rarely used floater because of action problems/ time spent getting it right.  What is the thickness of the bridge wood you normally use ?

  • This is a good little tool.

  • Neat - thank your for the tip.  It's a lot easier than the 'trial and error' method of making several bridges or filing them down to suit.

  • Solid tip, thanks!
  • Nice tip. What about string notches? Do you allow for this, if so, how much?
  • I have been using a similar method for some time now and it works like a charm. I use  heavy mono fishing line as a test string to get the action height I want by making a loop in one end to fit on the middle string tuner. Saves a lot of time :-)

  • Simple and brilliant!  Thanks!

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