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.
That is pretty cool. Do you know what is the angle of his wedge is?
I believe the angle is not important all you need to do is mark the height it is at when you get your string to the right height.
Love the simplicity of it.
Nice tip, a sharp angle scrap to wedge up the string
Simple, ingenious and sweet! Awesome. Thanks for sharing.
Excellent. I am five instruments away from seven hundred builds. With the exception of four or five all have been strictly acoustic. Somewhere around five hundred builds l designed exactly what you have only I marked off the heights in eighth inch increments for ready reference. I started at 3\8s and worked up from there to 5\8s. A long taper seems to do the job for me. I also pre plane stock to match my anticipated needs, then slice and dice from there. I.e. 3/8...1/2..5/8...3/4.
Congrats! I'm 2 away from 100, I'm impressed!
Great idea on the pre-cut stock. I'm off to the shop to make a hardwood wedge... I might just Step-cut it to height.
One thought: With only one string, I have found I need to set the action low as the additional tension on the neck will raise the action.
Great info and technique.
Simple and brilliant! Thanks!
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 :-)