BYO: Neck Angle, Bridge Height, FC Plan

Craig BumgarnerCraig Bumgarner Drayden, MarylandVirtuoso Bumgarner S/N 001
BYO (Build Your Own): I'm stumped. My bridge is too low. What do I do?

Background.....I have just finished a guitar built to the Francios Charle Selmer #807 plan. I stuck to the plan pretty carefully. Strung it up with the prescribed 18mm bridge and my action at the 12th fret was at least 5mm(!!!). To get it down to 3mm, I took 4mm off the bridge resulting in very wimpy looking 14mm bridge. NOT what I had in mind.

Figured I screwed up, but after measuring and checking, it is exactly like the plan in this regard. The guitar top in the plan is a straight line from the head block to the pliage as is mine. The fingerboard with frets is 8.5mm thick in both. The plan does not show the strings, but a straight edge from the zero fret to the notched depth of the bridge top show a gap of 5mm between the line and top of the fret. Likewise, that's what I have. BTW, neck is straight when strung up and frets dressed in a jig that simulates string loads ala the Stewmac jig.

5mm, however, is beyond what I can play and though the guitar is now playable with the lowered bridge, the break angle of the strings over the bridge is now considerably less than plans show (9.5 degrees vs. 12 degrees). Conventional wisdom is break angle effects tone and volume and I was hoping it would be more in the 18mm - 20mm.

Another relatively minor problem is with the bridge lowered, the tailpiece is only a hair from touching the top. Not touching now, but could easily some day. I could raise the tailpiece but this also lessens the string break angle over the bridge.

So now what...... First, this is not a criticism of the FC plan which is a wonderful piece of work for which I am very grateful. The plan shows a high degree of accuracy throughout and I have no reason to doubt that it is accurate in this regard as well. I should have done the math on the bridge height myself before finalizing the neck fit.

But what do I do about it? I could leave it. The guitar is playable now, not half bad sounding, but would always wonder what it could have been with the proper break angle.

Could take the neck back off and reset the neck angle, but this seems extreme and a wedge of 3-4mm would be needed under the fingerboard. That would look pretty funky though it would solve the problem.

Could be a man and learn to play with 5mm action. :?

So far, those are the only options I can think of. Anyone have an idea? Assuming the FC plan is accurate and Selmers were built with 5mm action, what does Stochelo do when he buys a 60-70 year old Selmer which because age may now have even higher action. Bet he's not playing 5-6mm.

And what does one do next time short of more neck angle and a wedged fingerboard? Are wedges of 3-5mm common under fingerboard extensions? Never noticed one like that, think it would be obvious. Of course this is all less of a problem without the pliage as the top at the bridge location is lower (5mm doncha know) without the pliage. Is this why so few builders use a pliage?

Well, if you made it this far in this overly long post, thanks for reading and considering. If you have ideas on this, I'd sure like to hear them.



  • lgenonilgenoni ✭✭
    Posts: 18
    So far, those are the only options I can think of. Anyone have an idea? Assuming the FC plan is accurate and Selmers were built with 5mm action, what does Stochelo do when he buys a 60-70 year old Selmer which because age may now have even higher action. Bet he's not playing 5-6mm.

    Bet he's playing 5-6mm, but Stochelo Rosemberg is not human.
  • Swing 69Swing 69 ScotlandNew
    Posts: 81
    Hi there, I've been playing (up until recently+ still am) a guitar built from the RF plans, two guitars (of 3 or 4)in fact. I've been fortunate enough to break them in and it has been a joy.

    They've actually started me well on my way with this music and for this I am totally grateful but that's maybe another story. Both guitars had exactly the same problem!.

    The tailpiece on the first was also a hair from touching, when the bridge was brought down.

    Both, in the time that has been, are now wedged indeed with different necks than they had to begin with.
    I was playing these with I would say at least a 5mm action to begin with, now as I've posted before here, with my first ever guitar (or real one received age 11) I went to town on the truss rod and effectively learned to play guitar with a ridiculous action knowing no better so 5mm wasn't really alien to me.
    Look at Dorados guitar on jazz a vienne (wedged) or even better and I've been wanting to post this query so I can get it in here on this post instead and tie in.....Dupont Busatos, from the pictures I've seen they look to be wedged!!!.
    My understanding of these guitars is that they are an exact copy of a Busato owned by Romane. From what else I've read, they and the vielle reserve are the only guitars to feature a real pliage or bombe, the Busato (big bombe) being wedged and the vielle reserve with less neck angle apparently than a MD50, not wedged but allegedly the closest you can get to the real deal.
    So does this answer the puzzle?. I'm not sure.

    I know Michael Collins' guitars (from the book) have a real pliage and well I'm not sure but I'd like to think (for the money) an AJL or ALD, most certainly a Hahl or JP Favino will be.

    One things is for sure, I'm sure your guitar sounds great!!!

    How do you play?
    I found, through a little experimentation, if your right hand style is like that of Raphael Fays that a lower bridge has less of an effect on your playing. If however it's more like Stochelo, then something has to give, a higher bridge seems to allow the last three fingers more freedom to brush the soundboard and allow the proper right hand angle on attack. One thing with a really low bridge is mylar. I know this now because I'm almost through the sound board:).
    As far as break angle, I'm sure I've tried to get somewhere before here on own kinda conclusion is yes! there only is so far you can come down before the tension is between the tailpiece and the nut!! (however not quite sure if too high a bridge helps volume)
    You want the tension between bridge and nut right ? Less tension easier to play?
    I'm sure I read somewhere before, must have been AJL website that Andreas Obergs guitar to his spec, has more neck angle...for whatever reasons??
    I recently purchased a Dupont Nomade, which I'm delighted with but I must admit for a hand built guitar was a little surprised to find doesn't have the pliage and more astonished to read(of the Selmer type Dupont), that ONLY the reserve does have it.
    Anyway...If anyone has read on this far then well done..I am in no way a builder or claim to know anything about building guitars. these are observations only. Maybe Michael can shed some light on the Busatos...if they are indeed wedged? ? It would be interesting to know. (irrespective I'm yearning for one:))
    It does seem to me to be more to do with the taper of the sides/bracing, the build of the neck block and also like in the collins book taking the measurement to determine the neck angle after the body is put together (oh for a set of those Busato plans)....again i could be miles out here,this is just what I make of it.
  • bill raymondbill raymond Red Bluff, CA✭✭✭
    Posts: 42
    First off, when building a guitar you're best off drawing a side view and calculating the neck angle based upon the bridge height, fret height and arch at the bridge, taking into consideration the string height desired at the 12th fret. Then the height of the top arching beneath the fretboard extension over the body can be determined so you don't need to put a thin wedge of wood in there (unless you want one!) or taper the fretboard (again, unless you want to!).

    Craig, in your case, you may want to draw out your present configuration and calculate what additional bridge height you might gain from tapering the thickness of the fretboard--that is, thinning it towards the nut. You do have adequate thickness there, so this might be an option for you. Or, you could even make a new fretboard that is thinner at the neck and even thicker than your present one at the highest fret, if that would work for you.

    I've been there, did that; I just glued an additional layer of ebony to the back of the fretboard and tapered it as mentioned above, to get the desired bridge height. It's invisible.
  • Craig BumgarnerCraig Bumgarner Drayden, MarylandVirtuoso Bumgarner S/N 001
    Posts: 795
    Thanks for the comments all. Bill, thanks for your idea of tapering the fingerboard. For now, I think I'm going to play it a while as is with the 14mm bridge. Also, I'll make an 18mm bridge and play it that way for awhile. The action will be very high, but I should be able to tell if the sound is appreciably better. If so, I'll probably take more drastic action to get the neck such that the action is more playable with the higher bridge.

    The larger question in my mind is whether Selmers all had high action. I found this picture on Jacques Mazzoleni's site of Selmer #849 which shows pretty high action. Assuming the edge of the fingerboard is 6mm which the plans call for and looks about right in the pic, then the action at the 21 fret is also 6mm which would be about 5mm at the #12.

    So maybe they were 5mm. To get it down to 3mm would require a pretty significant change to the neck angle. The wedge under the extension would make the finger board about 11mm thick (over 3/8"!) at the soundhole end and I don't see anything like that in any of the pictures I've been looking at. Still a mystery to me, ideas and comments welcomed.

    BTW, sells Pau Ferro rosewood turning stock in various lengths. The 6" x 1-1/2" x 1-1/2" can make at least two and maybe four bridges if you are careful. $3.99 each. Ebony and other woods also.

  • bill raymondbill raymond Red Bluff, CA✭✭✭
    Posts: 42
    Craig, as you know, lowering the strings at fret 12 by 2mm would take a reduction of bridge height of 4mm--a pretty big change. If you could lower the nut 2mm through tapering the fretboard (or lower the nut 1mm and raise the fret 1mm, or some such combination) then you'd only need to lower the bridge 2mm, which wouldn't be too bad. But, at least this give you an excuse to start working on the next guitar!!!!
  • richdaiglerichdaigle SLC,UT✭✭✭✭
    Posts: 181
    I too did the same EXACT thing...and found the CF plans biggest flaw was the neck angle info...I just called it "Gypsy guitar building school lesson #1" and hung it on my shop wall (I'll make a clock or a lamp out of it one of these days)! you might just string her up with some .11s and give the top a month or two to settle and you never know you might see a drop enough to work with...other than a neck reset etc....ugh I had error expections when I set out building #1 and used pretty cheap that made it easier to hang as well.

    Since #1, I've combined to a Charle/Collins hybrid plan and I've found that a neck angle of 2.5 degrees gives me proper bridge height and strings can be adjusted with all kinds of room from 1.9 to 2.7mm etc. at the 12th.

    I'm thinking of heading out in the shop with my Collins Favino plans soon...anyone found any false info on those (other than the "square" oval hole)????

    ahhh...the imperfect art of guitar building, never fails to bewilder

    Rich D
  • Craig BumgarnerCraig Bumgarner Drayden, MarylandVirtuoso Bumgarner S/N 001
    Posts: 795

    As alway, thanks for your ideas. I've been thinking of tapering the fingerboard as you suggest. My concern is this changes the neck thickness. I have a little extra to spare at the head end, maybe 1mm, but that only makes a difference of 1mm at the bridge. I've already filed the zero fret down about .4mm and redressed the frets, but again, I've got a long way to go. To make a significant difference and keep the neck profile, I think a neck reset is needed. Before doing anything drastic, I'm going to play it as is for a while and also with an 18mm bridge/high action to try to get a handle on the difference in sound.


    Nice to know I'm not alone. I can see that if one gets the neck angle right, the bridge height will be right and that is easy enough to plan next time, but what are you doing with the fingerboard extension to make up for the difference in angle between the fingerboard and the top? Looks like the wedge required will be a whopper (3mm?).

  • bill raymondbill raymond Red Bluff, CA✭✭✭
    Posts: 42
    Craig, whatever plan you work from, be sure to check the side view to make sure your action will work out with the neck angle, etc. If you need to make a modification of the neck angle, then you can change the amount of arching to the upper transverse brace that runs under the end of the fretboard extension. Usually, you can make reasonable changes to that brace to accommodate the required neck angle and obviate the need for a wedge of any sort.

    You are right, of course, that tapering the fretboard will affect the neck depth. That may or may not be significant, depending on what you feel your left hand requires, but in fact you can adapt to a wide variety of neck configurations, and you may just find something better by doing it--but certainly give the matter careful consideration before you make any drastic changes. On the other hand, you may find that the higher action suits you once you get used to it. Most of the really great players have used a higher action than today's rock guitar heroes who can't play unless they use super ultra extra lightest gauge strings and a 0.5mm action at the 12th fret! Django, Chet, et al. all got their great tone at least partially from an action that the average player might find unplayable.
  • Jeff MooreJeff Moore Minneapolis✭✭✭✭ Lebreton 2
    Posts: 476
    Its not clear to me what neck length you all are talking about

    I'd love to get buy one of these guitars with a too low break angle. Assuming the guitar has no other issues and is a 12 fret guitar.

    PM me if any of you are interested
    "We need a radical redistribution of wealth and power" MLK
  • Craig BumgarnerCraig Bumgarner Drayden, MarylandVirtuoso Bumgarner S/N 001
    Posts: 795
    Jeff Moore wrote:
    Its not clear to me what neck length you all are talking about

    670mm scale length, 14 fret to the body. Standard Selmer small oval hole model.
    Jeff Moore wrote:
    I'd love to get buy one of these guitars with a too low break angle.

    Why is that?

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