19th century guitars bridge pins

Construction and repair of Classical Guitar and related instruments
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Tomzooki
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19th century guitars bridge pins

Post by Tomzooki » Wed Apr 12, 2017 2:43 am

I would like to know the difference between 19th century guitars and modern steel strings guitar bridge pins, and the structure of the bridge. And is there an advantage of that bridge design on romantic guitars?

Thank you!
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powderedtoastman
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Re: 19th century guitars bridge pins

Post by powderedtoastman » Wed Apr 12, 2017 4:26 pm

I don't know if there's an advantage to the bridge pin design (break angle to the saddle is the only thing I can think of?) or if it' was a matter of what was easier to fabricate, or if it was just what was in fashion.
I've seen pictures of some Fabricatore guitars which were really the early end of the 19th century, and they did have a sort of primitive tie block bridge so I guess it was at least not impossible to make a usable tie block.

I can tell you a couple of disadvantages to the pins. You have to tie knots in the strings, and they rest against the underside of the top of the guitar with the pin there to just hold it in place. I found out that if you don't get it seated right, the pin will go flying as you bring the string to tension. If a knot is too small, it can slip through, and on the first string you can also just break the string at the knot and have to give it another try.

Once you learn the little trick to getting it seated right that's usually not too much of a problem, but I still can't seem to get my first string to cooperate on the first several attempts when I re-string, it's pretty frustrating.

The other thing is that with the wound bass strings, it's pretty difficult to get the knots tied down into a compact form depending how pliable your particular strings are. When inserting them into the holes you can give them a little squeeze and gentle push to get them into the body, but you may not be able to get them back out that way. When it's time to remove the old strings I find myself pushing the last two strings most of the way into the body and carefully fishing them out of the soundhole.

Alan Carruth
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Re: 19th century guitars bridge pins

Post by Alan Carruth » Wed Apr 12, 2017 6:49 pm

Pin bridges seem to have been taken over from harp designs, where the basic setup goes back to the middle ages. In that case the pins not only held the strings in, but provided a 'saddle' of sorts. They were often shaped in the manner of a sitar bridge, to produce a buzzing sound, and were called 'bray pins'. The harps were small, and probably tuned fairly low, so the buzzing helped the tone to cut through, rather like the way Flamenco players use fret buzz. Harp players use a special knot, but I've always found that a plain figure-8 knot works pretty well.

From what I've seen pin bridges were quite common except on Spanish guitars. The tie block bridge the Spaniards favored was something of a hold over from the lute bridge. On lutes the tie block pretty much is the bridge. I have seen one scholarly suggestion that the saddle on the guitar bridge originated as a sort of 'capo' on lutes; a way of shortening up the string length a bit. It may have become a standard part of the bridge when it proved to offer a more positive stop for the strings.

Contrary to the obvious inference, bridge pins are not wedges where the taper of the pin in meant to hold the string in place. Instead they are toggles. The string knot presses against the side of the pin and that holds it the pin in the hole. Making the pins a tight wedged fit in the holes is a good way to split the bridge. DAMHIKT

There are two common ways to implement a pin bridge. One is to use round pin holes and a slotted pin, and the other is to slot the bridge holes and use a round pin. The latter is far superior. A round pin in a slotted hole basically serves to hold the string in place until the knot seats on the inside. Once that has happened you can normally remove the pin and not lose the string. The taper of the pin just allows you to seat it snuggly so that it doesn't fall out. If the pin shoots out when you're tightening the string and kills the cat you didn't have the knot seated properly. I can't think of a gut/nylon stringed guitar that I've seen where the pin bridge was not slotted. That particular change seems to have emerged with low-end steel strings; its a lot easier to slot the pins than the bridge.

Steel string guitars, where pin bridges are normal, use a hardwood 'bridge plate' to keep the knots from cutting into the top.

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geoff-bristol
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Re: 19th century guitars bridge pins

Post by geoff-bristol » Wed Apr 12, 2017 9:17 pm

Certainly capable of killing the cat - I had the E go on my first baroque guitar ! Never found it ( the pin )

powderedtoastman
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Re: 19th century guitars bridge pins

Post by powderedtoastman » Thu Apr 13, 2017 1:23 am

geoff-bristol wrote:Certainly capable of killing the cat - I had the E go on my first baroque guitar ! Never found it ( the pin )
Before I was aware of this issue, I used to string up with the guitar sitting on a blanket on the table. Then the pin shot straight up out of the hole, came down and put a little ding in the top of my guitar.
Now, when I tighten up a string, I do so with the guitar in my lap and the top facing forward.

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Michael.N.
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Re: 19th century guitars bridge pins

Post by Michael.N. » Thu Apr 13, 2017 8:04 am

You've obviously been using the wrong technique when fitting the strings.
The bridge pins on romantic guitars vary in size a little, just like modern steel string bridge pins. Of course the bridges on steel string guitars are much larger than found on romantic guitars.
The advantage of the pin type bridge is that it's a little better when it comes to neck angle changes. You shouldn't get any string dings or marks behind the bridge, those aren't uncommon on tie bridges. The disadvantage is that you have to tie knots in the strings (hardly a big deal) and I guess there's always a chance of misplacing one of the pins. Both bridge types work perfectly well and neither has any real world obvious advantages. If you were to hold a gun to my head I might choose the bridge pins. . . just.
Historicalguitars.

Alan Carruth
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Re: 19th century guitars bridge pins

Post by Alan Carruth » Thu Apr 13, 2017 8:32 pm

Here in the US there is a strong presumption that a pin bridge implies steel strings. Back when I was doing repairs we got a call from a fellow who had found an old guitar in his grandmother's attic. When he put the strings on it the bridge chipped. It was a Panormo from 1844, and he was stringing it with heavy gauge steel. The low E string winding caught on the forward peak of the bridge that acts as the saddle, and puled out a piece of the ebony. Luckily he hadn't got the strings anywhere near tension or they'd have ripped the one-piece top right off it. We fixed it up and set him straight.

When I made a couple of Classical versions of Martin's 12-fret 000, which was the largest guitar they designed for gut strings, I used a tie block bridge on them rather than the original pin bridge: they are not braced for steel, and I wanted to make it obvious (aside from the big rollers on the tuners and the 50mm wide nut....)

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