Ed's Shed: How to Restring an Acoustic Guitar
Ed Mitchell's tips on a process that can make readers high strung: Restringing an acoustic.
One of the most common cries for help I’ve received recently concerns the restringing of acoustic guitars.
While this should be a straightforward job, it seems that your pesky bridge pins (See photo 1 in the gallery below) are causing trouble. I don’t want to start a fight here, but it’s probably your fault. If these little plastic, metal, bone or wood pins aren’t fitted correctly, they can shoot out of the bridge like a rocket when you tune the string.
Over the years, I’ve seen bridge pins mummified in sticky tape then jammed into their respective holes in the bridge. I’ve even witnessed the horror of bridge pins entombed in super glue to keep them from pinging out. Excuse me for stating the obvious, but these are not good solutions. Let’s learn how to do the job correctly. When you're fitting strings to an acoustic guitar, you can’t just stuff the bridge pins in and hope for the best. You have to make sure the ball end of the string applies enough tension to the correct part of the pin to stop it flying out when you tune the guitar up to pitch.
When removing bridge pins, use the right tool for the job, such as the built-in notch on the head of your string-winder (See photo 2). Don’t let me catch you using metal tools like pliers or snips. You’ll chew up or snap the pins. Speaking of which, always check on the condition of your bridge pins whenever you remove them from the guitar. If they look worn out or chewed up, replace them.
The ball end of the guitar string has to secure itself against the underside of the bridge to maintain the guitar’s tone and sustain. The ball end shouldn’t be allowed to sit on the tip of the pin (See photo 3). If this happens, the pin will work itself loose and you’ll spend the rest of the evening on your hands and knees looking for it. Putting a curve in the winding of the string (See photo 4) will help the ball end avoid the tip of the bridge pin and go where it's supposed to. Gently bend the winding until the string looks like the one in the picture.
Next, slip the string into its hole in the bridge (See photo 5). Grab a bridge pin and slide that into the hole. Make sure the groove in the bridge pin is facing the sound hole of the guitar (See photo 6). Next, push the pin into place while simultaneously pulling on the string with your other hand (See photo 7). You should feel the string and pin snap into place. Nice work. I’ll meet you up at the headstock.
Snip the string approximately two inches past its corresponding machinehead. Now you can poke the end of the string through the hole in the machinehead shaft (See photo 8). Begin winding the string on the shaft with your string-winder (see photo 9). Aim for four or five neat windings on the post with no unsightly overlaps.
As you wind the string up to tension, eyeball the bridge pin. If it pops up a bit, push it back down. Repeat the restringing process with the rest of the strings.
As ever, give the strings a good stretch (See photo 10), then re-tune. Repeat the process until the tuning stabilizes. That’s the job finished.
Next time, I’m going to show you how to restring a nylon-strung classical guitar. See you then.
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