Where to Drill Holes for Bridge & Tailpiece (Set-In Neck Guitars)?

(Pictures to follow soon)

A major requirement of this process is to make sure that the neck & fingerboard are in their final position i.e the neck has been glued into the pocket of the guitar body, all the way down the pocket as far as it can go.

Because the Set-In Neck is glued into the pocket of the body instead of bolted (more on that in this blog post), we are unable to pre-drill these holes for you & thus you will need to manually determine where to drill these bridge & tailpiece holes. Set-In Neck guitars are known to be a harder build for this very reason.

Step 1:

You're going to start by placing a long ruler (the longer the better) along the side of the fretboard & down the body of the guitar. Draw lines with a pencil along the inside of the ruler thus creating an extension of the neck. Do this on both sides of the fretboard. If you have already finished the guitar then put some masking tape on the body before adding the pencil lines. If the wood is still raw & you plan on painting it, then there is no harm in drawing on the wood itself.

Its also good to note that the effective part of a guitar sting is the part between the string nut at the top of the guitar neck & where the string bends over the bridge saddle towards the bottom of the guitar. This length is essentially your scale length. We do not measure the string length though because there might be slight variances due to saddle positioning. Instead we measure along the surface of the guitar.

Step 2:

In order to place the bridge saddles in the exact right location, you're going to have to hold the ruler on the 12th fret (on the actual metal, not in between the two) & then measure the distance from there to the inside of the guitar nut at the top of the neck, where it meets the wood. This number (commonly converted to inches) & doubled is essentially your scale length. The 12th fret is essentially the 1/2 way mark between your nut and where the bridge needs to sit.

If this length from the nut to the 12th fret is say 32 cm's (12.59 inches), then measure 32 cm's from the 12th fret down the body of the guitar and place the bridge at the end of the ruler in its correct position & with the saddles as close to the end of the ruler as possible. This is where the strings will bend over the saddle.

The saddles of your bridge piece allow for some play in both directions to account for any variances once installed, so its important to make sure that the saddles are positioned to the middle so that when installed you can have some movement both ways.

The bridge should also be proportionate to the lines you drew earlier, thus dead inline with the neck. You can do this by eye.

Step 3:

Once you are satisfied that the bridge is in the right location, you can mark the holes with your pencil. This is where we will drill.

If you are installing a Tune-O-Matic bridge, it is often tilted up slightly on the bass side, by roughly 3 degrees or so. If you decide to angle to bridge, mark the new holes with the bass side (thicker strings) tiled slightly down towards the butt of the guitar.

Step 4:

Now its time to drill the holes. Make sure you correctly identify A) which size drill piece you need & B) what depth you need to drill so to avoid going through & out the back of the guitar body. It can help to measure the stud that you'll eventually knock into the holes against the drill bit & mark off the depth with some tape so you know when to stop drilling. You'll also want to rather drill a hole thats slightly too deep then slightly too shallow, to avoid the stud not going in all the way.

If you're using a press drill, a good way to make sure of depth is to align the pickup cavity under the drill & with the drill turned off, drop the drill head into the cavity. It should fall into the cavity & not have too much movement left over that it would go out the back of the guitar.

Make sure the guitar is clamped or held down well. A mistake here could be costly!

Also if the guitar has been finished with a lacquer or custom artwork, its recommended to break through the paint layer with the drill spinning slowly in reverse. Once you've broken through the paint then you can continue to drill like normally into the wood.

Step 5:

Before you knock in the studs, rather test the holes depth because its extremely difficult to get the studs out once they are in.

For the same reason as above, some guitars are required to be grounded via the bridge stud. If this is the case (usually guitars with back electrical cavity's & Tune-O-Matics bridges such as Les Paul's, SG's etc)  make sure you do not knock in the stud before first grounding.

If you do need to ground: You will need to drill a small hole from the back electrical cavity of the guitar connecting to the bottom bridge stud hole. You will see that its not much of a distance. You will then need to feed a piece of electrical wire from the cavity to the bridge stud hole, fray the end that pops out the hole, wrap the copper around the stud and then knock it into the hole. The other end will ultimately be grounded with the components.

 Step 6:

Once the bridge stud is knocked in you will now need a tailpiece. The tailpiece does not need an exact distance from anything as it only feeds the strings, but it can't be too far back that the strings can't reach the tuning pegs. The usual distance is normally 2 inches behind the bridge piece. Follow the same drilling instructions for the tailpiece & voila! In no time you'll have your bridge & tailpiece set & ready for mounting.

Comment on this post (2 comments)

  • Thomas Clark says...

    Noticed that my Epiphone has a tune-o-matic brodge and the distance from the nut to the bridge on the high E side is 24 3/4 inches while the low E side is 24 7/8, about 1/8 of an inch further way from the nut. Should I have the same offset on the SG clone kit I am building?

    January 22, 2018

  • TerryH says...

    Excellent info which was not made available from the kit supplier. Many thanks for your post.

    May 17, 2016

Leave a comment

Please note, comments must be approved before they are published