Adrian Lopez

Tools needed for cutting a bridge

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I'm trying to assemble a set of tools for cutting new bridges. I figure I'll need:

  • A knife for carving the bridge's profile.
  • A knife for shaping the feet.
  • A knife for cutting the various incisions.
  • Something to grind the knives into a suitable shape.
  • Sharpening tools.
  • Other tools such as a chisel for thicknessing and sandpaper for finishing.

For one of the knives I've ordered a 12mm Pfeil for carving the profile and cutting the feet, but I'm going to need a smaller knife for shaping the heart, kidneys, ears, and other such parts of the bridge. Would a smaller Pfeil knife be good for this? What size?

Once I have the right knives the next step is to give them the desired shape. For the shapes of the knives, Johnson & Courtnall recommends giving the blade a knee for cutting the bridge profile and feet, but for the other cuts it says only to use a fine blade. What would be the best shape for this blade?

Also, what's a good tool for altering the shape of the knife as opposed to just sharpening?

Edited by Adrian Lopez

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I can only share what I use, but I also know not everyone does the same. It's a combined result of how I was taught + the tools I happen to own because I like them & could acquire them on my budget at the time.

  • Block plane for initial thickness (I could probably use the chisel instead if I was trying to go really minimalist/budget)
  • Wide-ish curved knife for the feet —
  • A flat file to clean up the top curve (but I suppose sandpaper would work too)
  • Narrow chisel for tapering the inside of the kidney wings and heart dangle-y bit (but, honestly, the knife will do this just fine)
  • Narrow knife for the cutouts, bevels, etc. — [just tell him you need a bridge knife]
  • Wide chisel for the belly profile 
  • Scraper (but many use sandpaper here)
  • Joint round edge precision files for the notches (but if you only want to buy one, a rat-tail file will do)
  • And then I have my sharpening stones, which happen to be a set of Shaptons but whatever works for you. I have the Grizzly Tormek knock-off and it works just fine but it's hardly necessary.
  • Don't forget bridge templates (I made my own but they are pretty cheap) and possibly a jig or planing stop, depending on how you like to work, to hold the thing.

You may also find informative.

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The triangle strings website has excellent information. You don’t need a lot of tools to do it, but it’s worth investing in good ones if you  intend to cut a lot of bridges.

There are all kinds of opinions about what kind of grinder/honing  setup you ought to have, but it will ultimately come down to what works most consistently and efficiently for you. Get a good block plane and a couple knives that have good quality steel that will hold an edge. I use a bench chisel for initial fitting and thicknessing, but that’s my personal preference, not a necessity (I think it saves me a little time and keeps my plane blade sharp longer). These are the basics, below I’ll list some other tools to consider.


-Fine low-tack tape for layout

-Template for curvature 

-Round needle file 

-Carbon paper, graphite, chalk, or grease pencil for fitting the feet


-Calipers for thicknessing


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Thank you both for the information. Very useful.

Any advice on shaping a knife blank? Would I need a grinder or can this be done with just files and stones? I know nothing at all about modifying knives.

I think I'll contact TBSmithy for the bridge knife, as I don't have a blank for that yet.

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