Improving a Messiah’s action

The action on Jeremy’s Maton Messiah has, over the years, increased to the point where its owner didn’t feel inclined to play it much anymore.

He brought the guitar to me several weeks ago and I suggested that while the Messiah was still within Maton’s suggested specifications, the saddle height had already been reduced to as low as possible and any further lowering would result in the strings sitting on the wood of the bridge…

Jeremy thought about the situation for a couple of weeks and decided that he wanted the guitar to be made more user-friendly.

I had already explained to Jeremy that the Messiah’s top had “bellied” somewhat as a result of string tension over the years- the guitar was made in 2008- and the two solutions were this:-

A:- Reduce the height of the bridge itself by planing wood from the top of the bridge and not worry too much about the appearance of the polished ebony bridge-which is a good solution for a hard-to-play $150 guitar, but not that desirable on a guitar like the Messiah or preferably

B:- Remove wood from the underside of the bridge to reduce the thickness of the bridge which necessitates the removal of the bridge, taking a millimeter or two from the bottom and then replacing the bridge.

And this is the preferred solution in my opinion. But it can be fraught with hazard if not tackled the right way…

The first step is to remove the pickup and then to mask around the bridge…

…and gently heat the bridge with the heat gun on the appropriate setting.

As the glue softens, I can gently slide a broad, rounded-edge spatula under the bridge.

…until the bridge can be carefully lifted off.

The locating dowels are lifted out of the top…

I want to remove about 2mm from the bottom of the bridge and I’ve marked that out on the edges using white pencil.

To reduce the bridge thickness, I’ll use the linisher to gradually sand down to the white line.

And as an indication of what I’ve done, an un-thinned bridge and the one from Jeremy’s Maton…

…and the difference is clearly visible.

I can then set about removing the old glue from the guitar top…

…and with the remains of the old glue gone, the locating dowels are inserted into the underside of the bridge…

…and the amount of wood removed from the underside of the bridge is clearly evident on the locating pins.

Now the bridge is ready to be reglued back in place.

Glue is applied appropriately- I don’t want too much squeeze-out…

…but I do want to see some.

I think that the success of this process should be that not only is the action now going to be adjustable again, but to the discerning eye- and I know that Jeremy has a discerning eye- that there should be NO visible evidence that the bridge has ever been removed.

I’ll leave the  bridge clamps on until tomorrow.


And now that the glue has had 24 hours to harden, the clamps are removed, the pickup is re-assembled into the bridge, any evidence of glue smearing is wiped away and a new saddle is made.

The original saddle has been considerably reduced in height in an attempt to produce a more satisfactory action and now that the bridge has had 2 mm removed, a taller saddle is required.

On the first try, the strings are well above where they should be.

My ruler says that the lower E string is about 3.5 mm above the tenth fret…

NOW the action is about where Maton recommend- 2mm at the tenth fret on the lower E string and about 1.5 mm at the 10th fret for the top string.

Jeremy, however, wants the action lower than that.

The strings are loosened again and more is removed from the bottom of the saddle…

Nearly there. Just a bit lower, perhaps.

Now the action measures about 1.75mm at the tenth fret and around 1.2 or .3 for the top string. And the guitar still plays cleanly so that should please Jeremy.

There is ample saddle height now so the Messiah should sound just like new again, and if need be, the guitar has ample adjustability for the future.

And who would know that the bridge has ever been removed? That’s a successful action adjustment…