Often times a player will go to restring their guitar, and discover that the bridge pins wont budge. This can be a frustrating experience, and can turn a simple procedure into a struggle. Luckily, there are a few tricks that can be used to make bridge pin extraction as painless as possible. The first thing to try is to push the loosened string down in an attempt to release the pin. The strings on most acoustic guitars have “balls” at the ends of them that become wedged between the pin and the bridge plate – a brace inside of the guitar that basically mimics the shape of the bridge. Strings are held in place by the tension of the ball being firmly wedged in between the pin and the bridge plate, therefore simply pushing down on the string will often release the tension, thus loosening the pin. Unfortunately, this doesn’t always work. If this is the case, I usually try using the same diagonal cutters that I use to trim the loose ends on strings to try to lift the pin. Many string winders come with a tool to use to pull bridge pins. I’ve found that, while they work fine on some pins, they really don’t accomplish the job when the pin is really stuck. Therefore, the diagonal cutters are the better choice for the job. I lightly close the jaws of the cutters under the head of the bridge pin, and then lift, rather than pry, the pin straight out. Most of the time this works, but sometimes the job requires a little extra oomph. If this is the case, I like to use a a piece of hardwood veneer to add leverage, while protecting the wood of the bridge as I pry the bridge pin out. Prying like this does provide amazing leverage, but it is important to be very careful, as it is possible to break the pin in half this way. If you think that the pin is going to break, stop and try pushing the string down to release the string’s ball end again. It is plausible that after the pin has been jostled enough that the string can break free of the tension and release the joint completely. Another thing to try that is much safer is to loosen the strings to the point that you can reach inside of the sound hole. Then use a coin (I prefer a quarter because of its having more surface area) to push up on the bottom of the pin. Most of the time, one of these methods or a combination of these methods will free the bridge pin. Changing your strings is important, and any way that you can make it an easier process is a benefit to both your state of mind, and your instrument.
By Dave Bolla
Grosse Pointe Music Academy Staff/ Certified Luthier