DIY Rubber Bridge: Modifying an acoustic guitar


After watching an episode of the JHS show (my current favorite guitar channel) featuring a parlor guitar with a rubber bridge, I fell in love with the sound. The guitar in the video is available for pre-order, however it carries a hefty price tag ($675). However, I have a similar guitar and was inspired to do some work to see if I could DIY my own rubber bridge.

Benefits of a rubber bridge and lower tuning

In short, a rubber bridge sounds interesting and unique. Also, all the cool kids are doing it. The sound of the guitar is deadened a bit, placing it somewhere between a ukulele and a guitar. As in the video, I also detuned the guitar to a baritone tuning (BEADF#B), which gave this small guitar a depth it didn’t have before.

Norma: the Guitar

Norma is a late 1960s parlor guitar meant for campfire singalongs and beginners. It’s ¾ scale and made in Japan. There are some more general details about the guitar here: Late 1960s NorMa Parlor Guitar


The only significant downside to the rubber bridge is that it will wear out over time as the strings vibrate as they press into the rubber. That said, the material was very inexpensive and will only take a few minutes to cut a new bridge as needed.


The prep and research

I’ve already done a bit of work on this guitar, including cleaning up the frets and swapping out the original bridge in order to lower the action (how high the strings are from the fretboard) to make it more playable. I wasn’t happy with the changes I made as the action was still too high. This rubber bridge idea gave me a path to fixing the action problems.

After watching a few videos on other people’s experiences trying to DIY a rubber bridge (including a failure) and doing some research on what a professional rubber bridge looked like, I started looking at potential materials. I didn’t have anything in my hoard of bits and parts that would work. I looked at the jeweler’s block that was recommended in one video, but that involved a lot more cutting than I felt like doing. In the end, I ordered a roll of 1/8th inch high x 1 inch wide solid neoprene rubber gasket/weather stripping which fulfilled the same purpose but was more flexible for making granular adjustments in size, height, etc.

The modification process

Removing the old bridge

Swapping out the bridge on this guitar is incredibly easy because it’s what’s called a floating bridge. It’s not glued down and the strings run through the tailpiece rather than through the body of the guitar.

So, the only step here was to remove the old bridge, which took about 5 seconds. Just lift the strings and slide it out.

Cutting a new bridge

Adding the new bridge took a little trial and error. First I just cut bridge-width strips of rubber off the roll. 1/8th inch wasn’t enough, but ¼ inch was about right. I installed it, tuned the guitar and played.

The good news was that it worked! The downside was that it was both a little too low (the strings buzzed a lot against the frets) and really deadened the sound too much. I needed a smaller point of contact for the strings.

My second attempt was to cut the strips in half and then add a third strip to the stack. This yielded a 3in x 1/2in x ¾ in strip. I installed this version and it was an incremental improvement. The sound was a little brighter and more resonant, but could have been better. And now the string action was too high again.

I didn’t want a full 1/8th of height so I cut a strip a bit smaller than that, just eyeballing rather than measuring and turned it on its side on top of the 2 1/8in strips I kept as the base.

This worked as near to perfect as I could hope for! The sound is deadened, but not too much and the action is still high enough to not buzz too much on the frets.


There are still some fixes I want to do.

  • First priority is getting and installing a pickup so I can run the guitar through an amplifier and, most importantly, through my effects pedals.
  • Scrape the fretboard down to remove the factory polyurethane finish. It doesn’t look very nice.
  • Replace the tuning pegs. One of them is a little loose and this would improve the way the guitar holds tune.

Social media nomad

I’ve become a social media nomad and now that I see it, I’ll probably be more intentional about it.

I’ve stopped going to twitter entirely unless someone links me to something interesting. That’s been that way for a long time.

Most of my social energy the last couple years has been spent in the work slack, which is very active. This is fine, but I don’t want to lose those outside connections.

Mastodon in general has been great as a home base for connecting and random thoughts. I’ve met awesome people. If we’ve chatted, I probably consider them an internet friend.

I’ve been on various slack groups and discords over the years, some of them I’ve been on long enough that they feel like home and where my other internet friends live.

And over the last couple of months I’ve re-engaged with tumblr, which surprised me, but it’s just where I left it years ago and sometimes I need that chaotic rabid fandom energy in my life.

But I don’t feel completely tied down to any of these places and honestly barely spend more than a few minutes a week on any one of them. Some I don’t visit for months at a time. My various websites gather dust too, my profiles rarely get updates. I lurk a lot.

This ties into an idea my family chatted about recently around travel. We don’t travel, for the most part. Most of the world doesn’t travel either, and that’s okay. We talked about where that travel urge came from and if there was a way we would consider doing so. And we thought about migration patterns, the way nomadic tribes follow animal migrations. This is a form of travel, but when you come around to each seasonal place, you’re really home, just a different one. I imagine wealthy people with homes around the world are instinctively doing something similar. They’re not really traveling, because the place the go is familiar, it’s home.

I seem to be doing the same thing with my internet presence. I’m migrating from place to place, never too long in one. I think this is okay, it’s healthy. I’ll keep being a digital nomad, thanks.

On my own lack of formal education in my field

I wonder if it will ever stop feeling strange to review resumes for people that have their comp-sci Bachelors and Masters degrees.

As I grow into being a manager, I suspect this is something that will feel even weirder.

I have a high school diploma and a little continuing ed certificate, a few semesters of college (I dropped out twice).

I know it shouldn’t bug me. Formal education just isn’t the right fit for some folks, myself included. Yet, that feeling of being under-qualified rises every time.

This feeling has never really served me (other than maybe pushing me to work harder) and it’s overdue to be let go.

Foundations of decay

Huh. I’ve listened to MCR’s new “Foundations of Decay” enough times now that yeah, I pretty much love it.

I don’t know what the song is actually about, but I do know that it’s resonating with me and there’s a few lyrics that feel particularly relevant.

It’s been giving me thoughts about how there’s a perception that being in your 40s means you have nothing left in the tank, well. Fuck that.

The previous generation got “over the hill” parties when they turned 40. Gen-X have been doing things a little differently. We’re still angry kids and outsiders.

The stagnation is there if we’re not paying attention. The weight of a thousand generations telling us middle age is the time to start preparing for the decline can drag you down fast.

It takes conscious effort to not lay in our own foundations of decay.

Get up, coward!


Touch the sound

I remember maybe a decade ago there was a big trend toward body mods of folks inserting tech into themselves. I’m guessing this is probably something still going on today.

But as I’m learning guitar I’m paying a lot of attention to the more organic modifications I’m making to myself.

I’m working on my posture. Electric guitars are relatively heavy and I have to watch for back and neck strain, as well as hand strain. So, there are muscles building up there to compensate for this new factor.

But the more extreme thing I’ve noticed is my finger callouses.

If you’ve never played guitar before, you may not know that pressing down metal strings can be a bit painful. At least at first.

It’s not bad, but it’s enough that your body starts to compensate. It says “okay, you keep doing this painful thing over and over, not just once like an accident” so it goes about toughening up that area.

So I’ve now got baby guitar player callouses on my fingers.

The interesting side effect of this is that, while it makes it much easier to play the guitar, it makes every other tactile interaction with the world a more muted experience. I can very clearly tell the difference when I touch something with my right, callous-free fingers vs my left.

I feel a lot more details with my right now. My left hand fingers feel like they have little pads on them. It’s weird and something that are part of a choice I’m making in playing. A small sacrifice to be sure, but a sacrifice nonetheless.

tl;dr bodies are weird and smart.

Secret gems

No idea how true this was, but for many years, it seemed that Jeff Buckley’s music was this little secret gem. Even long after “Sketches for” came out, his music seemed to remain underground.

A co-worker at the Barnes & Noble cafe where I was a barista handed me “Grace” not long after it came out and I’ve since handed it to a few others, who have handed it off to more.

I remember it being so rare to encounter someone who knew his music, but also hearing rumors that folks like Elton John loved the album, too.

It was like we were all in a strange little secret club. Do you know Jeff Buckley’s “Grace”? was part of the test to see if someone was potentially friend material.

I love that everyone gets to hear everything all at once now. It’s amazing to me that I can access so many amazing things I’ve missed myself over the years. Still, I often miss that little, intimate sharing, too, where you got handed a physical album by someone who tells you “This will change your life”.


Preparing for 2022, a new system

I often spend some of this week each year doing a retro on the previous year and planning what next year will look like.

Since the pandemic started, along with accepting the impairments I’m working with because ADHD brain gonna brain, I’ve seen my plans fall apart spectacularly, to the point where the idea of setting year-long goals feels like a mistake before I’ve even started.

Time to try something new

I’m currently in the process of creating a new system for myself. There are still some 2022 goals, but they’re based on work already in progress. I’ve shifted my perspective to looking at things on a quarterly retrospective cadence, with monthly check-ins to summarize what I’ve done.

I’ll also be picking my practice of weekly focus intentions back up along with the daily developer journal and personal diaries that have proven their worth over the long haul.

The biggest question I’m asking myself as part of this new goal system is this:

What if I assume there will be failures?

Having my brand of neurodiverse brain means I’m going to get pulled off track regularly. Rather than feel like a loser about it, how can I embrace failure as an accepted state and reap a different kind of harvest?

An example quarterly retro question that incorporates failure as a possibility:

Did I make progress on my goals?

If the answer is yes:

  • Do your goals still have momentum?
  • Do you want to change anything?
  • Does the next quarter have space for this?

If the answer is no:

  • What did you focus on instead?
  • Was it of use?
  • What goal did this apply to, if any? If it didn’t, is there a need for a new goal?

Value-based and sustainable goal setting

I do have a few 2022 goals. They are specific but broad and build on work that I’ll be doing anyway or already has so much momentum that it’s an easy win. For example, I’m working toward becoming a Level 4 software engineer. This is something already I’ve been working on for about half of 2021 and also has support from my manager and others. The work I need to do to get there will be more targeted in the coming year, but is generally a deeper version of what I do regularly anyway.

In addition to those sustainable goals, I’m shifting most of the goals I would usually list for the year to be “ongoing”, with no expectation of when they’ll be completed or how much progress I’ll make on them in the coming year. Things like “organize my digital life” or “publish a new book” are highly specific, but also take a lot of energy and focus. Getting one aspect of my digital life cleaned up or getting one story ready to publish in 2022 would be huge wins viewed through the lens of marginal gains.

As part of getting this all set up, I’ve stepped back and made a list of my values, based on a compiled list created by James Clear. I have a few more than the suggested 5 value limit (9 core and 9 secondary, to be exact), but it was interesting to think through what these values mean to me and how they manifest in my goals and work.

I also made a list of my particular interests, things that are always with me that I keep coming back to over and over that provide meaning and shape to my world. I even started a hobbies list because I find enrichment important. It’s satisfying to have a few things in my life (coloring, building models, watching baseball, etc.) that are there purely for the pleasure they bring. These lists form the core of who I am and what’s important to me outside of my career and work.

The new setup

There are a few tools I’ll be using to manage this system in the coming year:

  • Habitica and Trello integrated with Zapier to manage my daily tasks, task inbox, and nitty gritty planning. This gets reviewed and cleaned up weekly.
  • Obsidian as my digital notebook (dev journal, commonplace book, monthly summaries). This holds the majority of my daily thoughts, achievements, notes, etc.
  • A paper list of my values, hobbies and interests, pinned somewhere visible (this is also stored in my commonplace book to have it at hand)
  • A paper weekly focus journal based on PEMS (practical, emotional, mental, spiritual) plus project specific intentions with a post-week reflection.
  • A yearly calendar for mapping out holidays, vacations, and LSQ planning.

Once a quarter, I’ll be sitting down to review my progress and plan the next block. The first quarterly review will use the following:

  • A large pad to mind-map and scribble notes
  • Printed copies of the monthly summaries
  • My values, hobbies, interests lists

I’ll ask myself a few questions:

  • Are my values, interests, and hobbies still of use? Do they enrich my life?
  • Do I need to change anything about those lists? You can add or subtract, both are fine!
  • Is the work I’m doing still in line with my values and interests?
  • What progress have I made on my annual and ongoing goals? Are these goals still valid?
  • Did I get off track anywhere? If I did, do I need to change something or do I just need to lay new track elsewhere?

Asking these questions will ensure the work I’m doing is in alignment with what and how I want to work as well as what I want to work on, providing me the best chance of having the energy and focus I need to do good work. I accept that things may change and this cadence allows me to adapt and update my own expectations for myself.


My main goal with all of this is to create a system that is flexible and dynamic, a method that keeps me on track with my larger vision for my life while also allowing me to adapt my goals to my energy and focus rather than trying to adapt my focus and energy to my goals.

The best part is that every three months I get to assess the system itself and determine if it’s working or if there’s a change needed for whatever my reality looks like at that time. I look forward to trying it out and am very interested in seeing where I’m at come mid-March.


It’s that time of year where I wax rhapsodic about Klaus by Grant Morrison. I pulled my treasured original issues out over the weekend (there’s a trade paperback available) and will be reading them over the holiday, just like I do every year.

“Klaus is a Santa Claus origin story, reinventing Father Christmas as a crusader against injustice and a rough-and-tumble, Conan the Barbarian-esque superhero. The series draws upon early Viking and Siberian Santa Claus mythology, but also aims to be contemporary, portraying a much cooler and fiercer Santa than the one usually known to come to town every December 25.”

It might sound a little silly, but it’s rather magical, heart-felt and totally awesome. There are 4 one-shot follow-ups as well.

Grant Morrison wrote something special here, I still don’t know how, exactly, but it feels like it was written for me. The story even very subtly pulls its plot from one of my favorite Rankin & Bass holiday specials.

And this was the first of Dan Mora’s artwork I’d seen. He’s now one of my absolute favorites, up there with Becky Cloonan.

I can’t wait to curl up with some hot tea and a cozy blanket and revisit these very special adventures with Santa Claus.

On indulgence in writing

I’m currently reading a gorgeously-written fanfic* that is one of my favorite things I’ve read all year. In the introduction, the author comments that it’s “the most goddamn self-indulgent fic I have ever written in my life”.

That made me chuckle at first, but as I thought about it more I realized that yes, this may be self-indulgent in that they can’t publish it for money, but that doesn’t mean it’s not just as good or worth writing as anything original.

From where I sit, all creative writing is self-indulgent. When I sit down to write it’s only ever for myself first. Eventually it will get polished up and be ready for others, but that first draft is all for me.

I don’t know how to write any other way. The novel I put out last year, that got my biggest and best response of all my work, was utterly self-indulgent. I wrote the first draft never intending to publish it. It wasn’t until a dear one read it and had a very strong reaction to it that I decided to edit it and put it out.

As most fanfic readers know, there comes a point where a good story is just a good story. As an editor and publisher myself, I’ve read a number of fics that I can clearly see being totally publishable. With a little bit of tweaking (change a few names and file off the serial number), they would be incredible books on their own merit.

Which brings us back to self-indulgence in writing. Part of the reason these fics are so good is exactly because the author is free to write whatever they want, purely for their own entertainment. Some authors are pros in real life, others just write for the fun of it. Either way, those awesome fics are what happens when an author gets out of their own way and falls in love with their own writing, which is something I heartily support.

So if you have a story you want to tell, but feel like it’s too something (silly, deep, weird, etc) I encourage you to write it anyway. It’s only my opinion but I feel like you should be the first person who loves the story. If you love it, others will too.

*It’s a well-researched, culturally-sensitive, historically-accurate, 65k word The Old Guard fic set during The Crusades (one of my historical special interests) and it’s utterly swept me off my feet.


Managing Slack

My work slack is very active, partly of the result of having both a healthy remote-working environment and partly because I work with awesome people. Recently, I’ve been trying to manage the level of attention Slack takes up in my day, because folks are chatty and my brain wants to keep up with everything. I’ve tried a couple things to manage the drain on my attention, with mixed success and finally found a good solution last week.

Muting/unmuting channels in groups

This turned out to be higher friction than I would have liked. I had to remember to switch them on and off and “unreads” doesn’t work the same when you have channel groups. When you mute a group and then unmute it, unread messages don’t reflect in “All unreads” and you have to click into each channel to read the messages. (Something that I’d like to see Slack improve on)

Quitting out of slack completely

I tried this when I needed to deep focus, allowing my phone notifications to ping me with @’s. But this proved cumbersome as well. I was getting pinged often enough that having to restart slack and then close it back down was a bad experience.

Turn off the “unread” indicator

Finally! A good solution! I turned off the little red “unread” indicator on my slack icon. I now only get a tag there if I have an @ mention. It’s made a big difference in my focus level. Turning off the indicator is zero friction and I can ignore slack unless I get @’d. When I pop in to check on my @’s, I can take a moment to get caught up on whatever chatter is going on and then minimize slack again and ignore it.