Last Update: 01/18/01
Who is John Gilbert?
Mr.Gilbert was born in New York City on December 8th, 1922. A master metal worker, he grew up to be the chief tool engineer at Hewlett-Packard's computer division in Cupertino, California. In 1965, on his first day on the job at H-P, he met a fellow who built his own guitar using an instruction book. That book was "Make Your Own Spanish Guitar" by A.P.Sharp. John quickly purchased a copy and built his first guitar which was a gift for his daughter. At this same time he started doing repairs. When things started to look up he quit his job at H-P to devote full time to guitar making and repair.That was in 1974. In 1986 his son Bill joined him in the business. John has since developed his own line of hand-crafted tuning machines. As of 2001the tuners are now made by his daughter and son-in-law. The Gilbert's are internationally recognized as building some of the finest classical guitars and tuning machines in the world.
Evolution of the "Gilbert Bridge"
It all started when John attempted to maximize the conduction of the vibrating string energy to the top, and have this maintained throughout the life of the instrument. Using common sense he reasoned that due to the flexing of the top from string tension ( outward below the bridge, and inward above), the saddle could lose some of it's intimate contact inside the saddle slot. Thus explaining some of the weakness of midrange response in some instruments.
John's first experiment envolved filing an arch to the underside of the saddle bone which increased pressure under the middle strings. Soon afterwards John thought the saddle might be improved by having flexibility all the way along it's length. So the saddle was arched on the top and bottom of the saddle between the strings.
Next John began to rethink the design of the traditional bridge and reconsider which parts actually required strength. This led to his giving the leading edges of the bridge more mass and strength while hollowing out the middle. The photo to the right is of #39, 1979.
The first instrument to have John's destinctive saddle pin design was #64. The photo to the left is of a Gilbert guitar #90, 1984.
A bridge blank from the Gilbert workshop.
Passing of the torch. A William Gilbert bridge as found on # 185, 1998.
David Schramm's version of the Gilbert bridge.