The first kit that I built from Stew-Mac said to use paint stripper to remove the finish from the top prior to gluing on the bridge, so I have always done that.  Everything else that I read however seems to say just scrape it dry.  I'm interestd to know what others do.  I'd prefer to not use that scary stripper.

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I scrap the finish. If it's too thick, I start with my dremel router and then switch to a scraper. My favorite is an old broken knife.
I've always mask off the area with tape and used a straight edged razor blade and/or an old wide chisel. I've seen the idea but never tried stripper. Besides the possibility of getting it on areas I don't want it to touch, I worry about residue in the wood mixing with the glue.

I am amazed that StewMac would recommend stripper. I know of no one who does that. I pare it off with a long, thin, very sharp paring chisel--the kind they used to make in Sheffield. I've masked and scraped. Paring is faster and more fun.
I guess you have a lot of control. I think I would be afraid of taking too much material. Is there a secret to this technique?
I've never developed much of a technique, just carefully apply the stripper with an artist brush right to the scribe line, let it sit and then scrape it with a sharp chisel. It works OK, but I too am afraid of the residue it leaves.
Howard - You pare rather than scrape? Doesn't the handle get in the way? Or did you bend one as Frank Ford suggests on
I'm talking about a chisel with an 8" long blade. The handle stays clear of the top. I suppose you can use a cranked neck chisel. But the thin straight blade gives better feedback to your hand for fine cuts. No secret other than a sharp blade, and mostly cutting across the grain.

It's also easier to tell when you are past the finish than with scraping.
I confess that I am one of those who use stripper. I scribe very carefully with a #11 Exacto (I buy them in packs of 100), carefully put down stripper up to about 1/16 - 1/8 of the scribe line. I remove the finish with the square end of a thin 6" ruler and then use the proverbial sharp chisel (I have a very old plain carbon steel chisel that I love - it doesn't hold the edge all that long but I can get it sharper than any chisel I have ever owned) The chisel works well if I pare towards the scribe line - the lacquer will naturally come loose at the scribe line. Then I carefully sand the bare wood with 100 grit garnet paper. I made a very small sanding block out of plexi for the purpose.(The sanding is to remove any residue of the stripper) I do not pretend that this is the best way to do this job - but I have been doing it this way for 40 years and have had virtually perfect success. Like many of my "techniques" I am too lazy to change a system that seems to work well for me.
I'm in agreement that scraping is the way to go. I scribe around the inside edge of the bridge line and hack away with a chisel.
I can't believe it, I thought I had scraped it well, bought fresh Titebond (1-1/2 months old), applied PLENTY to both surfaces, clamped it for two days, and when I strung it up the bridge lifted almost entirely off. I've never had this happen when I used stripper, so I'm guessing that I didn't remove all the lacquer, only the top layers. So here goes again.
After locating my bridge with two pins, I very lightly ( Finish only) scribe around it with new exacto. Then with my burn-in knife I blister as close as I dare to the scribed line. Then it peels up very easily with a chisel. I clean all the way to the edge so no finish is under the bridge. You have to be extra careful but you have full wood to wood contact.
I like the idea of of blistering the finish. After my failure to remove it all by scaping I went back to paint stripper and sure enough, there was still a layer of finsh there. To me, it seems difficult to remove it all just by scraping it dry.


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