The other day, in a conversation with a prospective customer, it became apparent to me that I had failed to correctly convey, to the readers of this blog, all that transpires between the stages of a bridge developing a split and me making it disappear.
“Oh, you’ll fill it up with a mixture of saw dust and wood glue and sand it smooth,” said my man.
Well, yes and no! Just the sanding process goes through six grits of sandpaper, for four of which I have to go hunting from shop to shop.
I could always order them online but then you never know what I will get in hand. In our dear country, all that can possibly go wrong – by accident or design – will go wrong. So, with that foremost in mind, I walk the lanes and by-lanes of La Touche Road, touch, feel, inspect and then buy the sandpaper I exactly need for the job.
So, why do bridges split?
It’s a long winding argument but let me go out on a limb and say it is a phenomenon seen more here – in the Indian Sub-Continent – than in the West. In the West, even the odd Martin, Gibson, Maton, etc and what have you, can develop a split in the bridge, but that – I daresay – is more due to a lack of care or maintenance by the owner.
In India, the cheap, sub-standard stuff imported from far eastern chop shops, contracted to maximise the number of instruments produced than the quality with which they are made, are to be blamed. Having said that, it is also true that we – the customers – must shoulder much of that blame. Why? We want the cheapest ‘guitar’, yet want it to sound like a Martin!
Should I say it? Alright I will! Either you can get quality or you can pay less for what you call an acoustic guitar. In the West, people understand workmanship and quality and are, thus, willing to pay for it. Here, in India there’s still some distance to go before we develop that awareness.
In India too, boutique builders are growing (thankfully), who build just eight to 10 instruments a year. But then, these instruments are hand-built and with quality materials and stringent quality checks.
So, your cheap ‘guitar’ has a bridge. But unfortunately, it is a cheap piece of wood dyed dark brown or black. You don’t expect it to withstand the 80kg tension that the strings are going to be pulling on it with?
Another scenario. The bridge has bridgepin holes drilled into them. However, the bridgepins are a tad tight in them. Instead of reaming the holes out a bit, strings are thrown on and bridgepins stuffed in. Who’s got the itme? Where the bridgepin hole was hardly accommodating a bridgepin, now it has to accommodate the pin as well as the string. There’s a crack coming: if not in a month’s time, certainly within the year!
Another scenario. You want to try a thicker set of strings. Excellent! But can your bridgepin holes withstand them?
Recently, this came in to be repaired.
This was the first glance. But as I looked at it, I noticed that the crack was, in fact, much larger.
If it hadn’t landed on my counter when it did, I would have given it another three-four months to survive. It was a Cort, a brand that has more minuses than pluses going for it in the lower range of its instruments.
So, out came the dyed saw dust-wood glue paste which filled up the crack. Once it was dry came the six grits of sandpaper that did the magic.
I surmised that the split in this bridge had been caused due to the bridgepins fitting a little too tightly in the holes. So, I took a reamer to it
And then I turned my attention to the fretboard and fretwires.
While removing the bridgepins, one came out like this
This couldn’t be used and since I had changed the saddle and the nut too (yeah, bone), which were now white, I swapped the old black pins for white ones.
With everything done and the guitar waiting to be picked up, I clicked this photo.