Guitar repair: Busted bridges & belly to boot!

Here’s wishing a very warm, happy and prosperous 2022 to all the readers of this blog!

As promised, the workshop, blog and I are back at it after a break.

Starting off proceedings in the new year is this Squier

Did I hear someone say, ‘Ouch’?


Do pause a while and concentrate on the last two photographs. The bridge-split is bad but worse, it is some cheap, light-coloured wood, painted a dark colour. Can bridge wood quality be a contributing factor in causing a bridge split? Undeniably!

And this is a Fender! Shame! 

But we, the customers, must shoulder part of the blame. We demand from manufacturers ‘musical instruments’ that are inexpensive – the lesser, the better. What else do you expect with this penny-wise and pound-foolish approach? 

And then there’s the saddle. Never mind the material, but so broad is the saddle slot cut in the bridge (or, so thin a saddle was used) that even without string tension, the saddle is falling forward. Another recipe for a bridge-split.

The same crappy wood used for the bridge was used on the fretboard

making the paint disappear through wear.

If that wasn’t enough, the guitar had a massive belly

removing which would be a painstaking task.

But those were all secondary issues. The condition that I found the bridge in, troubled me a lot. I have seen split bridges before but none worse. I gave it a lot of thought and then decided that the bridge needed to be replaced. My reasoning was two-fold. Just going by how deeply the bridge was split, I was not confident, filling it would not crack it again later, and two, the quality of wood used didn’t merit any time and energy be spent on it.

Taking the bridge off the top, I was happy that I decided to replace it.

The crack between the ‘D’ and ‘G’ string holes was so deep that it almost broke through on the other side.

Funnily enough, there was another issue with the bridge, one that I have not seen. The bridge slot seemed to be cut in a curve. In the photograph below, I am holding a fresh bone saddle trying to insert it in the slot. While the treble end of the saddle went in conveniently, the bass end refused to go in. I tried a couple of other saddles to see if the one I had tried was not warped, but the fault lay in the slot itself.

And now that it was off, I had to find a replacement for the bridge.

It’s replacement was much the same bridge, only this one was solid rosewood. With a little bit of oil, it’s colour would darken appreciably. The more important fact was that this bridge would provide much greater stability to the instrument – much more than what the original bridge had ever provided.

But to glue it on to the guitar top, the belly would have to be removed, the top flattened as much as was possible and then the bridge would have to be stuck.

24 hours with a small block of felt-backed piece of wood and then another 24 hours with a larger piece of cork-backed piece of wood, seemed to have removed the belly from the instrument but I knew some of it was bound to return once string tension played its part.

For now, things looked very optimistic, or should I say flat.

While the instrument was under the rack, I turned my attention to the bridge. This was actually a bridge blank with just the saddle slot fully done while the bridgepin holes went only 3/4th of the way through the bridge.

I would have to drill through them completely to make it functional.

When I placed it on the guitar top, my worst fears came true. The holes on the bridge did not quite line up with the holes on the guitar top!

So, I had to fill up the holes with properly sized dowels of spruce, which were then planed level with the top. I also had to work on the area of the footprint of the old bridge. Thin slivers of wood were glued down, while others were sliced off.

It was now time to glue the bridge to the top.

My understanding of a good bridge-glue-up job is that there should be enough pressure for ample time for the perfect bond, and, of course, there should be glue.

I left the bridge clamped exactly like this for a good 48 hours, while I tried to clean up the rest of the instrument, particularly the fretboard and headstock area. While I would have liked to have been more thorough on the fretboard, the suspect quality of wood forbade me, and I just cleaned it lightly and oiled it.

When the clamps came off, the job had been done, and done well. A little bit of oil nourished and darkened the bridge enough.

Unrelatedly, a friend had sent me a few sets of coloured strings asking me to try them on. Inexpensive, I had earlier used them on two student guitars and had got good reports about them. I decided to throw on a set on this Squier too.

And yes, after all that trauma that this Squier went through, it got a swanky new bone saddle and nut.

Here’s one last look at this baby

I am still waiting for the owner to get back to me about how the instrument is doing and his report on the coloured strings. 


Amit Newton

An experienced guitar tech with over 10 years of experience working on acoustic Gibsons and Martins in the Gulf region. There is nothing that cannot be repaired; the only consideration is the price at which it comes. And yet, if there is sentiment attached, no price is too high! WhatsApp/Call me: 7080475556 email me:

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