Guitar repair – Getting stuck in a Vault, mending it!

Recently, I received a call asking me if I would look at an acoustic guitar with a belly. I said that I most certainly would, but added that my efforts to reduce it may or may not succeed.

Despite the disclaimer, the young man – actually a chef at a city hotel – landed up with his guitar.

However, the belly was far less than what I had been given to understand. But I did peep inside to take a look at the bridgeplate and its surroundings to check if there were some loose braces.

From what I saw, I wasn’t pleased. The bridgeplate seemed to have been fashioned out of the first piece of wood that the manufacturer laid his hands on. It wasn’t a hard wood and it wasn’t maple (or at least the varieties I recognise). If the bridgeplate and the belly stays the way it is for a few more years, I’d concede and say that it was made out of stable material. Right now, I am very hesitant to make that claim.

However, there was a different problem that needed tackling. The bridge of the guitar was lifting and thus, the action had got raised. Again, though the action was high, it was not unplayable.

So, I explained to the owner the actual problem with the instrument and he gave his go-ahead to tackle it. Also, I told him that there were a couple of ways to handling it: I could try and push glue under the bridge and clamp it shut, which may or may not work, or, I could go the proper way, pull the bridge off, clean its underside, clean its footprint on the top of the guitar and then glue it back on. He understood the issue and chose that the problem be fixed properly.

He also pointed out that he experienced string buzz at a few places along the neck. As I checked it, the neck was straight and indeed, there were a few fretwires that were standing up.

Further, he pointed out that the tuning machines on the bass side were very stiff, and indeed, I had to use pliers to get them to turn. I told the owner that I would oil the machines and see if it helps, otherwise, he may need to get the set replaced.

After he left, I got working, and the first order of business was the bridge – taking it off. Out came the pallete knives, the heat gun and whatever else. As I slowly worked my way under the bridge, the odd but familiar crackling sound of the adhesive breaking up filled me with a kind of fear. Super Glue?

Indeed it was super glue. Once the bridge came off I could plainly see the tell-tale shiny streaks.

And because it was superglue, there was damage too, to the top.

Some part of the bridge was left stuck on the top, while wood fibres had lifted off the top, which needed to be stuck back in place.

In the last photograph you can distinctly see the margin of finish left under the bridge, which keeps the bridge from adhering properly to the top. This needed to be cleaned, as also the rest of the footprint of the bridge and the underside of the bridge.

I began by just cleaning the margin of the bridge footprint.

Then the rest of the bridge footprint was cleaned from the top

And then it was the turn of the bridge itself

The last photograph shows the bridge cleaned of all super glue. The scratch marks that are seen on it have been intentionally put on it so that the glue has some space to get in and thus, the ‘glue-up’ is that much stronger and more effective.

After the clamping, I left the guitar undisturbed for 48 hours. Meanwhile, there were other things that could be done while the bridge was being glued to the top.

I cleaned up the fretboard and rubbed the tarnish off the fretwires. Earlier, I worked on the fretwires that had risen and were causing a buzz.

Also, now was the time to work on the tuning machines, tighten the bushings on the headstock and the sort.

The tuning machines were oiled and left overnight for the oil to seep in. The next day when I tried them, they turned well for a while but then got difficult to turn again. I was all set to tell the owner that he would have to replace those, but thought of taking off the tuner buttons and oiling the shaft too. Miraculously, that cured them of their malady.

It being time to take off the clamps, I took those off and let the guitar rest.

I had even convinced the owner to get a bone nut and saddle installed instead of the man-made set which had been factory-installed. I put in the new nut, knowing I would need to take it down for the action to be good at the 1st fret.

You may have noticed that I had not taken off the old strings. While I put in the bone nut and saddle, these old strings helped me reach very near where I needed to be with string height.


I leave you with one last look at the guitar

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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