Guitar repair – Pain in the season of fails

A headstock repair going wrong, not working, is still understandable, but a bridge reglue not happening, ever heard that one? How wrong can one go with cleaning the underside of the bridge, its footprint on the guitar top, smearing glue and clamping the two together?
HORRIBLY WRONG, says my experience! And, blame it all on the weather (the humidity in the air).

So, this young man came to me with a lifting bridge on a Hertz guitar

I took one look at it and said, ‘Yeah, I’ll do it’, but also pointed out the plastic/artificial nut-saddle duo his instrument was sporting. I reasoned that with the bridge stuck nice and snug, it would be twice the pleasure listening to the dreadnought sing if a bone saddle and nut were to be installed. And with fresh strings…ooh, la, la…!

And, of course, I pointed out the eight holes on the bridge. I told him the two on the extremes hid nuts and bolts – a useless weight addition – that in my opinion, did precious little. Before I took a look, I handed him the mirror to look at and confirm what I was saying was, in fact, true. And, it was.

The first course of action was to take off the strings, the saddle and the bridge. As I pulled out the saddle, I saw this hiding underneath

I pulled out the useless piece of plastic and measured the saddle

to transfer the dimensions to a bone saddle. That done, I kept the new saddle aside to use later.

As I observed the instrument, I noticed these huge divots in the fretboard. The guitar had been played!

Next to work on the bridge. For the bridge to be removed, first the hardware holding it to the top of the guitar would have to be removed. Carefully, the plastic dots hiding the bolts were removed and saved. They would eventually go back in their holes without the hardware.

Next, the nuts and bolts were removed

With this done, the assortment of knives were brought out to lift the bridge off the top of the guitar.

Some heat, some persuasion and the bridge came off pretty clean.

The margin that you see all around is the place where the glue was never put or never reached. Cleaning the old glue off is always a headache and this particular job was no different.

After the cleaning, it looked much better, telling me it was glue-up time. But before that could be done, the holes through which the bolts had run through the top had to be filled.

Sawn off, levelled, the top was now ready to receive the bridge. Glued and clamped, the instrument was left untouched for approximately one-and-a-half days. Usually, 24 hours is more than enough to do the job.

And these are the clamps that I usually use for bridge glue-ups. They have never failed me.

In the meantime, I worked on the new bone nut and brought it to the right size.

worked on the fretboard, cleaned and oiled it

After two days, when I had strung up the guitar, I noticed that the break angle at the saddle was far from desirable.

String slots were cut to give the strings some semblance of break angle

Work done, I called the owner to come and collect the guitar. And right there, before our eyes, the bridge started creeping up again.

I sent him back and decided to have another go at the bridge. Again, it was taken off, cleaned, reglued and re-clamped. And yet again, it decided not to stay down but to come off.

Astonished, I apologised to the owner and asked him to leave the guitar with me for some time. This time, when I took the bridge off, I checked with a straight edge if there was a more-than-appreciable twist to the bridge that prevented it from getting glued.

There was a bit of a twist but nothing so dramatic as would prevent all that glue and clamping pressure from overpowering it.

I removed that little twist, added more clamps and cauls and left the guitar undisturbed for a week this time.

And yet after a week, it decided not to stick!

There was little else to be done but to tell the owner that this was not getting done. I did promise him though that I would have another go at it once the rains go away.


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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