Guitar repair: This Yamaha required emergency surgery!

This Yamaha came to me a few months ago in a great deal of distress. In between came a host of instruments with various humidity-related issues which leapfrogged this one.

This too is partly a result of the lack of humidity as you will discover.

A 3/4 guitar, it belonged to a lanky, soft-spoken recording/performing artist. As I inspected the guitar he told me that this guitar had been lying with his brother for two years. The young man was attached to this instrument and wanted it fixed proper.

I don’t think that it was cared for very much during those two years, for this is how it came to me.

While you see the bridge cracked, it was also lifting. While casually looking at it, it might appear that the crack was in a straight line. However, that was not the case. Look closely at the ‘D’ string bridgepin hole. You clearly see how the break is in two lines and not one. And it is a deep break, almost running through the entire thickness of the bridge.

I knew I had to be really gentle with the bridge to be able to take it off in one piece. But then gentle is not the word that comes to mind when you are talking about taking off bridges!

Usually, it is a 10-15 min job. This bridge, however, took almost 30. Why?

Because it was stuck with epoxy! See that shiny underside of the bridge. That’s epoxy!

Whatever, there was a job at hand and it had to be done. So, after 40 mins of scraping and sanding, this is what it looked like

After another 20 mins, it looked like this

A final 25 minutes – 85 minutes in all – later, it looked like this: nice, clean, bare wood!

Once the underside was clean, the crack demanded being tended to.

With not too much clamping pressure, I was able to make the two seams meet, well, almost! That gave me much hope and I went about filling, filing and sanding. Slow and painstaking but fruitful.

This is how it looked once I was through! Not bad, eh?!

Now, there may be some of you who might question the amount of effort and time to put a broken bridge together. Why not put in a new one? Well, I could if I had the exact same bridge. I did not. And I was sure I would not have been able to find exactly the same one no matter how hard I searched. Besides, when you put on a new bridge on an old guitar, you better be sure that the new one is slightly larger than what the old one was, otherwise it leaves a very unsightly margin of bare wood showing all around.

With what I thought was the major part of the work done, I turned my attention to the guitar itself.

The footprint of the guitar on the top needed to be cleaned of all extra lacquer and paint. But this was easier said than done, for no matter how careful you are, there will always be chips, dings and scratches that belie your efforts.

I took the chips and dings with a pinch of salt, deciding to touch up once the bridge was glued on.

Here’s the cleaned bridge area of the guitar with the bridgepin holes and the soundhole covered up in preparation for a cleaning of the fretboard. It was an electro-acoustic instrument.

Now, it was time for major surgery: to glue the bridge to the top. But here I was accosted by a problem.

The body from the outside measured 2.75″ (approximately). Then the braces were .5″ on the back. Take another .5″ for the braces on the top. What all those numbers translated to was that I had 1.75″ of space (approximately), to put my hand in, the clamps in to be able to glue the bridge to the top.

Also, the owner told me how good the electronics were. While clamping, I had to also take care that I did not inadvertently crush the piezo piece stuck to the bridgeplate.

After struggling for what seemed an eternity, I finally to get all the clamps where I wanted them to be. Dry run complete, I applied glue, put on the bridge and  clamped it so tight that air would not be able to get in. Thing is, you never get a good bond with just glue. Unless the clamping is just right, either the bond is going to fail soon, or you’re going to break something.

Here’s a look at the bridge under pressure.

After I caught my breath, I began work on a new bone saddle and nut. We could most certainly do better than the plastic nut that the company provided.

The top-most two elements are bone. The owner had purposely chosen an unbleached bone nut to give the instrument an aged look. But before those could be put in the instrument, they would have to be cut to size, and so…calculations!

Those were shaved down and while I waited for the glue to cure under the bridge, I worked on the fretboard which was in dire need of some love. There were a few fretwires that needed divots removed from them and the fretboard certainly use some cleaning and some love potion.

Also, there were minor irritants like the strap button on the heel of the instrument rather than being on its side.

I swear I haven’t seen a longer screw in a guitar. As I pulled it out, I was fearing that the screw was holding the neck and body together.

That hole was plugged and a new hole was drilled for a smaller screw, on the side of the heel.

When the clamps did come off, the bridge looked as good as new. I was happy with my work.

Now, it was time to bring everything together. It came together like a charm. Here’s a look at the finished job!

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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