Guitar repair: Why this one had to jump the blogpost queue!

Yes! This one has jumped ahead of a few instruments because I noticed a disconcerting trend in guitar construction that needed highlighting.

It is most certainly a trend here in India, but readers of this blog the world over need to chime in and either confirm or deny whether they have noticed it in their country/region, or not. However, comment only if you have SEEN the trend. Commenting on the basis of traditional knowledge (how it was done in the past) would mean little.

The recent trend that I notice in India: Acoustic guitar manufacturers have resorted to super glue to stick the bridge to the top! The guitar that I am going to talk about in this post is the 7th instrument in 60 – 75 days that I have seen with super glue being used for bridge attachment to the top. The first four instruments I brushed away as mere coincidence, but a couple more and I was forced to take note of it.

Why is it used? It is cheap, it is quick, it is less messy…almost everything is in its favour!

So, what is so wrong about it? Super glue is great for furniture like a sofa, which just has to sit (or stand) in one place. However, the strength of super glue is its weakness too. So strong is the super glue bond that it is brittle.

Think of an acoustic guitar which has a bridge glued on with super glue. Imagine this instrument sitting tuned through summer and winter to spring and summer of this year. If you don’t get a warped neck, you will certainly have the bridge popping off. And even if the bridge doesn’t exactly pop off, it will start lifting.

Once that happens, believe me, it won’t be a pretty sight. For a dynamic instrument like any acoustic, string instrument, ONLY WOOD GLUE does the trick.

Why? Because when it comes time to remove a glue joint, all you need to do is apply some heat, a bit of moisture (steam provides both), and a bit of elbow grease, and…viola! Whatever you need removed can easily be removed. For example, the lifting bridge on that instrument that has been standing for a full weather cycle, if it had been wood glue, would have come off easily, without damaging the top.

A super-glued bridge is bound to rip off lots of wood from the top when it comes off. Cleaning a taken-off bridge that has been glued with regular wood glue, is a 10-minute job. With super glue, you may easily multiply that value 10 times, maybe even 20 times! Believe me. Remember this is the 7th guitar of the type that I was working on!

Right! So, this came in

If you can’t read the logo on the headstock, it reads ‘Hofner’. Read all about Hobner, Hovner, Hofner, here

New strings and some TLC for this Hobner!

Now that you know about the company, maybe you’ll respect the instrument a little more if I told you it carried a factory-fitted bone saddle. The nut had got misplaced so I needed to put in a new bone nut.

As bad as the headstock break was, the bridge was lifting too

The first job was to get the head and the body together again, as was meant to be

Different angles of the same shot!


And while that joint cured, I turned my attention to taking off the bridge.

And anytime you heat a bridge and try getting under it, and it starts to crackle and pop (like popcorn), those are the first signs that you are taking off a bridge stuck with super glue! This one crackled and popped too!

The very dark spots is where the adhesive collected and dried without attaching to anything. Knowing that my work was cut out, I began scraping.

Take a better look at it. The white powdery stuff getting scraped off the bridge is dried super glue. At best dried wood glue will come off as a transparent-yellowish film, and it does not shine in the light.

25 minutes and it hasn’t come off.

Another 25. Has it come off? Nope!

Another 20 minutes later! And the mess it created…

And that was one surface clean. What about the other surface (the top)?

What you see inside the margin is partly finish and partly super glue. This took me another 35 minutes to clean. Once that was done, all large pieces of wood dislodged in the process of taking the bridge off and cleaning its footprint on the top, were glued back.

Meanwhile clamps came off the headstock and the joint stood. Experience has taught me that the joint will stay together only as long as you don’t put on strings!

In order to ensure that the joint stays exactly the way it is, it was necessary to strengthen it with strategically placed dowels.

This entire operation took me some 25 minutes – almost 1/3 the time I took cleaning just the bridge. What helped me along was the very dry weather.

Structurally, the neck of the instrument was now sound. But aesthetically, it was quite unsightly! So, I mixed up some tint in some wood putty to camouflage the insertions.

And while this dried, I returned my attention to the bridge area. The old clamps came off and the bridge was glued on and clamped well and proper.

And while the glue-up was drying, it was just the right time to take care of the itty-bitty things, like, shaping bridgepins

and getting the strap button in the right place.

Also, the bone saddle seemed to have been raw sawn to size and put in the slot. I buffed it out a bit so that it wasn’t too harsh on the eyes.

When the clamps were pulled off, the bridge looked as if it had never come off

Now, to re-drill the holes (blocked by the wood glue I had used) and to re-thread the piezo element through its hole in the bridge

I fell in love with the piezo element for I have never seen something as slim as this!

A little more love for the fretboard and bridge, and, wow

However, when I strung it up with new strings and the new nut, the action was too high. Shaving down the saddle brought the action down to where I wanted it to be but there was no break angle left. In fact, the ‘e’ string was running straight through!

I got out my files and cut slots from the the bridgepin holes up to the saddle which would change the angle of the string, in turn, increasing sustain and volume.

And here she is…all ready to go home!


P.S.: Do write in and tell me whether you see ‘the trend’ in your part of the world – wherever you may be. 

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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