Recently I’ve had a couple of guitars come in to my shop with bridges that were in dire need of some attention. Loose bridges are one of the more common problems confronting acoustic guitars. The problem is that sometimes the bridge becomes separated from the top. In fact, I had a 12-string Fender whose bridge had separated from the top. I had some intonation issues and it never would tune correctly. I inspected it thoroughly, and that’s when I discovered the separation, as minute as it was, was the source of my problems. After removal, cleaning it up, and a reglue the bridge was better than new and I have a perfectly intonated and resonate guitar.
Not surprising really, as the top of an acoustic isn’t actually flat, but curved. It’s difficult to get a proper seal with a flat object against a curved one, unless it’s professionally done. Some of the thinner bridges (usually Gibsons) will curve right along with the top. If they become loose they’re easier to glue back as their shape matches the top. Thicker, stiffer bridges (more commonly Martins) will maintain their flat shape, as the body will bow up underneath them. These are tougher to fix. If you’ve got a loose bridge, hopefully you’ll be able to just simply glue it back on, leaving the top as is. You may have to shape the bottom of the bridge to conform to the shape of the top.
Something of note here too, is that if your bridge is lifting there’s a good chance that you’re only seeing part of the problem; often a curving top is the result of main X braces coming unglued beneath the bridge. If this is the case, then the loose braces will need to be repaired before the bridge can be fixed.
As simple as it might sound to just glue the bridge back on, it’s important that it gets done correctly. Bridges that are cracked, loose, warped, or poorly positioned can have a detrimental effect on your guitar’s intonation, tone, and playability. The work is difficult if you’re doing it, consider these common mistakes that can occur:
- damaging the top wood all around and under the bridge during removal
- gluing the bridge on crooked
- mounting the bridge too far to the treble or bass side, so that the strings pull off the sides of the fingerboard
- not recognizing when a bridge should be replaced entirely rather than simply being reglued
- trusting that the factory mounted the bridge in the perfect spot (professionals always measure it for themselves)
- failure to check for looks braces, etc. before installing the bridge
- not letting the glue dry long enough (minimum 24hrs for titebond or hide glue- two or three days is best)
- not understanding the grain direction of the top wood (usually spruce) in order to remove and replace a bridge correctly
If you suspect your guitar’s bridge is pulling away from the top, or maybe like some of the ones I’ve seen lately, it’s quite obvious that’s the problem then why not bring it by my shop? We can look at it and assess what needs to be done and how I can help. Contact me ;here. I’d be happy to get your instrument up and singing again!