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Thread: Lifting bridge on a cheap acoustic guitar

  1. #1

    Default Lifting bridge on a cheap acoustic guitar

    Hi guys,

    I realise that this is the Mandolin Cafe, not the Guitar Cafe! However, I'm guessing that most of the builders and repairers here are also experiencing in building/repairing guitars?

    I'm just asking for a bit of info and feedback about a lifting bridge on an old Fender plywood acoustic. The guitar's around 15 years old and was bought for one of my kids when they were younger. I dug it out the other day as I was clearing some space in the loft, and noticed that the bridge was starting to lift.

    To be fair, this guitar hasn't been used for years - it's basically a "loaner" or "campfire" guitar.

    Just wondering if it's actually worth getting a luthier/guitar tech to try and repair it, or whether the work will cost more than this cheap guitar is actually worth? I've detuned it to remove the string tension - it was strung with 12's.

    Full disclaimer - I've also asked the same question on one of the acoustic guitar forums, but I figured that you can't get too much good advice.

    thanks

    John

  2. #2
    Registered User sunburst's Avatar
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    Default Re: Lifting bridge on a cheap acoustic guitar

    A couple of possibilities here.
    A repair person can remove and re-glue the bridge for probably $100 or less, but there is a possibility of damage to the top from de-laminating during the process of removing the bridge. If that happens, the bridge can probably still be attached but it will take other than ordinary procedures and might end up costing more. You have to decide if the guitar is worth the expense and the risk. In fact, when bridges lift on plywood guitar tops it is not uncommon for part of the top to still be attached to the bridge and loose from the rest of the top, so some repair to the top can be expected in many cases.
    Another option for a cheap guitar that is not considered worth a "proper" repair is to work some sort of strong adhesive (epoxy) under the loose part of the bridge and clamp it until it cures. That would make it virtually irreparable in the future considering the market value and the effort it would take to repair it if the bridge were to lift again, but it might serve to make a campfire guitar playable for many years.

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  4. #3

    Default Re: Lifting bridge on a cheap acoustic guitar

    Hi John, many thanks for taking the taking the time to provide such a detailed reply.

    Didn't realise that it might take some plywood with it!

    I think, for the cost of the guitar, vs the cost of a luthier's time for a "proper" repair, I may just try to squirt some epoxy into the gap and see what happens. If it was my D28 then I'd be happy to pay a pro to do the repair, but I just don't think it's worth it on such a cheap guitar.

    thanks again for your time.

    John

  5. #4
    Likes quaint instruments poul hansen's Avatar
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    Default Re: Lifting bridge on a cheap acoustic guitar

    You could also use crazy glue. It will seep into the smallest cracks OR you could set 2 screws throught the bridge into an extra piece of wood, placed beneath the bridge. If you want it "nice": countersink the srews and place a 5mm MOP dot on top of them.
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    Default Re: Lifting bridge on a cheap acoustic guitar

    Sunburst gave very good advice. I would add that you should check the bracing and bridge pad to make sure they aren't loose also. A lifting bridge can deform the top enough to cause those problems.

  8. #6

    Default Re: Lifting bridge on a cheap acoustic guitar

    You could also use crazy glue. It will seep into the smallest cracks OR you could set 2 screws throught the bridge into an extra piece of wood, placed beneath the bridge. If you want it "nice": countersink the srews and place a 5mm MOP dot on top of them.
    This is what makers of cheap Asian guitarmakers and hack repair guys do.
    Don't be one of THOSE GUYS.

    Suggest you restring with silk'n'steel strings (low tension) until you can have an experienced and competent luthier eyeball it. The repair may be less than you think, and provide you a decent guitar for years to come.

  9. #7
    Likes quaint instruments poul hansen's Avatar
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    Default Re: Lifting bridge on a cheap acoustic guitar

    Quote Originally Posted by NotMelloCello View Post
    This is what makers of cheap Asian guitarmakers and hack repair guys do.
    Don't be one of THOSE GUYS......an experienced and competent luthier eyeball it........
    ?? You can't pay a luthier. Just looking at a crossply campfire guitar, will be too expensive if he can be bothered to waste his time on that.

    Repair with the means fitting for that instrument and it's value.

    I use french polish, titebond, crazy glue, nitrocellulose, epoxy etc. , whatever suits a particular repair. and instrument

    So I'm ONE OF THOSE GUYS BWAAAAAARRRHHH!!!!!

  10. #8

    Default Re: Lifting bridge on a cheap acoustic guitar

    If you can do it yourself it might be worth your time. If you have to pay someone then you can buy these types of instruments on e-bay or from Shop Goodwill or secondhand shops for less money.

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    Default Re: Lifting bridge on a cheap acoustic guitar

    It has been my experience that CA [super-glue] is highly unreliable for high stress wood joints. If I was going to do a quick-and-dirty bridge repair, I would use epoxy instead.

    If I was to do such a repair with epoxy, I might be comfortable warrantying my work for at least a few months. I wouldn't warranty a CA repair for 6 weeks.

  12. #10

    Default Re: Lifting bridge on a cheap acoustic guitar

    Thanks for all the feedback - it’s much appreciated. Will give it some serious thought as to how to proceed with it.

    Thanks

    John

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    Default Re: Lifting bridge on a cheap acoustic guitar

    The other option, since it is what it is, is to support the bridge with a couple of screws and washer/nut underneath on the bridge plate. I would take a thin feeler gauge and see how deep it is lifting, but this could support it with the possibility of repair in the future. Most likely would last as long as you need it to. You can counter sink the screws in the bridge and cover them up with a pearl dot.
    THE WORLD IS A BETTER PLACE JUST FOR YOUR SMILE!

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  15. #12

    Default Re: Lifting bridge on a cheap acoustic guitar

    ?? You can't pay a luthier.
    Some of us have the brains and the wherewithal to fix lowly instruments without charging an arm and a leg.


    So I'm ONE OF THOSE GUYS BWAAAAAARRRHHH!!!!!
    Whatev, dude.

  16. #13
    Registered User Greg Mirken's Avatar
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    Default Re: Lifting bridge on a cheap acoustic guitar

    There’s a (good) chance the bridge is already bolted on. Are there “pearl” plastic dots on the bridge? Feel inside for hardware. If it’s bolted on just play away.
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  18. #14

    Default Re: Lifting bridge on a cheap acoustic guitar

    Bolts alone probably wont hold. If you think about it, once the glue lets go the bolts concentrate all the force in just two places. If(when) they pull through the top it's not really repairable for sensible money.

    The home repair is not too hard:

    1. Remove any bolts. Take the saddle and pins out.

    2. Heat the bridge with a clothes iron, wool setting, and gently work a thin, flexible blade under it. Careful not to dig into the top wood. Go very slow, let the heat do the work, just ease it free.

    3. Clean up the underside of the bridge and the footprint of the top as best you can. Remove all old glue if possible. Aim at a fit with no gaps.

    4. Reglue with Titebond Original using the pins as locator. Work out how to clamp it overnight - rare earth magnets might be easiest. Remove glue squeeze out after drying using warm water and a cotton bud, slow and tedious but it will slowly dissolve.

    5. Job done! It will probably hold up if you got a good fit.

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    Default Re: Lifting bridge on a cheap acoustic guitar

    The bolts, if they are there, should be thru the bridge plate. I would remove the nut and add a fender washer to make a larger surface area to hold better. The bridge plate will hold it just fine. Most bridges if they have been pulling up for a while warp and without flattening and fitting to the top, which may also not be flat, you will never get a good fit easily.
    THE WORLD IS A BETTER PLACE JUST FOR YOUR SMILE!

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  22. #16
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    Default Re: Lifting bridge on a cheap acoustic guitar

    When my laminated '63 Kay parlor guitar ($29.95 new!) needed help 20 or so years ago, here's what I did:

    Quote Originally Posted by ProfChris View Post
    1. Remove any bolts. Take the saddle and pins out.

    2. Heat the bridge with a clothes iron, wool setting, and gently work a thin, flexible blade under it. Careful not to dig into the top wood. Go very slow, let the heat do the work, just ease it free.

    3. Clean up the underside of the bridge and the footprint of the top as best you can. Remove all old glue if possible. Aim at a fit with no gaps.

    4. Reglue with Titebond Original using the pins as locator. Work out how to clamp it overnight ... [w/ short distance to soundhole, I used C-clamps w/ wax paper / wood backing]

    5. Job done! It will probably hold up if you got a good fit.
    ... and then ...

    Quote Originally Posted by pops1 View Post
    The bolts ... thru the bridge plate. I would remove the nut and add a fender washer ...
    Yeah, the body's still a bit warped between the neck and soundhole, but it's held up well since then, strung with .010s.
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  24. #17

    Default Re: Lifting bridge on a cheap acoustic guitar

    Thanks everyone, for the valuable advice.

    So, I'm going to give it a try. What's the worst that could happen, right?

  25. #18

    Default Re: Lifting bridge on a cheap acoustic guitar

    What's the worst that could happen, right?
    You could mess it up so badly the professional will charge you twice what it would have cost in the first place.
    (speaking as a pro with over 40 years at the bench)

  26. #19

    Default Re: Lifting bridge on a cheap acoustic guitar

    Quote Originally Posted by NotMelloCello View Post
    You could mess it up so badly the professional will charge you twice what it would have cost in the first place.
    (speaking as a pro with over 40 years at the bench)
    This is an old Fender plywood acoustic in poor shape already - I don't think anyone is going to work on it at professional rates! Current value with lifting bridge is around $0, maybe a fraction more if the tuners are usable. Value, repaired perfectly, probably <$100.

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  28. #20

    Default Re: Lifting bridge on a cheap acoustic guitar

    Everyone keeps saying pros won't work on them....
    I've been a pro for over 40 years, and I worked on them.
    I know other pros who will work on them - because they can make a buck.
    I'm in the business of making people happy by fixing their stuff - even the cheap stuff.
    Cheap stuff can be saved. Crap can't. This one's not crap (yet).

  29. #21
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    Default Re: Lifting bridge on a cheap acoustic guitar

    Like most of the other common repairs on fretted instruments, a good article on removing and re-glueing a guitar bridge can be found on Frank Ford's excellent website, www.frets.com. Go to the "Big index page," and select "Items for luthiers."

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  31. #22

    Default Re: Lifting bridge on a cheap acoustic guitar

    NotMelloCello - I've been using the same guitar guy for all my guitar and mandolin servicing and repairs for almost 15 years now. He's very good, has very reasonable rates, and I trust him implicitly, as he's always done a superb job. He's done a lot of set-up work for me on acoustics and electrics, ranging from full set-ups to refrets, to changing pickups.

    I've recommended him to others, and they've always spoken very highly about the quality of his work too.

    Spoke to him about the plywood Fender the other day and he said he'd have to charge more than the guitar is worth, which is why I decided to start this post.

    rcc56 - thanks for the link. I'll investigate!

    thanks

    John

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  33. #23
    Registered User Doug Edwards's Avatar
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    Default Re: Lifting bridge on a cheap acoustic guitar

    John, what’s your opinion of glueing the bridge down with hot hide glue and using a Bridge Doctor on an inexpensive guitar? The doctor would relieve the stress tension for the glue to hold.

  34. #24
    Registered User sunburst's Avatar
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    Default Re: Lifting bridge on a cheap acoustic guitar

    Quote Originally Posted by Doug Edwards View Post
    John, what’s your opinion of glueing the bridge down with hot hide glue and using a Bridge Doctor on an inexpensive guitar?...
    The glue surfaces would have to be meticulously cleaned of old glue for hide glue to form a good bond, and that might not be easy to accomplish in this situation so I probably would not recommend hide glue.
    I don't have a lot of experience with bridge doctors (other than removing them in order do a "real" repair), but making an unplayable cheap guitar playable again seems like perhaps the best use for them. The thing is, they are not intended to hold a loose bridge in place, but are intended to flatten a top with a severe hump from bridge rotation. Maybe the dr would help prevent a bridge with a suspect glue joint from coming loose again, but I really don't know.

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  36. #25
    Registered User Doug Edwards's Avatar
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    Default Re: Lifting bridge on a cheap acoustic guitar

    Thanks John. I’ve used them multiple times on inexpensive guitars, especially twelve string. I usually refer more quality instruments to someone more qualified. I have some ask if I’m a luthier. I just tell them no, I’m a Baptist.

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