Bridge torn off of cedar top

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Bob Gramann
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Bridge torn off of cedar top

Post by Bob Gramann »

I took in what looked like a simple remove, refit, reglue bridge job this afternoon. When I finished removing the bridge, it wasn’t so simple anymore, or maybe it is. This is why I won’t put a cedar top on any of my steel string guitars. The glue joint was perfect (It appears to be Titebond or something like it). The cedar had come apart under the bridge. The bridge didn’t come off, the cedar top came apart. The bridge fits back onto the top perfectly. So rather than remove the chunks from the bridge and laboriously fit them back into the top and then refit the bridge, my inclination is to carefully reposition all of the splinters and reglue it with hide glue (and a vacuum clamp—it does fit pretty perfectly). The hide glue allows more attempts at repair with no damage. The downside is that the cedar may split within itself somewhere else. Other than telling him to stick with extra light strings, does anyone have a method for fixing a splitting cedar top?
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Barry Daniels
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Re: Bridge torn off of cedar top

Post by Barry Daniels »

Hey Bob. Ouch! That looks bad. I am dealing with a less serious case right now which is a spruce top on a '70s martin.

I think your idea of just gluing it back on without removing anything might be your best option. One thing that I am seeing in the picture is a semi-circular area in front of the bridge pins that is a lighter color and it seems to be an area of glue line failure. I think you might want to consider scraping the bridge and top in this area to remove the dried glue. Also, there is a ledge of finish there and a few other places that might need a bit of scraping just to ensure that it is not preventing a better fit.

Before gluing the bridge make sure all the loose fibers are in their original position. Those two large splits between the bass side pin holes may need to be dealt with prior to gluing the bridge. Or just do it all at once. Good luck!
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Bob Gramann
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Re: Bridge torn off of cedar top

Post by Bob Gramann »

Barry, thank you. I was hoping you would comment. I will tend to placing all of the splinters first and scrape as you suggest. One of the nice attributes of HHG is that I can place something, hold it down for a minute with pointed tool, and move in to the next one. That semicircular spot you noticed is actually the one spot where it was stuck and required some heat and moisture to release. Thank you.

Marshall Dixon
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Re: Bridge torn off of cedar top

Post by Marshall Dixon »

When I make a pin bridge I slot the holes so the string fits into the slot and the ball end pulls up on the bridge plate and the pin merely holds it in position. The pin holes in that bridge are not slotted and am wondering if this contributed to the lifting of the bridge. Plus the joint appears a little glue starved on the bass side.

Also there is a circular plug of some sort between the g and d strings and it's glue free impression in the bridge bottom. Can't think of what that's doing there.

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Bob Gramann
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Re: Bridge torn off of cedar top

Post by Bob Gramann »

The “plug” is actually a hole in the top. I have no explanation for it. I slot the bridge pin holes on the guitars I build. This is a “factory” “handmade” guitar. I was surprised when I saw the slotted pins. The bridgeplate isn’t worn yet, so the slotted pins were still holding the strings properly. It’s not how I would do it, but that’s how it was done.

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Barry Daniels
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Re: Bridge torn off of cedar top

Post by Barry Daniels »

I would definitely convert that bridge to a slotted version with solid pins.

Here is a "crazy" idea I have been mulling over. Stew Mac has a new product called "Bridge Pin Hole Repair Plugs".

https://www.stewmac.com/parts-and-hardw ... air-plugs/

On a guitar with a compromised bridge joint that I would worry about sending out to a client, I might consider installing the plugs to "tie" the bridge to the top and bridge plate with these things. Hard to imagine a bridge coming loose with these. I am sure traditionalists would be horrified by the plugs but at least they are not metal screws. Taking a "plugged" bridge off in the future would be difficult, but then that is sort of the point.
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Bob Gramann
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Re: Bridge torn off of cedar top

Post by Bob Gramann »

I saw those the other day. I won’t do it here because this is one that may have to come off again. I don’t want to do anything that might wreck the guitar. Were it almost any other circumstance, I would go the slotted bridge and solid pin route and I may suggest that when he returns to pick it up. But, I don’t want to make any changes that will complicate finger pointing if this goes south. The basic problem is that the cedar wasn’t up to the task. Nothing that I can do will change that reality. Assuming I can get it back and tight, I’m going to explain it all to the owner and seriously suggest extra light strings.

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Barry Daniels
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Re: Bridge torn off of cedar top

Post by Barry Daniels »

I understand your concern.
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Barry Daniels
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Re: Bridge torn off of cedar top

Post by Barry Daniels »

Any updates?
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Bob Gramann
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Re: Bridge torn off of cedar top

Post by Bob Gramann »

I did a little placing and gluing of splinters and the next day glued it down with 192g HHG and a vacuum clamp. It fit tight and perfect. The finish around it was rippled in a couple of places because of the cedar ripping, but I had glued it back down under those spots. I put extra-light Martin silk-phosphor strings in it. It sounded fine and played well. I explained it all to the customer along with a photo of what it looked like when the bridge was off. I documented what I did in the receipt, hoping that it would be provided to the next guy, if necessary, and suggested a next guy (one with better chops than I) if it popped off again. The customer was very happy and eager to be playing again. And, he said he was already a fan of those strings.

I was unable to figure out what kind of glue was used in the original construction. It didn’t yield to heat and moisture. There was wood and wood fiber transfer everywhere. If the cedar top hadn’t failed internally, that bridge would have been on forever.

When I build, I now use 315g HHG for bridge attachment. (I also use it to attach the heel block to the neck plank). I cheat and heat the bridge before I apply the glue. I prime the bridge footprint in the top as well just before I plunk the bridge down and apply the clamp. I had a few bridges pop (most from season change humidity issues) with the 192g. While I would rather have the bridge pop off rather than crack the top, I don’t like them to be so eager. The 315g still requires a perfect joint and doesn’t gap fill. I used 192g on this repair because I expected that it would have to be revisited and I would rather have the glue fail than have more wood split apart. No HHG is that easy to undo, but the 192g is a little easier than 315g.

Carl Dickinson
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Re: Bridge torn off of cedar top

Post by Carl Dickinson »

I fixed my early 2000s Washburn with cedar top that looked like that under the bridge after I got it off. Both corners and edge were lifting. Took lots of heat and still didn't want to come off. Must have been MAG. I put it back on with epoxy. Fit was tight and clean. I'm in my upper 70s so it should outlast me :!: :lol: .

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