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BIG problem!! Help required!!

Total Topics: 9
Total Posts: 109
Remember the Exploding Guitar Syndrome?? Well, my bridge is coming loose!

I just heard something snap, and I noticed a gap at the bass side between the bridge and the top.

How am I going to fix this safely???

Jan 06, 10 | 11:58 am
John B

Total Topics: 15
Total Posts: 76
This just happened to me a few days back.

The bridge shouldn't come off but I believe I use some older titebond white glue and probably shouldn't have. Anyway, it was a simple repair.. I removed the bridge (hopefully you can remove it the rest of the way easily without damage) scraped, sanded, and generally removed all the existing glue on the bridge and the soundboard, and reglued.. All of the pin holes that were there to align the bridge originally were still there so it re-aligned perfectly.. I used a fresh bottle of regular titebond this time and made sure I had plenty of clamping pressure and good glue squeeze out.. Since I used Ken Cierp's bridge clamping system and the aligning pins holes were still there, repeating the process the same as when I originally glued the bridge was straightforward.

The repair worked well and everything plays like it did before.
Good luck with the repair

Jan 06, 10 | 12:27 pm

Total Topics: 9
Total Posts: 109
My Titebond is about a year old, would that be too old? Maybe I used too little or perhaps I didn't remove the lacquer well enough.
Anyway, the big question for me is: how to get the bridge off without damaging the top? There's only a beginning gap at the left wing of the bridge.

Jan 06, 10 | 12:30 pm
John B

Total Topics: 15
Total Posts: 76
I don't know enough about regular Titebond and its effectiveness with age but what I used was Titebond "white" which I believe is similar to the LMI instrument makers white glue or at least I thought. It certainly doesn't have more than a year of effective shelf life. Not sure why I used it but at the time believed it would be dry harder and thus be better for the bridge if in fact it was similar to LMI.. There is a lot of talk about glues over the years and I probably got sucked into trying something new that I had heard. But good old regular titebond seems tried and true and what I will use from now on after this experience.

Maybe if its just the beginning of a gap at the left wing, you can force glue back in the joint and reclamp.. Mine was more than a small gap and the bridge popped off with little pressure. I planned to use a hair dryer to heat the glue and remove it if it had not popped off. There was no damage to the sound board and most of the dried glue was on the bridge and not the sound board which is why I think it was simply improper glue for the job.

Maybe others more experienced will have an opinion on whether you should remove it entirely or try to reglue the gap as is. For me, I wanted to make sure it wouldn't happen again so I was going to remove it regardless, clean it up, and try to do it right.

Hope this helps.

Jan 06, 10 | 2:34 pm
Running Dog

Total Topics: 1
Total Posts: 103
I'm sorry to hear about this but don't worry -- it can be fixed! Bridges popping loose is a common problem and most guitar techs have dealt with it many times.

If the gap is very small, I guess you could try to work glue into it, clamp, and hope for the best. Most likely though, it's a sign that the joint is weak and needs more attention. Try using a thin (less than 0.010") feeler gauge to poke around and determine how large an area has loosened. If the gap goes beyond the wing, you'll definitely have to remove the bridge and re-glue.

I use a tapered spatula, one that I ground down to a thin but not sharp edge. It's also bent so the handle stays above the soundboard -- you don't want to put a bunch of dents and scratches in the top as you work the bridge off. I also have a thick aluminum caul ground to the approximate curve of the bridge top that I heat on a hot plate and place on top of the bridge. Wait. Longer. A little longer. OK, now start trying to feel around under the bridge with the spatula/putty knife. You should feel the glue releasing bit by bit but DON'T RUSH IT. Also, keep some down pressure on the bridge to reduce the likelihood of it popping off suddenly, taking big hunks of spruce with it. Usually, I work around the edges toward the middle of the bridge, trying not to get into the spruce.

It's not easy but slow and careful can replace experience. The biggest concern is gouging the soundboard. If you pay close attention, you may find that working in one direction, the spatula wants to dig in; from the opposite side, it stays on the surface of the wood. Work both wings loose, work in from the edges, and don't rush it. The last area to release should be in the center of the bridge -- that way, you're less likely to peel off strands of spruce.

Once you have the bridge off, look things over and try to determine why it failed. There may not have been enough glue (maybe), the bridge may not have been fitted to the soundboard curve (likely), there may have been lacquer or some other contaminant on the surface (very likely). Remove ALL traces of glue from both surfaces (De-Glue-Goo is very helpful). Now start over: make sure you're down to bare spruce on the soundboard, fit the bridge carefully, test your clamping system before gluing. I would also suggest new glue -- I don't use Titebond for bridges but in any event I would not be happy using anything more than six months old (check the stamped number on the bottle for the manufacturer's date).

Good luck! It's another damn learning experience ...


Jan 06, 10 | 3:06 pm
Bill Cory

Total Topics: 158
Total Posts: 3584
Ha! -- Rick, I like your last line.
I removed and replaced a bridge awhile back, and the bridge hadn't even lifted. It's all covered here in this thread:

Not that it's an expert job or that I'm an expert, but it worked. Scary gettin gthat bridge off tho!


Jan 06, 10 | 5:33 pm

Total Topics: 9
Total Posts: 109
Ok, thanks very much for all the feedback! So I'll have to get some heating device, a very thin knife and be very careful, generally speaking. And get new glue.
I'm definitely going to take it off completely, I don't want this to happen again.

To my own surprise, after the first shock I'm not that bothered by it anymore. It is, as Rick says, another learning experience although I had wished I wouldn't have to learn it on this guitar!

I better hurry, because in a couple of days I've become addicted to playing that guitar, it really sounds that good. I want to be playing it again as soon as possible.

Jan 07, 10 | 1:17 am
Ken Cierp

Total Topics: 58
Total Posts: 2262
Ricks' removal advice is perfect -- Getting that bridge to fit the contour of your top is a very important element.

If you are not doing this stuff --- structure and sound quality will be compromised.


Kenneth Michael Guitars est. 1978

Jan 07, 10 | 5:40 am

Total Topics: 9
Total Posts: 109
@Ken: great tip, I had no idea! I'll definitely radius the bridge that way then. If that guitar is even going to sound better than it already does...:-)

I was looking to get the heating blanket of LMI, which would be an affordable amount of money, but then I noticed the timer they recommend which is very expensive. I can afford that as well, but since I'm not performing this operation on a regular basis it seems out of proportion to spend that kind of money.

Does that timer do anything else than switch of the current after the set time?
Would just switching it off or pulling the plug out of the socket not accomplish the same thing, while taking very much care not to forget that?

Jan 07, 10 | 6:14 am
Ken Hundley

Total Topics: 40
Total Posts: 2169
I have a little $9 hot pot / boiler I use when I have had to do this. I get the water good and hot, then leave a few paint scrapers in it. These scrapers have the corners rounded so as not to dig into the wood or finish. When the scrapers get good and hot, I use themt o start separating the part from the joint. You get about 10-15 seconds of working time, which is why I have 2-3 of them at a time. When it gets too cool, swap it with another one. WOrked on bridge, fingerboard extension, and separating a cracked neck block used in conjunction with a clothes iron. The only damage that ever happened were parts that were suplimented with a couple drops of CA from the binding or gap-filling.

The advantage is that the scrapers will never get too hot to scorch a top. The disadvantage is that they cool rapidly, and working with only one will allow the glue to cool too quickly waiting for the scraper to heat up again.

Jan 07, 10 | 9:29 am

Total Topics: 9
Total Posts: 109
@Ken Hundley: that would be considerably cheaper, yes. Did you make the paint scrapers thinner as well?

Jan 07, 10 | 9:44 am

Total Topics: 9
Total Posts: 109
Ok, I think Ken Hundley's approach is goint to work for me. I just did a short trial with a thinned paint scraper which I heated on the hot plate of my stove, and I could feel the glue getting softer when I cautiously pryed underneath the bridge.

The heater blanket can't be attached to the wall outlet without the timer, it appeared, so that seems to be a very costly solution for just this one time.

I'll work on it later because I don't have time now, and I'll post an update about how it went.

Jan 08, 10 | 4:52 am

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Total Posts: 109
Well, I'll be damned.

How is it that always the things that seem to be the most difficult are the easiest??

I thought I'd have a careful try at Ken Hundley's method using a hot paint scraper, and off comes that bridge within five minutes! Without any damage to the top at that!

I suppose that says something about my glueing technique in the first place... :-S

That's a huge relief, I have to say. The thing is that I'll be away from home most of the day tomorrow, so even if they do deliver that new bottle of Titebond I probably won't have it until next Monday. Oh well...

Jan 08, 10 | 10:55 am

Total Topics: 26
Total Posts: 257
I always leave a note: "PLEASE! PLEASE! leave my package at the doorstep!"
Glad that worked. Another thing to put in my memory niche for when something fails for me. Congrats.

Jan 08, 10 | 12:54 pm
Ken Hundley

Total Topics: 40
Total Posts: 2169
Not your gluing technique, just a very simple and effective removal technique. I have used a hot plate, which wasn't hot enough, and my stove had gas flame.....I scorched a peice I was working off. Fortunately, it was the peice that needed to be replaced, but thats when I hit on the boiling water idea. You'll never scorch the finish or wood with a boiled blade. It is hot enough that when removed from the pot, the run-off water flasheds off quite quickly, so no worries about introducing moisture. 3 scrapers is enough to ensure that each one you use has had adequate time to reheat. I just used the simple $2 scrapers from Lowes. They are considerably thinner than the older style scrapers....made to be disposable after a paint job. You're right, you can feel the glue give as soon as it comes into contact, too. It's always a surprise how easy it works, especially when you see how hard it is to remove the residue.

Jan 08, 10 | 7:35 pm

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