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After installing lots of replacement bridges, mostly on 70's/80's imports of one stripe or another, I've come to the conclusion that it's really OK to use miniature machine screws (4-40 or whatever's handy) as almost fail-safe insurance against the bridge coming off again.

OK, so that's my opener. Now, to backtrack, I would NOT use them on Martins, Gibsons, maybe Guilds... anything vintage... or anything where the customer didn't want them installed, but I'll try my damndest to sell it.

In the real world of repair (or, at least, in MY real world) most bridge removals leave a less-than-perfect gluing surface. On something vintage, it's worth the effort to re-glue tiny slivers and all the other heroics that the stature of the instrument calls-for. What I'm referring-to are the hordes of Yamahas, Arias, and the infamous "no-names" that we all see come across the bench. And half of them already came with the machine screws in the first place, so there's nothing new here.

And they can be installed in a classy manner, right? Countersunk heads covered with discrete MOP dots, or maybe wood inserts to match the bridge, etc. Whatever the customer's comfy-with.

I guess this "heartfelt confession" is meant to stimulate a discussion on the ethics of the procedure. Anyone else indulge in this guilty little secret? Mea culpa.

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I'm really glad you brought this up, because I was wondering about those screws. I recently repaired the bridge on an old Kent that had radial braces and no bridge plate. It also had a machine screw at the back of the bridge. I'm sure this was put in after the fact, because they darn near drilled through one of the braces. In this case, the screw obviously was not fail-safe.

I choose not to put the screw back in because in the absence of a bridge plate there wasn't much to hold on to. I'll have to wait and see if it fails.

The first guitar I ever restored (and I've only done three or four) also had a screwed down bridge - two screws on either side. I don't have enough experience to make any real judgement on this at all, but I might suggest that the screws shouldn't be too long and they obviously need to be tight. The screws in this guitar extended about 3/4" beyond the nut inside the guitar body. When I first strung it up, every once in a while I would get this high frequency ringing sound. I finally took off the strings a tightened the screw. That fixed it.

I'm interested to hear more on this.

Doug Collins
I've never put bolts in where there weren't any before (so far), but I'm in the same school as you, I dont have a problem with it at all.
If the customer has been given all the options then there's no issue to me on cheapo guitars.

I would 100% expect my glue joint to hold though, but as a cheaper fix on something that would otherwise end up in the bin, I'll be drilling the holes... and maybe adding a large penny washer to the underside if the bridge plate is thin or non-existant.

I find that some repair guys are very purist - and I'd include myself in that book wrt fine instruments, but on workhorse/ camp fire/ sofa guitars I have no rules at all. Its purely a musical instrument, a tool, and is treated a such. Plus not every customer has the cash to get a full-on repair done.

I've known people that turn their nose up at jobs they considered below them, i dont see it that way though - these kind of jobs come through the doors and need doing!

more power to your elbow Mike,
like the harryhausen pic too, cgi has nothing on him :)
How many old EKO passed by your hands? Or Melody? Here in Italy they've been around since the '60 in thousands, so it's pretty common to do works on their bridges. As for the 12 string Ranger models. Their bridges were wood-clogs with adjustable aluminium saddles, and there weren't screws but rivets covered with brown plastic buttons.
I ALWAYS lower them a bit and give them a little rounded edge shape. Often need to re-install rivets and, me too, cover them with false MOP or wood. Sometimes I change the adjustable saddle with a bone slimmer one, filling the big hole with matching or contrasting wood. But, what to do with a more noble guitar? Gibsons of the same era had the same kind of bridge and saddle (more nicely shaped). Would you dare to modify those?
I know that many luthiers/repairers do the same I do, also on good guitars. They rather say that the sound improves (I agree). I'm not a taleban purist and I've always thought that a guitar is a tool to make sound (the best possible), so I ask the customer if he/she wants a better sounding guitar or a collectible knick-knack.
It's up to them.
Antonio
Dear Daniel, the witty (in my intention) word "taleban" wasn't directed neither to you or anybody else here or anywhere, it was just to describe my way to face a repair job. And exactly for the reason (I completely agree with you in this) that every repair intervention is a story on its own, I don't want to be slaved by the concept that there's just ONE way to proceed, or just ONE kind of (say) glue to use because in the '20 and '30 THAT was the glue. Technology improved, and I'm sure if they had what we have today, they'd used it. Letting the things as they were isn't always the best solution. As a stupid example, it's as if I wouldn't change the plastic nut and saddle on a factory built guitar with a bone one just because they're not as the originals, preventing that instrument to sound a little better.
So, I'm sorry if you kept my words as a criticism of your approach on lutherie. It wasn't absolutely my intention. I respect this work and whoever does it, because it's something we all started for love.
Thanks for the nice words about Italy, and if it's something that gives you pleasure, I think that Triumphs were amongst the best motorcycles in the '70 and still are.
See you
Antonio
P.S. This is not a trading post, keep your memories and actual skill, they're surely precious.
P.P.S. I hope I haven't started a dispute among bikers (also Norton was good!!).
Sorry, I must absolutely add this. Re-reading my first post here, I realized that it should sound presumptuous, as if I were the most experienced repairer on that kind of guitars. It wasn't ABSOLUTELY what I wanted to express. You ALL must be patient with my poor English. It's not easy to be correct (or trying to be) both grammatically and giving the right sense of a though. Actually, my post wasn't directed expressly to Daniel, it was a general speech.
Sorry and thanks again.
Antonio
I've reglued a lot of laminated top bridges where the plywood was just simply nasty where the bridge had pulled. And sometimes a solid spruce top will splinter too. On a guitar that isn't collectable, I'll definitely put bolts on there. The other option for me is epoxy, if appropriate. Hide glue obviously for a nice vintage instrument.
Dan's post has me thinking about rubber washers now......between the bridge plate and the metal washers maybe?
Not to hijack the board, but I'm thinking about using a 2pc laminated (epoxy) bridge plate. With the grain running horizontally to the top, it seems like its not oriented to prevent the buckling of the top. I've seen a lot of lifting tops, and when feeling the bridge plate, there's a definite "crease" right around the holes in the plate.
A colleague/mentor of mine who was listening to me trying to work out whether I should depart from normal practice when attempting to do a near impossible repair on an expensive instrument remarked that an unplayable guitar is just a relatively worthless lump of wood - and I should try to advance the science by using up to date techniques - nice advice.
The crapwood laminated tops we are seeing more of these days are shockers - they more often than not delaminate around the bridge area and are unrepairable in the traditional ways - - to not repair them consigns the instrument to the hearth and a couple of bolts and some epoxy isn't going to change the balance of nature on a cheap instrument and may well give some pleasure to the musician who owns the thing. Rusty.
I have done all types of wacky stuff when it comes to cheap guitars. Sometimes a sentimental customer is willing to pay for those upside down value repairs. Sometimes it's just 'get er dun' and I got no money. A confession of mine is the super hack quickie neck set for 'old and pulled' import guitars: Cut the heel to fretboard. Drill a hole through the center of the heel into the neck block. Epoxy and roughly disguise a long screw with strap button. Good enough for cowboy chords, and one more campfire.
When I get one of those cheap Guitars in that you can't do much with. I tell the customer to just put a five inch evetroff nail in it and crimp it on the other side. They usaly get the message.Bill."""""""
I confess I've done it too.
But only on the super cheap - if it means the guitar stays playing music a bit longer then it's worth it. If a kid can carry on playing until he/she can afford a better guitar then I'm all for it.
But on a better made instrument the customer would have a hard time talking me into it.

I look at a lifting bridge as a symptom of other problems rather that a problem in itself (although sometimes the bridge was fitted badly).
If the lifting bridge gets the player's attention so they take the guitar to a luthier then that's a good thing. It means that the other internal issues get noticed and fixed.
Bolts take away this early warning. It is amazing how many people don't notice bellying but get vary worried about a lifting bridge.
Glyn

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