Over the years, I have had some Gibson acoustic guitars arrive in the shop with the "special" plastic molded bridge cracking and pulling up. In the past, I have usually made a replacement from a rosewood or ebony blank. However, I just received a B-25 in great condition except for the plastic bridge warping/distorting and starting to crack. Customer ( a retail store in the area) wants to keep it as original as possible and at the same time make it playable (currently it is not). Is there any general consensus about whether to try to repair these bridges for originalities sake or replace the bridge with a wood version so the instrument will play?  

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Hi John.

I have a 'useable' black reverse belly plastic Gibson bridge that you can have. We removed it when replacing it with a wooden repro.

It has the attachment bolts but no saddle.

I'm in Jacksonville, IL so we're only an hour apart. Message me if you'd like it and we can arrange to get it to you.

Best regards,


Paul- That would be wonderful! I have the original saddle (adjustable ceramic) and in my junk drawer I have a non adjustable saddle as well so that will work- save me from carving a new one and satisfies the customers concern of keeping it original. My address is:

Mondin's Stringed Instrument Repair 

1841 Evergreen Ave. 

Alton, IL 62002

Thank you so much, John 

Cool...I'll mail it tomorrow, John.

Have a good one :)

Thanks again Paul- have a good evening, John. 

There you go - Paul's got a great solution.  We have some of them in a drawer too just in case but so far none of our clients have wanted an old-bad-idea-part replaced with a better-condition-bad-idea-part...

What drew me to this thread was the word "ethical."  I always say that my first duty is to the instrument.  But, of course, the client who own's the instrument has to come first too because it's theirs.  In your case it's a music store and although many of us have at some point done work for music stores and not all music stores are the same.  It does beg an interesting question at least to me.

Over time and through many conversations with other Luthiers I've heard it said over and over again that often, not always of course, music stores want the world, pay very little, and could give a rat's.... about what's right for the instrument.  Or in other words it can, not always again... be bad business.

I recall an interaction with a music store in which I was approached about a lifting bridge on a 60's J-50.  A very nice one owner one too I will add with all the correct mojo that one would expect and in pretty decent cosmetic.... shape too.  Lifting bridges can at times be symptomatic of greater issues and this proved to be the case with this J-50.  The bridge plate had split right down the pin holes and beyond as well and was partially folded and partially loose.  There was nothing flat to attach a bridge too.

I gave the music store owner a quotation, explained that the bridge was one issue but the greater issue was the structural, internal deficiencies with the bridge plate needing to be replaced.  He wanted to know if he could do it himself and I advised him against it also indicating that there is some risk in plate replacement if one does not know what they are doing of separating the center seam of the top.

I received a lot of push-back regarding the amount that I quoted and the store owner indicated that he knew another Luthier who might tell him how to repair the J-50 himself.

A week later while in this store looking for some odd-ball strings that I needed he approached me and with a very frustrated tone proceeded to tell be about how he split the top on the J-50.  He also had it in his hand for me to inspect.  I sympathized with him as it was the decent thing to do even though in the back of my mind I was comparing him to a part of a horse's anatomy....  I was never again asked to help and I didn't offer either.  Who wants to be part of a tragedy...

About a year later I saw the guy at a kid's sporting event (little league) and he told me how in order to fix the top and plate he attempted to remove the back, things went south quickly, he got upset, and threw the J-50 on the floor and kicked it a bunch of times.  It ended up in a dumpster according to this guy.

Some stores that I know of respect our profession and recognize that some of us do things every day that others simply may not have the training, knowledge, aptitude, and passion to do.  Other stores, in my humble opinion see what we do as largely smoke and mirrors which also in my humble opinion may be their own approach to serving their markets/clients.

It's a shame when someone in a store who sees minor repairs as McDonald's money, off the books likely too...., destroys a wonderful, old instrument.

So here's the ethical question from me.  When you are approached by someone who does not have the instrument's welfare in mind at all beyond perhaps what it can be flipped for are you willing to tell them up front if the schlock-house approach to doing the repair that they want you to take that perhaps they would be happier going elsewhere?

I most certainly am and perhaps it's because of something that I was taught, like it or not..., in corporate America and that is job one is avoiding risk and liability for the business.  

And I do understand in advance that when one works for a store and is paid by the store diplomacy in disagreements to the approach is necessary.  But when asked to do a repair that is not a good idea what's your approach to the job if even after explaining why as described what they wish for you to do is ill advised?

This to me is the real ethical question here and not so much that replacing a plastic bridge with a plastic bridge is a bad idea.  I understand about keeping it original.  But moreover what if you are asked to adulterate a fine old guitar in order to save someone a buck?  Do you walk?

Greetings Hesh,

I draw on the Professions when faced with ethical dilemmas - they have been around a long time and ultimately have a broader understanding of "acceptable positions".  Those who practice the trades and craft  are more inclined to take a personal view or succumb to fellow agents of influence or peer pressure  when trying to work out appropriate responses to difficult customers or ethical/moral dilemmas .

Firstly, your reputation or your firms reputation is on the line when you do work for customers or clients.   If you are happy to gain a reputation as doing "whatever it take, cheaply" you can do whatever you see fit and gain a client and customer base  that expects and accepts cheap dodgy work. Alternatively you may wish to pursue a reputation for excellence and sound work with associated higher prices and longer repair times. 

I treat my reputation as a business asset and see a good reputation as the cornerstone for business longevity and profitability.

Customers that I lose or redirect are simply a function of protecting my long term business/trade/craft prospects.

If you work for a store or do contract work (which a lot of us do or have done) it's the Employers reputation at stake.   Store policy (if it exists - mostly it doesn't extend past "keep the customer satisfied")  is also your policy by dint of you accepting employment to do the stores work.

Overarching this is the customer and his rights:  The customer owns the instrument and is free to do as he pleases with it.  

We are not in a position, as professional tradesmen, to do anything other than advise the customer or client as to the possible outcomes or negative repercussions  of a repair or modification, suggest alternatives and then accept or reject the work.  Polite, firm and quick is how I try (and sometimes fail) to do this with my customers.

Ethics are very subjective in our trade, gut feeling and emotional responses color our judgement - I prefer a simple set of rules as previously stated - they are also easy to teach and demonstrate to other who you work for or who work for you.

Works for me,


Hesh - Thank you for your response. Over the 30 plus years I have been repairing/restoring stringed instruments, I have ran into a lot of situations that you describe. Your comments are well received and well taken. The guy with the J-50 sounds like a piece of work. Wow! and to top it all off he knew he would have been dollars ahead of the game had he just paid you to do the work in the first place! 

Those that know me know I'm not a know it all by any means. I feel there is always something to learn in this business. This issue with the B-25 is one guitar out of the many I have received from my client of 17 years. Considering he wants to keep it original - I'll just replace the bridge and move on. 

Thank you, sincerely, John Mondin.

We've discussed these plastic bridges here more than once and, if I remember correctly, most of us agree that replacing the bridge with a quality wooden bridge is probably the best idea for a player. Some of us, me included, actually feel that a guitar with a wooden bridge replacement is more desirable and there worth more too.

That said, I understand that an original bridge may be worth more to a collector that isn't really interested in actually playing the guitar and if a guitar is in good enough condition the plastic bridge may make it easier to sell to someone like that.

I don't do work for music stores ( or much of anyone other than myself) but it seems to me that a dealer really has to be careful about the cost of repairs or they can't make profit on the instrument when they resell it. With that in mind, perhaps the approach to take in a case like this is to convince them that the instrument will be worth more with the repair you know should be done rather than the patch they want you to do. 

I used to spend a lot of time fixing other people's computers. One of the guys I worked with was very fast at getting someone's computer functioning so they could get back to work but often this took the form of a "patch" rather than a complete, thorough "fix". The result was that sooner or later someone else usually got the honor of taking that person PC away so that the software could be reinstalled to fix all the small issues that never were actually addressed. 

In the case of this bridge, I can understand why the music shop wants an original repair but I think that most of us know that the replacement plastic bridge is doomed to end up warped too.  ( Not to mention the fact that the ceramic bridge is awful on strings.)  For me, the ethical answer is that the plastic bridge isn't in the best interest of the instrument or the ultimate owner/player even if it is what the music store wants.  Just my 2 cents.

 Ned- Thank you for your response. You are correct that the store owner see's the guitar as more collectible with the OEM bridge. I get the point. At times, I just get worn out from everyone that has a old guitar, it's immediately collectible and worth big money in original condition. I deal with a couple of vintage/dealer broker guys that drive me crazy with stuff like this. In addition to guitar repair and restoration, I repair vintage Fender amps. Often the same kind of argument I get is the amp hums real loud but don't replace the paper caps! Well, my only response is- it's the design of the circuit not the caps that make the amp collectible. It didn't leave the factory with blown filter caps!  As for the B-25 I was initially discussing though, I personally agree that the wood bridge would be the best way to go but, it is his guitar to do with what he wants and if all he wants to do is fix it to sell so it has no issues, who am I to argue. All I can hope for is the buyer is a player and knows what he is getting and decides to have it converted. Thanks again, for your comments- they were well recieved, John Mondin.

John, what I said was from a player/buyer point of view more than from the point of view of someone that needs to make a living at his "hobby".  I'm certainly not in any position to pass judgment on any of the professionals on these pages.

I guess that it would be better if I had pointed out that I feel the ultimate responsibility for what seems like the wrong decision (to me) is with the store owner, not you as the repairman.  This person SHOULD know more about this sort of thing than someone that just found granddad's old guitar under the bed.  Maybe your client already has a buyer in mind that would want the originality over playability but I would be surprised. Anyway, you can advise and you can choose to do/not do the job but you can't really do much more and as Nathan points out, the repair that has been asked for doesn't really alter the guitar so really is a sort of "null" anyway even if it does make the guitar less desirable to someone like me.

I just want you to know that my thoughts on the subject shouldn't be considered a judgment on your part in the matter.  Like I said, I don't have to make a living doing this and couldn't if I had to.

Ned- Thanks for your input. I didn't consider you passing judgment. I have been very fortunate to be making a living doing repair work for- now that I think about it-it's been 35 years- wow! time flies. I was teaching, working my way through college, when the store manager noticed me fixing my students guitars. He asked if I would want a job doing that- and encouraged me by paying me to setup the stock guitars. As it turned out, I have a natural ability for these sorts of things. Fast forward to today, I'm a privatized repair shop working by word of mouth, do work for 3 family owned stores and, am the regional authorized repair center for a number of manufacturers. I always encourage those interested in the field to "go for it and never stop learning". Don't know how to do something- be humble and ask. I have a great respect for my peers as they do for me. Only through mutual respect, does the craft grow. I'm not so old I can't learn. I appreciate your comments and everyone else's for that matter. This is a wonderful forum and we should use it in the positive manner that it was concieved. 

Your friend, John Mondin.

On the old amps I've even had them be reluctant to bypass the selenium bias rectifier. I just ask if a 57 T bird is worth more with the original belts, tires and battery rotting away or with good new parts. Then you offer him a quote on installing the new caps inside the old cap cans or cardboard tubes. IME, they come around pretty quickly.


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