I have a 1972 Guild D-35, purchased new in Jan '73 with $$$ from my first "real" job. During an inspection a couple years back, I noticed a hairline crack in the bridge plate, spanning the pin holes, but NOT extending to the edge of the plate. Otherwise, the plate looks in pretty good shape for being nearly 40 years old (see http://www.pbase.com/gard/image/120991047 the crack doesn't show well at this angle, but that's the best my camera can do). The crack may have been there for years, for all I know.
I have been ruminating on how best handle the situation... stabilizing the crack so it doesn't get any worse. Replacing the bridge plate (option #1) would not be very cost effective (the guitar is probably worth only $500-$750, at best)... but I am also worried about the risk involved in removing the bridgeplate (the guitar is priceless, to me).
Option #2 would be to glue a thin reinfocing plate over the bridge plate... but I don't want to do anything to affect the tone.
Option #3 might be described as "cut and plug." Cutting out plugs spanning the crack and pinholes, and then gluing in corresponding maple plugs, and re-drilling the pin holes. I don't have tools to do this, but a local luthier/tech I know does... is it possible to do this w/o removing the bridge? I have seen Some pretty ratty bridge plates restored by this method over on the UMGF.
Option #4 crossed my mind after seeing Frank Fords reconstruction of a bridgeplate on one of his blogs (scroll down from here: http://www.frets.com/FRETSPages/Blogs/37D28/37d28_3.html#13) Could I infiltrate the crack to each side of the pin holes with thin CA... I think I could apply it from the top thru the pin holes with a micopipet, wicking it into the crack from the sides (at each pin hole). This is the least invasive repair strategy... but do you think it would strengthen/stabilize the crack sufficiently to prevent it from getting worse? More to the point, if it didn't work... would it make it more difficult to deal with it down the road?
Option #5 is to monitor it, but leave it alone until it gets worse (that's what I have been doing for the last year or more... and was the recommendation from at least one repair person I consulted. Another suggested #2).
I'd appreciate thoughts from your collective wisdom. Thanks, Dave
Hi Dave, first thing: if the crack is not getting any worse over the years and the guitar sounds fine maybe option #5 is good advice. Maybe wicking in some CA will secure the plate to the top of the guitar if it is separated but as for strengthening a butt join (the crack in this case) I suspect it will not do much.
Personally, I would simply glue in a 1/32 cross grain maple veneer to cover the plate and then wick in some CA through the pin holes to fill any gaps (the new veneer helps the glue to pool and wick in the right areas - then drill and ream.). This will stabalize the crack and diminish the likelyhood of it spreading.
My opinion is that the tone will remain relatively unchanged as the change to the weight and stiffness is of the area is likely to small - changing your string gauge will do more to the tone than 20 grams of extra wood spread across the plate area.
However, there are some pretty sound looking bridge plate repair systems - the STEWMAC cut and plug system looks good but as I haven't used it I can only speculate about it. But this is also a relatively expensive repair. Anybody? Rusty.
Basically I'm with Rusty on this one, if it's not getting worse, check the progress (if any) regularly, and enjoy playing it. Funny thing, every time I get a job like this in the shop, which isn't too often, I think about the StuMac Plug cutter set, but it'd cost me over €163 till I can hold it in my grubby hands, so I keep on delaying buying it :-)
I'd agree too about the maple veneer idea too, if it starts to deteriorate sometime in the future it's your best option, unless you want to pay to have it done by a professional using a plug cutter . Btw, StuMacs plug cutter set does enable the repair without removing the bridge, that's another reason it being on my "future buy" list.
I'd be very cautious about using CA glue for this repair... if replacing the plate ever became an option, it could become very difficult to remove . I don't own the Stew Mac plate repair device, but I believe it is designed for a 'chewed-up' bridge plate, not for a crack.
A thin reinforcing plate glued in with either hot hide glue or fish glue (warmed up) would probably be the first option I would consider...
"Option #5 is to monitor it, but leave it alone until it gets worse" A cracked bridge plate can lead to a cracked bridge so ideally you would address the problem in the near future. A cracked bridge plate is a good candidate for a new bridge plate. An overlay is another viable option in that scenario. Either way there's gonna' be a change in tone. Maybe not a bad change if a new bridge plate is well made.
The SM plug cutter does a great job of repairing damage from string ball ends, but it's not designed to help a cracked bridge plate.
I'd modify option #5 and make sure to take some pictures and make some pencil rubbings of the plate so that you can accurately monitor the plate over time - I don't know about you, but my memory is not the best at this kind of stuff.
Thanks for the replies, folks. I am going to continue to ponder this one (and monitor the plate) for a while.
Super dumb question here, since I seem to be on a roll with them -
Are you sure that it is a crack, and not a splinter that came out when the bridge pin holes were drilled? (I'd imagine it's a crack, but I thought that I would ask anyways...)
I broke down last year and bought the Stew Mac plug and cutter set, and it works great. I know it's expensive, but it's worth it IMO. It would probably be my choice in this instance.
Completely ridiculous worry-wart question here -
If you have a cracked bridge plate, as Dave (the original poster) does, would there be a concern that the cutter of the Stew Mac device could hang up on the crack and tear the plate apart? Is this just for intact but chewed up plates? I took a look at the instructions, and there are no pictures or illustrations for cracked plates - just chewed-up intact plates.
I've used it on one plate cracked through the pinholes with no trouble. That little sucker is SHARP. It overlaps enough sothat the crack is completely removed it it doesn't stretch outside the pinholes. If it does, you're out of luck with the tool-I'd go for replacement then.