OK, I've seen the description on Frank's site of removing and regluing a lifted bridge. Certainly not something I'm going to try at home. But on the scale of difficulty/risk for luthier repair jobs just where does it fall? It looks to me easier than a glued-on dovetail neck reset but harder than making and good-fitting bone nut.

The reason I ask is that there are two guys I know of in town to potentially do this repair for me. One of them is always so overbooked that he will almost certainly keep the guitar for 2-3 weeks and what with the holiday backlog probably a month or more. But he can do just about anything that can be done to a guitar and will do a great job (part of why he's so backlogged). Not cheap either.
The other guy works in a good-sized guitar store. He doesn't have nearly as elaborate a workshop at the other guy and mostly does simpler jobs, setups and wiring repairs on electrics and the occasional crack repair is his daily fare. But anything he is set up to do he'll turn around in a week or less, often overnight. I once had him install a pair of strap buttons on this same guitar and he struck me as really careful and clean with the way he worked on even a quickie job like that so I do trust the quality of his work even if he's not the go-to guy for the most major repairs.

So I've got a bridge that for no apparent reason has lifted up on the bass side. It's a handbuilt guitar with a cedar top and extremely light construction, it also has as pronounced a "dome" to the top as any guitar I've seen which for all I know contributed to the problem with the bridge. With no strings you can't really tell it has lifted but under normal (light-gauge) tension the bass side lifts maybe 0.010"-0.015" at the highest point and a sheet of paper slides in almost to the sixth-string bridge pin. And the entire width of the "back" of the bridge from treble to bass will let a sheet of paper in about 1/8" or so.

I guess another question is whether this is a candidate for just glueing and clamping without removing the bridge and starting over. That is a much less major job, right? But since it's my main guitar I really think I want someone to get it off and find out what's going on to make it let go like this when it's less than a year old.

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Regluing the bridge is not a big job, but the tricky part is getting it off cleanly. You say it's handmade and less than a year old. If it's a factory guitar there may be a warranty and if it's a individual builder they will probably stand behind their work, unless the guitar has been abused. I have on occasion reglued without removal. If you slide the paper in and press down on the bridge can you slide the paper out again easily?
Rick, thanks for the reply!

Second question first...if I put some tension on the wound strings, slide the paper in as far as it will go, then let the tension off the strings the paper needs a very firm pull to come back out. And if I press down firmly on the back corner of the bridge the paper will not come out at all. I will mention that the back corners of the bridge have always let a piece of paper slide maybe 3/32" into the corner even when the guitar was new, leading me to believe it may have a slight underlap of the lacquer under the bridge but this wholesale lifting just happened last week and was sudden.

Regarding the builder, he will gladly fix it for me no problem. However, that involves a 1,000-mile each way winter shipping excursion that I'd just as soon avoid. If it were the kind of thing where I could make a 4-5 hour drive to the maker's shop I'd do that as my first choice. I just fear having UPS do something worse than a lifted bridge to my guitar en route, not to mention the shipping expense.
Removing a bridge is something I would try at home and have, with success. If you feel your second-choice guys is clean and careful, and he feels he can do it, then you can probably trust him - but that's your call.

I would also look inside the guitar. The few bridge lifts that I have repaired also had loose braces.

Doug Collins

With my mirror and flashlight I can't see anything that seems unusual in there but I do want it checked carefully. When the guitar was almost brand new, just a couple weeks after I received it, I stumbled while moving toward my chair to play and back of the guitar banged into my knee at the very bottom, I think it was actually on the binding between the back and the end. It made a noise I've never heard a guitar make before or since, kind of like a garage-door spring popping really loudly.

I've always wondered whether that might have knocked a brace loose but I can't see anything on the braces or bridge plate that looks different than before the knock. Then again I have almost no experience looking at such things and a trained eye might find differently.
I would second Doug's caution about the braces... the forces that raised the bridge have (most likely) stressed the braces, too. It's at least worth a careful check. When actually removing the bridge, remember that it's glued (well, partially anyway) to 2 pieces of the bookmatched top, with the grains running in opposite directions, so wield your palette knife carefully and accordingly. My best friends for a clean bridge removal have been heat, a thin but dull blade ...and patience.
Hi, Brett. Concerns with shipping notwithstanding, I think I'd let the luthier deal with the bridge and investigate/deal with any loose brace issues; also, he should pick up the shipping simply because it's basically a warranty issue. A poor fit of the bridge to the domed top may be the culprit and is certainly fixable but I'd hold the luthier accountable for making everything right on it. Also, a knock on the edge of the guitar shouldn't cause a loose brace or worse.

If you were to deal with it yourself, you would first need to know what sort of glue he used. You've gotten alot of good advice in the responses but doing this can go easy or it can go bad fast especially on cedar. The opportunity to wreck the finish in the process is enormous as is the possibility of actually cracking the cedar. Make the luthier deal with this.

Best of luck,

Thanks. I just got back from visiting the guy at the guitar store. He brought up the same concerns as you mention and said it was very likely the finish would show some ill effects immediately adjacent to the bridge if we removed and reglued it. He also said you never know how it's going to come off until you get into it.

On the plus side he said the lifting was in his opinion only under the end of the "wing" of the bridge and it was still quite solidly glued down everywhere else. He peered and poked around a bit inside and couldn't find any brace or bridge-plate issues. So he is going to work some hide glue up under the lifting edge and clamp it while it dries but not remove the bridge and start over. He said with the hide glue this repair won't cause any further complications if the entire thing has to be removed in the future and with luck this will solve the problem with no risk of boogering up the wood or the lacquer.

I think what I'd eventually like to do is ship it back to its builder and let him permanently address the problem. Actually, I'd eventually like to have the entire setup, intonation and whatever redone for DADGAD tuning with slightly heavier B and E strings so maybe in one trip he can check the bracing, modify/reglue the bridge and modify or make a new nut and saddle to optimize it for DADGAD. But the interim fix will let me put off deciding that for as long as I like.
I agree with your guitar store guy, a little hide glue won't hurt at all. If the bridge is well adhered I would wait until warm but not hot weather and send it back to the builder. Dan Erlewine has a good article on packing guitars for shipping on the StewMac site.
I've had the guitar back for a few days and the re-glue of the lifted edge seems to be holding so far. I figured the real test came when the humidity in our house shot up from 32% to 55% over the last 48 hours. Normally I keep it in its case and put a Dampit in there when the humidity drops much below 40%. But when it started going up I hung the guitar on the wall to see if the bridge would want to break free but it hasn't (yet).

Here's one followup question. Do you guys find that messing about with the bridge (gluing, clamping and so forth) screws up the sound of the guitar for a short while? When I got it back from the shop this was one harsh-sounding son of a gun, like clashing overtones with a real tinny balance and no sustain or depth to the tone at all. I swapped the strings for some brand new ones and no improvement. After a couple days it has gradually settled back in to its normal sound now but I'm pretty sure it wasn't just my ears.

So does something down around the bridge or about the soundboard get warped or squeezed in the process of clamping down that bridge until the hide glue dries? It was a temporary thing but quite a large difference in sound. Remarkable.
Hi Brent,

I am not a very experienced repairman (it's not my profession), but I am pretty sure that even taking off all strings for more than just a few minutes screwed up the sound (temporarily) of several instruments I had to do minor things on (e.g. cleaning fretboard etc.).
Even if the bridge is a very important part talking of sound quality, I can hardly imagine that clamping the bridge would have a grater effect on tone than having taken off the load of all strings. I believe that the soundboard formerly tensioned by the string load does not loose all it's tension all at a sudden when the strings are taken off, and it won't be under the final (stable) tension from the very beginning of being strung up.
But I must say that I am not aware of any scientific explication which would support my theory...
This is just my experience and opinion. Remember, I am not a professional in lutherie...


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